How to Build a Green, Car-free Community: Vauban

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 12.29.06

from Car Free Housing in European Cities, Jan Scheurer

We hear often how hard it is to live in North America without a car, yet in Manhattan 75% of households get along without one. Then we hear that in the suburbs its different- that is why in the USA nationwide, only 8% of households don’t own a car. But what if you designed a community around the principle that one doesn’t need a car? That really was green from the ground up? What would it look like? Vauban, near the German city of Freiburg, may be the best demonstration yet.


To start with, you would build right on a tramway that connects you to the city and give away free passes, along with good bike routes. Then charge for parking spaces like they do in condos everywhere rather than give them away like they do in conventional suburban housing. Put the parking spaces in garages on the periphery and do not allow parking at the units. Establish a good car-sharing program.

Keep the cars on the periphery, so that streets become playgrounds and spaces for public interaction. Include 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.

Organize building ownership through the co-op model ( called SUSI) where one provides a deposit, a “muscle mortgage” plus some subsidy. Co-op models “are the fertile ground for a stable district’s community and rise of ecological awareness.” Include dorms for students and a private developers to get a social mix of all ages and incomes. Prohibit single family houses as inappropriate for a compact urban built form.

Build housing units to the Low energy standard, Passiv Haus standard and even the Plus Energy standard where the house produces more energy than it needs. (different standards explained here) Cover the roofs with photovoltaics and green roofs. Use local wood. Build a co-generation plant for power and heat, burning wood chips.

The result, evaluated here, is a model for sustainable development, social organization and energy efficiency. Or, as Sarah at Worldchanging put it so well, “It’s early on the Vauban’s life, but like BedZED, this development appears to be a model for modern, urban, ecological living — the sort that even a green-shy househunter would want, simply for its style, proximity and livability.”::Vauban via ::Christian Science Monitor

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One Response to “How to Build a Green, Car-free Community: Vauban”

  1. How to Build a Green, Car-free Community: Vauban | New Urban Designer says:

    Fermin Gens…

    I found a great……

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