Bundestag not very tight: Everything in the bucket

As of: 10/29/2021 3:46 a.m.

It has been raining in the German Bundestag for years. Puddles form, the water even penetrated into the parliamentary groups. Until extensive renovations are carried out, often only an embarrassing home remedy can help.

By Teresa Roelcke, Volkmar Kabisch, Sebastian Pittelkow NDR / WDR

There is a lot of unrest in the hallways of the Bundestag these days. Several new MPs move into their offices, discover the Reichstag. What you probably don’t expect are buckets of water. But they have a tradition here. Journalists often look at what is politically wrong in the Reichstag. But what if the building itself is the problem, if it doesn’t work here, or if it just does – like rainwater over the years in parliamentary offices, corridors and parliamentary groups?

In addition to the Reichstag, the German Bundestag consists of buildings such as the Paul-Löbe-Haus, the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus or the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus. They all have something in common architecturally: glass roofs. It should be bright, transparency should be symbolized. But it’s raining in through the roofs. For years. In 2015 it dripped into the meeting room of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag building, and in 2016 into that of the CDU. In November 2017, the Bundestag administration also documented for a room in the Reichstag building:

Massive water ingress. It runs out of the speakers.

Water everywhere

The Bundestag administration documents the penetration of the water in a damage file, the so-called “building information system reports” (GIS), which WDR and Ed as part of a request for the Freedom of Information Act. The damage reports from the properties of the Bundestag such as the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus sound bizarre at times:

July 28, 2016: “Water ingress (…) above the library reading room.”

As the damage reports from the files of the Bundestag administration reveal, the means of fighting the rain and the leaks in the houses are almost always the same: buckets!

Paul-Löbe-Haus: July 12th, 2018: “Heavenly stairs to 6th floor roof leaky – buckets and towels put up – risk of accident!”

Jakob-Kaiser-Haus: March 22nd, 2018: “It’s raining again in the area of ​​the boats in House 1. The parquet is starting to swell. Cleaning service already informed.

Police are investigating another type of break-in

In September 2018, the federal police even came into action. She reports break-ins. But they are not man-made: At the scene of the crime, rainwater drips from the ceiling in a room. Caretakers step in and take the technical devices off the network. And: put up buckets.

The situation in the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus has become particularly acute in recent years. It is the largest and most important of the parliament buildings, with 1745 offices and art objects in the entrance hall. Rowboats, for example, dangle almost prophetically from the glass sky, moving up and down like a kind of artistic mobile. Due to security deficiencies, this mechanism had to be switched off – but that’s another story.

In the social network Twitter, even members of parliament delighted in pictures of office trash cans in the Bundestag. The buckets of rainwater behind closed doors have long occupied various federal government agencies: the Ministry of the Environment, the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning and the Bundestag administration. Refurbishment visions were played out, some disappeared in the drawer. Meanwhile, it continued to drip into the Bundestag building.

04/17/2016: “On Sunday an occasional drop from the ceiling in the area of ​​entrance West-B was found. A bucket was set up and the situation was observed. The assumption is that this is rainwater. We ask you to approve the matter check (…).”

The glass roofs of the government buildings are supposed to symbolize transparency – let in not only light but also water.

Bild: picture alliance / dpa

“In principle, glass roofs can also be tight.”

Helplessness in the face of heavenly powers? The files of the authorities show how slowly sustainable renovations have been started over the years. Glass roofs normally have a useful life of around 30 years, after which they have to be replaced. And a professor of glass roof construction confirms: “Glass roofs can also be airtight in principle.”

The glass roofs of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus were completed in 1999. But as early as 2009, after ten years, they were leaking so much that the first repair work was necessary. In 2015, the Federal Environment Ministry, at that time still responsible for federal construction, proposed a fundamental renovation of the four roofs on the worst affected roofs of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus.

One reviewer is wrong

But an expert opinion led to the conclusion: the roofs will last another five to eight years – a misjudgment. Only two years later, in the summer of 2017, torrential rain pelted Berlin. Subway stations were full. The Berliners got twice as wet on a single June day than in other years in the whole month.

Most of the capital’s roofs held up. Just not in the Bundestag. Here the officials registered damage reports about “massive water ingress” into the buildings. In the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus, an elevator had to be taken out of service because water penetrated the shaft. The downpours also made their way into stairwells, offices and an actually covered courtyard. It was finally clear: the glass roofs do not keep their promises.

MPs put pressure on

The members of the Commission of the Council of Elders for Building and Spatial Affairs, all of them MPs, are now pushing the pace. From the confidential minutes of a commission meeting in the summer of 2018 it emerges: “that action must be taken as quickly as possible in order to eliminate dangers and any liability issues that may arise from them,” said chairman Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP).

For dense roofs, so the protocol, the commission would have accepted “considerable restrictions for the users” – a partial departure of representatives of the people from their offices not ruled out. But the redevelopment variant that she advocated at the time was in the end opposed to fire protection. Construction work finally began in spring 2019. They were only completed a few months ago, at least on the four of the worst affected glass roofs of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus.

The government buildings are now tight again – with a few exceptions.

Bild: picture alliance/dpa

Everything against tight?

Buckets have not been seen there since then. On request, the responsible Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning is satisfied. The renovation was completed on schedule and the costs are “expected to be well below the aforementioned 4.2 million euros.” The Bundestag administration added: “There were no delays.” And members of the building commission also report that they do not know of any other building project on Bundestag properties that was “as smooth” as the renovation of the glass roofs of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus.

Unfortunately not

Is everything okay then? Obviously not. This summer alone it rained at least five times in the Bundestag, as the administration announced on request. Even back to the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus: this time in a different place. What has been done about it? “Setting up a bucket when a drip point is found is one of the usual immediate measures.”


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