Vauban: an Environmentally-friendly Neighbourhood

28 12 2007

Like BedZed in London, England, many « green neighbourhood » are appearing throughout the world. For example, the Vauban neighborhood was set up in Freiburg-in-Brisgau, Germany.
We recently visited the neighborhood during our cultural trip to Basel, Switzerland.

the Vauban neighbourhood

As a green neighbourhood, the idea of Vauban is to integrate different urban functions within the same space. Eventually, both housing and employment have been created within this borough. This not only eases the mobility, but also reduces all the commuting distances and facilitates the integration of the public transportation network.
As a result, one of the tramway line crosses the main street, which is bordered by several buildings, displaying shop or commercial buildings on the ground floor and housing on the other floors.

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Bicycle park and tram lane crossing the neighbourhood

The neighborhood also includes many apartments or collective housing, gathered around public or private gardens and front yards. In addition, the car seems to have been banned from the system as car parks are only located outside or on the border of housing zones and we can only see bicycle parks within the neighborhood.
The tramway serves the city center which is only 4 km away, that is to say 15 min by bicycle.
Placing the car to a lower level allows keeping more space on the ground since car park was calculated to fit 25% of the housing needs. In consequence, there’s no need for car mobility within the zone and paths and other ways fit to pedestrian use or serve as children playgrounds.
One zone of the neighborhood is equipped with solar panels to produce energy and are energy-producing. They have been built regarding the High Environmental Quality targets.

However, unlike BedZed which was created by urbanists and architects, Vauban was made upon the citizen’s initiative. Many groups of persons willing to build such a house are created; they are called “Baugruppen”. They gather to define which organization they want for their flat or small neighborhood and then hire professionals to realize their project.
This is a good way for them to know people they’ll live next to before moving in, but it also lowers the cost of the building and allows the creation of equipments fitting the inhabitants’ needs.
As the inhabitants are implicated at the beginning of the project, the project is accepted and followed by all. And it is also easier to achieve results are the inhabitants decided all together the special organization.
To conclude, BedZed is more a “display” of environmentally-friendly elements (wind-mills, solar panels and so on…) and demonstrate rather a will to show off (with bright color, big devices…) than to actually have a . It is mostly a fashionable housing that only well off people can afford for the moment. However there’s a strong will to integrate social mixity which would be a great step in urbanism.
On the contrary, as Vauban has been created by the citizens, it contains private houses from small ones to fancy ones; as well as flat or collective housing and thus gathers several social ladders.

One key to solve city spreading, which is the most topical issue in urbanism, is to integrate all functions in one neighborhood, as it’s done in Germany and England.
By reducing the commuting distance and distance to all the public facilities and shop, we can curb down car use and set up a powerful and efficient public transportation network.

A few facts on the Vauban neighbourhood
– It covers an area of about 38 ha.
– The population is around 5,500 inhabitants
– The construction took place between 1996 and 2006.