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.

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Density of build useMaß der baulichen Nutzung

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.

Development programmeFörderprogramm

A development programme is a public sector measure for the financial support of specific projects. There are numerous development programmes in a wide range of areas. A distinction can be made in spatial planning between support for urban areas and regional aid. There are not only EU development programmes but also federal, state, and joint federal/state programmes. EU programmes include URBAN/URBAN II (aid for neighbourhoods in crisis) and the EFRE structural fund (European Fund for Regional Development: for the development of disadvantaged regions) and ESF (European Social Fund). The federal government and state governments provide assistance under the joint programme “Improvement of Regional Economic Structures” and through urban development promotion. State government aid includes local investment funds and the promotion of infrastructure. The federal/state Reconstruction Loan Corporation (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau – KfW) provides aid in many areas including the development of local infrastructure and housing modernisation.

District (municipal/urban)Stadtteil

The term “Stadteil” refers to a subdivision of a town or city. A number of meanings can be distinguished. In the narrower, administrative sense, “Stadtteil” or “Ortsteil” refers to a district officially designated by the municipality with a name of its own. In many cases the area in question was formerly an independent municipality that has become part of the present municipality by annexation or merger. In many states, representative assemblies can be elected in districts. Furthermore, a district can constitute a planning or statistical spatial unit. In some states in Germany, districts in large cities are integrated into “Stadtbezirke,” superordinate districts which general have a district assembly and administration. Depending on the local government constitution of each state, the powers vested in districts differ considerably.

“Quartier,” “Stadtviertel,” and “Kiez,” in contrast, are informal terms for limited, spatially and socially coherent urban areas best described in English as “neighbourhoods.” Their boundaries are flexible, depending as they do on the perception of residents, and do not correspond to official district boundaries. Such areas defined more in terms of functional criteria are the areas of application for local development promotion programmes such as the “Socially Integrative City” and neighbourhood management.