New approaches to reducing CO² emissions

Cites from all around the world are learning from climate protection projects of Metropolis Ruhr

The Zollverein industrial complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Essen, attracts its fair share of visitors from abroad. But it’s rare to hear so many languages being spoken at once: Greek, English, Polish, French, etc. The reason for this recent flurry of linguistic activity? The Metropolis Ruhr hosted representatives from 255 cities for the international TWINS Conference Ruhr. The event, which took place in early November 2017, had one main objective: to share knowledge and develop competencies in the area of carbon footprint reduction in order to ensure that the global temperature increase remains well below two degrees. Many of the participants had travelled a long way – some from as far as China – to learn about the new Ruhr region, the Metropolis Ruhr. And they certainly accomplished their aim: alongside presentations, discussions and workshops, they took part in a programme of informative excursions to outstanding climate protection and climate-change adaptation projects in the City of Cities.

Eltingviertel: a hidden gem

The first destination was the 100-year-old Eltingviertel neighbourhood. This relatively unknown but fascinating quarter is situated just 600 metres outside Essen’s city centre. It is full of contrasts: grand buildings from the late 19th century and bricked-up windows, traces of industrial heritage and hanging baskets full of red geraniums. Most of the buildings are now listed. The company Innovation City GmbH, the Essen city council and Vonovia – the biggest landlord in Eltingviertel – are currently modernising the area, introducing the latest energy and housing concepts, improving the infrastructure and redesigning parks and playgrounds. ‘We decided to forego external insulation in order to preserve the buildings’ beautiful facades,’ explained Rüdiger Schumann, area manager for marketing and communication at Innovation City Ruhr GmbH, as he talked to a group of very interested conference participants. ‘We were able to do that because the walls are very thick.’

The ‘house of the future’ that can do (almost) anything

The next stop on the conference guests’ tour was Bottrop, where Innovation City Management GmbH presented the ‘house of the future’. This building, which belongs to the company Gesellschaft für Bauen und Wohnen in Bottrop mbH (GBB), is a great example of how to combine ecological, economical and socially responsible construction under one roof. It produces more energy than it consumes thanks to state-of-the-art technology. What is more, it is accessible and can be used flexibly for various different types of housing. It generates its own electricity via a photovoltaic system on the roof. Fresh air is also supplied depending on the concentration of CO2 in the air. ‘There’s no need to get up and open a window any more,’ explained Rüdiger Schumann, replying to a question from an Australian visitor, ‘unless you’re about to clean it.’ In fact, cleaning is more or less the only thing that the house does not do itself. It can even charge the electric car parked outside thanks to its own charging station.

Smart and self-sufficient: the Lohberg creative quarter

Lohberg, a creative quarter in Dinslaken, is also embracing the future and was the third and final stop on the conference participants’ tour. In a unique setting – once home to a hugely successful coal mine until it closed down in 2005 – one of the city’s most ambitious development projects is currently under way. The modern neighbourhood, whose importance extends far beyond the local region, is a great place for environmentally conscious residents and businesses. Around 1,000 people are about to benefit from its smart building design. ‘The neighbourhood is completely self-sufficient in terms of energy production,’ says Bernd Lohse, project manager at RAG Montan Immobilien GmbH. That is all thanks to a clever combination of renewable energies. At the same time, the creative quarter is proof that the Metropolis Ruhr is a pleasant place to live and offers a wide variety of options. The extensive slag heap landscape – with its lake, promenade and idyllic parkland areas surrounding the site of the former mine – is already the perfect place to relax and recharge. There are plans to build around 200 residential units here, plus restaurants, cafes and shops.