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Vauban Community (Germany)

Credits: ©2009 Vauban

In the South of Freiburg, on the former area of a French barrack site, Vauban, a new district is being developed for more than 5,000 inhabitants and 600 jobs. In 1993 the planning for the district started and in 2006, after three development phases, the district (38 hectares) will be completed. By the beginning of the year 2001, 2000 people had moved in. The main goal of the project is to implement a city district in a co-operative, participatory way which meets ecological, social, economical and cultural requirements. The citizen's association "Forum Vauban e.V." (which has NGO-status) applied to coordinate the participation process and was recognized as its legal body by the City of Freiburg in 1995. Through this process, many resources became available: the biggest strength of the project is the involvement of people who are forming the district. Major driving forces for the development of Vauban are the ideas, the creativity and commitment of the people involved and the common goal to create a sustainable, flourishing neighbourhood. In the fields of energy, traffic / mobility, building and participation / social interaction / public spaces new concepts were successfuly put into practice. In Freiburg-Vauban


Vauban (Germany)

Built on the site of a former German (and then French) military base, this suburban development, apparently completed in 2001, is a mixed-use community (pop: 5000, employed: 600) oriented towards pedestrians and ‘alternative’ means of transport such as bicycles and mass-transit. ©2009 Mattwyn

Overview of Project Goals
• the project's structure integrates legal, political, social and economical actors from grassroot-level up to the city administration,

• all houses are built at least with improved low energy standard (65 kWh/m2a, calculated similar to the Swiss SIA 380/1 standard) plus at least 100 units with "passive house" (15 kWh/m2a) or "plus energy" standard (houses which produce more energy than they need, another 100 plus energy houses are planned),

• a highly efficient co-generation plant (CHP) operating on wood-chips is operating since 2002 and connected to the district's heating grid.

•solar collectors (about 450 m2 until 2000) and photovoltaics (about 1200 m2 until 2000) will be common "ornaments" on the district's roofs,

• an ecological traffic / mobility concept is implemented with a reduced number of private cars to be parked in the periphery (about 40% of the households agreed to live without an own car), good public transport, a convenient car sharing system and a higher quality of living,
• streets and other public spaces are playground for kids and places for social interaction,

• joint building projects (about 30 groups of building owners, the Genova co-operative and the self-organized S.U.S.I.-settlement initiative) are the fertile ground for a stable district's community and rise ecological awareness,

• a far-reaching participation and the social work organized by Forum Vauban gives voice to the people's needs and supports their initiatives, invents innovative ecological and social concepts and sets up a communication and participation structure including meetings, workshops, a three-monthly district news magazine, publications on special issues and internet-presentations.

All together Vauban is estimated to be one of the largest solar districts in Europe.
• Compulsory improved low energy standard: All new buildings are built with at least 65 kWh/m2a (calculated similar to the Swiss SIA 380/1 standard which is more strict than the German WSchVO'95 standard; a house with 65 kWh/m2a Swiss standard reaches 48-55 kWh/m2a German standard). The average energy standard in Germany for newly houses built between 1995 and 2000 is about 100 kWh/m2a, the standard of older houses is about 200 kWh/m2a.

• Passive houses: 42 units were built to passive house standard (15 kWh/m2a) in the first development section (of those, 30 in the first two 4-storey passive-houses built in Germany). In addition, 50 more units are planned or under construction in the 2nd development section. Passive houses do not need conventional heating systems: the heat requirements are almost entirely covered by so-called internal gains, passive-solar gains and a technically simple heat recuperation system.
• Plus energy houses: 10 units of improved passive houses, so called "plus energy houses" (houses which - in the average - produce more energy than they need) were built up to December 2000 by an investor. The investor hopes to sell between 100 and 200 more of these houses within the solar settlement which is part of the Vauban area

• District heating grid and co-generation plant: In January 2001 it was decided that a highly efficient co-generation plant (CHP) operating on wood-chips will be implemented by the year 2002 and connected to the district's heating grid.

• Active use of solar energy: More than 450 m2solar collectors were built in the first section and about 120 kWp are produced through photovoltaic systems by the end of 2000 (continuous increase because of federal and regional subsidy).

Traffic/public transport:

• Car usage reduction in the city district with a noticeably higher quality of life: The goal of the traffic concept is not a small, car-free enclave, but rather reducing the use of cars in the entire district to everybody's benefit. The result is the combination of two forms of living that are usually not integrated into one concept, i.e. "parking-free" and "car-free" living.

• No parking at the doorstep: For large parts of the residential area, the development plan for Vauban prohibits the building of parking space on private property. Instead, private cars are parked in a community car park located at the periphery of the residential area ("parking-free" living). Cars are only allowed into the residental area for pick-up and delivery. The speed limit on the district's main road is 30 km/h, in the residential area cars should not drive faster than "walking speed" (5 km/h).

• Support of "car-free" living: Residents without cars are exempted from participating in the community car park. Car-free households thus save the substantial cost of a parking space. The same is true for development companies who put up car-free apartments for rent. The community car park is therefore not subsidized by the "car-free" households (fair distribution of expenses). Car owners have to accept walking a short distance to reach their cars. This soft break with the omnipresence of private cars is offset by a higher quality of living that is valued especially by the car-free households.

• Implementation of the traffic concept: Because of the building regulations of the Federal state of Baden-Württemberg it was necessary to invent a legal framework to make this concept possible. The association for car-free living in Vauban (Verein für autofreies Wohnen) was founded as a legal body for the implementation of the concept (further details see www.forum-vauban.de. With more than 140 households within the first developing section alone, Vauban is one of the biggest projects of "car-free" living in Germany.

•'District of short distances': A school, kindergardens, a farmer's market, businesses, a shopping centre, a food coop, recreation areas, and approximately 600 jobs will all be within walking and cycling distance.

• Public Transport: By now, two buslines are connecting Vauban with the city center, the main railway station and the recreation area "Hexental". A tram-line and a suburban train line are planned until 2006.

• Car Sharing: As a first step, the car sharing company "Freiburger Auto Gemeinschaft" offers five cars and one van especially for people living in Vauban. They are parked in the community car park.

•Special mobility package for the first development section: Those residents who joined the car sharing organisation not only have access to the shared cars but also received a one-year free pass for all public transportation within Freiburg as well as a one-year 50 % reduction on every train ticket in form of the "Bahncard".

• Strong support for joint building processes such as Baugruppen and co-operative building: New inhabitants can influence their future living conditions and directly receive economical benefits because building takes place on a larger scale without the engagement of private investors (cost savings up to 25%), Vauban is one of the first communities to integrate this type of development since as far as we know Baugruppen-projects in a remarcable dimension are only existing in Freiburg and Tübingen. The Genova co-operative builds apartments for rent within a collective process. Additionaly, the self-organized S.U.S.I.-settlement initiative refurbished four old barrack buildings which became home for more than 200 young people.

• District-based information: About 40 major workshops and excursions were organized by Forum Vauban to spread information about ecological building corresponding to the current needs of builders and Baugruppen (see also "public dialogue")

• Implementation forced by private builders and Baugruppen: Besides the low-energy standard and the "parking-free" area, the marketing concept and the development plan include some more regulations to ecological building such as the greening of roofs, the conservation and planting of trees, rainwater infiltration, etc. Further progressive standards were self-sufficiently implemented by many of the Baugruppen and co-operative (Genova and S.U.S.I.) building projects (e.g. using ecological materials such as wood, clay, and other locally produced energy-extensive building material)

• Infiltration of rainwater into the ground: The system covers 80% of the residential area.The infiltration of rainwater is an innovative concept but also implemented in other new districts

• New ecological sewage system within one pilot project (Model house of the Baugruppe "Wohnen und Arbeiten"): Through vacuum pipes faeces are transported into a biogas plant. There they ferment anaerobically together with organic household waste, thus generating biogas, which is used for cooking. Remaining waste water (grey-water) is cleaned in biofilm plants and returned to the water cycle.

Participation, social interaction, public spaces:
• Partcipation: The principle "Learning while Planning" and the extended citizen participation with Forum Vauban as ist agency set new standards of communication, interaction and integration (see "project structure" and "public dialogue").

•Social interaction: The social work being part of the developing process helps to set up stable community and neighbourhood structures. Very often, such structures already grew through the building process. Many Baugruppen (groups of building owners) and the Genova co-operative have developed a sensitively balanced community life. These structures are the fertile ground for further initiatives within the district (e.g. the co-operative food store, the farmer's market initiative, the mother's center, and many others).

•Semi-public and public spaces: Neighbourhood and community structures become visible by the spaces which are created through them. The semi-public spaces (such as access-galleries, community gardens and rooms) were created mainly by the Genova- and Baugruppen-projects. The design of the public green spaces, the resident's streets and the neighbourhood center are developed during several meetings and workshops together with the residents.

Freiburg-Vauban was presented as "German Best Practice" at the UN Habitat II Conference 1996 in Istanbul because of the cooperative planning process.

Measurable Impacts
The Öko-Institut (institute for applied ecology) is examining two development projects as part of the research project "Sustainable districts in urban conversion areas": one of these districts is Freiburg-Vauban. Forum Vauban is the local partner in this project which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The project is examining ecological and economic effects. One of the analytical approaches is life cycle and regional material flow analysis using the GEMIS-software. This is the first time that a complete urban neighbourhood is analyzed with respect to buildings, infrastructure, electricity supply, heat supply, water and waste, traffic and private consumption with a full life-cycle perspective, and using regional data. The implementation of local data (from the model district) was possible for all areas except private consumption for which national average data was used. The determination of the positive ecological impacts used a hypothetical reference district with the same setting and the same size but without further acological effords (e.g. no transport policy, no passive houses etc.).

Through this, the following impacts were found out (all figures are provisional):

•Energy savings per year: 28 GJ (calculated as "CER", cumulative energy requirements).

•Reduction of CO2-equivalents per year: 2100 t.

•Reduction of sulphor-dioxide (SO2-) equivalents per year: 4 t.

•Saving of mineral ressources per year: 1600 t.

The interim project report offers many results on the impacts of local activities to realize a more sustainable development. Through this, the Vauban-project and further development projects, too, could benefit from this research. The final report will be submited to the German Ministry of Education and Research by April 2001.

Article by Nick Rosen about Vauban

Article by Andrew Purvis in The Observer



Vauban Community Website (Germany)