The glossary

Planning terms are often rooted in the administrative and planning culture of a particular country and cannot be straightforwardly translated.

The English-language glossary presented here is intended to offer a translation and elucidation of central terms in the German planning system to a non-German speaking readership in the interests of facilitating discourse.

Our intention is to ensure as much consistency as possible in the key terms used throughout this platform and the publications of the ARL that can be found here.

The definitions used are based on those found in the national glossary for Germany, which was elaborated in the framework of the BSR INTERREG III B project COMMIN.

Click here to perform a search based on the English term.

Hier können sie vom deutschen Begriff ausgehend suchen.


Maß der baulichen NutzungDensity of build use

The main purpose of stipulating the density of built use or degree of building coverage is to stipulate the density of development and the construction height of physical structures, and the proportion of a development site which may be built on. The density of built use can be determined by including stipulations on

  • the site occupancy index or plot coverage rate,
  • the floor-space index or floor area,
  • the cubing ratio or building volume,
  • the number of full storeys
  • the height of physical structures.

The site occupancy index is the ratio of the actual surface area of a plot to permissible coverage. It is expressed as a simple ratio of built surface area to site area. This value makes it possible to calculate the proportion of the surface area of a development site which may be covered. The floor-space index indicates the relationship between the total floor space of all of the storeys in a building and the size of the development site. The total floor space is calculated on the basis on the external dimensions of all full storeys; i.e., it includes external and internal walls and stairways, although exceptions are possible for certain types of physical structure and sections of buildings.

The cubing ratio indicates the maximum volume of buildings per square metre of plot area. It is calculated on the basis of the external dimensions of buildings from the floor of the lowest full storey to the ceiling of the uppermost full storey. In respect of industrial, commercial and special-use areas, planning designations may be made without the need for details on the number of storeys. Depending on the building use category, the Land Utilisation Ordinance sets limits to the site occupancy index, floorspace index, and cubing ratio, which may for specific reasons be exceeded.
When the degree of building coverage is set in a binding land-use plan, the site occupancy index or the proportion of the site to be covered by physical structures must always be stated; the number of full storeys and the height of construction need to be set if failure to do so might be detrimental to the public interest, and especially to the appearance of the locality or landscape.

MetropolregionMetropolitan region

An (urban) agglomeration (largely synonymous with conurbation, metropolitan area) is a concentration of settlements consisting of interlinked and interdependent communities distinguished from surrounding areas by greater settlement density and a higher proportion of built development. As a rule, agglomerations form around one or more core cities surrounded by a heavily builtup inner rings of suburbs and geographically more extensive, partly rural catchment areas. The core or central city with the suburban belt is referred to as an urban region. Major cities with international status and their extensive catchment areas are termed metropolitan regions. With a high concentration of housing and workplaces, urban agglomerations drive economic development and are loci of cultural life. They are accordingly important for the country as a whole. In terms of spatial category, agglomerations or conurbations are the type of area with the highest use density, being the opposite pole to sparsely population rural areas. Communication axes between agglomerations, which partly traverse rural areas, are termed corridors.

Ministerkonferenz für RaumordnungConference of Ministers for Spatial Planning

The Federal Spatial Planning Act places a duty on the federal state governments to consult on fundamental issues relating to federal and state spatial planning. The Conference of Ministers for Spatial Planning (Ministerkonferenz für Raumordnung, MKRO), which brings together the competent federal and state ministers was set up in 1967 specifically for this purpose. Although the decisions taken by the conference have no binding effect, they have nonetheless made a major contribution to establishing consensus on the aims and purposes of spatial planning in Germany.

Moderation, MediationModeration and mediation

The broad spectrum of new methods for seeking consensus which go beyond the traditional approaches widely used in politics and in planning authorities can be reduced to three basic types: negotiation, moderation and mediation. Although it is possible to make a clear formal distinction between these three informal approaches geared to fostering co-operation within the planning process and to supporting conflict resolution, in practice the distinctions tend to be somewhat blurred.

The purpose of negotiation within the planning process is to achieve a specific objective and to balance advantages and disadvantages among the various parties affected. Moderators are employed to seek out joint and efficient solutions to planning problems. Their role is to ensure that planning processes remain rational and creative, that the scope for finding solutions to problems is kept as broad as possible, and that it is fully exploited. The prime task for any moderator is to create a clear conceptual structure for problem-solving processes, to spot possible stumbling blocks as soon as they appear, and to find ways of overcoming them.

On some occasions it may be advisable to appoint a mediator to eliminate conflicts on distribution or reduce veto positions on certain planning projects. The principle purpose of mediation procedures is to communicate the perceived sources of conflict to other parties, and to seek ways of working through these conflicts. This is by far the most difficult and the most demanding of the three approaches. Mediators need to display high levels of sensitivity – and the participants in mediation procedures must be committed to working together to find a mutually acceptable solution and common consensus.


Spatial monitoring is the indicator-based, on-going, systematic, and comprehensive identification and description of spatial structural developments in such fields as demography, the economy, the labour market, agriculture, tourism, and the environment. As a basis for planning, spatial monitoring is an important and permanent task both at the national level on-going spatial monitoring by the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR) and by most state and regional planning authorities. It provides planning bodies with early information on spatial processes affecting planning and on the effectiveness of measures that are already running. Spatial monitoring addresses spatial policy and planning issues on the basis of regional statistics and arearelated data. The results of spatial monitoring are presented in maps and diagrams, and increasingly in the form of digital spatial planning registers.