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German Federal Urban Development Law - the Federal Building Code

Urban development law is a branch of Germany’s public building law. It is the purpose of urban development law to establish the legal status of land and to determine its potential uses, thereby regulating the site-specific requirements applying to a building project. Urban development law aims to ensure the orderly development of settlements; its basic tool is development planning. To that effect, urban development law regulates how to prepare for and manage the use of land including for building purposes. Urban development law is federal law; its sources are the Federal Building Code and related Ordinances.

This English version provides an overview of the contents of the Federal Building Code. The translation is based on the version as promulgated on 23 September 2004 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 2414), most recently amended by Section 1 of the Act of 20 November 2014 (Federal Law Gazette I p. 1748), rather than the currently applicable version.

1. Federal Building Code

The Federal Building Code is the main legal basis for German urban development law. Urban development law aims to secure sustainable urban development that unites social, economic and environmental protection requirements while remaining responsible to future generations.

The central instrument for sustainable urban development is development planning. The creation of urban development plans is first and foremost the responsibility of cities and municipalities as part of local self-government.

Urban development plans, in particular binding development (zoning) plans, allow municipalities to designate areas for certain types of use and to set requirements for such uses. For example, zoning plans can determine maximum height and size of buildings, designate areas that must remain free of construction, earmark land solely for social housing, or set apart land for green space or infrastructure facilities.

The Federal Building Code’s first chapter sets out general urban development law, defining the requirements for the procedure of creating urban development plans and prerequisites for the compliance of construction projects with planning law (§§ 29 ff). The code contains rules on proper consideration that should be given to a variety of aspects and interests in the planning decision. This includes comprehensive provisions for public and public authority participation as well as environmental protection. Development planning can also limit the ways sites can be used; for this reason, the Federal Building Code also includes provisions for compensation where property value decreases due to planning decisions. In addition, the first chapter of the Federal Building Code sets out provisions for the redevelopment of plots based on location, shape and size (reallocation).

The second chapter of the Federal Building Code defines special urban development law, which focuses on urban (re)development and modernisation measures carried out by municipalities in order to substantially improve or transform areas to alleviate urban development deficits. The code defines criteria for assessing redevelopment needs, the overall aim of redevelopment measures and provides for the participation of affected individuals.

In its third chapter, the Federal Building Code contains additional provisions, for example on the appraisal of land value and special procedural provisions.

2. Building regulations of the German Federal States

Building regulations are another branch of public building law. They are enacted by the German Länder, notably in the form of Länder building regulations. This branch deals with the structural and technical requirements for building projects and serves primarily to prevent hazards emanating from the construction, the existence and the use of buildings. The Länder’s building regulations also encompass provisions on the building permit procedure and on construction supervision.

Last update: 20.11.2014
Further information

Urban development law