Europe’s greenest city district?

Date: 20 November 2019

Vauban, Germany, a city district in Freiburg, is the most sustainable town in Europe. The “solar ship” in Vauban is the first housing community in the world in which all the homes produce a positive energy balance. The solar ship is part of Vauban’s solar settlement, helping make the town one of Europe’s most significant solar communities. Energy for homes in Vauban is mostly sourced from rooftop solar panels on residents’ homes and co-op buildings; and energy is also supplied by a municipal bio-natural gas cogeneration plant.  Vauban’s cogeneration (combined heat and power) plant also provides district heating for Vauban, augmenting their large supply of solar energy.

Residents in Vauban primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the “solar ship”, a large area of co-op buildings that run strictly on renewable energy. Plus-energy homes, of which there is a large, representative sample in the ‘solar ship’, are found throughout Vauban; and actually produce more energy than they use. Solar PVs on rooftops combine with the local biomass plant to produce all of the energy needs of Vaxjo’s buildings and residences, after which excess energy is sold back to the municipality’s utility company.

Vauban has a number of passive homes (“passivhaus”). Passive homes are almost entirely heated by passive-solar gains and a technically simple heat recuperation system, and are also popular in Vaxjo, as well as throughout many European cities. The town of Vauban is virtually absent of all GHG emission producing sources.

Urban planning in Vauban

Urban planning in Vauban
Vauban Urban District Layout

The urban planning strategies of “filtered permeability” and “fused grid” were implemented in the design of the municipality of Vauban; referring to a town urban planning design of connected streets throughout the town, as well as plenty of pedestrian and bike paths. Urban planning created a city layout in Vauban which lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit.

Vauban is a “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany. However, Vauban is not completely carbon neutral, as cars are actually allowed. Residents of Vauban can own cars and park them in town (but not necessarily in front of their homes), if they pay quite a bit (comparable to at least $23,000 USD), for a parking spot on the outskirts of town. Thus, the majority of residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle, or simply walk. Most streets don’t even have parking spaces.

The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early 90’s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These vagabonds eventually organized Forum Vauban, creating a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.

Source: Green City Times. com