16. Mar
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On the rooftops of Charlottenburg

If you want to reach high, you have to start at the bottom.

For master roofer Sven Meissner, not just a daily walk, but a way of life. A visit to the Charlottenbogen construction site – this time where it gets windy.

Sven Meissner – Master roofer and managing director of Jahnke Dachbau

He looks solid and steadfast, standing up there in the middle of the roof. The weather in his face, whether sun, rain or snow. He loves it. Still does. Sven Meissner, 39 years old, a defiant beard framing his mouth. A master roofer, he is the managing director of Jahnke Dachbau, 53 colleagues work for him, building roofs for all of Germany and also for our Charlottenbogen.

Meissner has come a long way. Back then, 20 years ago, he actually wanted to do something else. “He wanted to be a carpenter,” he says and laughs. He wrote one application after another. He did one internship after another. But no one wanted to train him. “Times were hard,” he says. True, at the end of the 90s Germany’s economy was struggling and the labour market was tight. In the end, Meissner was a bit lucky. A relative got him an apprenticeship in a roofing company. “Better than nothing,” he said to himself and started.

Hard work on the building site. Whether pitched roofs with tiles, flat roofs with waterproofing, wood or concrete – he learned it all. And while he was laying bricks up there, working and slaving away, he made a decision. Either he would become a master craftsman or learn something completely different, such as nursing. He thought about it and thought about it, then it was clear: he would go the whole way as a roofer. He finished his apprenticeship, followed by seven years as a journeyman, then went from being a crew leader to a foreman, and then to master craftsman. He took on more and more responsibility in his company. Until his boss makes him managing director and tells him that he will take over the company in a few years. “I was really proud of myself then, and that I had stuck it out,” Meissner remembers.

Of course he sits at his desk more often now, orders the materials, organises the processes, calculates and bears the responsibility. But whenever possible, he climbs the many scaffolding stairs, swings his leg over the edge of the roof and enjoys the view for a moment. A sublime feeling. Then he checks that everything is in order. Everything looks fine here on the Charlottenbogen roofs. “We put in an inverted roof,” he explains. First comes the concrete, then a bonding layer of primer, finally two layers of waterproofing, then the insulation material and finally the green roof. This consists of filter and drainage layers, soil substrates and finally, at the top, the plants: robust grasses, herbs and small bushes.

“Green roofs are becoming increasingly important”, says Meissner. For ecological reasons: In cities, green spaces are disappearing more and more, so they try to compensate on the roof. That also cools, absorbs UV light, rainwater is also stored for the time being. In the end, they will have poured 2.5 tonnes of concrete, laid 2,000 square metres of bitumen sheeting, used 20 cubic metres of wood and certainly placed several 10,000 screws.

Then, when they are finished, when the Charlottenbogen building project is completed, Sven Meissner will have another building in Berlin that he can drive past and tell his daughter: Look, I helped build that one.

A visit to the Charlottenbogen construction site – this time where it gets windy.

My name is Karl, I am a journalist in Berlin and I'm here to write reports about your new neighborhood.