How can the issues of sustainable development be integrated into urban planning? From London and Fribourg to Grenoble and Stockholm, six eco-neighborhood projects illustrate — through their diversity — that there are several ways to address this critical issue. And this applies just as much to building construction as it does to the immediate environment and access to sustainable mobility…
They combine innovative housing, smart resource management, circular recycling and infrastructures dedicated to shared mobility and carsharing (particularly in Europe). The numerous eco-neighborhoods that have appeared across Europe over the last few years are all, in different ways, pursuing a goal similar to that of the “smart islands” which Mobilize, Groupe Renault’s new services brand, has been working on to promote the energy transition and support sustainable development.
Sutton (United Kingdom)
The Beddington eco-neighborhood was opened in 2002 on a former landfill site in Sutton, a residential borough of South London. The housing development of 82 apartments is called the Beddington Zero Energy Development (or BedZED for short.) Its name refers to the objective set when first created: to design a housing complex that consumes zero fossil fuels. Fueled by solar panels, it protects residents behind triple-glazed windows and 50-centimeter-thick walls filled with natural insulating materials. Recognizable by their facades of wood and red brick cladding, the BedZED buildings also offset greenhouse gas emissions from human activities thanks to their vast green roofs. Even today, the eco-design applied to BedZEN attracts curious visitors from around the world.
Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden, decided to take advantage of the former brownfields of Västra Hamne to build an eco-neighborhood capable of standing out internationally. Created in 2001, the project gave rise to a European expo dedicated to the housing of the future and whose name was adopted by this green conversion: Bo01. The Malmö eco-neighborhood, 100% powered by renewable energy sources, pays particular attention to the comfort of its inhabitants with large green spaces crisscrossed by bike paths and a network of electric buses that operate in silence.
#3 ZAC de Bonne
Launched in 2003 on 8.5 hectares of land, of which 40% are green spaces, the city of Grenoble’s ZAC de Bonne initiative is an eco-neighborhood that offers answers to the environmental and social challenges faced by dense urban areas. Its low-consumption buildings are powered by solar thermal panels and are made of more than 40% social housing, along with a school, a nursery, a cinema and a shopping center. Each unit has an underground parking space, while outdoor car parking lots are kept to a minimum in order to encourage a reliance on communal solutions. For this, carsharing docks are located just outside the buildings.
5,500 dwellings nestled among green trees. The buildings line up lengthwise, with single-slope, south-facing roofs covered in solar panels. At Vauban, travel by foot (or by bicycle or public transport) is encouraged, as well as via new urban mobility modes. Residents are also asked to participate in creating solutions that fit their daily lives. For example, a non-profit organization was created in the early 2000s to manage a car sharing service for occasional needs.
#5 HAMMARBY SJÖSTAD
A former industrial and port zone located on the shores of a lake, Hammarby Sjöstad was renovated during Sweden’s application to host the 2004 Olympic Games. Starting in 1996, the project was designed to encourage the development of a neighborhood where innovation and ecology come together. With a capacity of 30,000 residents, Hammarby is now a worldwide reference for eco-neighborhoods. Among its initiatives, in 2018 the town offered a free carsharing scheme with Renault ZOE in collaboration with Hertz. Electric mobility in general has been widely developed — in addition to cars, the town’s buses also run on electricity — and local authorities strongly promote this mode of transport.
The Lombok eco-neighborhood in Utrecht in the Netherlands provides a taste of the role that the electric car will play in smart city initiatives. Its inhabitants enjoy access to a car sharing service with 150 Renault ZOEs whose batteries are charged by solar panels installed on neighboring roofs. When the grid requires stabilizing, these cars can also restore a part of the energy they are storing. This is the vehicle–to–grid principle, an important step in the optimization of the way energy is produced, distributed and consumed.
One of the main focuses of eco-neighborhoods is to facilitate “soft mobility”. To do this, developers ensure they design neighborhoods around homes, services and stores. Sustainable mobility modes, such as — often free — carsharing, are easily accessible and bicycle paths are everywhere. Electric and plug-in hybrid cars are favored, even outside the eco-neighborhood, with the widespread presence of charging stations.
These clean mobility solutions also imply the continuity of the transport network beyond the eco-neighborhood. This is the first keystone in the redesign of a city and its mobility in general. Such is the case in Vienna. The Wildgarten neighborhood (under construction) is an extension of the Austrian capital. It will provide inhabitants with numerous green plots and nearly 650 charging stations for electric vehicles. In Italy, the eco-neighborhood Quattro passi in the Treviso province is a sustainable co-housing project in the middle of the countryside made up of only eight buildings. The district is entirely reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, but directly connected to a large parking lot and a carpooling zone. In Helsinki, Eko-Viikki is an eco-neighborhood where there are half as many cap parking spaces as there are households in favor of a wider choice of transport modes. The streets within the district and which connect it to the exterior network have, incidentally, been built using waste materials.
Most countries in Europe have developed their own labels for the development of sustainable neighborhoods, either through legislation or via NGOs. In the United Kingdom, for example, the BedZED eco-neighborhood is labeled with the “One Planet Living” certification from the WWF.
France has the “EcoQuartier” label, resulting from the law of August 3, 2009, as part of the implementation of the Grenelle environment discussions. Divided into four stages, it is based on a framework of twenty commitments, such as the preservation of biodiversity, low-carbon mobility, and considerations for users’ needs. This label has attracted international interest, with developers praising its approach, which can be adapted to different projects. In Japan, therefore, the sustainable Funabashi Morino City in the city of Funabashi, built on an old industrial wasteland, received the EcoQuartier phase three label in 2016. The San Antonio district in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, received the phase two label. Both have applied for the next step.
Eco-neighborhoods in Belgium, for their part, have their own benchmark called “Quartier Durable” (Sustainable Neighborhood) which awards the Green City Belgique (Green City Belgium) prize. The eco-neighborhood of James, to the south of Namur, received the prize in 2018.
Obtaining a label, whichever one it may be, implies that sustainability criteria have been met both prior to and during the project’s implementation. For this, candidates must submit an application to the labelling body at the pre-operational phase. Developers, local authorities and residents’ associations can all apply for certification.
Regardless of the country in which they are located, eco-neighborhoods meet similar basic criteria aimed at reducing their carbon footprint. Soft mobility is part of this, with the installation of charging stations for electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, cycle paths, and so on. Solar panels, vehicle-to-grid support and self-sufficiency all promote the use of renewable energy. Ecodesign is then added to this: buildings or individual houses are built from sustainable materials. Very well-insulated, they therefore consume low levels of energy. Green spaces, as well as being enjoyable for residents, support biodiversity in the neighborhood and protect from the summer heat. A system to enable recycling, with the capacity to compost and reuse waste in other ways, is likewise essential. An eco-neighborhood is also a vector for behavioral change, generating other positive actions such as mutual aid and conviviality.
Copyrights: iStock, Kevin ENGELSMAN
Cities & planning
Cities & planning