After the French army left Freiburg in 1992, the city bought the 38 ha large Vauban area from the state in order to create housing of increased density for different social groups. It was the goal of the planning concept to create 2000 apartments that could house approximately 5000 people. Furthermore 600 jobs are to be created. By dividing the land into small plots and giving priority to private builders and groups of builders, a variety of housing styles are promoted and with it liveliness within the district. Development companies complete the mix of housing that will be available. Partly because of the attractive location, the plots were in great demand from the beginning. The planning philosophy of Vauban: “Learning while planning” which encourages flexibility in reacting to changes and new wishes. Furthermore the association Forum Vauban guaranteed a wide-spread citizen participation.
The project consists in five parts:
- Participation and consultation: within the framework of extended citizen participation all actors have developed the willingness to support ecological issues beyond legal requirements.
- Planning and cooperation: the City of Freiburg facilitates an intensive dialog of all actors exceeding current legislation and realises the innovations within the scope of urban planning. It is to be examined in what ways civic involvement can lower expenses and at the same time increase the identification of the inhabitants with their district.
- Traffic: the aims of the 'Freiburg Model' are to keep cars largely out of residential areas, to develop attractive alternative ways of mobility and to increase thus the quality of life and housing in the district. It is planned to make the experience gained accessible throughout Europe.
- Energy: an integral district heating and energy concept is planned to reduce energy consumption in the district significantly and to produce the energy still needed in environmentally friendly and economical fashion. The conflict between the economic interests of the energy supplier and the aim of energy saving and use of solar energy is to be resolved between suppliers and clients in a consent-finding procedure.
- Building: a model house will display ecological innovations in building visibly and understandably to the broad public (EXPO 2000). The emphasis is on the combination of comparatively simple and therefore transferable measures. The model house at the market square with apartments, shops and a restaurant will contribute to a lively district centre (social integration as outlined in Agenda 21). The project strives to show that sustainable settlements policies are technically, politically and economically feasible. In addition to that, inhabitants enjoy a significantly higher quality of life and housing.
The project Model District Vauban worked on the realisation of a more sustainable urban development in five thematic areas:
- Planning and Co-operation (City of Freiburg): the intensive participation caused quite a substantial increase in work on the part of the City of Freiburg. However, this is outweighed by the gains that were made in transparency and acceptance, which will result in a stable district in the long run. Residents are motivated to take responsibility for their own district and are thus less likely to be frustrated by politics.
- Consultation and Citizen Participation (Forum Vauban e.V.): Forum Vauban was successful at integrating building owners into realising the model district. With a push-and-pull approach in mind, the goal was to go beyond the ecological requirements laid down in the development plan and the contracts of purchase with voluntary activities on the part of the building owners. For this purpose, Forum Vauban developed a concept of consultation covering a diversity of topics relevant in ecological and social building.
- Traffic (Car Sharing Association „Freiburger Auto-Gemeinschaft e.V., „Forum Vauban e.V.“): Vauban is well connected to public transportation and public bicycle trails. Schools, shopping facilities and recreation will all be accessible on foot in the quarter of short distances. Large parts of the residential area are defined as parking-free in the development plan: cars have to be parked in a community car park located at the periphery of the residential area. Forum Vauban initiated a pilot project for car-free living. Households that neither own a car nor use one regularly are exempted from having to buy one of the expensive parking spaces in the community car park. Each car-free household thus saves more than 25,000 DM. Almost 50 % of the households in the first development section have chosen to make use of this offer and will live in Vauban without a private car. Using car-sharing cars, however, is allowed even to the car-free households. A special feature of the project is its flexibility: residents can change their preferences in hindsight and change from parking-free to car-free living and vice versa. In order to make car-free or parking-free living more attractive, a car sharing organisation, the Freiburger Auto-Gemeinschaft (FAG) offered two cars for shared use as early as April 1999 and five cars by July 1999. In co-operation with the Forum Vauban, the car sharing organisation also developed a special mobility package in which households participating in Vauban' s car sharing receive a one-year free pass for all public transportation within Freiburg as well as a one-year 50 % reduction on every train ticket in form of the Bahncard. More than 70 of the 300 households living in Vauban have made use of this package. Further activities focused on optimising the connection to the local bus lines, enhancing the quality of the bicycle trails, developing a delivery system as well as redesigning the residential streets.
- Energy (Freiburg’s public utilities FEW, Forum Vauban e.V.): Freiburg's public utilities FEW are responsible for Vauban's energy supply. FEW presently builds a district heating grid in Vauban. Almost all households in Vauban will be connected to this grid. There are plans to operate the grid with a highly efficient co-generation plant by the year 2003, although the financial feasibility of this plan is currently threatened by the liberalisation of the energy markets. Attempts are being made to guarantee its financial feasibility by marketing Regio-Strom, locally produced and ecologically-sound electricity partly gained through co-generation plants. FEW, together with Forum Vauban, offered extensive consultation on energy-related questions. A great economic and ecological success were the joint supply lines for Baugruppen. Further offers were concerned with the topics energy-efficient household appliances, energy-efficient building, and solar energy. These consultations were carried out jointly by FEW and Forum Vauban. Private households were enticed to use solar energy and energy-efficient household appliances in their building projects.
Model House (Genova Co-operative eG): The building co-operative Genova eG, founded by members of Forum Vauban in 1997, is responsible for a very special building project featuring 36 housing units for rent and a socio-ecological conception. One of the two houses is the model house of the LIFE project, in which social and ecological measures were turned into reality with the help of an inexpensive and transferable concept which is applicable to similar projects. The original concept of a house for mixed use located directly at the market place could not be realised because the City of Freiburg did not allocate the lot to Genova. The model house combines ecological and social measures: improved low energy standard by using 8 triple-glass windows and improved insulation, a large solar energy installation for hot water, use of rainwater cisterns, greening of roofs, floors made out of domestic wood and PVC- and FCH-free construction. Furthermore, 35 of the 36 households are car-free. Unusual social features are: Vauban's largest project with apartments for rent, extensive participation of the future tenants, the living project Young & Old, barrier-free access including lifts and access galleries for 32 of the 36 housing units, flexible basic plans as well as the shared use of guest rooms, wash room and drying room, communal house and garden.