Sustainable development in Germany - 17 Goals to Transform our World

Land use – Using land sustainably

Indicator 11.1.c: Density of settlements

SDG-11.3.1
(Evaluation of the development of Germany in the reporting year 2018 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)

Selection

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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

Taking 2000 as a base year, the indicator shows the development of population numbers per square kilometre of settlement or transport area.

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The density of settlements indicator provides information about the efficiency of settlement land use. The goal of the German Government is to counteract the reduction in settlement density by implementing space-saving measures for all new construction, brownfield development, reduction of residential and commercial vacancy, and densification or dedensification of built-up areas.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

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Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

Settlement density looks at the number of inhabitants in relation to the amount of settlement and transport area – in contrast to population density, which is based on the entire land area.

Apart from residential building land, settlement land includes areas of special functional character (such as hospitals and schools), industrial and commercial land, mixed-use land (such as shopping streets), and areas for sports, leisure and recreation. Changes in the number of inhabitants and changes in the extent of settlement and transport area both affect figures for the density of settlements.

Settlement density varies considerably between rural and non-rural areas, with the figures for 2018 showing an average of 3,344 people per square kilometre of settlement and transport area in non-rural districts but around 1,205 in rural districts. 2018). Residential building land in towns and cities is frequently much more densely developed, and with more multiple-floor buildings, than in rural regions, where more scattered development incorporating larger unsealed areas such as domestic gardens is prevalent.

From 2000 to 2009, there was a steady decline in settlement density in both rural and non-rural regions. The reduction in absolute terms is slightly smaller in non-rural areas than in rural regions. In relative terms, given the distinctly lower settlement density in rural areas, the reduction was considerably greater there, at 11%, than the 4% reduction observed in non-rural areas. Settlement density in non-rural regions been rising again since 2011. This shows that settlement and transport area in relatively urban areas is being used more efficiently than in previous years.

Looking at the trends in population numbers and settlement and transport area separately reveals marked differences between rural and non-rural regions. Between 2000 and 2018, the amount of settlement and transport area in both rural and non-rural regions increased, though to differing extents – by 15% and 8% respectively. After rising slightly at the beginning of the century, the rural population then shrank by approximately 2.3% before increasing again by 1.8% between 2010 and 2018. In contrast, the population in non-rural regions grew by 1.7% between 2000 and 2010 and again, by 5.4%, between 2011 and 2018. The effects that the development of additional settlement and transport area had on the indicator were therefore amplified in rural regions by the declining population numbers there.

The data sources for this indicator are the population figures and the area survey by type of actual use compiled by the Federal Statistical Office. In the population numbers, the 2011 census caused a jump in the time series. Some areas of land have moreover been reclassified in the official land register maintained by the Länder in recent years, without any actual change in the way they are used. Additionally, the switch from the old to the new land-use classification system was completed in 2016, which affected the official land-use statistics such that the data for 2016 are not directly comparable to those for previous years. So that comparisons can nevertheless be drawn, the relevant values were extrapolated on the basis of the 2011 census and the 2016 reform of the land-use survey.

The distinction between rural and non-rural is based on a classification used by the Thünen Institute. The institute ascribes a degree of rurality to districts and district-free cities on the basis of geographical characteristics such as settlement density and share of farmland and woodland. The classification is thus applied to whole districts rather than to smaller entities like towns or villages.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)

Indicator

11.1.c Density of settlements

Target

No reduction in density of settlements

Year

2015

2016

2017

2018

Evaluation Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich Keine Bewertung möglich

Source 1

 Federal Statistical Office

Organisation

Federal Statistical Office

Source 2

 Federal Office for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development

Organisation

Federal Office for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development

Source 3

 Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute

Organisation

Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute