Vauban: a pioneering community in Germany

August 20, 2010

Located 5 kilometres South of Freiburg’s town centre, Vauban was built as a sustainable model district, set somewhat symbolically in the grounds of a disused military base. Today, it hosts a community of around 5,500 inhabitants and 600 jobs. It is the result of the combined efforts of the local government and a group of building owners.


All the houses and buildings were designed to have the lowest energy consumption possible, and at least 100 of them meet the very strict “Passivhaus” (passive house) standard. Where heating is required, wood chip burning and cogeneration (CHP) are used, and the neighbourhood makes great use of solar power: the Solar Settlement, within the district, is a group of 59 homes which became the first housing community in the world to display a positive energy balance, hence complying with Rolf Disch’s PlusEnergy concept. In 1994, Disch built the first positive energy house and coined the phrase – Passivhaus. In Vauban, the excess of electricity produced is sold to the grid, generating an income for the residents.


As radical when it comes to transport as it is when it comes to energy consumption, the neighbourhood’s philosophy is based on a “car free” principle. A tramway links the district with the Freiburg city centre. By 2009, 70% of the residents had given up their cars. It’s worth noting that the level of car ownership plummeted over time, i.e. the neighbourhood did not attract people who had never owned a private vehicle! Among the residents living without a car, 81% had previously owned one. Everything is designed with cyclists and pedestrians in mind. Residential streets are “stellplatzfrei” or “free from parking spaces” – though pick up and deliveries are permitted.

Vauban’s success has been recognised worldwide, and residents have witnessed countless official delegations visiting the site.

Read more
Vauban neighbourhood website:
On the road to sustainability: transport and carfree living in Freiburg, Steve Melia:

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