building a green healthy neighborhood …
A Neighborhood Case in Berlin
Bötzowviertel is a northeast neighborhood or “Kiez” in Berlin re-developed from 1994 to 2011 into a modern, family-friendly, and popular zone for visitors (1, 2). Its streets have generous sidewalks with various pavers (other than asphalt) and many 30 km/h car lanes with traffic calming features. However, surrounded by three large avenues – Greifswalder Straße, Danziger Straße, and Am Friedrichshain – the Kiez disconnects from nearby neighborhoods, functions, and services.
In August 2021, the neighborhood’s management platform, Pro Kiez Bötzowviertel e.V., organized an online community meeting to discuss the development of a bike street and improvements to a school’s outdoor entrance and access. This case study contributes to the community’s planning efforts aiming at the attention of the district’s pedestrian planners. It raises the question of how to develop a climate adaptive pedestrian plan that connects priority destinations for vulnerable outdoor users such as children, the elderly, and people with different types of disabilities.
This case presentation has three main parts starting with an overview of the UrbanCare methodology and the tools used for the case study. The second part summarizes policies and resources available at the national, regional and city levels to improve spatial inequities, urban heat, surface runoff, and biodiversity loss found with neighborhood-level research. The third part invites participants to walk Bötzowviertel’s walkways by taking an immersive journey with the BHL Data Viewer.
This case presentation has three main parts starting with an overview of the UrbanCare methodology and the tools used for the case study.
The second part highlights the main findings on spatial inequities, urban heat, surface runoff, and biodiversity loss found with neighborhood-level research.
The third part invites participants to walk Bötzowviertel’s walkways by taking an immersive journey with the UrbanCare Data Viewer.
Part 1: The methodology
UrbanCare is a practical framework to develop climate actions in pedestrian environments.
It assists citizens and planners to visualize climate and health stressors at the neighborhood level and participate in creating possible solutions.
UrbanCare main goals
Climate gears the pedestrian planning process!
It means aligning goals to reach the transformative benefits from climate adaptation, urban health, and economic efficiency.
tools applied in Bötzowviertel
Berlin wants to move away from spending on sidewalks and invest in climate-adaptive pedestrian environments. For this purpose, the city counts on expertise and research at the district level, such as the TU-Berlin 2020 Berlin Pankow Mobility Report. However, there is room for practical guidance to channel broader participation and gather neighborhood evidence for climate, energy, and health projects.
UrbanCare ensures a smooth flow of knowledge through its methodology and intuitive tools by all stakeholders, especially residents. With a neighborhood scale and focus, the tools are practical for people to confidently identify challenges to their daily errands and life outdoors and contribute to possible solutions.
Pedestrian environment characterization using GIS
Using google maps, the first step is to identify and map neighborhood priority destinations (points) located at most 1 km away from tram stops and the Greifswalder Str. S-Bahn.
A diverse mix of commercial and cultural attractions are found such as the Kurt-Tucholsky Library, Filmtheater am Friedrichshain, Arnswalderplatz square, the emblematic park Volkspark Friedrichshain(3), as well, numerous, elderly homes, medical offices, schools, and playgrounds.
Pedestrian Loops, a GIS unit for analyses
A demographic study helps estimate the gait speed of the slower groups, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Knowing the location of priority destinations and the gait speed of slower groups, we understand how wide avenues such as Danziger Str. and Greifswalder Str. can impact the daily life of most residents. With the information, the field research enters preparation.
Sidewalks and other walkways (lines) connecting the priority destinations render “Pedestrian Loops” or possible continuous walkways within neighborhoods ideal for people to do daily errands, go to work, school, or play comfortably and safe from street threats.
The loops are templates to fill in the data from four field surveys: spatial inequity, urban heat, surface runoff, and biotope loss.
Assessing Ecosystem Degradation Processes for Pedestrian Health
As urban development intensifies, congestion and environmental degradation also increase. Sealed pavements taking over green soils result in rainwater runoff and hazardous urban heat spots impacting soil, water, and air quality. Among these, streets have historically formed impervious layers disrupting hydrological cycles, requiring expensive stormwater infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff and protect ground and surface water quality (4). The consequence is an environmental degradation capable of destroying local ecosystems, habitats, wildlife, and our health (5).
The GIS survey defines the neighborhood’s destinations and walkways (points and lines) which hypothetically form pedestrian loops. The field research phase comprehends four systematic environmental surveys that numerically describe the neighborhood pedestrian loop conditions and possible impacts on the local ecosystem, especially for pedestrian health.
Globally most cities are not designed to meet the gait speed and requirements of slower groups. Berlin is not different. Many streetscape elements and features hinder physical access to services, complicate travel navigation, make public transportation inconvenient, decrease chances for recreation or represent a direct health threat to sower groups.
Along with the pedestrian loops, a systematic observation method is applied to record pedestrian obstacles and threats at four types of urban points: (i) stops and stations, (ii) street crossings, (iii) free seating or respite areas, and (iv) spaces at entrances to priority destinations.
In June 2021, the first heat wave of the year temporarily made Germany the hottest region in Europe.
In 2003, 2006, and 2015 – more than 6,000 deaths were attributed to heat. In Berlin alone almost 500 people died of heat-related causes in 2018 (6). This summer 2022, temperatures have soared up to39 degrees Celcius (7).
Surface and air temperatures are not the same. Our measurements show surface temperatures, which by contact also affect pedestrians.
Heat spots are captured with the FLIR E54 and E76 handheld thermal cameras. Both have 320 ×240 pixel detectors that accurately measure temperatures up to 650°C (1202°F) to produce digital and thermal imagery.
A 24° lens is used for short-angle inspections of urban furniture, building entrances, and other walkway situations.
A 42° lens allows wide-angle inspections to measure street sections up to 12 meters.
According to the German government’s current climate impact and risk report (8) , the risk of heavy rain and flooding will be highest in cities such as Berlin as extreme weather is expected.
With data from Berlin’s environmental atlas and simplified surface runoff tools, calculations are made and shown in the viewer in two formats easy to grasp.
1. The urban scene from the user’s standpoint shows hard and soft surfaces allowing different seepage levels affecting climate comfort and pedestrian quality experience and health.
2. Using a satellite photo (upper left), we locate the user’s standpoint to estimate surface areas (m2) for the different surface types and calculate a percentage of sealed surfaces.
In Berlin, urban heat and stormwater runoff have led to the development of green tools such as the biotope area factor (BAF) targeting:
• excessive soil sealing,
• insufficient groundwater storage from avoidable and costly sewage use,
• lack of humidity and extreme heat,
• ever-decreasing habitat due to insufficient green spaces.
Following the BAF calculation principles, biotope loss estimations are done and represented in two ways.
1. The urban scene view shows patches of green and grey surfaces which helps understand the degree of vegetable fragmentation.
2. The satellite map view has a catchment area from the user’s standpoint used to measure permeable surfaces and estimate the green to grey ratio.
Evidence-based guidelines for pedestrian planners
The data collected is prepared into infographics and included in a detailed report used to generate a data viewer, a web-based immersive journey similar to Google Streets but made from a pedestrian perspective along the loops.
The 360° imagery of the data viewer is enriched with infographics and designed to offer a wide range of users and stakeholders the opportunity to navigate the neighborhood and rate its urban scenes.
The Data Viewer brings new insights about the neighborhood and communicates them persuasively, especially to pedestrian planners on developing efficient actions with accurate outcomes.
Some actions for Bötzowviertel that may upscale for Berlin include:
• Enhance crossings at street intersections with intuitive pedestrian-centered designs;
• create new fully pedestrianized crossings at mid-blocks;
• retrofit underused sealed pavements and surfaces along streets, sidewalks, and middle islands;
• integrate biking projects – such as the ‘Hufelandstraße Bike Street project’(9) – to the pedestrian plan;
• provide sheltered free-seating where strategically needed by vulnerable groups, and,
• condition stops for buses and trams with climate-friendly solutions.
The following section gives an overview of the regulatory policy and resources available at the national, regional, and city levels that may support improving urban ecosystems for pedestrian health at the neighborhood scale.
Spatial Inequity Diagnostics
Spatial inequities affecting the most vulnerable
Click play to watch challenges for pedestrian planning
Evaluations are performed to assess street level needs and requirements of children, the elderly, and people with different kinds of physical and/or cognitive impairments or disabilities.
is a new amendment to the city’s mobility law that came into force on February 24, 2021. It gives greater rights and protections to pedestrians – people on foot, in wheelchairs or otherwise – in the German capital.
Measures outlined in the law include aids to crossing streets, such as longer green crossing times and more direct routes, traffic calming measures, better lighting, and more sitting space and ‘play streets’.
The original Mobility Act, ratified in 2018, was the first in Germany to give priority to public transport and bicycle traffic over private cars.
This new amendment is the continuation of the city’s work to shift the focus on Berlin’s roads away from private car traffic (10).
Prokiez Bötzowviertel (owners)
Through this association, Kiez residents (and friends) are invited to participate in events and find out interesting things about the neighborhood, change or preserve something.
Kiez & Kurt is the neighborhood’s meeting center “launched” in 2018 with the aim of making the neighborhood more colorful and lively! (11)
Fuß e.V. (advocates)
Since 1985 FUSS e.V. has been representing the interests of pedestrians in Germany. We are a contact partner for administration, politics and the general public regarding all questions about walking. We issue statements and propose amendments to laws and directives.
With our expertise and experience, we advise citizens, administrations and politicians and support local and regional initiatives with regard to specific traffic problems. We carry out pilot projects for pedestrian-friendly traffic solutions together with other organizations and administration departments (12).
• Health costs are reduced by introducing a more active lifestyle.
• Transportation costs drop due to less fuel consumption and infrastructure (development and maintenance) of other travel modes.
• Walking tourism promotes and preserves heritage from erosion and pollutants.
• Local business activity and employment increases substantially; pedestrians have 40% more time at shop windows.
• A 10 point increase in walkability levels (not walking rates), may increase property values by 5 to 8 percent.
Urban Heat Diagnostics
A threat to people and energy management
Thermal surveys at pedestrian level at different locations were realized to help identify heat spots hazardous to people and in detriment to energy efficiency. Click for a thermal report sample in PDF.
Heat Mitigation Planning
“Germany acknowledges that increasing heat is an emerging health hazard and some states have taken good first steps to help at-risk populations adapt,” said Katharina Rall, senior environment researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But given the urgency of both reducing emissions and addressing the effect of the climate crisis, German authorities need to step up their game.”
There is limited data on heat-related mortality in Germany. But during each of the previous heat waves – in 2003, 2006, and 2015 – more than 6,000 deaths were attributed to heat. Limited data from 2018 shows that almost 500 people died of heat-related causes in Berlin alone (13).
- Measure heat spots hence intensity varies considerably. Mapping heat spots helps prioritize locations for intervention.
- Synergize streetscape planning with urban functions and services seeking suitable natural ventilation or mitigation via building design and materials.
- Design and apply materials for heat loss and thermal comfort, especially at pedestrian loops.
Stormwater Runoff Diagnostics
A public health problem with high water treatment costs
Surface analyses determine the porosity and heat retention capacity of various hardscape materials at the site.
Stormwater Management & Planning
A substantially revised version entered into force in March 2010. This amendment completed the transposition of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) into German national law and allowed the German Länder to adapt their respective water acts to the European provisions (15).
The BlueGreenStreets research project investigates and evaluates the effectiveness of existing planning instruments and regulations on
- green urban infrastructures,
- urban water management,
- the rehabilitation management of roads and sewers,
- traffic and open space planning
The aim of the project is to further develop these instruments with a focus on the sustainable and resource-efficient design of urban neighborhoods (16).
• Typical fee (Berlin): ~2 €/m²/year
• Examples for fees
a) Private house (150 m² connected) 300 €/year
b) Supermarket (10.000 ² connected) 20.000 €/year
c) Supermarket (disconnected, infiltration) 0 €/year (17).
Our own survival at stake
The amount of hard surface in comparison to green ones are measured and the ‘Biotope Ratio’ is estimated.
The Berlin Strategy for Biodiversity Preservation was created in March 2012 by the Berlin Senate. This strategy provides the foundations for fulfilling Berlin’s part in the global responsibility to preserving biodiversity (18).
Biodiversity Policy Lab
The Biodiversity Policy Lab (BPL) is a research unit of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin that analyses biodiversity policy, advises on biodiversity policy and accompanies or even actively initiates public debates on biodiversity policy. The aim of the BPL is to make the diversity of species, genes and ecosystems a public matter – a matter that societies must take care to preserve and use according to sustainability criteria (19).
- Identify remaining ecological assets and habitats, and protect both current and potential areas
- Connect biological populations and habitats
- Construct diverse and complex habitats to attract or retain biodiversity
- Create ecosystem cycles. Move towards decentralized, integrated management of waste, water and energy, from a linear to a circular urban metabolism.
- Trigger interactions within and between ecosystem elements
- Propose urban infrastructure that reduces negative impacts on biodiversity
- Promote novel urban ecosystems and ecological communities (20).
A biodiverse field installation costs the same as lawn: around 8 € /m2. Considering the maintenance costs of cutting a lawn 10 times a year at 2.50 € /m2 to that of a field needing cutting only twice a year at 0.60 € /m2, the installation costs of a field of native flowers will have paid for itself in around four years while saving the company a annual of 1.90 € /m2 (figures obtained from landscaping firms).
For butterflies, bees, and bumblebees, the investment reaps benefits in the first year.
Bötzowviertel Field research in Kms
Pedestrian loops: 8 km
Street grid: 14 km
Bötzowviertel Data Analysis Reports
Collaborating partners in Berlin
Other UrbanCare cases developing across Europe
A climate-friendly medical campus in Florence, Italy
A medical neighborhood in Nicosia, Cyprus
A health-promoting hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden
a practical framework to gather evidence and develop regenerative landscapes for pedestrian health.
Alvaro Valera Sosa (2021)
Update July 2022
BHL Building Health Lab
Alvaro Valera Sosa: Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Analyses
BHL Building Health Lab
Alvaro Valera Sosa: Original draft, Writing-reviewing, Editing, Design, Administration.
Netra Naik: Draft assistance, Software, Data curation.
Julia Reißinger: Software, Data curation.
Links and sources of interest
1. Gartz, K. (2013, August 28). Kiezbummel in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg : Das Bötzowviertel hat Grund zum Feiern. Der Tagesspiegel. https://www.tagesspiegel.de/berlin/kiezbummel-in-berlin-prenzlauer-berg-das-boetzowviertel-hat-grund-zum-feiern/8700982.html
2. Berlin Senate. (2011, May). Ausstellung Sanierungsgebiet Bötzowviertel eröffnet. Https://Www.Stadtentwicklung.Berlin.De. https://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/nachhaltige-erneuerung/prenzlauer-berg
3. Pro Kiez Bötzowviertel e.V. Berlin – Entdecke den Bötzowkiez im Prenzlauer Berg. (2020). Prokiez. https://www.prokiez.de/
4. Streets are Ecosystems. (2017, June 29). National Association of City Transportation Officials. https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-stormwater-guide/streets-are-ecosystems/
5. WHO (2015). CLIMATE AND HEALTH COUNTRY PROFILE – 2015 Germany. https://apps.who.int/iris/rest/bitstreams/1031213/retrieve
6. An Der Heiden, M., Muthers, S., Niemann, H., Buchholz, U., Grabenhenrich, L., & Matzarakis, A. (2019). Schätzung hitzebedingter Todesfälle in Deutschland zwischen 2001 und 2015. Bundesgesundheitsblatt – Gesundheitsforschung – Gesundheitsschutz, 62(5), 571–579. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-019-02932-y
7. Berlin Senate. (2022, July 19). Up to 39 degrees: Heat wave reaches Berlin. Berlin.De. https://www.berlin.de/en/news/7634442-5559700-up-to-39-degrees-heat-wave-reaches-berli.en.html
8. Matera, E. (2021, July 21). How will climate change impact Berlin? Berliner Zeitung. https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/en/how-will-climate-change-impact-berlin-li.172154#:%7E:text=Berlin%20and%20the%20surrounding%20state,greatest%20in%20cities%2C%20including%20Berlin.
9. Schubert, T. (2021, June 14). Prenzlauer Berg: Hufelandstraße wird zur Fahrradstraße. Berliner Morgenpost, Berlin, Germany. https://www.morgenpost.de/bezirke/pankow/article232525871/Prenzlauer-Berg-Hufelandstrasse-wird-zur-Fahrradstrasse-Hufelandstrasse-wird-Fahrradstrasse.html
10. Berlin Mobility Act – Berlin.de. (2022). Berlin Senate. https://www.berlin.de/sen/uvk/en/traffic/transport-policy/berlin-mobility-act/
11. Mitmachen – Pro Kiez Bötzowviertel e.V. Berlin. (2020). ProKiez. https://www.prokiez.de/mitmachen/
12. Start. (2022). Fuss-ev.de. https://www.fuss-ev.de/
13. Berlin Senate. (2022, July 19). Up to 39 degrees: Heat wave reaches Berlin. Berlin.De. https://www.berlin.de/en/news/7634442-5559700-up-to-39-degrees-heat-wave-reaches-berli.en.html
14. Li, X. L. (2019). Urban heat island impacts on building energy consumption: a review of approaches and findings. Elsevier, 1–43. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544219303895
15. BMUV. (2020). Water protection policy in Germany. https://www.bmuv.de/en/topics/water-resources-waste/water-management/policy-goals-and-instruments/water-protection-policy-in-germany
16. HafenCity Universität Hamburg (HCU): BlueGreenStreets. (2021). Hcu-Hamburg.De. https://www.hcu-hamburg.de/research/forschungsgruppen/reap/reap-projekte/bluegreenstreets/
17. Jekel & Sieker. (2010). Technical University of Berlin Dept. of Water Quality Control, Rainwater management for urban drainage, groundwater recharge and storage. https://www.hmw.tu-berlin.de/fileadmin/i41_hmw/12_DAAD_Rainwater-Jekel-Chile2010.pdf
18. Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Berlin. (2014). Business in Berlin Supports Biodiversity Recommendations for Action – A Guide. https://www.berlin.de/sen/uvk/_assets/natur-gruen/biologische-vielfalt/publikationen/leitfaden_biologischevielfalt_englisch.pdf
19. Biodiversity Policy Lab. (2022). Museum Für Naturkunde. https://www.museumfuernaturkunde.berlin/en/science/research/society-and-nature/biodiversity-policy-lab
20. Parris, K. M., Amati, M., Bekessy, S. A., Dagenais, D., Fryd, O., Hahs, A. K., Hes, D., Imberger, S. J., Livesley, S. J., Marshall, A. J., Rhodes, J. R., Threlfall, C. G., Tingley, R., van der Ree, R., Walsh, C. J., Wilkerson, M. L., & Williams, N. S. (2018). The seven lamps of planning for biodiversity in the city. Cities, 83, 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2018.06.007