Energy efficient refurbishment at Berlin's Märkisches Viertel neighbourhood

Berlin, Germany

The Märkisches Viertel neighbourhood in Berlin has become Germany’s largest low energy settlement due to the energy efficient conversion of 13,500 apartments.

Located in West-Berlin, the Markisches Vietel neighborhood is home to 35,000 people and is characterized by high-rise buildings erected in the 1960s. In 2008, GESOBAU, one of six municipal housing societies in Berlin, commenced an energy-efficient conversion of more than 13,500 apartments at Märkisches Viertel. The apartments are equipped with modern facilities and the building envelope adapted to current energy standards. Design concepts contain new bright entrance areas and expensive garbage disposers have been replaced with an environmental-friendly selective sorting system.

Simultaneously, the Märkisches Viertel was included under the national program “Urban Restructuring in West Germany” and received additional funding for the modernization of social infrastructure amenities and public spaces. In addition, residents had the opportunity to participate through various channels during the conversion process.

An important component in the refurbishment of the buildings was to find a balance between social, ecological and economic requirements including rents remaining at an affordable level for residents. In 2016, the CO2 emissions in Märkisches Viertel had achieved a reduction of 75% and rent levels remained virtually unchanged.


City information

Size and population development
3.670.000 (December 31, 2016)

Population composition
12,6% non-German, the majority come from (in order) Turkey, Poland, Italy, Serbia and Kosovo, Russia

Main functions
Capital City of Germany and one of the 16 German states

Main industries / business
Service industries, tourism, higher education, creative industries, IT and media

Political structure
The Senate of Berlin is the executive body governing the city of Berlin. The Senate is composed of the Governing Mayor of Berlin and up to ten Senators appointed by the Governing Mayor.

Administrative structure
Berlin is governed by the Senate Government and 12 District Governments.

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Background and objectives

Established as a high rise buildings neighbourhood in the 1960s, the Märkisches Viertel is a showcase of modern urban development in West-Berlin. Constructed between 1963 and 1975 with pioneering architectural design, accommodation for up to 40,000 residents was planned. Presently, the neighbourhood comprises a total of 16,400 units on a surface 3.2 square kilometres.  

In 2013 more than 34,700 people lived at Märkisches Viertel. Due to the constant arrival of new families, the proportion of children and adolescents is higher than the Berlin average (more than 23%). Social monitoring, carried out since 2001, shows an increasing number of people residing at Märkisches Viertel are unemployed or rely on social assistance, especially migrants and young adults.

To tackle the mounting social issues, Markisches Viertel was admitted to the national Urban Restructuring in West Germany program in January 2009. As part of this program, public funds can be used for the restoration of social facilities and the upgrading of public space.

In 2008, GESOBAU commenced a program of extensive refurbishment works which included almost the whole residential area (13,500 flats). In total, the company owns more than 40,000 units in Berlin and intends to increase this to 52,000 units by 2026. With 15,200 apartments and almost 90 commercial units, GESOBAU owns the largest amount of residential accommodation at Märkisches Viertel.  A further 1,170 apartments are owned by a tenant's cooperative and Degewo AG (another municipal housing society).

This integrated urban redevelopment project focuses on housing accommodation, residential environment and social infrastructure, with the objective of upgrading the structural and design elements of Markisches Viertel. The transformation includes basic refurbishment works in the apartments, the rehabilitation of roofs, façades and building services, as well as the introduction of energy efficiency measures including the rejuvenation of social facilities.  To improve the residential environment, paved and roofed surfaces should be reduced to allow rainwater to be captured in large underground cisterns. The rainwater can then be used for flushing toilets and irrigating green areas. 


To increase energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of the residential buildings, several measures have been implemented:

  1. Installation of new low-loss pipe and distribution systems for heat supply and the replacement of radiators.
  2. Replacement of outdated single-pipe systems with two-pipe systems.
  3. Reduction of heat losses through the building envelope by applying a thermal insulation composite system to the façades.
  4. The roofs and basement ceilings are heat-insulated and equipped with new windows.
  5. Radio-based and remote-readable meters that record heating and water consumption have been installed in all apartments, enabling residents to monitor and adapt their own consumption habits.
  6. Renewed pipelines provide residents with the opportunity to modernize their baths and install water-saving systems.
  7. Obsolete, unhygienic garbage dumpsters have been replaced by a more environmentally friendly separation system.
  8. Access areas have been partially transformed into green areas.

The “Urban Restructuring in West Germany” program has allocated funds for the development of green spaces and additional footpath connections, new sports facilities for young people and the renovation of many public buildings including extension buildings for three schools.

An exhibition about the urban re-development measures at Märkisches Viertel was presented in 2009. The exhibition comprised ten panels that provided information about the Urban Restructuring in West Germany Program and the objectives of the transformation as well as opportunities for active participation. To reach a broad audience, the exhibition was moved from place to place during the refurbishment works. In February 2013, a new exhibition was opened to present the program’s progress and chart the location of individual projects on a map.

The implementation of the program was supervised by the district council, where local representatives, public institutions, owners and district activists were regularly informed about the progress of the project and could provide feedback.

Financing and resources

The energy efficient conversion of public facilities, such as schools and youth clubs, is financed by the Urban Restructuring in West Germany Program.

GESOBAU has invested approximately EUR 480 million to renovate almost all of its housing accommodation at Märkisches Viertel corresponding to an average investment of 35,000€ per apartment.

The city development office in the district of Reinickendorf was the public entity responsible for supervising the refurbishment works carried out by GESOBAU.

Results and impacts

The energy efficient conversion of Märkisches Viertel was completed in 2016 on time and on budget. With more than 13,500 apartments renovated, it is the largest refurbishment project carried out in Germany to date. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 75%, equaling to an annual saving of approximately 39,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Additionally, due to the conversion of the combined heat and power plant to biomass, apartments in the Märkisches Viertel are now almost CO2-neutral heated. In most buildings, heating costs have been reduced by more than half.

The energy savings compensate for the slight increase in rents due to the investment made in the buildings’ refurbishment while the vacancy rate has declined as new residents move in.

The project is considered a best practice example for the sustainable conversion of large residential settlements and for the implementation of Germany’s energy transition strategy. For the first time, energy suppliers, housing companies and the state of Berlin are working together within the framework of the city district at the Märkisches Viertel.

Barriers and challenges

As the refurbishment and construction works were carried out in inhabited buildings, GESOBAU initiated a support and care network to assist residents, with elderly people and pregnant women a priority.

Alternative accommodation was offered to some 23,500 residents from 9,450 apartments during the modernization process. Residents who chose to stay in their apartments as the construction works took place experienced a disruptive time due to noise and dust. 

Lessons learned and transferability

The Märkisches Viertel provides a best practice model for energy efficient refurbishment and integrated urban development by showcasing the positive results achieved when the business sector, public utilities and government work together with a common goal.

As part of the urban development concept, citizens living and working in the area could participate and prioritize the refurbishment measures they would like to see implemented in public spaces or in the social infrastructure. Regular newsletters, posters as well as many events and two exhibitions accompanied the rejuvenation of the Märkisches Viertel. Residents could follow and monitor the progress of development which contributed to a high level of acceptance and satisfaction among them.


Stadtumbau im Märkischen Viertel - Das Förderprogramm West, (accessed 22 February 2017)

Senate Departement for Urban Development and Housing, Märkisches Viertel, (accessed 22 February 2017)

Bauministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit, Berlin Märkisches Viertel, (accessed 22 February 2017)

Märkisches Viertel: GESOBAU feiert den Abschluss des größten energetischen Modernisierungsprojektes in Deutschland, (accessed 22 February 2017)

Hallo Nachbar, (accessed 22 February 2017)

Modernisierungsabschluss Märkisches Viertel: GESOBAU feierte gemeinsam mit Märkerinnen und Märkern das VIERTEL FEST, (accessed 22 February 2017)

External links / documents