Practical Implementation of the Goals of the High-Rise Master Plan

Prof. Dr. Stefan Pützenbacher, Expert in Planning Law

Legal Nature of the High-Rise Development Plan

The Frankfurt high-rise master plan, often also referred to as the skyscraper master plan, is a so-called urban development model within the meaning of Section 1 (6) No. 11 BauGB in Germany. As a planning guideline, it specifies the general objectives of urban land use planning. The high-rise development plan is only part of the informal urban planning, which also shows the objectives for sub-areas of the city and coordinates them. It serves to prepare the later formal plans, which are usually drawn up via land-use plans and development plans. For the administration it has an internal binding effect, because the requirements of the land-use planning have to be based on the urban development model.

In principle, such development and framework planning do not trigger any direct legal consequences, i. H. the city cannot easily hinder investors who are planning high-rise buildings in their building law decision with a view to the high-rise development plan; Rather, it is ultimately the land-use planning, i.e. the preparation of land use plans and (project-related) development plans, which is decisive for the building rights that the investor receives. Conversely, a property owner who wants to build a high-rise cannot rely solely on a high-rise development plan, the high-rise master plan. This gives him no building permit. The contents of the high-rise development plan are included in the urban land-use planning as material for consideration, i.e. they contribute to the decision of the city council as to whether a high-rise should be allowed in a certain location in the city and, if so, in what size.

In principle, it is possible to differentiate between municipal development planning for factual sub-areas (here: arrangement of high-rise buildings in the urban fabric), but also the height development of buildings or the definition of locations. Targets are usually also defined in a high-rise development plan. It can be stipulated how high the residential share of a certain high-rise location is, what energy supply is provided, how energy-efficient the building must be and how it can and must be designed.

The city can refuse to grant building rights through a development plan for high-rise buildings that are not described as individual properties in the high-rise master plan or that are not shown as part of a high-rise cluster. The client can counteract this, if necessary, with reference to the special position of the client. For example, the skyscraper of the European Central Bank in the east of Frankfurt has been approved, although it was not part of the skyscraper master plan.

ECB Frankfurt - during the construction
Prof. Dr. Stefan Pützenbacher - lawyer for building law in Germany

Prof. Dr. Stefan Pützenbacher is a lawyer and notary, specialist lawyer for administrative law, honorary professor for planning and construction law at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. more details

Implementation Through Urban Development Contracts

In order to implement the goals of the high-rise master plan, the City of Frankfurt avails itself of the possibility of concluding urban development contracts with investors willing to build. There is the possibility of concluding a classic urban development contract according to § 11 BauGB or – in the event that the development plan is project-related, i.e. at the initiative of the investor – to prepare an implementation contract for the project-related development plan according to § 12 BauGB.

The prerequisite for both variants of urban development contracts is that the project lies within the scope of a project-related development plan or an offer development plan. The jurisprudence also sees the possibility of drawing up urban development contracts in isolation for development without a development plan. As a rule, however, it is assumed that high-rise buildings generally require a “tailor-made” development plan because of their various serious effects (VG Frankfurt am Main, judgment of May 16, 2011 on Eschersheimer Landstrasse 14 – NVwZ-RR 2011, 810).

Residential Share in High-Rise Projects

According to the provisions of the current high-rise master plan of the City of Frankfurt from 2008, a residential share of at least 30% of the gross floor area above the high-rise boundary should always be made possible for office projects. This does not necessarily have to be implemented in the same building. If the property is large enough, it can be displayed next to the high-rise office building on the same property or in the wider neighborhood. It is always a prerequisite that the areas intended for residential construction were not previously used for residential purposes and that they do not have any planning-law qualifications that only allowed residential construction anyway.

In urban development contracts, which also deal with the residential component, it can therefore be regulated that a residential component is to be built in residential units of a certain size, when this residential component is to be completed and that the use of the high-rise for commercial purposes may only begin when the residential component is reached usable is completed. Furthermore, such contracts can stipulate that the residential part of the development plan is also proven on another parcel under the same conditions. Particularly in the case of high-rise residential buildings, which in principle do not provide for commercial units but are purely for residential use, the city can also demand apartments in subsidized housing in addition to the residential component in urban development contracts.

In this respect, the City of Frankfurt obliges owners within the framework of urban development contracts to regularly build not only a residential part within the project, but also within this residential part apartments with fixed rent or socially subsidized living space with a share of around 30% of the total number of apartments .

Such urban development contracts can then also provide for certain obligations to provide evidence or specifications for rental contracts. Such obligations are currently not possible without a contractual basis; In future, however, the City of Frankfurt intends to establish these requirements as binding city law in its statutes.

Residential area in Frankfurt Sachsenhausen

Energy Efficiency of High-Rise Buildings

The 2008 high-rise master plan of the City of Frankfurt currently provides that when constructing and operating high-rise buildings, the aim should be to limit the total primary energy consumption to below 150 kW/h per square meter of gross floor area, whereby at least 50% of the required primary energy comes from the use of geothermal energy / geothermal cooling, photovoltaics or other renewable energies should be obtained.

For this reason, urban planning contracts for high-rise project developments regularly provide for regulations on energy concepts, which oblige the investor to create an energy concept that, based on the requirements of the Energy Saving Ordinance and against the background of the climate protection goals of the City of Frankfurt, aims to provide an energy supply that should be regenerative as far as possible, taking economic requirements into account.

Energy efficiency on highrise facade

Design of High-Rise Buildings

Since the design of high-rise buildings has an extreme effect on their immediate surroundings – possibly in conjunction with other high-rise buildings – the small-scale localization, the structure of the building dimensions and facades and the selection of shapes, materials and colors of their external design require careful planning and an intensive decision-making process considering alternatives. From the point of view of the City of Frankfurt, the best guarantee for excellent implementation planning is a competition or a competition-like planning process with the participation of a sufficient number of qualified architectural offices and independent expert judges. Such procedures should at least be required for all high-rise buildings with 60 or more meters, but also for lower-level projects in particularly sensitive or particularly prominent locations in terms of urban planning.

Also within the framework of urban development contracts, an agreement can be reached with the client on the quality of the architecture and the implementation of architectural competitions.

Security Mechanisms for the High-Rise Master Plan

If the City of Frankfurt concludes urban development contracts with high-rise investors, the rights of the parties can be restricted with several security instruments. For example, the city can demand restrictions on use in the land register through easements or limited personal easements and – under public law – have restrictions due to building loads entered in the building load register, which is kept by the building supervision. In purely contractual terms, contractual penalties or guarantee obligations can be regulated as an economic restriction to the detriment of the client in order to ensure the city’s specifications. Finally, the city has building supervisory powers, because the urban development contract and the approval procedure are fundamentally linked, so that the building supervisory authority can also intervene against the client in the event of a breach of contract.

Future of the High-Rise Master Plan

As part of the current discussion about updating the Frankfurt high-rise master plan, which could possibly be amended in 2021, it is necessary to redefine the goals of the high-rise master plan and adapt them to current requirements for user behavior, energy issues and design ideas.

As before, the instrument of urban development contracts will be suitable for effectively implementing the defined goals of the high-rise master plan.

Since there are sufficient security mechanisms for the city so that contractual regulations are not a blunt sword, urban development contracts between builders and local authorities are not risky business either.

Conversely, regulations in urban development contracts should also offer incentives for investors to actively implement the goals of the high-rise master plan and continue to dare to develop high-rise projects in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt skyscraper planning law expert - Prof. Dr. Stefan Pützenbacher

About the Author

Prof. Dr. Stefan Pützenbacher is the author of this article and is a member of the Frankfurt Research Institute for Architecture • Civil Engineering • Geomatics at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (FFin).

About the Frankfurt Research Institute for Architecture • Civil Engineering • Geomatics (FFin)

The FFin stands for research competence in planning, construction and operation in the FrankfurtRheinMain metropolitan area. With its planning and construction-related disciplines, the FFin shows a special social responsibility for sustainable development and the well-being of people in urban and rural areas. Application-oriented research provides results for resource-saving planning and development as well as an aesthetically pleasing design of the built environment. More than fifty scientists from various disciplines are currently researching “real estate” at the FFin. The focus is often on research on high-rise topics.

Further information about the Frankfurt Research Institute for Architecture • Civil Engineering • Geomatics (FFin) can be found on the FFin website:

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