Sustainable Cities™

Vauban - an environmentally friendly and (almost) car-free city

A former military area in Southern Freiburg has been converted into the environmentally friendly district of Vauban; a place where citizens take an active part in decision processes, buildings are energy efficient and streets are car-free.

Freiburg - Vauban, 17. juni 2008 af Carnotzet, Flickr Creative Commons

When the military area known as Vauban, in the South German city of Freiburg, shut down in 1992, the city council bought the recently vacated 38 Ha of land. Their vision was to create a completely new type of city district, where planning was based on environmental, economic and social sustainability and initial preparations to fulfill this vision began in 1993.

The driving concept for Vauban was to create an almost completely deomocratic city district with a special significance and a strong cooperation between citizens. The intention was to empower and engage future citizens in the political process as early as possible and, through collaboration and cooperation, attempt to meet the environmental, economic and social needs of the district. In 1993, the private NGO "Forum Vauban" was established in order to, among other things, organise and coordinate the civil engagement process. In 1995, Forum Vauban became an accepted equal cooperation partner of Freiburg city, and, from that point, participated in all government decisions concerning influence, social interaction, traffic, energy efficiency and sustainable construction.

One of the primary goals of Vauban was to maintain a car free city centre with environmentally friendly traffic and a reduced number of private cars. This was accomplished by creating a number of good public transportation possibilities, such as a 3km-long tramline to Freiburg. Additionally, the city council created a car-sharing system, established 500 km bicycle paths in Freiburg and Vauban, and added 5,000 bicycle parking spaces.

Panorama in Freiburg-Vauban, 29 May 2008, by mpwyn, Flickr, Creative Commons

In Vauban there are kindergartens, schools, shopping centres, supermarkets and businesses, all placed within walking or cycling distance of one another. If a citizen chooses to live without a private car, in the same way that 40 % of Vauban's households do, he or she receives a monetary reward in the form of free use of the tram and cheaper housing that does not include a parking space. However, citizens pay for a common area that can be used for parking should the need to temporarily park a car arise. The common areas and the car free streets of the city are typically used for play, bus routes and social activities. If you choose to own a car, you must buy a parking space in a multi-storey car park on the outskirts of Vauban for 18,000 € a year as you cannot permanently park next to your home.

In 2006, the construction of the district was completed and, today, Vauban has ca. 5,000 citizens and 600 local jobs. The strength of the project is in the citizens' strong engagement and cooperation with Forum Vauban. District goals regarding sustainability have far exceeded expectations and, in many cases, citizens have made an extra effort to be environmentally friendly, clearly surpassing official demands.  

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014