Freiburg’s New City Hall: An innovative building in the black forest

Public nZEB buildings case study
Building type
Administrative Public
Project type
New Construction

Freiburg Town Hall / © ingenhoven architects

Located in the Black Forest, Freiburg im Breisgau is a charming university city that blends its rich historical heritage with modern innovation. For the construction of its new city hall, the City of Freiburg took bold steps to develop a state-of-the-art building that embodies the city’s commitment to environmental responsibility, incorporating cutting-edge green technology and energy-efficient design principles. The building is designed to minimise energy consumption and produce renewable energy on-site, making it a self-sufficient building.

How was this building procured?

The city of Freiburg, with the support of the European Union, set high standards for the design and construction of the building, including the use of renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, and the implementation of energy-efficient building technologies. The design brief also stated that the building should incorporate low-tech solutions where possible, to lower maintenance and operational costs.

The contract was awarded to a consortium of architects, engineers, and contractors who had demonstrated their expertise in designing and constructing energy-efficient buildings. The project cost EUR 82.5 million in total and was completed in 2018.

What are the key nZEB features?

The city hall is a nearly zero-energy building with the following features:

  • At the rooftop-level, the building has a photovoltaic system that generates electricity, and a solar thermal system that provides hot water;
  • The building envelope is highly insulated, with photovoltaic panels integrated within the façade;
  • The electricity generation capacity is enough to power the building and feed surplus energy into the city’s energy grid;
  • The city hall has an innovative heating and cooling system that uses a combination of geothermal energy, air-source heat pumps, and thermal energy storage;
  • The building’s outer walls and roof are highly insulated, reducing heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. The windows are triple glazed;
  • The city hall features an expansive open-plan, designed to maximise natural light and ventilation, reducing the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning. There is a naturally lit service centre on the ground floor;
  • In terms of lighting, efficient LED solutions are installed throughout the building, and an automated sunshard system manages solar gains.

Did the project have an impact on skills?

As one of the world’s first public buildings with a zero-energy concept, the project required the use of new and innovative building technologies and materials, which required the construction teams to develop new skills and knowledge. The building’s outstanding environmental sustainability credentials and positive impacts have been recognised through award nominations such as the 2018 DGNB Sustainable Building award for outstanding implementation of ecological and architectural standards (winner) and the 2018 Balthasar Neumann Preis (nominated).

Keywords: Nearly Zero-Energy Building (nZEB), Skills Development, Municipal Offices, New Construction, City hall, Freiburg, Germany.

Find out more:

A2 Solar. (n.d.). New City Hall of Freiburg. Accessed March 28, 2024. Available at:

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