In a recent visit to Paris, I bought a French trade magazine that made references to “eco-neighbourhoods” built in northern Europe. Some, like BedZED, are already commented on this blog. Others were a total discovery for me. It is necessary disseminating these performances, some very good, so we can learn from these experiences. For a neighbourhood to convert into an “eco-district”, sometimes you only need a politician illuminated with appropriate buzzwords. Other times it is a collective work which has required joint efforts on the part of the public initiative, private, and of course some architects have responded to these concerns.
We present some of these references that seem the most appropriate:
The Greenwich Millennium Village (GMV) is an innovative mixed-tenure modern housing estate on an urban village model in Greenwich in south-east London, and part of the Millennium Communities Programme under English Partnerships. The village is designed by architects Ralph Erskine and partners with EPR Architects Ltd as executive architect as part of the regeneration of the whole brownfield site of Greenwich Peninsula former town gas works. GMV is south of the former Millennium Dome, now renamed the O2.The Village is being built by Countryside Properties and Taylor Wimpey. The housing is of modern, environmentally-friendly design, and the development aims to cut primary energy use by 80% using low-energy building techniques and renewable energy technologies. It will continue to expand until about 2015, with its own integrated village shopping and community centres. 1,095 homes and the village square and shops had been completed by 2008.
The Hockerton Housing Project is a small community of five earth sheltered homes on the outskirts of Hockerton, Nottinghamshire, UK. The houses were designed by ‘green’ architects Professor Brenda Vale and Dr Robert Vale. Low carbon living is facilitated through the use of renewable energy, the water system, food grown on site, and the community’s approach to work and transport. The homes were completed in September 1998 after three years of planning and 18 months of construction, at a cost of about £65,000. Two homes have since changed ownership on the open property market. The development consists of a terrace of five single story dwellings which are earth-sheltered at the rear (North), so that the ground surface slopes and blends smoothly into the field at the back. The houses have passive solar heating (a combination of high thermal mass and the south-facing conservatory) removing the need for a space heating system and the greatest factor in lowering energy use. Each house is 6 metres deep with a 19 meter conservatory to the south. This runs the full width of each dwelling. A repeated modular bay system of 3.2m in width was used for ease and cost of construction. Most of the internal rooms have 3 metre high French windows linking them to the conservatory. Those rooms that are not so dependent on natural light, such as utility and bathing areas are located towards the rear of the homes. The surrounding 10 acre site allows for crop cultivation, the rearing of sheep and chickens, and self-sufficiency in water and energy.
New homes at Tübingen-Südstadt are developed by innovative building partnerships – groups of individuals working together on a co-operative basis. Designed by Lehen 3 Architekten. The housing market is tight. Families are increasingly priced out by buy-to-let for student rental, and the loss of families and middle income groups to surrounding villages is perceived as a persistent problem. In 1990 the French military decided to leave its base in the Südstadt. This offered a welcome opportunity for the municipality to develop the 65ha brownfield site as a mixed-use urban quarter, which was to provide space for 6,500 inhabitants and 2,000 workplaces. In 2006 the project is nearing completion, with 1,100 residential units built so far, accommodating a population of 3,600.Tübingen is a university town 80km south of Stuttgart. Its population is 87,000 and has been growing for a long time, mainly due to in-migration. A further 8,000 inhabitants are expected by 2020. In Germany the quarter is widely known for its strong and vital community, its distinct urban character and a vibrancy which is unusual for new-build developments. These characteristics are primarily attributed to an innovative development process in which land is acquired and assembled by the municipality and then sold to building partnerships, groups of usually 5-30 parties (individuals, flatshares, couples or families) who themselves commission an architect and a contractor with the design and construction of their homes. Thus no private developer is involved. The concept was unique at the time but has now been imitated by a number of other municipalities such as Kassel, Freiburg, Trier and Hamburg.
In Amsterdam, the GWL-terrein housing development shows how keeping a community car-free can foster strong community spirit and encourage residents to live in a more sustainable way. Masterplan by KCAP.
GWL-terrein is a large-scale community housing development built on the site of Amsterdam’s former municipal water facility. A central focus of the development’s masterplan was to provide housing predominantly for families with children and to incorporate environmental considerations into the design.
GWL-terrein consists of high-density housing and a series of linked public spaces. The development is car-free in its interior and few parking spaces are provided for residents. It is located less than 3 kilometres from central Amsterdam and is very well connected to surrounding bus, tram and train routes. The car-free nature of the development contributes significantly to its unique character and has earned the development international attention.
The developers retained and refurbished some of the former waterworks buildings, which has helped create a strong sense of local identity. The addition of a distinctive modern water tower provides an additional landmark to the area.
Since the late 1990s, it has been a central policy of the Dutch government to pursue urban renewal through a more balanced proportion of social and market-rate housing. This policy was implemented in order to combat the creation of “ghettos” of social deprivation, as well as physical and social monotony. GWL-terrein responded to this initiative by providing a mix of both social and market rate housing.
EVA lanxmeer is the name of an eco-neighbourhood (240 houses) build from 1994 to 2009 in the Dutch town of Culemborg in Nederland. It is an environmentally-friendly-housing development.
It was initiated by Marleen Kaptein, who was looking for a more sustainable way of building housing in urban areas. The project was a strong partnership among future inhabitants and the city of Culemborg, consultants and other people. It incorporates many of the principles of high environmental quality and ecotown but its principal originality is the promotion of the constant participation of the inhabitants. Indeed, this area (except for his masterplan) was designed and conducted with representatives of future residents in a creative process (bottom-up; from bottom to top and not imposed by management or administration), often regarded as a model for several of its aspects (for example in Europe by Energie-Cités and in France by the Department of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea).
In December 1998, the Government approved a programme of ecologically sustainable development for the construction and property sector, which focuses partly on arriving at models of good practice. In 1998-2000, a special subsidy for pilot projects in line with the principle of sustainability was linked with the Government experimental building programme. During the period 1998 to 2002, an experimental area of ecological building of international importance is being constructed at Viikki, a district to the Northeast of the centre of Helsinki. Viikki is situated 7 kilometres from the heart of Helsinki. Buses began running between Viikki and the city centre in autumn 1999. In the future the area will also be served by the new orbital ‘Jokeri’ line, running across the Helsinki Metropolitan area. By 2010, Viikki residential district will be completed with Science Park as its hub. The Science Park is an international centre of excellence growing up around part of the University of Helsinki situated in Viikki which specialises in biology and biotechnology. Viikki will then provide 6 000 jobs, places for 6 000 students and homes for 13 000 people. The Viikki eco neighbourhood blocks are the result of long-term work aimed at putting ecological principles into practice in actual building. Two design competitions were organised for the area and a number of seminars and debates. The master plan competition was won by a proposal based on a finger-like structure with alternating buildings and green open spaces. The layout permits functions to be combined naturally, nutrients and water to be recycled (composting, allotments, collecting surface water run-off), and the utilisation of solar energy. Another competition was organised for the first blocks. The proposals were evaluated using eco-criteria drawn up by an interdisciplinary working group. The eco-criteria define levels of five different aspects: pollution, natural resources, health, bio-diversity and growing food. An environment profile was calculated for each competition proposal. In this system, points for those five aspects are added up. A zero-points scheme fulfils the strictest minimum criteria for conventional residential building. A ten-point design represents an ecologically excellent scheme and to exceed twenty points requires exceptional innovation.
Bo01 is a newly developed district of Malmo situated in a former industrial site by the ocean. It encompasses commercial and social services together with about 500 housing units and is entirely sustainable. The project offers 100% locally renewable energy, minimised future transport needs and car dependency, ecological buildings, increased biodiversity, local investment and improved waste recycling facilities.
Hammarby Sjöstad is a new district to the south of Stockholm, which extends the inner city beyond Hammarby Lake for the first time. Masterplan by Stockholm City Planning Bureau.
The name ‘Hammarby Sjöstad’ means ‘city surrounding Hammarby Lake’ and this new 200 hectare city district will comprise 9,000 apartments, housing a population of 20,000 people, and 200,000 sq m of commercial floor space attracting a further 10,000 people to work in the area. Approximately half of the total area has been developed to date and it is anticipated that the final scheme will be completed by 2015.
The concept for a new district in this location was born in the early 1990s. At that time, the City of Stockholm had developed a plan for development on the north side of the harbour, and this stimulated interest for a more strategic plan for the whole area around Hammarby Lake, both on the north and south banks. The idea was to exploit the unique opportunity to expand the inner city with water as a central focus for the development, whilst at the same time transformed an old port and industrial area into a modern city district.
Impetus was gained for development and infrastructure in the area when plans for Stockholm’s bid for the 2004 Olympic Games were being prepared. The core area of Hammarby Sjöstad was envisaged as an Olympic Village with a strong emphasis on ecology and environmental sustainability, which was promoted as one of Stockholm’s unique selling points as an Olympic city. Although the bid was unsuccessful, development was already underway and the momentum for change had been established.
Hammarby Sjöstad is built on former industrial brownfield land located on the south side of Hammarby Lake, to the south of the city centre, which has historically formed the natural border to the inner city area of Stockholm. The project seeks specifically to expand the inner city across the water.
Widespread community involvement in the planning and development of the Vauban district has helped it to become a sustainable and flourishing neighbourhood.
The site (38 hectares) will be home to more than 5000 inhabitants and 600 jobs. The main goal of the project is to create a city district in a co-operative and participatory way, meeting ecological, social, economic and cultural requirements.
The landowner, the City of Freiburg, is responsible for the planning and development of the site. This has been characterised by a ‘Learning while Planning’ principle allowing flexibility in reacting to development proposals and through extended citizen participation.
A major achievement by the City of Freiburg has been to divide land into small plots and allocate it in preference to private builders and Baugruppen (co-housing groups). Although the development plan included some regulations for the design and layout of the homes, a variety of structures exists and builders have had the freedom to design and develop the homes they aspire to. Coherence is provided through the extensive use of ecological measures and the ‘car-free’ and ‘parking-free’ concepts of living.
Perhaps the greatest strengths of the Vauban project are the ideas, creativity and commitment of the people involved and their common goal in creating a sustainable and flourishing neighbourhood.