Open-Space Development 2010


As stated above, there are, in addition to the present Environmental Atlas map described here, two other resources for the observation of land consumption for structural purposes in Berlin. A detailed comparison of the different goals, methods and results of these three sources can be found in the excursus “Methodology / Supplementary Notes”.

The present map is the fourth updated and expanded version and has been transferred to the block map 1 : 5,000 (ISU5, Spatial Reference Environmental Atlas 2010) based on a geometry that is true to location. With the help of the maps mentioned above, the aerial images and the Environmental Atlas maps, the open space stock was determined for the respective years. The Environmental Atlas Map 06.02 Inventory of Green and Open Spaces defines the following categories of green and open spaces: Forests, Meadows and Pastures, Farmland, Parks/Green Space, City Squares/Promenades, Cemeteries, Allotment Gardens, Fallow Areas, Sports Facilities/Outdoor Swimming Pools and Tree Nurseries/Horticulture. Areas with building use, especially public-use areas, are also considered open space if they have large coherent pervious areas with vegetation. This partially applies to areas that are characterized by both construction use and green use (dual use) as open space use. This includes, for example, the zoological gardens, which have been assigned to construction use “Public and other special uses” under construction use as well as to “Park/ green space” under green use. Accessibility or use possibilities were not considered in this classification process.
The comparison of the surveys of the various years permits an ascertainment of open-space losses and gains.
The open-space losses were shown for the intervals indicated, while the open-space gains refer to the entire time period. Open-space gains were areas which were built-up prior to 1950 and are today used for one of the open-space categories mentioned above. All open spaces that saw new construction in the respective time periods were identified as open space losses.

From 1990 to 2010 information from the geo-database “Areas with Change Potentials of City-Wide Significance,” based on the digital base map, scale 1 : 5,000 (cf. SenStadt 2000a) was drawn on. The aerial images and orthophotos from 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2010 (cf. SenStadt 1998, SenStadt 2002, SenStadt 2004) were used to check the information. As a rule, areas smaller than 1 hectare in size, or a minimum breadth of 20 m, were not ascertained.

The method for ascertaining open space losses and gains was fundamentally changed for the fourth updated edition, i.e. Edition 2013.

Until Edition 2006, open space losses and gains were identified based on the digital block map 1 : 50,000 (ISU50, Spatial Reference Environmental Atlas 2005) using the data outlined above. This also involved defining block borders that deviated from the block geometry.

Due to the fact that the positions in digital block map 1 : 50,000 are not quite true to geometry and the roads have been superimposed on the same for illustrative purposes, the map was transferred to the digital block map 1 : 5,000 (ISU5, Spatial Reference Environmental Atlas 2010), based on a geometry that is true to location, for Edition 2013. Initially, the map of Edition 2006 was collated with the new ISU5 geometry. The existing classes were adopted according to their area share, i.e. if a class predominated in a new ISU5 area, this loss or gain class was copied out onto the new map (cf. Fig. 1). Block borders that deviated from those in ISU5 were not adopted and were subsequently transferred manually. Based on the 2010 Use and Urban-Structure mapping, the area types “Track area, railway station and railway ground”, “Weekend cottages” and “Camping grounds” were revised comprehensively. As a result, the inventory of open spaces in Edition 2013 was adapted to and consolidated with the presentation of green and open spaces in Map 06.02. (2010).

The automated process was followed by a manual correction step involving visual checks based on aerial images. Open space loss due to road construction, included in the 1995 printed edition but not in the digital editions, was digitized, too, and integrated into the new map.

Generally, when perusing the areas at a block level, it should be noted that minute losses of open space within a block were oftentimes not digitized.

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Fig. 1: Adopting existing classes from the ISU50 to the ISU5 geometry (centre: ISU50, Edition 2006; left and right: ISU5, Edition 2013; yellow lines: ISU5 block borders; yellow areas: open space loss, 1950-1970; green area: inventory of open space in 2010; background: CIR aerial image, 2010)
Image: Umweltatlas Berlin

Methodology / Supplementary Notes

The State of Berlin has three different tools for the observation of the spatial aspects of the various land uses, which can be consulted for a description of land consumption. They are:

  • The regularly published figures according to types of use of the Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg (State Statistical Office before 2006),
  • the land-use surveys, in a scale of 1 : 5,000 in the context of the City and Environment Information System, and the map of open-space development derived from it in the Environmental Atlas (06.03) (Sect. III),
  • the evaluation of the GIS “Areas with Change Potentials of City-Wide Significance,” as documented in the reports “Urban Development 2000: Report on Spatial Development”, “Spatial Development in Berlin, Balance Sheet for 2001-2005” as well as “Area Development in Berlin, 1991-2010-2030” (Sect. I).

What is Land Consumption?

Land consumption is the use of not previously built-up areas for residential development. The consumption could thus be quantified either via the increase in residential area, or of the area used predominantly for purposes associated with built-up areas, or via the subtraction of non-residential areas, or of the area not used for purposes predominantly associated with built-up areas. In the following, an attempt is made to demonstrate that it is precisely here, in the problems of the definition of “residential” and “non-residential,” that the essential reasons are to be found for the fact that the use of different sources for the description of land consumption yield such – often considerably different – figures.

Frequently, the term land consumption is used as an equivalent to an increase in impervious coverage. However, these two terms describe different factual conditions, and must also be considered differently in the context of the ecopolitical discourse. While land consumption describes the increase in areas used predominantly for purposes associated with built-up areas, or for residential purposes, at a highly abstracted and aggregated level, the actual mixture of impervious and pervious areas for such uses is disregarded at this level (cf. here the excursus accompanying the map Comparison of the impervious coverage data for 2011 and 2005 with the Impervious Coverage Indicator of the Economic Accounting of the German States).

Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg: The Municipal Area, by Type of Use, or Residential and Traffic Area

The Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg (AfS; before 2006 State Statistical Office) regularly publishes figures on the municipal area, broken down by borough and type of use, and compiles them together with information on the residential and traffic areas. The figures are based on the evaluation of the registers of land property in the borough land survey offices. In the preliminary notes on the figures published in the Statistical Yearbooks, it is pointed out that the type of uses of the registers of land property were not updated completely and that some types of use are missing information altogether (Yearbook of Statistics 2012). This is linked to different survey methods in East and West.

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Fig. 2: Development of residential and traffic areas, 1990-2010
Image: Source: Statistical Yearbooks of the Berlin Statistical State Office and of AfS after 2006

Especially the drop in residential and traffic areas by more than 1,000 hectares in 1996 can only be explained as a result of the systematic adaptation of the figures, justified in the methodology of the survey. It does not in any way reflect actual developments.

It should be noted that all area-use classes other than Farmland and Forest are counted as Residential and Traffic Areas. This means that such uses as Allotment Gardens, Parks and Cemeteries, or large non-built-up fallow areas, are classed as “Residential and Traffic Areas,” so that if they are then in fact used for residential and traffic areas, this will not be counted as an overall increase in such area.

An evaluation of the figures for the development of “non-residential areas” yields the following:

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Fig. 3: Development of the areas used for forest, farmland and recreation, 1990-2010
Image: Source: Statistical Yearbook of the Berlin Statistical State Office and of AfS after 2006

Here, it should be considered that “the farming area of the East Berlin boroughs …, may also include allotment gardens, front yards, decorative gardens, and built-up areas” (Statistical Yearbook, 2012).

During the early ‘90s in the eastern boroughs for example, streets other than main streets were assigned to the respectively predominant area uses (Statistical Yearbook 1991).

The statistical figures from before 1990 contain even greater imponderables. Due to different procedures for land-use statistics, reliable time lines cannot be derived here.

Since the register of land property is the basis for the survey, the actual nature of land coverage will not be correctly ascertainable in the future, either. Thus for example, even large lots which are listed as a “building and open space” may not in fact currently contain any buildings at all.

One advantage of the method, however, is its nationwide applicability. Both the environmental barometer of the Federal Ministry of the Environment and a large number of other indicators use the state data on the “increase in residential and traffic area” compiled by the Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg.


The figures on residential and traffic areas are more suitable for the characterization of the increase in residential space as such. Land consumption means only the consumption of forest and farmland. For non-city-states or for Germany as a whole, such figures may usefully describe land consumption. However, this will apply only once the methodology has been successfully and permanently harmonized, and hence only for future figures, but not for the analysis of past developments.

Moreover, for the State of Berlin, the limitation of the uses to be considered to Forest and Farmland does not seem to be a suitable procedure for describing land consumption. Since forest areas are under very far-reaching protection, land consumption would thus be confined to reduction of agricultural areas. But in any event, it does not appear to make sense that the construction of buildings on allotment gardens or parks should not be considered land consumption.

Map 06.03 Open-Space Development of the Environmental Atlas

The Environmental Atlas Map Open-Space Development, first drafted in the mid-eighties, was primarily designed to document the loss of areas predominantly covered with vegetation in favour of primarily built-up areas. Based on historic city maps etc., several real-use maps were prepared according to the general key of the two real-use maps of the Environmental Atlas, which showed land-use at intervals of one decade each. These maps were superimposed, and the open-space losses, or if applicable, the gains, were copied out onto other maps, and then a balance sheet of the respective losses and gains was drawn up, showing the respective area sizes. It was thus possible to quantify use change in decade increments since 1950.

A change in land use was assessed as a loss if the use changed from a category contained in the map “Inventory of Green and Open Space” to a use category contained in the map “Real Use of Built-Up Areas.” And the important fact is: The open spaces in the map “Inventory of Green and Open Space” represent, as it were, the maximum stock of non-built-up areas. It shows land coverage, rather than use according to urban-planning categories. All vegetation-covered areas of one hectare or more are generally identified as open space in this map. Thus, lawn sections between Berlin Tegel airport runways are counted as open space, as are larger inner-city fallow areas.


With this method, the loss of major open, largely non-built-up and pervious areas is documented better than is the case with the figures of the Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg. Typical inner-city open-space uses like parks, allotment gardens, cemeteries etc. are assessed as open space and not as residential and traffic area – unlike under the system used by the Statistical Office for Berlin-Brandenburg.

A disadvantage is that the data are available only for the stated decades, so that a higher time-line resolution, e.g. on an annual basis, would require an insupportably high expenditure of effort.

Senate Department for Urban Development, Sect. I: Report on Area Development

In the GIS “Areas with Change Potentials of City-Wide Significance,” maintained by Section I A of the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, all areas of a certain minimum size (1 ha) have been listed on which changes of use type, basic restructuring or important use intensifications have been carried out or are planned. Based on the assignment passed by the state parliament with the Land-Use Plan Resolution of 1994 to check the basic conditions regularly, areas with a minimum potential of 100 residential units, 10,000 sq.m of gross floor space for services, 5,000 sq.m retail-sales space, 1 hectare commercial area, or 3 hectares green space or woodland are ascertained. Described, among other things, are previous use, planned use and planned and actual completion. All changes refer to actual use in 1990 (Urban Development 2000, Report on land-use development, Land-use development in Berlin, audit, 2001-2005, only in German). The data are updated annually.

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Tab. 1: Consumption of open spaces greater than one hectare in Berlin, 1991-2010, by previous use
Image: based on GIS "Areas with Change Potentials of City-Wide Significance," SenStadtUm, I A 16, 2010


It should be noted that urban fallows, the former border strip along the Wall, and horticultural businesses are classed as residential areas, so that consumption of such land is not assessed as loss of open space, while if they are transformed into green space, such as the Mauerpark, it counts as a gain in open space. The use categories for the newly realized use are in some cases different from the categories of the previous use. In the long run, this makes systematic observation difficult, since the categories to some extent conflict. The fact that ascertainment is carried out annually is positive.

Comparison of Use Categories and Results

The considerable differences in goals and methodologies of the three tools described for the ascertainment of land consumption are also apparent when the land-use categories are juxtaposed. The list shows the land-use categories which are grouped respectively as built-up or residential areas on the one hand and green or open-space use on the other, in each of the three sources.

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Tab. 2: Juxtaposition of the use categories for the ascertainment of the land use
Image: based on AfS, Environmental Atlas and GIS of Sect. I

The figures on land consumption ascertained using the respective methods obviously also arrive at different conclusions. Table 3 shows the information in hectares for the periods from 1991 to 2000 and from 1990 to 2010.

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Tab 3: Land consumption from 1990 - 2000 and 1990 - 2010, [hectares]
Image: based on various sources