The Green City of Freiburg: Vauban District


The Vauban District in Freiburg is a sustainable mixed-use neighborhood for up to 6000 residents and a great example of a successful implementation of the city's green policies. Located on the site of a former French military base, the district is a model for sustainable development that includes the reuse of existing buildings, a new light rail line, an open space network, a school, a community center, offices, student housing, retail, and a mix of different housing types. 70% of residents choose to live without a car although debundled parking is available in two district parking garages. Due to this parking strategy, many neighborhood streets are designed as shared streets with no or minimal street parking, making the district truly pedestrian- and bike-friendly. Transportation nodes are located along primary streets and additional pedestrian paths connect beyond cul-de-sac streets.

Bioswale along the new light rail
Shared streets and pathways encourage walking, biking, and playing

All buildings are designed to a low-energy standard with about 100 buildings meeting the passive house standard, which cuts energy use by 90%. In addition to solar power generated by photovoltaics installed on many buildings, the neighborhood is served by a co-generation plant that provides heat and power by burning wood chips. Stormwater is collected in open rills that are integrated in green spaces and streets and that connect to centrally located bioswales. Some homeowners use cisterns for rainwater collection.

District co-generation plant

To ensure housing variety, 70% of parcels were developed by individual owners or for multi-family housing, by cooperatives. Larger developments on the remaining 30% of parcels include rental units and condominiums. Building heights range between 3 and 5 stories with a floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.4.
A community center, an elementary school, and three preschools serve the neighborhood. 
Vauban is not only a model for sustainability but it also attracts a high number of families. 30% of its residents are under the age of 18, one of the highest percentage of any district in Freiburg.

Individual buildings add diversity
Office building with bicycle tube dispenser in front

I had the opportunity to visit the district on two occasions about 10 years apart. The buildings have aged very well and with the abundant green spaces maturing, Vauban has become a diverse and livable neighborhood that is popular with people of all ages.

For more information, please see this New York Times article and the city's website.

H.S.