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Beirut , a city made of prefabricated buildings (1983)

Prefabricated , Switzerland buildings in panel design called, are mainly of prefabricated concrete elements manufactured building , that is, both ceiling tiles and wall panels are assembled as finished elements on the site. The panel construction (large panel construction) is a widespread construction method. In colloquial language, the term “Plattenbau” is often narrowed down to uniformly designed apartment blocks in large housing estates.

Construction engineering

Prefabricated building, type w-70 in Zielona Góra (Grünberg) in Poland. The type W-70 is related to the East German type WBS70.
Installation of a ceiling plate in Neubrandenburg-Ost
Welding the reinforcement
Transport of large panels in Karl-Marx-Stadt 1975 (today Chemnitz)

The prefabricated building method is a construction method within the group of precast construction . In particular, residential and office buildings are joined together from concrete slabs prefabricated in factories. The components are then assembled on site. In some cases, precast panels are only used as facade panels. The supporting structure can then be produced conventionally from in-situ concrete as a skeleton structure in prefabricated parts. Prefabricated facade panels are characterized by the fact that they offer special design options through the use of exposed concrete (as exposed concrete , acidified concrete or polished concrete). A thermal insulation composite system with plaster can also be applied to space-enclosing prefabricated panels . Façade elements made of concrete are also characterized by their durability and low maintenance costs and are therefore often used in industrial construction (halls).


The advantages include that numerous work steps can be carried out in factory buildings regardless of the weather, and that the assembly of the structures themselves can be carried out relatively quickly. Thus, this construction method has advantages in areas with a short usable construction time such as Sweden , Finland or Russia . It is often seen as an advantage that the quality of the industrially manufactured components can be checked prior to assembly.


One of the disadvantages is that in the case of individually planned precast constructions, the entire planning process, including the planning of the building services, must take place completely before production in the precast plant, since empty pipes , sockets for electrical installation , anchor rails and weld-on plates for the later technical installation must already be concreted into the precast element. However, this disadvantage is of lesser importance in the case of buildings that are built in large numbers in a largely standardized manner. Comprehensive standardization of the components, however, leads to fewer individual design options.

The construction costs of residential and office buildings that are erected as prefabricated buildings are usually higher than those of structures that are built using masonry, for example. The reasons for this are: A wall made of reinforced concrete is more expensive than one made of masonry . In the case of the support system, only single-span girders are regularly used for slabs and beams . This leads to a higher demand for reinforcing steel . There are additional connecting elements required, which are made of expensive stainless steel . If sandwich panels (three-layer panels with internal thermal insulation) are used, closing the joints also leads to additional costs. Transporting the bulky panels over long distances leads to higher transport costs than transporting the building materials with conventional construction methods.

Definition of terms

The demarcation to related terms such as prefabricated house is fuzzy. Although the construction method is comparable, the term prefabricated building is mostly only used for solid buildings with precast concrete slabs.

The term large panel construction describes the same type of construction and avoids the blurring with regard to the terms “ wall panel ” and “ ceiling panel ” that are common in statics . In terms of statics, only the flat structural elements are plates that are subjected to bending stress, components subjected to pressure are disks.

Panel construction is a form of solid construction in which walls and ceilings have a load-bearing effect, in contrast to skeleton construction , in which walls and ceilings do not have to support, but the load-bearing elements mainly consist of columns, beams or vaulted ribs. At the same time, panel construction is usually a form of reinforced concrete construction , one of the most common forms of building construction . Other common construction methods are masonry construction , steel construction or wood construction . Sometimes prefabricated masonry is used to put together prefabricated buildings.

In colloquial terms, the term - technically incorrect - is sometimes used as a synonym for box-shaped, standardized or little varied buildings of mass housing construction that cannot be assigned to any special construction method.



Before 1920, construction technology was often characterized by a historicizing design language, and numerous decorations from various previous architectural epochs were used. This required quality craftsmanship and a high level of personnel expenditure. The foundation walls of the buildings were built with masonry ( stone on stone ), the costs and the time required were correspondingly high. Sustained population growth and increasing immigration to the cities required more housing and new construction techniques. The construction with prefabricated, standardized panels reduced construction times and costs.

After 1920, a new architectural epoch developed, which is now known as " Classical Modernism " or, from 1950, " International Style ". Basic ideas were

The construction method became more and more popular and thus the panel construction technology became recognized architecture. The lack of decoration and the use of uniform materials promoted a uniform appearance of the buildings.

The first houses in which prefabricated large plates in reinforced concrete were used, were built in 1910 in the garden city project Forest Hills Gardens in Queens , a district of New York . Named after the engineer and architect Grosvenor Atterbury , the construction principle was also known in Europe as the Atterbury system . This was preceded by experimental buildings and series production in Great Britain and France in particular with other starting materials (wood, metal, stamped concrete ) and also with smaller-format concrete elements.

The first project in which panel construction was planned in Germany was the New Frankfurt project (1925–1930). Its director Ernst May had a factory built in which the concrete slabs were made. However, not all of the 15,000 apartments were built using prefabricated panels. In 1926, the first German prefabricated housing estate was built in Berlin-Lichtenberg , district of Friedrichsfelde , based on designs by the then town planning officer Martin Wagner . This residential complex, built as a Kriegerheimstättensiedlung , is a two- to three-storey housing estate with originally 138 apartments, which today bears the name Splanemann-Siedlung . Multi-shell concrete slabs weighing up to seven tons were poured on site and brought to the assembly sites by a gantry crane , although these were still prepared using traditional brick construction. The procedure had Wagner in 1921 during the construction of Betondorp (literally "Concrete village") met, a residential neighborhood in Amsterdam's city district Amsterdam-Oost .

The Unité d'Habitation (residential unit) by Le Corbusier , as a high-rise type, was the model for modern prefabricated buildings in architecture and living philosophy. Corbusier presented the core of the idea as early as 1925 in Paris , with the Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau . The residential units were built between 1947 and 1965 in four French locations and in Berlin . The projects were intended to alleviate the housing shortage after the Second World War . Corbusier saw his building design as the ideal solution for mass repetition in many places. He wanted to achieve a high level of efficiency through standardized series production . This economic efficiency and the widespread use should enable the majority of the population to enjoy increased living comfort. Prefabricated buildings were deliberately designed uniformly and cost-effectively; the degree of awareness of Corbusier promoted the spread of his standard building.

Since these beginnings, entire housing estates , high-rise office buildings , industrial and other large buildings have been and are being built from on-site or factory-cast concrete slabs and precast concrete parts .

Large housing estates

After the 1950s, new large international settlements emerged. The term prefabricated housing estate is now used almost synonymously for these large estates. One of the theoretical foundations was the Athens Charter under the leadership of Le Corbusier, which called for a new urban planning . One of the new ideals was a relaxed and uniform design so that no class differences are recognizable. Historic city centers should be rearranged through area renovations . Later the idea of ​​a car-friendly city developed . Most of the Charter's ideals are now considered misinterpreted or outdated. While hardly any new large settlements emerged in the European countries after the 1980s, today these are mainly being built in the Asian metropolitan areas.

German Democratic Republic

Panel building from the 1980s in Chemnitz, 2010
The same block of flats after modernization, 2020
Dr.-Wilhelm-Külz-Strasse in Hoyerswerda

Prefabricated buildings found widespread use in the German Democratic Republic . After the destruction of the war years and the influx of displaced persons , there was a pronounced housing shortage in post-war Germany . In the GDR, classic construction methods such as masonry constructions were used in the first few years, but these could not fix the housing shortage quickly enough. In the 1950s, more rational building methods were sought. A first large-scale test building was built in 1953 in Berlin-Johannisthal . The expansion of the city of Hoyerswerda became an "experimental field" in this area. The industrial housing construction in prefabricated construction was realized there for the first time in the GDR since 1957 on a large scale. The construction process with prefabricated concrete parts was based on the ideas of modern architecture that had already emerged in the Bauhaus .

With the state housing program of 1972, which aimed to eliminate the housing shortage by 1990, the prefabricated building became the most important type of new building . New districts or entire cities with up to 100,000 inhabitants, such as Halle-Neustadt , were mostly built entirely using prefabricated panels. As part of the housing construction program, a total of around three million new apartments were built or renovated, with 1.8 to 1.9 million prefabricated buildings being built. The housing program was an ambitious program for which a significant part of the state budget was used. However, the older buildings in the historic city centers were not subsidized in the same way. These houses - often privately owned or managed by municipal housing administrations (KWV) - were usually unable to generate the financial resources necessary to maintain them with fixed low rents. Thus, the partial decline of the historic inner cities was a downside of the GDR housing program.

At the beginning of the 1980s, investments were also made in the complex renovation of old buildings in the inner cities, but in some cities such as Bernau near Berlin this led to the demolition of space in favor of inner-city prefabricated buildings. The Hallesche monolith construction , a combination of tunnel formwork and panel construction, was also used for larger inner-city new construction projects .

The majority of the new development areas were built in a uniform manner, variations in the structural elements were only used to a limited extent due to the high costs. The prefabricated buildings had simple "perforated facades", had only a few decorations and repeated a uniform facade appearance. Since the beginning of the 1980s, however, the appearance of prefabricated buildings has occasionally been loosened up or adapted to the cityscape by historicizing forms, at points that are important for urban planning or for reasons of representation. Examples can be found in the buildings on Berlin's Friedrichstrasse and Gendarmenmarkt . In Berlin's Nikolaiviertel , which was rebuilt based on the historic city plan, unusual small-scale, varied formats and pointed gables with decorations were used. In Rostock's inner city, too, prefabricated buildings were built near Langen Strasse , which, due to their Hanseatic look, should be better integrated into the historic cityscape. In some inner cities, low-storey prefabricated buildings were built.

At the time of their construction, the prefabricated apartment buildings were in great demand by the population because, in contrast to old apartments from the beginning of the 20th century, these apartments were equipped with standardized comforts such as hot and cold running water, central heating, a toilet in the apartment (indoor toilet) and a bathtub . The rents for prefabricated buildings were a little higher than those for an old apartment, but still low. Apartment rents in the GDR were regulated to a low level by the state, but this did not cover the costs.

The most widespread prefabricated building types in the GDR include WBS 70 , WHH GT 18 , P2 and M10 . Due to the standardized, factory-made production from the resistant material concrete, prefabricated buildings have a good building fabric to this day.

Federal Republic of Germany before 1990

Large prefabricated buildings were also built in the large housing estates in the old Federal Republic . The construction method was mainly used for social housing . The common term for this was "buildings in large panel construction" or "panel buildings" for short. Here, too, the architects and town planners oriented themselves towards the ideas of modern architecture and town planning . One of the first examples of large estates is the Berlin Hansaviertel (6,000 inhabitants), which was planned from 1952 with the participation of well-known architects such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier . The district of Nuremberg-Langwasser had been one of the prototypes for a satellite town since 1957 , due to the long construction period up to the 1990s, the further development of construction technology can be observed here over decades.

The larger prefabricated building areas in Germany include Munich-Neuperlach (55,000 inhabitants), Nürnberg-Langwasser (36,000 inhabitants), Berlin-Märkisches Viertel (36,000 inhabitants), Berlin-Gropiusstadt (34,000 inhabitants), Bremen-Vahr and Tenever (together more than 30,000 inhabitants), Frankfurt-Nordweststadt (23,000 inhabitants), Hamburg-Steilshoop (20,000 inhabitants), Hamburg-Mümmelmannsberg (19,000 inhabitants), Kiel-Mettenhof (18,000 inhabitants), Pforzheim- Haidach (14,000 inhabitants), Mannheim-Vogelstang ( 13,000 residents), Würzburg-Heuchelhof (12,000 residents), Heidelberg-Emmertsgrund (11,000 residents), Hamburg-Osdorfer Born (11,000 residents) and Reutlingen -Hohbuch (10,000 residents).

An advocate of the use of industrially prefabricated wall elements and entire room cells was the architect and director of the Berlin University of the Arts, Karl Otto . He had got to know the technology and its advantages in the USA on study trips and implemented the ideas in his own buildings such as the German School in Brussels or his only church building, the Martin Luther King Church in Berlin-Britz . His "construction kit" was called the Brockhouse system .

The youngest large estates include Cologne-Chorweiler (13,418 inhabitants) and Bremen-Osterholz-Tenever , the main construction phases here were in the 1970s. From the 1980s onwards, no new large settlements were started in the Federal Republic of Germany, but existing ones were still completed, in some cases with rather looser and lower peripheral buildings in brick construction. On the one hand, some of the districts developed into social hot spots , on the other hand, the housing demand was largely covered.

The structures for accommodating the participants in the 1972 Summer Olympics , the Schilksee Olympic Center in Kiel and the Olympic Village in Munich , were also constructed using this method. The latter, together with the Olympic Park, is now a listed facility. Due to its special development, use and management, it is not considered a social hotspot in Munich. Around 6,100 people currently live here, and the Olympic Village is considered to be of very high quality. Around 90% of all removals only take place within the Olympic Village. In 2006, the Olympic Village received a special prize as part of the city's “Child and Family-Friendly Living Environment” competition.

Other states

“Maison à panneaux” in Aubervilliers

In Switzerland , prefabricated buildings are referred to as "buildings in element construction". The Göhnerbauten are particularly well known here. One of the architects was the Bauhaus student Hans Fischli , whose largest settlement project ( Hangenmoos in Wädenswil , built from 1968 to 1973) was demolished in 2019. On the other hand, ecclesiastical buildings in element construction are rather unusual, such as the Baldegg Franciscan convent planned by Marcel Breuer and completed in 1972 .

Numerous prefabricated buildings were also built in France, the best-known being the buildings by Le Corbusier , which were also built in other countries as Unité d'habitation . The suburbs of numerous metropolitan areas in France are laid out as large housing estates in prefabricated construction. Many prefabricated buildings were also built in Norway and Sweden, such as the suburbs of Rinkeby ( Stockholm ), Angered ( Gothenburg ) and Rosengård ( Malmö ). In the socialist countries, large prefabricated housing estates were built until the end of the 1980s.

The term prefabricated building was also used in other languages:

Modern prefabricated building

The construction of residential and office buildings using prefabricated building methods is very rare in Germany. High-rise buildings can be made cheaper using in-situ concrete. Façades made from exposed concrete precast panels are viewed by many architects as not being attractive. The facades are therefore preferably made as glass facades, facades with a post and beam construction or with natural stone cladding . Alternative construction methods, such as the use of masonry as a load-bearing and space-enclosing construction or prefabricated timber construction, have established themselves as the standard, especially in private house construction and rental apartment construction. In some cases, early and integrated planning is mentioned as an argument in favor of building with prefabricated concrete slabs.

A special form of the prefabricated building method is the cellular construction , in which complete rooms are prefabricated and assembled on site. The negative experiences with uniform prefabricated housing estates at the end of the 20th century led to efforts to achieve a more varied appearance. External walls are usually plastered or covered with any facade , which does not reveal the panel construction and at the same time offers options for integrated thermal insulation .

Criticism and problems

Demolition of a prefabricated building in the Rotensee district in Bergen on Rügen
A converted apartment block from GDR times in Ilmenau
Refurbished prefabricated buildings in Plau am See

As early as the 1960s, the architecture of prefabricated buildings in the Federal Republic was criticized as abstract, dreary and soulless . However, the criticism was not directed against the construction process , but against the uniform appearance of the large housing estates. For reasons of economy, an individual, elaborately designed construction was dispensed with in order to better distribute the expenditure costs through large numbers of pieces. In the 1980s, decorative postmodern architecture and the partly historicizing architecture of the present developed as an alternative.

The social and architectural problems are causally attributable to the urban planning of large housing estates in prefabricated construction, since these were usually laid out as self-contained satellite towns or satellite towns . The development of large housing estates in the individual states has taken different historical courses.

Prefabricated housing estates in the GDR were originally in demand, as more comfort was offered than in unrenovated old buildings, with a low rent due to regulatory intervention. Most of the private houses in the old building districts remained unrenovated, as the landlord lacked the means to refurbish them due to the underfunding of costs. The east-west migration in Germany that began after reunification in 1990 led to vacancies in many prefabricated housing estates in eastern Germany. Architects and especially urban planners are improving the existing condition by changing the floor plan, modernizing, upgrading the residential area, infrastructure measures and, in some cases, by reducing the number of floors. The aim is to avoid vacancies by improving the attractiveness of the apartments and locations.

The social situation of the prefabricated housing estates in East Germany has hardly any effect on their surroundings; the positive development up to 1990 continues. Due to the local conditions, there are some large housing estates built in prefabricated construction, which have practically no vacancy after modernization and architectural upgrading, for example the Salvador-Allende quarter in the Berlin district of Köpenick , which is close to nature due to the proximity of large forest areas.

The large housing estates in prefabricated buildings in western Germany are often considered social hot spots . The population structure of the settlements is partly characterized by higher unemployment and an increased proportion of migrants. This situation sometimes leads to an above-average crime rate. If there is vacancy, the residential areas will be demolished. This is mostly due to urban planning (especially in the 1970s).

The international situation is comparable to this. In France, the suburbs of larger cities such as Paris or Lyon were initially deliberately designed as neighborhoods for low income groups or as neighborhoods for immigrants. This is now to be changed retrospectively with renovation programs such as the “mixité sociale” (social mix). The housing estates in the suburbs showed themselves to be social hot spots during the unrest in France in 2005 .


The Institute for the Preservation and Modernization of Buildings e. V. (IEMB) at the TU Berlin researches and documents technology and problems of prefabricated buildings. The aim is to maintain and modernize residential buildings, especially in the new federal states. The reuse of panels in newly built single-family houses was tested as a model.


  • Kirsten Angermann, Tabea Hilse: Old town plates . “Complex reconstruction” in the inner sites of Erfurt and Halle = research on the architectural heritage of the GDR, Vol. 2. Bauhaus-Universitätsverlag, Weimar 2013, pp. 19-101, ISBN 978-3-95773-010-7 .
  • Christine Hannemann: The record. Industrialized housing in the GDR . (PDF) Scheky & Jeep, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89930-104-8 (social and technological history).
  • Thomas Hoscislawski: Building between power and powerlessness. Architecture and urban development in the GDR . Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-345-00537-9 (Ideological and economic factors influencing housing construction in the GDR).
  • Cornelius Mangold: prefabricated buildings. Berlin concrete products . Superclub Nonbook Publishing, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-00-008790-7 (aesthetics, photo documentation of unrenovated facade elements).
  • Philipp Meuser : The aesthetics of the plate. Housing construction in the Soviet Union between Stalin and Glasnost . DOM publishers, Berlin 2015. ISBN 978-3-86922-399-5 .
  • Mikan: Save the Danchi - Mass Estates - A Project of the Future , (translated by Manuel Tardits), Jovis, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86859-085-2 ("Mikan" is a Japanese-French architecture firm in Yokohama, Text in English).
  • Herbert Schwenk: The Splanemann settlement . In: Berlin monthly magazine ( Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein ) . Issue 4, 1997, ISSN  0944-5560 , p. 67–71 ( - history of the origins of the Splanemann settlement in Berlin).
  • Richard Turkington, Ronald van Kempen, Frank Wassenberg: High-rise housing in Europe. Current trends and future prospects . Delft University Press, Delft 2004, ISBN 90-407-2483-0 (Industrial housing after 1945 in European comparison, English).


  • Big blocks - big panels - big plans , popular science DEFA - documentary in color , around 1965, director: Georg Benzinger, 35 mm film , length 15 min. Produced on behalf of the Ministry of Building.

Web links

Wiktionary: Plattenbau  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Plattenbau  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Planning community Dubach, Kohlbrenner: Constantly changing - urban redevelopment in Marzahn and Hellersdorf . Senate Department for Urban Development and the Marzahn-Hellersdorf District , Berlin 2007.