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Case Studies

A sustainable future started 30 years in the past

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany

Picture of office building on a sunny day

Before a single shovel was in the ground, a comprehensive sustainability program was created for Potsdamer Platz. From the use of environmentally-friendly building materials during construction to natural heating and cooling systems without reliance on air-conditioning systems, Potsdamer Platz set new sustainability benchmarks for the city of Berlin and beyond. Nearly 13 years after its grand opening, the district was awarded the German Sustainable Building Council’s first-ever district wide Silver DGNB certificate — and the sustainability program continues to be effective to this day!

Key metrics

  • 70% reduction in CO2 emissions
  • 20M liters of water saved
  • 1st city district certified by DGNB

All-natural heating and cooling

Potsdamer Platz was designed to run on environmentally-friendly cogeneration power technology and a sophisticated ventilation and façade system. The system, installed on all office building windows, means heating and cooling can be achieved without power-consuming air conditioning systems. The façade allows temperature fluctuations to take advantage of the heat-storing properties of reinforced concrete, which helps balance room temperatures. In rooms requiring a higher degree of cooling, special ceilings with water circulating systems also help regulate the temperature. Double façades on the high-rise buildings ensure that interior climate is optimally adapted. The use of this technology saves about 50% on primary energy consumption compared to standard air-conditioning systems. Another suspended glass façade can be adjusted for various weather conditions reduces wind and noise while still allowing light and fresh air to enter the building. Taken together, these measures reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70% compared to conventional methods.

Water collection and reuse

Rainwater is collected year round from Potsdamer’s green rooftops in three large underground cisterns. The roofs of the 19 buildings have a total surface area of 50,000 square metres and partially supply the water areas, like Piano Lake, and the water and wastewater network.

Urban water is also captured through an extensive, sophisticated technological system which guarantees that high water quality is maintained. Nineteen pumps and two rows of filters are located in the two central water cisterns. The water is also purified and filtered through natural means by the purification biotopes in the north, main and south waters, encouraging the development of a unique microclimate. Phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon, oxygen and pH values are monitored through constant measurement to ensure water quality.

Approximately 20 million liters of drinking water are saved through this system each year.

A new ecosystem in the heart of Berlin

Within a very short time, the water areas at Potsdamer Platz have developed into a dynamic ecosystem of their own - creating a new home for a variety of animals and plants. The natural purification of biotopes has played a major role in promoting this resettlement. Along with ducks and other waterfowl, numerous plant and animal species, some of them rare, have settled in the water areas, enriching the new ecological niche within the district.

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