Land consumption

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Under land use is the reforming of particular agricultural or natural areas in " settlement - and traffic area ." Land use is thus a special form of changing land use , namely on the one hand loss of agricultural land and natural habitats, on the other hand expansion of settlement and traffic areas. Actually, the area is not used, but is correctly "only used".

The term land use is widespread and is associated with negative consequences of this approach; The term "Landfraß" is even more pejorative . However, it is not to be equated with surface sealing .

Land use

The area statistics in Germany are compiled annually by the Federal Statistical Office on the basis of the property registers and property registers of the municipalities . A distinction is made between a number of types of land use. The summary of the types of use for settlement and traffic areas on the one hand and other areas on the other hand is decisive for determining the land consumption.

Settlement and traffic areas

Land use by traffic areas, here the new construction of the federal highway 7 in Germany

The term "settlement and traffic area" (SuV) refers to areas that mainly serve settlement management purposes. It is divided into:

  • Building and building-related open spaces for different uses such as living, working, education, administration, trade and services, trade and industry (2004 in North Rhine-Westphalia 58% of SuV).
  • Traffic areas : for example streets, paths, squares, including parking lots, rails (2004 in NRW 31% of SuV).
  • Recreational areas: sports facilities, campsites , parks and green areas (2004 in NRW 7% of SuV).
  • Operating areas (excluding mining land): for example, warehouses and heaps , supply and disposal systems (2004 in NRW 2% of the SuV).
  • Cemeteries (2004 in NRW 1% of SuV).

Operating areas / mining land are not included in the settlement and traffic areas. These areas are mineral resources in open pit mined. In 2004 there were almost 20,000 hectares of mining land in North Rhine-Westphalia .

In order to describe the spatial distribution and development of settlement and traffic areas in Germany, the Monitor of Settlement and Open Space Development (IOER Monitor) can be used. For example, in the “settlement” category, the proportion of settlement and traffic areas (SuV) in the area or the new land use by SuV can be mapped. In the “Traffic” category, you can select, among other things, the road network density in the area or the proportion of road traffic area in the SuV. The data basis is the digital basis landscape model (Basis-DLM) from the official topographical cartographic information system (AKTIS) .

Due to the comparatively small area size and high population figures, cities and city-states have a significantly higher proportion of settlement and transport areas than rural regions. Old industrialized regions such as the Rhine-Ruhr area, the Saarland, the Rhine-Main or the Rhine-Neckar area and the Stuttgart region stand out due to a high proportion of settlement and traffic areas both in the core cities and in the rural districts. In contrast, particularly low values ​​can be found in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in the Altmark or in the neighboring Wendland, in the Eifel and in the rural areas of Thuringia and Bavaria. In 2017, the districts of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte (4.3%) and Garmisch-Partenkirchen (4.3%) had the lowest proportions of built-up settlement and traffic areas in the area, while the highest proportions were in the districts of Herne (62.8%) and Munich (61.9%).

Other types of land use

Other land uses include agricultural land, including moors and heaths, forest and water areas and areas for other uses.

Compensation areas

The use of land is regularly associated with considerable damage to nature and the landscape. The habitat of animals and plants is destroyed and the natural functions of the soil, the water balance and the microclimate as well as the landscape are negatively changed. In order to compensate for these considerable impairments, the legislature provides in §§13 ff. BNatSchG that compensation areas must be provided. On the part of some representatives of agriculture, this is generally seen as an additional shortage of agricultural land, even if some compensation measures, e.g. B. species-rich grassland areas can be realized through agricultural use. At the same time, it is criticized that Section 15 (3) BNatSchG , according to which priority should be given to “whether the compensation or replacement also through measures to unseal, through measures to reconnect habitats, or through management or maintenance measures that promote the permanent upgrading of the natural balance or serve the landscape, can be provided in order to avoid that areas are taken out of use "would not be sufficiently considered. On the part of nature conservation, it is countered that this requirement is observed and that compensation areas support agricultural use, especially on marginal yield locations that would otherwise be taken out of use, and enable management as extensively used grassland. With regard to the land-use planning , the compensation regulations are not subject to the BNatSchG and the state nature conservation laws, but to the BauGB § 18 BNatSchG . The compensation for the impairment of nature and landscape caused by construction measures is to be stipulated in the development plan. In the balancing act according to § 1 BauGB as public interests, nature conservation interests are to be weighed up fairly with the other public and private interests (cf. § 1 para. 7 BauGB ). In the weighing up, the compensatory measures stipulated in Section 1a (3 ) BauGB must be taken into account. The compensatory measures are specified in the environmental report and are based on nature conservation requirements. The compensation does not necessarily take place in an area ratio of 1: 1. In some federal states, biotope value methods are established to determine the compensation requirement , on the basis of which the compensation requirement is calculated. The application of these abstract computational procedures is not mandatory and development plans in which the issues of nature conservation are strictly computationally processed or even optimized are to be viewed critically.

Development of land consumption in Germany

After the Second World War, the population in the old federal states increased more than in the new. The increasing population density led to a higher land consumption, so that a clear east-west divide arose. In the years after reunification, too, the population density in the old federal states rose continuously, while the development in the new federal states was characterized by strong emigration. Even if the contrast weakened from the second half of the 2000s, the different land use is still visible on the maps. In the future, this development will be overlaid by the increasing growth of cities and the population decline in rural regions ( urbanization ).

The German federal government has set itself goals to reduce land consumption: As part of its sustainability strategy from 2002, it wants to reduce land consumption to 30 hectares per day by 2020. The new edition of the sustainability strategy from 2016 contains, according to the Federal Environment Ministry, a “tightened definition” of “less than 30 hectares” per day up to the year 2030. The Environment Ministry's integrated environmental program 2030 from 2016 contains a target of 20 hectares per day . According to the Climate Protection Plan 2050 from November 2016, which describes the path to a greenhouse gas-neutral Germany, the federal government wants land consumption of net zero (area recycling management) by 2050, in accordance with an objective of the European Commission.

In relation to the whole of Germany, the use of open space for settlement and traffic areas in the years 2001 to 2005 was a total of 2111 km² or an average of 116 ha / day. After the average land consumption from 1997 to 2000 was 129 ha / day, it sank with few exceptions at the beginning of the millennium. In 2015 the land consumption was 61 ha / day. The target of 30 hectares of new land use per day by 2020 can hardly be met.

Land consumption in Germany
year SuV Increase per year Increase per day comment
1992 40,305 km²
1996 42,052 km² 437 km² 120 ha Average increase since 1992
2000 43,939 km² 472 km² 129 ha Average increase since 1996
2001 44,381 km² 442 km² 121 ha
2002 44,780 km² 400 km² 110 ha
2003 45,141 km² 361 km² 99 ha
2004 45,621 km² 480 km² 131 ha
2005 46,050 km² 430 km² 118 ha
2006 46,438 km² 387 km² 106 ha
2007 46,789 km² 351 km² 96 ha
2008 47,137 km² 348 km² 95 ha
2009 47,422 km² 285 km² 78 ha
2010 47,702 km² 280 km² 77 ha
2011 48,133 km² 431 km² 118 ha
2012 48,368 km² 235 km² 64 ha
2013 48,597 km² 229 km² 63 ha
2014 48,843 km² 246 km² 68 ha
2015 49,066 km² 223 km² 61 ha
2016 49,254 km² 188 km² 52 ha
2017 49,505 km² 251 km² 69 hectares
The IOER Monitor map shows the new land use of built-in SuV on a five-year average (2011–2015).

Since 2000, the settlement and traffic area (SuV area) has increased in almost all rural districts in Germany, which can be seen in the development of new land use. With the maps of the IOER Monitor , this can be mapped on a 5-year average, i.e. the development from 2011 to 2015. The indicator is calculated from the absolute daily new use of space by built-up settlement areas such as residential construction, industry and commerce as well as mixed use, and by traffic areas (roads, rails, flights plus traffic areas) per area unit. Water areas are factored out.

While at the beginning of the millennium, traffic areas accounted for a fifth to almost a quarter of the land consumption, their share rose to around 40% in 2014. Above all, this also expresses the decline in residential construction activity.

It is not surprising that large territorial states such as Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria or North Rhine-Westphalia have the highest land use, while the already highly dense city ​​states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg as well as countries with less economic dynamism such as Saarland or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have new areas claim only to a lesser extent.

Share of settlement and traffic area in the area (in percent)
state 2000 2015 (change from 2000 in percent)
Baden-Württemberg 10.7 + 2.4
Bavaria 8.5. + 1.7
Berlin 67.2 + 2.5
Brandenburg 7.7 + 0.6
Bremen 49.3 + 6.3
Hamburg 54.1 + 4.5
Hesse 10.9 + 1.8
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 5.1 + 1.0
Lower Saxony 9.8 + 1.6
North Rhine-Westphalia 19.0 + 2.2
Rhineland-Palatinate 9.3 + 1.6
Saarland 18.1 + 0.1
Saxony 12.0 + 1.7
Saxony-Anhalt 7.6 + 1.1
Schleswig-Holstein 10.1 + 1.9
Thuringia 7.9 + 1.5
Germany 10.3 + 1.7
The designation of building areas on the "green field" promotes land consumption, here a new industrial area in Wörrstadt , Rhineland-Palatinate

Consequences of land use

Land consumption and settlement growth have numerous consequences - not only for nature and environmental protection.

Ecological consequences

Sensitive high mountain regions beyond the tree line with their very special vegetation are becoming commercially used leisure areas. Here the region on the Fellhorn in the Allgäu Alps , which was transformed into an artificial lake in 2008 by the operators of the Kanzelwandbahn right below the built-up mountain ridge in order to be able to supply snow cannons with water. At the same time, a dense network of well-paved farm and hiking trails was created there at the expense of the natural landscape
Simple surface lifts have been converted into larger and wider ascent aids (here an
eight-seater ) in many mountain areas in the Alpine region , with correspondingly higher space and energy requirements in ecologically sensitive regions
The Kronplatz in South Tyrol appears beyond the tree line as a densely urban high mountain terrain: cable car stations, cable car carriers, antennas, playgrounds, dining restaurants, 32 climbing aids for winter sports enthusiasts, a museum, various shopping facilities and other functional buildings including paved access roads have been increasingly at the expense of the alpine natural areas

Buildings, traffic routes, mining areas and storage areas as well as the steadily increasing industrial area lead to a direct loss of soil and living space . Sealed area is largely lost as a habitat for animals and plants (not every "used" area is automatically sealed, see surface sealing ). Traffic routes cut up additional habitats and hinder migration. In addition, other areas are devalued by human activities. This endangers the survival of the population, especially for species that flee from culture . Land use and landscape fragmentation are the main causes of species extinction .

The example of the amphibians is well known , for which roads are obstructed to reach the spawning waters. The designation of a network of habitats (Natura 2000 network and FFH areas ) should counteract this. In practice, however, this does not succeed because the authorities and municipalities regularly rate the arguments “for” a building project higher than the protected assets.

Traffic growth is associated with the expansion of the settlement. Land consumption leads to more noise, more exhaust gases and increases energy consumption .

Built-up and sealed areas affect the water balance . A sealing of around 50% already affects the affected water bodies considerably, regardless of the exact size. The formation of new groundwater is disrupted and the risk of flooding increases - with immense damage to people and nature - and with considerable follow-up costs.

Sealing surfaces is a special sub-topic. Land consumption means above all a conversion of the soil - but not necessarily a sealing (surface sealing).

Economic consequences

Settlement growth is much faster than population growth . Therefore, the number of inhabitants per settlement and traffic area is falling. This decreasing relative population density causes higher infrastructure costs because people and goods have to be transported over longer distances. This also applies to the underground infrastructure, which is particularly expensive to build and maintain. The maintenance costs are often not taken into account in the planning decision. The municipal and city councils make decisions that will burden the budgets of their municipalities for decades.

The long distances required increase mobility costs : Local transport needs more and more subsidies because land-use planning is setting the wrong course. Mobility costs also increase for individual households that use space by moving from the city to the countryside. A household with one employed and one non-employed person moving from a core city to the suburban area often has to purchase an additional car. Depending on the chosen location, additional costs of around 350 to 400 euros per month can be expected.

The suburbanization of the population and the subsidized provision of building land for shopping markets on the green field are endangering traditional centers in districts and villages. Service providers and retailers based there are losing their economic basis, while on the other hand few staff are employed per area in the shopping centers and profits are taxed at the headquarters of the company. The hope of local councils for additional tax revenues and jobs is often disappointed.

The loss of agricultural land puts farms under economic pressure. In addition to the immediate traffic or settlement areas, the compensation areas to be proven under nature conservation law are often at the expense of agricultural production. In economic terms, this affects decentralized production and supply and generates further goods and passenger traffic with the consequences mentioned above.

Social and cultural context

Today life plans are more diverse than before. Starting your own family is no longer the focus of all phases of life. There are more single parents, single people and the elderly. Families have also changed: the man is often no longer the sole breadwinner and the parent-2-child family has become rare. Since the normal employment relationship is also dissolved, the housing needs change and the ability to plan long-term investment decisions decreases. Old single-family and terraced houses are proving to be more and more difficult to sell - not least because of the modernization backlog - or not achieving the desired prices - this endangers old-age pensions . The migration of families from the middle class to the surrounding area leads to segregation in the inner city and promotes the formation of multiple disadvantaged and socially unstable neighborhoods. Utilities are moving to locations that can only be reached by automobile, which excludes non-automobiles. All developments are exacerbated by demographic change .


Essentially, four different causes are described:

The socio-economic change

Land consumption by a wind turbine under construction

A major reason for the increase in land requirements are the technical, economic and social changes, as well as the associated development of prosperity for around 50 years:

  • Changes in the world of work through the use of space-intensive technologies
  • Space-consuming forms of logistics instead of ecology-oriented logistics
  • Expansion of educational and cultural facilities
  • Differentiation of training courses and professions
  • Emancipation from social constraints
  • Increase in households even with a stagnating population (fewer children, more childless, couples and singles)
  • Old people living alone, but also old married people, remain in large family apartments
  • Increase in second homes and weekend houses
  • Expansion of new types of leisure facilities
  • land-intensive settlement forms such as B. the open construction method in settlements vs. grown structures like the closed construction

The specific space requirements (m² per person) for the individual types of use (living, production, trade, education, supply, leisure, etc.) have increased continuously. For example, the average living space in West Germany was 14 m² per person in 1960, today (2002) it is over 41 m². Similarly, the specific space requirements in business and public institutions have increased.

This trend can be justified with the desire for more comfort and quality as well as with emancipatory achievements. For example, young people are now more likely to start their own households than they were two or three decades ago. The increase in living space is also due to the aging of the population . Often single elderly people stay in the (now) too large family apartments because they shy away from the expense of moving and new rental contracts would be more expensive.

Settlement structure concepts

Land consumption due to urban sprawl
Multiple use: multi-storey car park above the A 8 near Stuttgart

The "own home in the country" is still the type of living desired by many, but at the same time it is the most space consuming and requires at least three times the building land area (including streets) compared to an urban alternative ( condominiums or "town houses" with an assigned small garden or terrace). The mass implementation of this wish destroys what you want to gain: the closeness to the great outdoors. The more the urban area is built on with single-family houses, the more the city expands (suburbanization) and the further you have to drive to experience the open landscape.

Guiding principles such as that of the “structured and relaxed city”, which are closely related to car-oriented traffic and urban development, as well as the lack of a regional authority in many places that sets limits to the communal “church tower policy”, have contributed significantly to the consumption of space.

A dispersed, car-oriented settlement structure requires several times the settlement and traffic area as a concentration on a network of medium-sized, small and large cities in the urban region (decentralized concentration). For example, each inhabitant in a city district close to the city center has around 80–100 m² of settlement and transport space, while smaller communities in the surrounding area have 600–700 m² (see figure). Due to the increased distances in the course of area expansion and segregation of functions and the dominance of car traffic , traffic areas play an important role. In 2001 these took up 39% of the settlement and traffic areas. Car traffic requires around ten times as much space per person transported as rail , bus, bicycle or foot traffic and also parking spaces.

Public funding

State financial subsidies for housing and infrastructure development have also made a significant contribution to land consumption. In particular, the most space-consuming form of living - building your own home - is being given intensive support. In connection with an extensive road construction program neglecting rail traffic and with tax concessions for commuters (“kilometer” or “distance flat rate”), the trend towards land-intensive forms of settlement and transport was further supported.

Land market

The main reason for the preference for areas in the surrounding area instead of densities in the existing settlements and the reuse of urban wasteland is the immense land price differential from the inner city to the periphery. The price of land is still based exclusively on the economic possibilities of utilization, the ecological value of the land / land as a finite, irreplaceable resource is not included. Therefore, due to the relatively low land prices in the surrounding area, settlement development hardly saves space. The relatively high market price of urban fallow land and contaminated sites that are difficult or costly to remove often prevent the urban development desired new use in competition with locations on the periphery.


More effective use of space: tennis court on the roof of a parking garage in Bangkok
In order to protect sensitive areas of the Swabian Alb and the associated biosphere area, more than 50% of the new Wendlingen – Ulm line runs in tunnels

Reducing land consumption is a core concern of soil and environmental protection .

Many home and garden owners can keep soil sealing to a minimum and create opportunities for rainwater to seep away. As a self-responsible compensation measure, it is advisable to design your own garden as a natural garden with native plants. This can help to reduce the ecological consequences of land use, but - because the type of use recorded does not usually change - it does not affect the statistically recorded land use.

Land consumption could be effectively counteracted by increasing the property tax for building plots such as vacant lots and fallow land. This would make it less attractive to hold such properties as long-term investment and speculative objects. In addition, ecologically valuable compensation areas should be created so that interventions in nature should be compensated elsewhere. It should sidelines hedges and neglected grassland areas planted wetlands created and streams are rehabilitated.

A holistic approach to sustainable land management is the concept of circular land management. a. aims to remediate contaminated sites and reuse areas as well as improve the use of fallow land. If one makes previously industrially or commercially used areas usable again through planning, environmental and economic policy measures, one speaks of area recycling .

Another way to reduce land consumption is a Land trading that works in a similar way to emissions trading : municipalities receive land designation rights. These rights can be traded in the form of certificates. A municipality may not designate more building space in its outdoor area than it has certificates. If it wants to provide more outside space for development, it has to purchase certificates from other municipalities, which then have less space available, but generate additional income. This gives municipalities an incentive to plan building measures in their interior and to use space sparingly. The use of space is effectively limited by a limited number of area certificates. From 2013 to 2017, a model test in the form of a simulation game on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency took place in a gradually increasing number of up to 100 municipalities. In 2017, the German Advisory Council on Environmental Issues approved the introduction of land trade in an open letter.


According to the Building Code and the Regional Planning Act, spatial planning , regional planning and land use planning should pursue the goal of reducing land consumption in the Federal Republic. According to the available figures from the Federal Statistical Office, the settlement and traffic area continues to increase. However, the increase has slowed in recent years. The choice of construction method for newly developed settlement areas can influence land consumption.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  2. a b c Federal Statistical Office (ed.): Agriculture and forestry, fishing: land area according to type of actual use . 2015. November 18, 2016 ( [PDF]).
  3. Calculations by the BUND -NRW based on the state database of NRW
  4. Settlements and traffic take up more and more space - IOER Monitor. Retrieved April 28, 2020 .
  5. Current figures on the proportion of settlement and traffic areas in relation to the area at the IOER monitor district level . Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  6. BVerwG , decision of April 23, 1997, Az. 4 NB 13.97, full text .
  7. ^ OVG North Rhine-Westphalia, judgment of June 28, 1995, Az. 7a D 44 / 94.NE, guiding principle .
  8. Goals and indicators. Federal Environment Agency , March 11, 2016, accessed on October 18, 2017 .
  9. Sustainable development: Land consumption - what is it about? Environment Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, January 23, 2017, accessed on October 18, 2017 .
  10. German Federal Government (Ed.): German Sustainability Strategy - New Edition 2016 . October 1, 2016 ( [PDF; 6.2 MB ]). German Sustainability Strategy - New Edition 2016 ( Memento from November 20, 2017 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Environment Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (ed.): Climate Protection Plan 2050: Climate Protection Policy Principles and Goals of the Federal Government . November 2016, p. 68 ( [PDF; 2.0 MB ]).
  12. a b F. Vorholz: Germany uses too much land . Zeit Online , March 13, 2015.
  13. ↑ Saving space - preserving soils and landscapes. Federal Environment Agency, July 17, 2017, accessed on October 18, 2017 (diagram as Excel with data).
  14. Until 2013 Destatis : GENESIS online, 2010. For 2014 and 2015: Land saving - soils and landscapes preserved. Federal Environment Agency, July 17, 2017, accessed on October 18, 2017 (diagram as Excel with data).
  15. Proportion of settlement and traffic area in the area at the level of the federal states ( Memento of the original from July 3, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. IOER monitor. Retrieved October 12, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. a b c d BUND North Rhine-Westphalia, project ( page no longer available , search in web archives: sustainable land use )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  17. ^ J. Scheiner: Transport costs of marginal migration of private households . In: Federal Office for Building and Spatial Planning (BBR) and Academy for Spatial Research (ARL) (ed.): Spatial research and spatial planning , issue 1/2008, pp. 52–62.
  18. Dieter Apel, Ortwin Peithmann: In search of the causes . Unpublished Discussion paper. Fulda 2002.
  19. ↑ Create the field hedge yourself
  20. ↑ Land recycling. Federal Environment Agency , accessed on October 18, 2017 .
  21. Trade in area certificates. Federal Environment Agency, August 3, 2015, accessed on October 16, 2017 .
  22. Website of the model project on land trade. Retrieved October 16, 2017 .
  23. ^ Recommendations of the SRU on the formation of a government. German Advisory Council on the Environment, October 11, 2017, accessed on October 16, 2017 .
  24. Destatis : GENESIS online, 2010