Buildings that foster urban communities: The most sustainable building in Germany

Janani S

What's in this post?

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Design
  3. Timber Hybrid Construction
  4. Circularity
  5. Modularity
  6. Flexibility
  7. Occupant Wellness

This column discovers built environments designed with sustainability and occupant wellness at its core. In this article, we will explore a project that is awarded as Germany's most sustainable building in 2022 by The German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). The 32000 m2 multi storied office space was built for leading power company Vatenfall and was conceptualised to push boundaries in energy efficiency, sustainability and occupant wellness. The project is located in the Hildegard-Knef-Plaza and is an extension of the public square of ICE Südkreuz station with trees, green spaces and seating areas. The building is designed by architects at Tchoban Voss Architekten and the structural engineer for the project is Buro Happold.

The EDGE Suedkreuz comprises two buildings, one stand-alone building “Solitär” and the larger “Carré” building constructed around a central atrium. The central atrium is the heart of the EDGE Suedkreuz. Not only is the atrium a massive light flooded geographical centre for the office space, but also is the central meeting and interaction space in the office. It features four bold tree-like wooden pilasters that support a network of staircases and bridges connecting the multiple levels. The atrium is an experience by itself with several intermediate platforms that can offer a purposeful meeting space or a chance encounter.

The light flooded atrium is the heart of the multi storey Carre building, housing several meeting spaces.

SOURCE: Gallery of EDGE Suedkreuz Berlin Offices / Tchoban Voss Architekten - 1 (

The project is designed keeping in mind the everyday experiences and well being of its occupants. The architects have been able to design a variety of environments for employees to choose from based on their personalities and nature of work. The use of natural materials, the ampleness of light and ventilation as well as the options of break out spaces, all speak of wellness for occupants. The office areas as well as the associated ancillary spaces including the outdoor areas are designed to be accessible by all. The building received the WELL V2 Core & Shell Platinum certification for the exemplary impact of the built environment on human health and well-being.

Designed completely using BIM, integrated with smart and sustainable technology, the EDGE Suedkreuz is one that is future ready. Some of the details of the built environment that best showcase its sustainability are as follows:

1. Timber Hybrid Construction

The EDGE is a timber hybrid CREE building constructed with composite prefabricated panels made of part wood and part concrete or steel structures. This single choice of material assembly has resulted in up to 40% CO2 savings in the life cycle assessment of building materials. The Global Warming Potential of wood is lower than that of concrete for the same volume. This means that lesser greenhouse gases are released by opting for a wood-based structure as compared to a concrete structure.

Timber being a lighter material reduces the overall dead load of the masonry. As this ensemble weighs fifty percent less than a standard structure, it requires less resources to provide structural support and foundations.

Timber hybrid construction style is a prominent feature of the EDGE Suedkreuz design.

SOURCE: Gallery of EDGE Suedkreuz Berlin Offices / Tchoban Voss Architekten - 1 (

2. Circularity

The EDGE became Germany’s pilot project for the Madaster registry, an online database that records all the materials and products used in the building. The information on the building materials could be retrieved and used at the end of the building life and used to further extend the life of the building's individual components. Madaster is part of a movement to eliminate waste and create a fully circular economy.

Timber construction provides the potential for a cradle to cradle model, that is, the timber used can be recovered and reused at the end of the building's life.

3. Modularity and Flexibility

The construction of the EDGE involved installation of prefabricated and modular panels at the site. This ensured greater speed of construction and also decreased the noise and pollution at the project site.

“Many who visited the site commented that it was the quietest and cleanest construction site they had ever been on, also in terms of the smaller number of people involved,” comments Martin Rodeck, EDGE’s Executive Managing Director

As trends evolve and spatial needs change over time, a typical building may have to be demolished making way for fresh design. However, the EDGE maintains a level of flexibility and opportunity to repurpose the spaces by virtue of its modularity. The opportunity to renovate is enhanced by thoughtful planning and detailing,such as, avoiding any load bearing walls in the interiors, strategic placement of staircases, and the use of a modular grid pattern.

4. Smart Design Strategies

Dynamic smart roofing: The central atrium brings in ample natural light into the interiors. It is also provided with natural ventilation to allow airflow. The foil roof of the atrium is a performative envelope that responds to the external solar conditions. Depending on the intensity of the sun, the foils overlay each other to create an opaque ceiling. The smart roof controls the entry of direct heat into the atrium and assists in keeping the cooling loads of the HVAC system in check.

The ETPE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) foil roof of the atrium is a smart and dynamic envelope that responds to the external solar conditions.

Source: EDGE Suedkreuz Berlin (

Room environment sensors: Each individual space is governed by a smart sensor that measures the room climate such as light, temperature, air quality and occupancy. The data collected feeds into the smart heat cooling ceilings. Additionally, the occupants can themselves modify the parameters via an individually controlled application.

The air quality monitors provide data on the carbon dioxide levels, PM 2.5, PM 10, VOC in each of the rooms. The real time data is able to assess the indoor air quality of the office and report the health of the spaces.

MicroShade technology: The external glazed fenestrations use an intelligent sun protection system to cut down unwanted heat by a special technology called MicroShade consisting of a 0.2 mm thick metal foil inserted into the space between the glazing panes.

Fire Safety: Built in safety measures are installed to alert in case of a fire. The exposed wood construction also makes it easier to spot any fire event. The building has a fire safety rating of 1.5

Energy use: EDGE Suedkreuz Berlin is heated by an in-house combined heat and power unit (CHP) that uses biomethane for its heating needs. The energy supply to the building is covered without the use of fossil fuels.

5. Occupant Wellness

Mental wellness: The EDGE provides a pleasurable experience for its employees who are connected to the elements of nature even while inside the building. Landscape elements in the atrium, the presence of natural light throughout the day, the visibility of timber prominently at all spaces, the movement of air, all together play a part in ensuring mental wellness of occupants.

The atrium and the sky lounge act as breakout spaces for the employees. The office space encourages employees to stay dynamic by offering a multitude of environments to work in based on their preferences and needs. The occupants also enjoy access to the two green terraces of their office space. The terraces are provided with barrier free access and connect to the outdoors.

The skylounge terrace offers an unobstructed view of Berlin landmarks such as the Fernsehturm or Potsdamer Platz as well as the Südkreuz station.

SOURCE: Gallery of EDGE Suedkreuz Berlin Offices / Tchoban Voss Architekten - 1 (

Physical wellness: The visual connectivity and the grandeur of the atrium design encourages use of the staircase to navigate the levels. Through the bold connectivity routes, the footfall and physical activity within the office space is expected to be higher than a standard case.

Commuting through bicycling is supported by provision of safe bike storage space at the ground floor level.

The overall design of the office space encourages employee productivity, happiness and wellness. The EDGE stands out as an example of a building that is smart, futuristic and sustainable, and its success can be attributed to the synergy of multiple discipline experts working in close coordination.