An amazing visit to the State of the Art – Umweltbundesamt (UBA), Dessau

Indeed… the structure of UBA building was the state of the art!

On February 28, 2019, 22 explorers from 22 different countries reached Dessau – a town at the junction of the rivers Mulde and Elbe in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. We were all excited for our first over-night stay excursion to UBA, but have never thought to see such a higher environmental standard in construction and operation of a scientific building in a small town – Dessau. Incredible eco-friendly architecture, innovative landscape design, energy efficient structure and a blend of seven families of color, the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) in Dessau was undoubtedly an amazing place to explore.

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Just besides the old Wörlitzer Bahnof, one can see a gateway to the a snake shape UBA building on the right side and a stand-alone canteen, a public park, yew sculpture, crossword puzzle, distinct boulders and a fascinating pond with nesting boxes, hotel for insects and home for beautiful ducks, on the left side.

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Before entering to the UBA building, a group photo of the exciting faces was necessary.

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It is very difficult to decide that what was the first attraction for all of us while entering the building auditorium. Was it the beautiful glass shed roof, colorful facades, environmental library, wind node booth or the LCD screen with photovoltaic system dash board. An interesting fact of this auditorium was that anyone could enter into that area without any prior appointment to observe the beauty of the building and gain access to the biggest environmental library of German speaking world.

After exploring these amazing features of the Auditorium, we finally moved towards the conference room for a series of lectures. But wait, an interesting feature yet to be explored here was ‘the LCD screen traces’ left by the visitors, symbolizing the changeable influence on the world. Another eye-catching art!

The two days, full of knowledge exchange covered some thought-provoking themes such as climate change adaptation, water resource management, green economy, energy transition and so on. The day started with a presentation on UBA ‘Who we are and what we do?’ by Mr. Wollmann. It was very interesting to know that UBA is a Germany’s central administrative authority and is the state’s largest scientific agency with over 1,400 employees at 13 different locations. In addition to the scientific work, the agency enforces environmental laws and work for public disclosure and facilitates access to information. It was very impressive to see the many environmental problems UBA manages! The next presentation was by Ms. Schwetje who introduced us with a concept of short-lived climate pollutants and gave an overview of an ongoing initiative of Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce these pollutants. It was new to most of us that many of our countries are already part of this coalition. At the end of her presentation, she highlighted the resource and climate protection through integrated waste management projects in developing countries, which led to an interactive questions and answers session. Afterwards, we went to the beautiful canteen of UBA to recharge our body and mind. Adaptation to Climate Change, Hazard Prevention and Safety of Installations and Water Resource Management were the post-lunch sessions by Mr. Haße, Mr. Winkelmann-Oei and Mr. Bernd respectively, which provided us a bunch of useful information and potential solutions for our countries. The day did not end here! All of us met for a lovely dinner and chatted extensively on how much we learnt. Next day, we continued our journey of learning more.

How can green economy contribute to sustainable development is a much spoken debate now a days. Mr. Bünger, in his presentation, highlighted the concepts of Green Transformation and Green Skills in context of economy and environment. He also introduced the six green lead markets in Germany and strategies to promote green economy. This important lecture could not have ended without having questions from the participants. When we talk about sustainability, Resource Utilization is an important topic to be discussed. Mr. Nuss highlighted this concept through some global facts and figures. The best part of this presentation was to know about the Material Flow Assessment of the respective countries of all participants. Thanks to Mr. Nuss for bringing up this issue on board. Policy plays an important role in balancing social, environmental and economic activities in order to foster sustainable development. Considering this crucial role of policy making, Ms. Schubert presented the role of UBA as an actor of federal policy for sustainable urban development and share the concept of Tomorrow’s Cities. After having Lunch at UBA canteen, we all gathered for a guided tour of UBA building. I must say that this was the most awaited session of our visit. Thanks to Mr. Bösecke who managed to answer a ton of questions of all participants. Why the small town Dessau was chosen for UBA office was something we all wanted to know. The famous quote of Winston Churchil “we shape our building, and they shape us” is probably the best answer for it. The UBA building is currently situated on a former industrial area of Dessau which was highly contaminated by volatile halogenated and petroleum hydrocarbons. Soil and ground water remediation, ecofriendly construction and liveable working space gives impressive example of possibilities (and challenges) for sustainable urban development. Our excitement did not end here. Mr. Bösecke showed us impressive working environment for employees, green spaces, beautiful plants and trees, and two water basins while walking through communicating staircases and bridges. We were amazed to see that everything in the UBA building had a message to convey. Water ponds helped to reflect sunlight and provide a pleasant acoustic background music. Amorphous green areas with a bed of mineral substrate maintained indoor climate for plant growth whereas flooring of recyclable glass showed the artistic use of waste. The entire building was designed keeping in mind the accessibility. Moreover, the seven colors of facades are also symbolize sky (blue), greenery (shades of green) and old building’s brickwork (purple-red). The use of solar heat collectors, photovoltaic system and the geo thermal heat exchanger along with district heating system was also state of the art.

Last but not the least, the day ended with an energizing presentation by Mr. Werlein on Energy Transition in Germany. It was indeed a wonderful excursion which we will never forget. Special thanks to CIPSEM for organizing such a fun trip filled with knowledge.

by Saba Raffay (Pakistan) and Oleksandra Logunova (Ukraine)

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German Environment Agency (UBA) – back again

On April 12th and 13th we visited the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA). It was founded in 1974 and its mission is to protect citizens from environmental influences and the environment from external damages. On our first day, we were welcomed by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who introduced us to the main objectives of UBA. After that, we had detailed lectures and discussions about environmental perspectives of Germany. The topics were related to energy transition, adaptation to climate change, transboundary water pollution and water resources management.

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Mr. Max Werlein started the first presentation about guidelines for political action in energy transition, which included economic efficiency, supply security, and environmental capability. The next lecture was given by Clemens Haβen which was about adaptation to climate change in Germany and was focused on the role of UBA on policy adaptation and policy cycle, as well as the impacts and consequences of climate change. After that, Mr. Gerd Winkelmann-Oei explained us about protection strategies of transboundary water pollution in Germany. The main topic was on crisis management of hazardous activities in European rivers and the tasks done by the International River Commission. The presentations were ended with a brief lecture about water resource management by Mr. Bernd Kirschbaum and were started by introducing us to general information and short overview about water use and climate. Besides, he presented about wastewater treatment and chemicals status of the surface in Germany. Finally, he pointed out the main problems and new issues of water resources management. This long and enriching day was completed with a short visit to the historical Bauhaus building and a delicious dinner at the fancy Radisson hotel in Dessau.

The second day began with a relaxing breakfast. Then, the first lecture was about sustainable development and green economy by Mr. Bjӧrn Bünger by which details were mainly on inevitable transformation to green economy and the current requirements of changes in consumption and production. He also added that the growth of green markets is a precondition for the green economy. The second lecture of the day was focused on international chemical management by Ms. Johanna Rose/Mr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg and the lectures and discussions were on the need for global action on chemicals, chemical management at a global, regional and national level as well as actions taken. After lunch we made a short guided tour of UBA building with Mr. Max Bӧsecke. Finally, a short presentation and a case study in Costa Rica about tourism and environment were given by Ms. Ulrike Wachotsch.

For us, as reporters and CIPSEM fellows, the main purpose of this excursion was to understand German experience in environmental research and strategies proposals for policies; to make networking with government agency and scientists, and to improve our professional skills in environmental management.

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the authors: Ms. Lourdes Amparo Lares Acero, Peru (right) & Mr. Fisseha “Fish” Berhe Halefom, Ethiopia (left)

Exploring resource efficiency in Dessau

The participants of the 73rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Resource Efficiency – Cleaner Production and Waste Management have received a warm welcome at the German Environment Agency in Dessau… as well as lots of input with regard to the topic of our training programme. Please see the image caption for details.

Why soils matter …

Water and soils are limited and endangered resources. It is estimated that at least a quarter of the usable earth surface is affected by strong degradation to an extent which is substantially reducing the potential production of biomass for food, feeding as well as for resources for materials and bio-energy. In the context of an ever-growing world population this is a serious threat. While the world population in the past four decades grew from 3 to over 7.4 billion people, the agricultural area increased by only 8%, mainly through the transformation of forest into arable land. Land consumption through urbanization is further reducing the fertile cultivation area. According to climate projections for the coming decades, rainfall patterns and temperature distributions will also change significantly.

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The 22 participants from 19 countries in this short course, which started October 11th,  will deal intensively with the connections between land use and nutrient cycles in the context of water catchment areas as well as at a global level. They will be enabled to develop concepts for soil and water protection as an integral part of sustainable land management.

One of the first stops within the intense 4-weeks programme was the headquarters of the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. Here experts of the agency introduced the group to topics like land-take, soil protection and monitoring, as well as water reuse in the European Union among other things.

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There are 3 more weeks ahead to discuss the value and importance of soil as a vital and finite resource for everybody: policy makers, development planners, soil scientists, agricultural extension officers, students and other practitioners.

photos by UN Photo & Anna Görner (CIPSEM)

SC 69: Excursion to Dessau (German Environment Agency and Bauhaus)

By Adedoyin A. Adeleke (Nigeria)

It’s been learning and exciting time at CIPSEM since our course began. The diverse backgrounds of the 21 participants from 19 countries in the course have provided enriching insights on energy profiles (including their cultures) through the country reports. We have also had introductory lectures on renewable energy and energy efficiency which altogether have provided insights on trends, technologies and the policies driving them in Germany.
Then it was time to do some site visits, this time the German Environmental Agency headquarters in Dessau!  The about two and half hours’ journey by train provided opportunity to pass through other cities of Germany as well as villages. We realized that its global leadership in renewable energy, Germany also has fertile and expanse of land for agriculture.
On arrival at the Agency, we were taken on a guided tour round the building. What initially appeared to be a demonstration of architectural and artistic expertise would soon become a blend of arts and architectural design in a “model green building”. Our guide provided detailed explanations on the various designs and parts of the building as it relates to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

From the Agency, we proceeded to the world famous home of harmony of arts and craft, the Bauhaus in Dessau! We had another guided tour of the building and learned of its legacy in architecture since the 20th century. The 90-year old building which was a masterpiece in the 20th century architecture was designed in 1925 by Walter Gropius, a professor and an architect. The building was was unique with its glass wall, flat roofs and the no-main view design of the building which were peculiar at the time. The Bauhaus appears to be more than design but also a philosophy that pushed design on a new course: the Bauhaus provides an interface between User Experience, Sustainability and Innovation in building design.  From the Bauhaus, we retired to the hotel for dinner and night rest, courtesy of CIPSEM.
Next day, we had five insightful presentations at the German Environmental Agency (UBA). First was an introduction to the operation of the Agency.  It was exciting to learn of the reason for the location of the headquarter office of the UBA in Dessau instead of Berlin, the capital. We learned that all second place government institutions were asked to move to the interior to facilitate infrastructural development in 2004. Among other responsibilities, the agency supports Federal ministry for the environment, Nature conservation Building, and Nuclear safety (BMUB) and the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy (BMWi)  “by providing scientific knowledge on energy questions and issues such as renewable energy”, collecting data, educating the public, implementing statutory provisions, among others. Thanks to Dr. Benno Hain for his presentation.
In his second presentation, Dr. Hain discussed policy and the institutional framework for Climate mitigation strategies and scenarios in Germany. He introduced the three levels of policy drivers for climate change in Germany: national (Energy Concept of Germany), regional (Climate and Energy Package of the EU28) and the global (International Climate Policy, UNFCCC). Very insightful!
Next was a presentation on the various bioenergy applications and their roles in sustainable development.  Jan Seven emphasized that though the use of bioenergy (traditional) is an ancient practice, their inefficient use results in resource depletion, air pollution and labour shortage.  He also itemized the risks and opportunities associated with modern bioenergy. According to him, averting the risks while taking advantage of the opportunities requires changes in current practices and strategies. Further, he discussed UBA’s activities for sustainable bioenergy development and support for the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).
Max Werlein also made a presentation on the “Energy Transition in Germany”.  He discussed the concept “Energiewende”, targets and the three policy goals driving it: economic efficiency, security of supply, and environmental compatibility.  After the lunch break, we had the last presentation by Jens Schuberth: “Policies for energy saving”.  Jens discussed the prospects and challenges of sustainable use of energy and energy efficient products. His lecture also provided insights on policies and strategies for promoting the construction of energy efficient buildings in Germany.
Overall, the excursion provided insights on the German energy system, targets and the policies drivers. Thanks to CIPSEM for facilitating the visit and special thanks for Andre for leading us on the trip!

Visit at the Federal Environment Agency and the Bauhaus College in Dessau

Early morning the group entrained and traveled to Dessau, a city in the regional state of Saxony-Anhalt. With numerous parks in its surroundings, Dessau is one of the greenest cities in Germany. Thus, it is no surprise that the Umweltbundesamt (UBA) has its headquarters here. The UBA, which was our host for two days, is Germany’s central environmental authority and is mainly responsible for the scientific support of the Federal Government, the enforcement of environmental laws, and the information of the public about environmental protection. Besides a tour through the office buildings (awarded with the 2009 German gold medal for sustainable construction), a number of experts gave insights in different topics, such as green economy, strategic and environmental impact assessment, adaptation to climate change, environmental risk management, and water resources management.

At the end of the visit, the group went to see the famous Bauhaus. Designed by Walter Gropius, one of the pioneers of modern architecture, the Bauhaus was build in 1926 as a school for architecture and design, and is since 1996 included in the UNESCO World Culture and Nature Heritage List.

(Photos: A. Lindner)