Hot Desking vs. Desk Sharing: Two models, one goal

In the modern work environment, flexible workspace concepts dominate. Two prominent models are Hot Desking and Desk Sharing. While CEOs and employees often use these terms interchangeably, there are differences in their execution. However, both concepts share a common goal: when implemented smartly, they reduce costs and save office space.

Hot Desking: Flexibility and cost efficiency

Hot Desking originated in the United States in the 1980s and is increasingly popular today, especially in hybrid work environments. In line with Activity-Based Working, Hot Desking eliminates fixed desks: employees choose any available workstation each day. Combined with home office policies, this model is particularly effective in optimizing office space and reducing costs, as it eliminates the need to provide a dedicated desk for each employee.

However, Hot Desking can also be quite contentious. Without a fixed workstation, employees may find it difficult to develop a sense of belonging to their team or company. The daily search for a free spot and the need to store personal items can complicate work organization and lead to dissatisfaction.

Before implementing Hot Desking, leaders should carefully consider whether this model fits the company and the team, and support the transition with training and transparent communication.

Desk Sharing: Shared workstations for better collaboration

This concept also involves desks, but with a difference: in Desk Sharing, or Shared Desk, employees take turns using the same workstation. This model is particularly popular where remote work is common. For example, one employee uses the desk on fixed office days from Monday to Wednesday, while another uses it on Thursday and Friday. Like Hot Desking, Desk Sharing helps companies avoid unused office space and desks, thus reducing costs.

In addition to optimizing office resource usage, this concept can foster exchange and collaboration among employees sharing the same desk. To ensure all desk sharers feel comfortable, lockable office furniture can help store confidential or personal documents.

Hygiene is also crucial: according to occupational safety laws, employees should have ergonomic desks and chairs that can be adjusted individually, as well as their own headsets and cleaning wipes for the workspace.

Workplace booking: Crucial for New Work success

Employees wandering from office to office in search of a free desk is a big fail in terms of productivity and job satisfaction. Therefore, whether it’s Desk Sharing or Hot Desking, careful organization is essential. Many companies turn to technical support to reserve workplaces in advance for one or several days.

The solution is simple: ReCoTech’s software supports New Work models by enabling automated one-click workplace booking, including monitoring and optimization. It allows for easy coordination of in-office and home office times and efficient management of IT equipment. Smart office use tailored to employees’ needs—this is how modern work is done.

Desk sharing in administration: A utopia?

Tumult in Austria: A new state service center is being built on around 10,000 square meters in Salzburg’s Bahnhofsviertel district, which focuses primarily on open workspaces and shared desks – but not without resistance. The workforce is extremely critical of the new space concept and emphasizes the need for individual offices. How can an agreement be reached?

A timber hybrid building based on New Work attracts criticism

A whole 13 floors of wood and concrete for over 1,200 employees: Salzburg has big plans for the new State Service Center (Landesdienstleistungszentrum, LDZ). The current construction project is set to become Austria’s most modern administration building, setting an example for sustainability and new ways of working – the plan is to equip the façade with around 4,500 photovoltaic panels and replace half of the traditional individual office with open desk-sharing areas. Construction work is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

A forward-looking idea in principle – but according to Bernd Gollackner, Chairman of the Central Committee of Staff Representatives, the planned room layout of the State Service Center is not tailored to the needs of the workforce, as he explains in an interview with SALZBURG24: The daily tasks in the administrative apparatus require concentrated quiet work – and walls, doors and noise-protected workstations are a necessity. To this end, work at the LDZ is tied to fixed group structures that require separate rooms with fixed workstations, as Gollackner explains: “We are ten departments, each with several units. Colleagues from the same specialist area want to sit together so that they can talk to each other.”

The clear position of the staff representatives: An office must adapt to the way employees work – and not the other way around. A good assessment of the question of which room types support the employees’ tasks could be made by the direct superiors of the college. However, the decision-making power lies with a project team which, according to the staff representatives, does not take sufficient account of the space-related interests of the employees.

A radical change without clear communication

It was not only the new area organization that offended LDZ employees: Misunderstandings are also said to have arisen in the communication of relevant information. As an example, Gollackner cites the concerns expressed about the noise level in open workspaces: “We were told that the noise level would be limited because the offices would never be completely full due to vacations, sick leave and time off. Then, shortly before Christmas, we were told that vacancies in other buildings would be reduced.”

An attempt in March to discuss the problem with the leading project team and regional office director Sebastian Huber also failed: The relevant contact persons were not present at the office meeting, and a list of questions that was subsequently formulated and submitted remained largely unanswered.

Internal communication is also taking a back seat: As things stand, the desk sharing model in the Salzburg administration building is not combined with workplace booking – a loss of transparent organization. Staff representatives are concerned about whether the shared desks will be sufficient for everyone or, for example, whether there will be no workstations left if field service appointments are canceled at short notice.

Supporting restructuring with technical solutions

The concerns of Bernd Gollackner and his colleagues are justified: Spatial adjustments to working environments require a clear exchange between everyone involved. At the same time, data-supported findings are indispensable. This is the only way to create a communicative basis that makes the office change comprehensible. Data could also be used to show exactly which forms of work determine everyday life in the administration and which spaces are necessary for this.

Technical tools such as algorithm-based area planning and workplace booking from ReCoTech are a direct route to greater transparency. Both solutions can be used to generate data on space utilization and usage. This facilitates decision-making when planning new office concepts. In addition, booking via app makes it possible to keep track of occupied or free workstations. Additional functions such as the integration of smart office sensors, which regulate the noise level in open workspaces with the help of white noise, tailor the technology to the needs of a wide variety of offices.

Smart office with sensors: These are the benefits

The more modern the office, the better the technical equipment. Smart offices go one step further: By using tools and network structures, a room becomes an intelligent environment that promotes productivity, efficiency and comfort in everyday working life. One of the main components of smart offices are sensors that record a wide range of data. So which sensor types are suitable for a smart office – and what benefits do they bring? ReCoTech provides an overview.

The basics: What is a smart office?

Smart offices use various technologies to analyze rooms and employees’ working behavior. The levels that play a role in smart offices are complex: On the one hand, the term includes digital infrastructures that enable location-independent working from home or remotely.

On the other hand, the focus is on traditional office complexes. For example, smart offices anonymously record how many people are in a certain area – in combination with parameters such as room temperature, volume or air quality.

A smart office concept therefore focuses on four aspects:

  • Improved workflows through to automated processes
  • Optimal use of space
  • Flexible and adaptable workspaces
  • Health and well-being of employees

To cover these points, smart offices rely on a variety of technologies. These range from meeting tools, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning to digital locking systems that allow access to the office via an app. This is also where sensor technology comes into play: Depending on the type, sensors record various data values and thus form the basis for an efficient, flexible and comfortable working environment. ReCoTech presents the most important sensor types for a smart office.

In practice: Areas of application for sensors in the smart office

There are different ways of grouping the various sensor types. In the smart office, the consideration is: Which dimensions of the office provide the necessary data to make work processes more efficient and create environments that promote productivity? This results in the following categories:

  • Room sensors
  • Motion sensors
  • Desk sensors
  • Contact sensors
  • Floor sensors

1. Room sensors

One of the largest groups of sensors that are part of the equipment of a smart office: Room sensors register parameters that you can’t see – such as the humidity or air quality in the office. Temperature sensors in particular are crucial for improving the energy efficiency of a building.

For example:

In Germany, the Committee for Workplaces (ASTA) of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) specifies an air temperature of at least 18 °C to 19 °C for sedentary activities such as office work – many offices agree on 20 °C. Intelligent climate sensors detect whether the room temperature is within this range. Is it getting too warm in the office? If the sensor technology is networked with the heating system, the sensor can pass on the information directly and activate the cooling system or switch off the heating.

Another type of room sensor that is particularly useful for open-plan offices and conference rooms are audio sensors. They measure the volume of the work surface and emit so-called white noise above a certain decibel level: The barely audible sound dampens the background noise and can therefore improve the ability to concentrate.

2. Motion sensors

A big plus for space optimization: Motion sensors, such as infrared or ceiling sensors, register the routes taken by employees in the office. The data can be used to create heat maps that reveal which areas are well utilized and whether there are any free spaces. One advantage is that movement sensors can also record and evaluate spaces that are not integrated into a workplace booking system – such as break rooms.

The energy balance of a building also benefits from motion sensors if they are connected to the lighting system: If a sensor detects a person entering the room, it automatically switches the lighting on – or off as soon as no more movement is registered. This avoids unnecessary power consumption.

3. Table sensors

Desk sensors are a useful addition for smart offices that use a workstation model such as desk sharing or hot desking. As soon as a person selects or releases a desk, the sensor can forward the information to a workplace booking tool. In this way, the technology supports workplace management and enhances bookings via software with real-time data.

Desk sensors can also help with the employee health factor: Anyone who sits for too long receives a reminder from the sensor via a color signal or an app notification – a technical solution to encourage employees to be more active in the office.

4. Contact sensor

Contact sensors help to increase safety in the office. Window frames are a common area of application: Here, sensors can check whether a window is still open at the end of working hours. If the sensor is connected to an appropriate mechanism, the window closes itself if necessary and reduces the risk of a break-in. At the same time, this ensures that the temperature in the interior does not drop too low at night – a clear advantage regarding energy management.

5. Floor sensors

Parking spaces with floor sensors can also be part of a smart office. The functional principle is comparable to a desk sensor at the workplace: If a vehicle drives into a parking bay, the sensor sends the information to the booking software and marks the parking space as “occupied”. Charging times for electric cars can also be mapped digitally and in real time using floor sensors.

The bottom line: Using the full smart office potential with sensors

The benefits are obvious: Sensors provide the technical support to turn traditional offices into modern smart offices. The numerous functions enable automated processes, increase employee satisfaction and have a positive effect on the energy balance of office buildings.

The potential of sensor data becomes particularly clear in combination with the ReCoTech tools for area planning and workplace booking: Real-time analyses provide information on space utilization and thus represent a profitable extension to booking software. In this way, sensors provide transparent arguments that promote space optimization.

Would you like to take the next step towards the future? ReCoTech can help you transform your office into a smart office.

Massive resistance: SAP introduces mandatory office attendance – despite internal criticism

The software group SAP is introducing a mandatory attendance requirement of three days a week in the office by the end of April this year. One of the company’s aims is to promote creativity and the exchange of ideas among employees. However, as expected, not all employees are happy with this decision: Internal criticism from the European Works Council is high.

Controversy over new office requirement

During the pandemic, SAP employees were largely free to choose where they worked from. But now it’s back to square one: The company, based in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg, is obliging its approximately 110,000 employees worldwide to work three office days a week. After all, business trips and working days at customers and partners outside the SAP locations are included in the calculation. The plans are based on the current “enhanced hybrid working guidelines”, which are available to the German publication WirtschaftsWoche.

However, the reaction of some employees was not long in coming: SAP’s decision was met with dissatisfaction and much criticism from the European Works Council. In an internal letter, the committee made drastic comments and described the new requirement as the end of a more flexible working culture at SAP. Employees feel surprised by the abrupt change of course after previously being encouraged to work from home. “Colleagues’ priorities are currently not on the goals of the first quarter, but on finding a stable job in which they feel valued and respected,” said the employee representatives.

Head of SAP defends turning away from home office

SAP CEO Christian Klein justifies the new regulation and emphasizes the importance of personal collaboration for the generation of new ideas and the company’s competitive advantage. Despite internal dissatisfaction, SAP plans to implement the new attendance requirement. Incidentally, “Return to the office” is not just for SAP employees: The software giant’s decision is part of a broader debate about the future of the traditional working model.

After all, the facts speak volumes: While many companies at home and abroad are now ordering their employees back to the workplace, studies show that a mandatory return to the office can cause dissatisfaction among employees. A study conducted by the Technical University of Darmstadt in 2023 found that 24 % of employees consider mobile and flexible working to be a decisive factor for their job satisfaction – and their ability to stay with their employer. The discussion about office presence highlights the importance of a balanced workplace design that takes employees’ needs into account and promotes innovation.

Where is the journey headed for CEOs and employees?

The situation at SAP highlights the tension between traditional office structures and more flexible working models. Companies are faced with the challenge of creating a working environment that takes into account both the needs of employees and the company’s goals. A successful solution requires open communication and a sensitive approach to the expectations of the workforce, as well as the continuous adaptation of workplace design to changing requirements.

Another strategy: technology-supported applications for workplace design. The implementation of ReCoTech’s flexible workplace booking improves workspace flexibility for employees, reduces costs and increases the efficiency of companies. In this way, they not only meet current challenges, but also create a future-proof working environment that meets the needs of employees and corporate goals in equal measure.

How can workplace automation improve workplace booking?

Automated processes exist everywhere to simplify everyday tasks. Under the term workplace automation, this concept is gaining more and more importance – after all, the requirements for efficient workflows are increasing in order to create future-oriented and attractive office environments. Tools such as digital workplace booking, which can be further optimized with the help of workplace automation strategies, are an essential part of this change.

Workplace automation and workplace management: The status quo

It started with the first machine: If we look at the beginning of workplace automation, the industrial revolution with the exchange of human and machine work is the starting point. In the meantime, automation in the workplace has become much more differentiated and far removed from the fear that the increased use of technology will jeopardize jobs.

On the contrary: Machine automation – from an out-of-office notification by email to AI – is being integrated into existing processes in order to provide support and save time.

Systems and tools that promote workplace automation are therefore the key to a modern working environment – as confirmed by a recently published study by gefma and Lünendonk & Hossenfelder. The best example therefor are software programs that support flexible desk-sharing concepts and digitize desk booking.

It is self-explanatory: By making complex arrangements visible in digital form, workplace booking tools have become an integral part of transparent workplace management which includes hybrid structures with home office and office days.

Automated workplace booking: The next step

At company level, workplace booking software is therefore part of productive workplace automation. At a deeper level, these tools themselves offer the potential to perform better through smart automation and thus make everyday work processes more efficient. Important examples of this are

  • Simplifying recurring structures: From serial bookings to regular home office times – automation reduces repetitive booking actions to a single click.
  • Give personalized recommendations: Machine learning in action. Do you always need the same technology in the conference room? The tool recognizes your preferences and suggests appropriate bookings directly.
  • Link other office areas: Parking spaces or charging stations for electric vehicles can also be integrated into the workplace booking software – turning the tool into an all-in-one solution in the spirit of workplace automation.
  • Monitor resource usage: If the booking app automatically generates utilization analyses and statistics, the software contributes to the sustainable and more efficient use of the workplace.
  • Integrate smart extensions: Automation also means using technology to simplify communication channels. For example, if digital workplace booking enables direct communication via chat, it is easy to make short-term arrangements regarding room allocations.

The clear result: Automation at software level reduces the burden on employees and frees up time resources. At the same time, standardized processes significantly improve the user experience. The more diverse the workplace booking system is, the greater its positive contribution to optimizing the entire corporate culture through workplace automation.

Automate individuality profitably: The goal

When implementing workplace automation in workplace management, one factor is crucial: No two companies are the same. This is why a standard workplace booking tool can contain as many AI-supported features or integration options as you like: If the program setup is not aligned with the company’s internal structure, the range of functions is inadequate or even redundant.

Agile workplace booking tools that reflect the individual needs of a company in their technological features are therefore the way to achieve this goal – a strategy that ReCoTech attaches great importance to. Would you like to take the step towards workplace automation and have specific requirements for your workplace booking software? We are happy to provide council and find a customized solution that best supports your corporate culture.

The digital workplace: Are on-premises or cloud booking systems better?

Companies that embrace hybrid work rely on technologies for workspace booking. The booking software depends on internal company data – from the number of desks to IT assets to reservation periods. But where is the tool best installed: on-premises or in the cloud? ReCoTech checks and compares the pros and cons of on-premises and cloud workspace booking systems.

On-Premises: Everything in-house

Formerly commonplace: When purchasing a program, one would integrate the tool on their own computer. Even though it’s no longer considered state of the art, some companies still prefer to structure their IT with in-house servers and use on-premises functioning booking systems – as the importance of data protection and security has been steadily increasing, especially since the introduction of the GDPR.

Independence also speaks for on-premises software: With on-premises solutions, an IT infrastructure can be individually built for each operation without relying on external service providers or data centers. Another advantage of an on-premises workspace booking system: If there are issues with internet access, it is still possible to access internal data.

However, on-premises booking tools involve additional effort – both in terms of time and finances. On the one hand, the company itself is responsible for managing the software, which includes installing updates and software upgrades. This factor is reflected in terms of price: Those who want to use on-premises solutions such as a workspace booking system must invest significant sums in suitable hardware upfront and then purchase license packages – sometimes for each individual employee.

Cloud: Booking workspaces digitally – without extra effort

Cloud computing is an integral part of the modern workplace: In a Statista study conducted in spring 2022, approximately 84% of German companies surveyed stated that they use cloud solutions. The clear advantage of a workspace booking as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tool is the service-oriented nature, as the hosting responsibility lies with the program’s manufacturer. Thus, customers of SaaS booking systems only need an internet connection through which the tool automatically and regularly receives updates for ongoing fees. Additional features can also be easily integrated, increasing the scalability of the software.

However, hosting services in cloud computing are associated with a high level of trust. After all, the data of a SaaS workspace booking is stored in data centers that are the responsibility of the provider. It is therefore the provider’s task to store customer data GDPR-compliantly. Hence, data privacy on a trust basis is one of the main topics when it comes to cloud solutions.

Cloud or On-Premises: Workspace booking is individual

In summary, the following overview emerges:

On-Premises Cloud (SaaS)
  • Data stored on own servers
  • Independence from software vendor
  • Access even during internet issues
  • Automatic security updates and patches
  • High scalability
  • Easy integration of additional features
  • High initial investment costs
  • Significant administrative and maintenance overhead
  • Responsible for integrating updates
  • Vendor responsible for data security
  • Data access depends on internet connectivity

The comparison makes it clear: Whether a company opts for a workspace booking system as an on-premises or cloud model depends on the respective requirements and capabilities. The crucial points are usually the technical expertise and the available IT infrastructure, which are required for setting up an on-premise workspace booking.

ReCoTech supports you in making the decision to find the right model for your workspace booking tool. Our smart workspace booking is available for both cloud and on-premises infrastructures: With years of expertise, we provide competent advice on which type of software suits your company. For our on-premises customers, we offer extensive integration support to ensure that your booking system runs smoothly.

Companies divided on remote work as study shows mixed effects of office presence

Return to the office: As part of the post-pandemic normalization, many companies are returning to office presence – yet the benefits are controversial according to a recent study. The online database Statista concludes in a survey among employees that the majority of German workers not only want to maintain their home office arrangements but would prefer to expand them. And then there’s the issue with office space.

Return to the Office: Mixed Results

More and more companies worldwide are considering a return to office presence. A current example: SAP. As the German software company announced in January 2024, there will be a mandatory presence of three days per week for all employees starting in April. However, these decisions are not only met with mixed reactions internally.

A study by the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh shows that productivity does not necessarily increase with a return to the office. The authors of the study, Yuye Ding and Mark (Shuai) Ma, analyzed the remote work policies of 137 companies in the S&P 500 Index. Ding and Ma emphasize that the reintroduction of office presence is often seen as a means of controlling employees. Clear effects on company performance are not evident.

Home Office: An Established Norm

A survey by the ifo Institute shows that 84% of German companies want to maintain their current home office policies. Simon Krause, a researcher at the ifo Institute, explains: “Despite the public debate about returning to the office, working from home has firmly established itself in the working world.” The survey also found that plans for home office policies vary by industry. While some sectors, such as the media industry and manufacturing, plan further flexibilization, others, such as textile manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry, aim to tighten restrictions.

And what do employees think about the current debate? A Statista survey shows that the average full-time employee in Germany currently works one day per week from home. The majority of respondents would prefer an average of at least 1.8 days of remote work. The numbers make it clear: employees desire more flexibility rather than pressure to be present.

Works Council: “We don’t even know where the employees should sit”

Another aspect causing concern for CEOs and employees: Many companies reduced physical workplaces during the pandemic. They now face the challenge of efficiently utilizing their remaining office spaces. In the case of SAP, works council chairman Eberhard Schick expresses concern: “We don’t even know where the employees should sit.”

The discussion about office presence also underscores the growing importance of targeted workplace and space management – and at least in this aspect of the debate, there is faster, more intelligent support available. ReCoTech offers suitable tools and solutions for companies. Area planning and workplace booking can be done at the touch of a button. Smart extensions like a booking service for conference rooms and parking spaces help companies and their employees address challenges related to “return to the office” and ensure optimal use of office spaces.

The EU in Home Office: New Office Concept for Commission in Brussels

The Belgian Capital in Motion: By 2030, the European Commission plans to close half of its buildings. The reason is the demand for home office: More and more employees are completing their tasks from home, and office spaces are emptying. The Commission’s response to opt for modern offices with less space demonstrates foresight.

Act flexibly, act future-oriented

From 50 to 25: That is the goal that the European Commission aims to achieve by the end of the decade. Many of the Commission’s buildings are now only partially used since the COVID-19 pandemic made working from home a part of everyday life.

According to Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Budget and Administration, the reorientation was laid out, among other things, based on a survey among employees: Over 90% of the staff in Brussels support a working concept that includes two to three days of remote work per week. This measure is also part of the effort to position the European Commission as a flexible and attractive employer.

Centralize workplaces, save costs

The Plan for Brussels: By the year 2030, the workforce will be consolidated from a total of 49 office properties into 25 office complexes. The main headquarters in the Berlaymont building will remain. As a result, the Commission aims to reduce the space from approximately 780,000 to 580,000 square meters – a measure that brings cost savings ranging from 280 million to 440 million euros.

It’s a promising objective, but the method still has room for improvement. To achieve the reduction in space, the European Commission has two options: terminating lease agreements or constructing new buildings. While the former aligns with the sustainable approach of relinquishing space, valuing and maintaining existing buildings instead of neglecting them and replacing them with new properties is a significantly more sustainable perspective.

Tools like ReCoTech combine New Work and sustainability: The unique algorithm optimally allocates existing workspaces within current spaces and explores new ways to utilize existing resources. From individual offices to spacious shared offices, the solution considers individual spatial concepts needed for different tasks – complemented by intelligent workspace booking and data-driven monitoring, the standard for successful hybrid work.

CO₂ emissions in Germany at the lowest level in 70 years – but climate protection is still lagging behind

A milestone, but not unrestricted joy: As reported in its latest report by the lobbying group Agora Energiewende, Germany reached the lowest level of CO2 emissions in 2023 since the 1950s. With 673 million tons, the emissions are a proud 46% below the reference year of 1990. A significant progress – however, this news is not necessarily positive for climate protection.

Climate protection remains a cause for concern

49 million tons of CO2: That’s how much Germany fell below the annual target of CO2 consumption of 722 million tons according to the Climate Protection Act in the past year. Nevertheless, the experts at Agora Energiewende remain cautiously optimistic. The low numbers are mainly attributed to an unexpected decrease in coal consumption and economic-related production declines in the industry, according to calculations.

Moreover, only about 15% of these savings are considered sustainable. And: A possible increase in emissions due to economic recoveries or the relocation of industrial production abroad could quickly undo the progress achieved.

Energy industry excels – Building sector falters

“2023 was the year of two speeds in climate protection in Germany,” says Simon Müller, Director of Agora Energiewende Germany. “The energy industry achieved a climate policy success with the historic high in renewable energies, bringing us closer to the 2030 goal.” However, he critically views the current weakness of the industry in the country and fears possible shifts in emissions – with further negative impacts on the climate.

The outlook is bleak for the transportation and building sectors: Despite the overall decline in CO2, both have once again missed their climate targets. The main reasons are the slow electrification of Germany’s roads with electric cars and heating in existing buildings. The building sector alone missed the legally prescribed annual target of 101 million tons with 109 million tons of CO2 again – for the fourth consecutive time. Müller emphasizes that after the political decisions with the new heating law and the law for municipal heat planning, a consistent implementation is now necessary to effectively reduce emissions in the building sector.

Smart tools reduce CO2 consumption

The report makes it clear that the relevance of sustainable office buildings is the need of the hour. Owners and users of new and existing buildings can seek intelligent assistance: Innovative tools like ReCoTech optimize area planning algorithmically, enabling efficient occupancy planning – for example, in office properties.

Advanced technology improves workflows and can be meaningfully expanded – including with smart workspace booking. This allows the available space to be conveniently and optimally used via an app, reducing CO2 emissions and bringing real progress in the building sector, especially with a focus on climate protection.

Sustainable area management: Municipalities focus on strengthening city centers and clever site recycling

Less settlement and traffic areas – more sustainability. A publication by the German Association of Towns and Municipalities shows small and medium-sized municipalities completely new possibilities:  Through intelligent area management, they can finally contribute more to nature conservation and environmental protection. The publication presents various projects and lots of practical tips that other municipalities can use as a guide.

Area optimization and future planning: Focus on small municipalities

In Germany, around 55 hectares of open space are converted into settlement and transportation areas – every day. However, reducing land consumption is one of the key challenges to saving resources and developing cities sustainably.

Implementing these plans – which are also strongly desired by the German government – is not just a matter for large municipalities. This is shown in a publication by the German Association of Towns and Municipalities entitled “Cross-project monitoring of the funding priority Research for the reduction of land use and sustainable land management” – REFINA for short.

The publication presents specific examples, particularly from small municipalities, and emphasizes the strengthening of city and town centers as a main component of sustainable settlement development.

Using existing resources efficiently: Practical projects lead the way

A central focus of REFINA is on innovative area management. This primarily refers to three aspects:

  • The increased use of brownfield sites
  • Closing gaps between buildings
  • Making optimum use of existing infrastructure

Addressing these points offers many advantages – including for the municipalities themselves, which can avoid high planning and investment costs.

Two projects are examples of how this can be done:

Project 1: Demand-oriented utilization cycle management

Bensheim, Darmstadt, Hamburg: An interdisciplinary research association is working with these and other cities on a set of tools for the cost-efficient development of residential districts from the 1950s to 1970s.

In addition to monitoring, surveys on migration motives and institutional analyses, the use cycle management toolkit also includes various neighborhood scenarios and a cost-benefit analysis. The aim is to enable preventive neighborhood renewal and to use modern forms of cooperation with property owners and neighborhood stakeholders.

Project 2: Guidelines for active inner-city development (HAI)

The development of inner-city building land potential and vacant properties in small and medium-sized municipalities often fails in practice due to a variety of obstacles: For example, there is often a lack of an overall view of the potential. The interests of property owners are also often unknown.

The project managers took various measures to get things moving here – as an example in the municipality in Pfullingen (Baden-Wuerttemberg) shows: Surveys, bilateral discussions, information and press events as well as building consultations helped to identify over 200 empty sites.

A pioneering community with less space

REFINA encourages municipalities to focus on inner-city potential. This not only enables the sensible use of existing areas, but also helps to avoid unnecessary land take. Municipal decision-makers play a particularly important role here by focusing on qualitative aspects and reconciling regional needs with sustainable development.

A sensible approach for municipalities is to take stock of public buildings: How much space is there and is it being used to its best capacity? In many cases, there are unused existing buildings. Public authorities could dispose of these premises and, for example, rent them out sustainably. Tools such as ReCoTech’s area planning and workplace booking are useful for revealing this potential: They analyse properties and optimize their layout using algorithms – while monitoring functions provide data on space utilization.