Climate-friendly construction: Paths to the resilient architecture of tomorrow

Extreme weather events that cause enormous damage, even in Europe, will occur more frequently in the future and will force society as a whole to take precautions and adapt to the consequences of the climate crisis. In order to meet the future challenges of climate change, buildings need to become more adaptable. This can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to climate-adapted construction. But what does climate-friendly construction mean in concrete terms for buildings and urban districts? How do buildings need to be designed today in order to counteract climate change and its direct impact? This is a question that needs to be addressed not only by legislation, but also by all those involved in construction.

At BAU 2025, experts will also be discussing issues relating to resilient, climate-friendly construction and highlighting possible solutions.

What is climate-friendly construction?

In architecture and construction, climate-friendly construction is an approach to designing, erecting and operating buildings in such a way that they have the least possible negative impact on the climate while at the same time being resilient to climate change.

© Messe München GmbH

The complexity of the topic is also reflected in the choice of terms, which can be divided into two strategies. While climate protection encompasses all the measures to limit global warming, i.e. primarily measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity, climate adaptation targets the current or expected climate, including its associated impacts. Measures must be taken to increase resilience with the aim of protecting people and reducing or preventing damage.

What influence does the construction industry have on resilience?

The buildings that we plan and construct today need to still function 50 or more years from now under the climatic conditions of that time, and be able to withstand future weather extremes as well as possible. The degree of sealing is particularly high in densely populated areas, which exacerbates the phenomenon of the urban heat island effect. It is therefore important not only to provide short-term answers to urgent needs, but also to consider these as long-term strategic measures at various levels of scale.

Climate-resilient urban districts

Today’s cities are built as much as they can be and are therefore sealed, which is why the conversion must take place in existing buildings. “Strengthen climate resilience” is a core demand of Architects4future. But how can the building structures be converted in a socially and ecologically compatible way? This can be done, for example, by:

Reorganizing infrastructure

reorganizing settlement and traffic areas as well as the supply and disposal infrastructure in the form of selective demolition and the unsealing of areas, parallel to necessary infrastructure measures.

Improving the micro/macroclimate

Improving the micro/macroclimate by preserving/creating green corridors, parks, green spaces and green features in urban areas. The spectrum ranges from the planting of heat-resistant tree species in the street to provide cooling to installing cooling mist systems in public spaces for hot days.

Avoiding heat islands

Avoiding heat islands through the use of light-colored surfaces that reduce the solar heat input into the city.

Managing Rainwater

Managing rainwater in residential areas by retaining and dimensioning the sewer system, including creating retention areas to prevent flooding during heavy rainfall events.

Flood prevention

protecting endangered settlements and infrastructures from flooding, and preventing drought events.

Various studies, publications and living laboratories show the feasibility and success factors that are necessary for the conversion. For example, the iResilience research project in collaboration with TU Dortmund University and the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu), which provides a toolbox for measures and formats. The guide to climate protection in municipalities is also a practical tool for climate protection activities.

Adaptable architecture

Robust and well-planned properties can reduce the pressure to adapt. Climate-friendly construction also means creating healthy and comfortable living and working conditions. This includes ensuring good indoor air quality, the use of low-emission building materials and the creation of spaces that promote the well-being of users. The aim of climate-friendly architecture is to

Use passive design possibilities

use passive design possibilities through the orientation, cubature and organization of the planning, taking into account the local conditions. For example, adapting the orientation and design of the building to optimize natural light and air circulation or light-colored surfaces to avoid the albedo effect.

targeted design decisions

adapt to summer overheating through targeted design decisions regarding room geometry and orientation as well as the choice of building materials.

use of natural ventilation systems

integrate building and supply technology in a targeted way, from the use of natural ventilation systems to reduce dependence on air conditioning systems or the use of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, to the use of renewable energy sources, to the integration of smart building management systems to optimize energy consumption.

make buildings green

make buildings green using façades and roofs to improve the microclimate in the immediate residential environment. Green roofs have been proven to reduce heat islands in cities, have an insulating effect, bind fine dust and promote biodiversity.

The publication “Climate-adapted buildings and properties” by the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR) (Hall B0), contains recommendations for planners and owners, from cubature to construction details, as does the DGNB’s ““Climate-neutral construction” toolbox”.

Unsealing and sponge cities

One important point is unsealing. On the one hand, to keep the water in the soil to serve the plants, but also for regenerating groundwater, as it is also important for industrial processes such as cooling or heat pumps. The urban ecosystem plays an important role in climate adaptation.

The principle of the sponge city aims to design urban areas in such a way that they can absorb water like a sponge, store it and release it again when required. Key elements of a sponge city are:


promoting the soil’s natural water absorption by using water-permeable materials for roads, sidewalks and squares.

Increasing temporary storage capacity

by creating green spaces, parks, ponds and artificial lakes that also have a natural cooling effect.

Filter and purify

Using natural and artificial wetlands to filter and purify water before it seeps into the ground or is reused for urban purposes. Retention areas can also relieve the public sewer system during extreme heavy rainfall events.

Repurpose rainwater

Collecting and storing rainwater for irrigation, industrial purposes or as drinking water.

In addition, the integration of shade-providing structures and the diversification of plant species help to increase resilience to climate change and promote biodiversity. Community green spaces such as the establishment of urban gardens for local food production improve the quality of life and of the location. The City of the Future is Green, an initiative funded by the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building, offers a variety of approaches for implementing this.

Synergies and conflicts in resilient construction

Because buildings and infrastructures are constructed over a long period of time, it is necessary to plan and build with foresight today in order to consider cross-cutting issues such as sustainability, accessibility and reducing construction costs at the same time. Synergies are created, for example, by measures to increase energy efficiency, such as improved thermal insulation and the use of renewable energies.

© Messe München GmbH

The use of sustainable, local building materials and the promotion of biodiversity through green roofs and façades can also support both ecological sustainability and adaptability to climate change. But with every well-intentioned measure, there are also conflicting goals. For example, in the creation of barrier-free accessibility, as well as with the requirements of listed buildings during renovations. The major challenge lies in the different requirements and conditions of new and existing buildings. In new construction in Germany, for example, the legal principles of the federal states and the federal government apply, as well as municipal statutes. In the case of existing buildings, only the owners can decide what happens to them. The challenge is to reach them, get them on board and, if necessary, support them with appropriate funding from subsidy programs for the renovation. Ultimately, it is also about the socially just implementation of adaptation measures. The KLIMA.PROFIT project clearly demonstrates how local industrial and commercial sites can be included in the adaptation strategy.

A future task for everyone!

Climate-friendly construction is a transdisciplinary task. This means that the exchange of knowledge, methods and approaches across traditional specialist boundaries is necessary in order to effectively meet the complex challenges of climate change. There are already many construction solutions and innovative building products. Make the most of your visit to BAU 2025 to exchange ideas and work together to design sustainable, climate-friendly living spaces.

Frequently asked questions

What does climate-friendly construction mean?

Climate-adapted construction refers to the planning and construction of buildings and urban structures that are specifically designed to withstand the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures, extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Techniques and materials are used to increase the resistance of the buildings to these changes.

Is climate-friendly building worthwhile?

Extreme weather events such as heavy rain and flooding, heat, storms and hail are already occurring more frequently and more severely as a result of climate change. The risk posed by these events varies from one region to the next in Germany, with the location of the building or property also playing an important role. Damage can be prevented by taking appropriate measures during planning and construction.

Is climate-friendly construction subsidized?

Climate-friendly construction is supported worldwide by a variety of funding programs offered by national, regional and local authorities as well as private institutions. These promotions can take the form of grants, tax relief, low-interest loans or technical advice to support the use of energy-efficient technologies and sustainable building practices.