Zurück zur ÜbersichtA Look at Soil Sealing in Germany
A Look at Soil Sealing in Germany

The image of sealed surfaces is omnipresent in Germany. Concreted roads, asphalted squares and built-up areas dominate the landscape. Over the past three decades, the amount of sealed surfaces in Germany has increased by 4,943 square kilometres. But what specific consequences does this have for the environment and our quality of life? What measures can promote a more sustainable use of land and how can the property sector play its part in reducing land sealing? 


Tobias Wagner, CEO of ShareYourSpace, gives a clear answer: "The most sustainable building is the one that is not built."  

In the following, the current status of land sealing is presented, including the historical development and the future outlook for land sealing in Germany. In addition, there will be a presentation of measures and a specific innovative approach to the prevention of new soil sealing.


Terms soil sealing, land sealing and land consumption  

The terms soil sealing and land sealing are often used interchangeably, although they differ in meaning. The term soil sealing refers in particular to the covering of soil with materials such as concrete or asphalt, which restricts its natural functions such as water permeability and gas exchange. The term land sealing is more comprehensive and includes the sealing of all types of surfaces, including buildings, roads and car parks, in settlement and transport areas. The term land consumption, on the other hand, refers to the process of permanently converting undeveloped or agricultural land into built-up or sealed areas. 


Methods for determining soil sealing in Germany 

Soil sealing in Germany is usually analysed on the basis of aerial photographs and compared with topographical maps, cadastral data, cadastre data, that means information on plots of land and properties, such as plot size, location, utilisation and geographical features, as well as development plans. However, a certain degree of uncertainty remains in the assessment of partially sealed areas. Although some municipalities collect information on the sealing of building plots, this is often not publicly accessible. It is therefore not possible to record soil sealing across the board. Nevertheless, the Länder Committee for Soil Protection (LABO) has developed a calculation model that is based on regional data and enables rough estimates to be made. These methods are used for the spatial comparison of the federal states, whereby the temporal comparability is limited due to methodological changes. 


The underestimated danger of soil sealing 

Soil sealing is more than just an aesthetic problem. It means that the soil loses its natural function as a filter and water reservoir. Rainwater can no longer seep away, which leads to flooding and a burden on the sewage system. At the same time, the microclimate is negatively affected, as sealed surfaces cannot evaporate moisture and therefore do not contribute to cooling. The consequences for soil fertility are also serious, as sealing destroys the natural soil fauna and restoring soil fertility is associated with high costs. 


Development of land sealing in Germany

In recent decades, land sealing has steadily increased in Germany, with significant ecological consequences. According to the environmental economic accounts of the federal states (UGRdL), around 51,903 square kilometres were used for settlements and transport at the end of 2022, of which around 45.1 % was sealed. This corresponds to 6.54 % of Germany's total area. In comparison, the proportion of sealed land in 1992 was 5.3%, which shows that soil sealing has increased by around 4,943 square kilometres in the last 30 years. This development is due in particular to the continuous expansion of transport areas, 50 to 70 % of which are sealed. While the growth in sealed surfaces averaged 201.6 square kilometres per year in the 1990s, the annual increase slowed to 64 square kilometres between 2021 and 2022. Although the pace has slowed, land sealing is a pressing challenge as it continues to affect ecologically sensitive areas and disrupt the water balance.  

According to the German Insurance Association (GDV), around 67% of the urban area in Ludwigshafen am Rhein is built on or sealed by large industrial areas. The cities of Mannheim and Rüsselsheim am Main are close behind with 66% and 65% respectively. 


The future of land sealing in Germany 

The German government has set itself the goal of reducing the daily increase in settlement and transport areas to less than 30 hectares by 2030. In addition, the aim is to achieve net zero land utilisation by 2050. This means that the additional demand for sealed surfaces will be offset by countermeasures. By 2050, every additional area sealed for new uses is to be offset by unsealing elsewhere on the same scale. 

In order to achieve these goals, drastic measures are required, including the consistent further development of planning, legal and economic instruments to save space. In addition to the conversion of vacant buildings and inner-city densification, the promotion of green infrastructure also plays an important role. The responsibility for preserving landscapes and land for future generations lies with politics, business and society. 


Office sharing with ShareYourSpace - an innovative approach 

The vision of ShareYourSpace, the digital marketplace for flexible workplace solutions, goes beyond simply renting out office space. By strategically utilising vacant properties and existing spaces, the innovative platform aims to avoid the sealing of new space from the outset. Instead of sealing more space, ShareYourSpace focuses on the efficient use of existing resources. This approach helps to reduce land consumption, protect the environment and improve the quality of life in urban areas by optimising the use of existing resources. With a focus on sustainability and resource conservation, ShareYourSpace provides a flexible and innovative solution to the challenges of urban development. By providing flexible workspace solutions in existing buildings, the platform helps to reduce soil sealing while maximising the efficiency of space utilisation. The philosophy of the most sustainable building, which according to Tobias Wagner, CEO of ShareYourSpace, will not be built in the first place, is reflected in every aspect of the flexible workspace rental concept. By recognising and utilising the potential of vacant buildings and spaces, ShareYourSpace creates added value for society and makes an important contribution to sustainability in the real estate industry. 


About ShareYourSpace
ShareYourSpace operates www.shareyourspace.com, the digital marketplace for flexible renting and leasing of all types of workspaces. The service is aimed at anyone who wants to better utilise space - owners, tenants, subtenants, start-ups, SMEs, large corporations, the public sector, asset managers, coworking operators and the hospitality industry - as well as anyone who needs workspaces, whether for sole use or for coworking and new work. Together with our customers, we also move the biggest sustainability lever in the construction, property and working world in order to reduce the carbon footprint, relieve traffic, avoid land sealing and conserve resources - in an industry that accounts for 40% of the global carbon footprint.


Be smart. Be sustainable. ShareYourSpace!