Hamburg, Germany

This is a large-scale masterplan for a 124-hectare development close to Hamburg city centre. Buro Happold’s aim was to meet the 30 strict DGNB sustainability criteria for district certification – on the highest level (Platinum).

7000 residential units will be built, as well as shopping areas, public buildings, a swimming pool and 28 acres of public green space. Designed by ADEPT and KARRES+BRANDS, this ‘connected city’ will offer a high standard of living at all stages of life, and for every budget.


After advising the client on sustainability beforehand and successfully supporting the winning team at the masterplan competition, Buro Happold was commissioned to measure the sustainability performance of the Oberbillwerder masterplan against the certification framework of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). The 30 DGNB sustainability criteria for district certification are usually applied to much smaller developments than Oberbillwerder, so Buro Happold’s consultants had to use their breadth and depth of previous masterplan certification experience to achieve the best outcome.

Sustainability certification is a thorough process and comes with responsibilities. Therefore, the client also wanted an understanding from Buro Happold of the likely certification level to be achieved before committing.


Our urban development consultants scanned the development in a pre-check before deep-diving into the certification process. This two-step approach both allowed the client to better evaluate their commitment to the certification journey and also enabled the consultant to develop a comprehensive understanding of the project early on.

After consulting the client on their implementation ambitions, analysing planning documentation and drawing on previous experience, the Buro Happold team managed to secure the DGNB Pre-Certificate in Platinum, successfully endorsing Oberbillwerder as one of Europe’s most sustainable new urban developments. This robust, almost city-scale sustainability certification was awarded at its highest level (Platinum) for this ambitious project.


The project has benefitted from Buro Happold’s extensive experience not only in district certification but also in strategic urban planning and sustainability consulting, in the areas of utility provision, mobility, smart systems and operation concepts.

Apart from successful certification, the client confirmed that the Letters of Intent — a necessary part of any Pre-Certification to predict the planning to come —  are serving as effective decision guidelines toward project realisation.

Extensive public participation has also been a big part of the planning process, and the award ceremony for the Platinum Pre-Certificate was used as one of many opportunities to engage the community through a series of interactive displays about the new development.

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