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The “emerald green age of cities”

Regeneration for Scotland’s Future: European Perspectives

How can we create ‘the emerald green age of cities’ in Scotland? What can Scottish towns and cities learn from pioneers like Freiburg in Germany?

20 regeneration practitioners from all over Scotland, including entrepreneurs, local government officials, academics and young professionals, tackled these and other questions in the first ‘Regeneration for Scotland’s future’ webinar.

The webinars are an experimental series of online discussions funded by Scottish government and organised by Shared Intelligence.

Andrea Philipp, a Consultant at Aiforia, based in Freiburg Germany started our discussion.

Saying no to nuclear

Frieburg’s journey to urban sustainability began back in the 1970s with the proposal to construct a nuclear power station in Frieburg. The proposal united people across Frieburg to develop ideas for a nuclear-free Freiburg.

The Chernobyl disaster in the 1980s further strengthened the municipality’s desire to move towards a future energy supply based on renewables. The city now has set itself a target of reducing CO2 by 40% by the year 2030 which is enshrined in the Climate Protection Plan.

A parking-free paradise?

Frieburg’s attempt to create a model eco-district has made the city famous. Practitioners from across the world flock to Vauban to learn more about how to promote and embed urban sustainability. This has contributed to a growing industry in green tourism.

Vauban was a brownfield site which the City Councils used to create a different type of neighbourhood. A key theme of Vauban’s development was to reduce the use of the private car by strictly limited private car parking space and promoting walking, cycling and a cross-town tram system.

Car ownership in Vauban is low at 85 cars per 1,000 residents. The absence of cars on in the neighbourhood has had positive impacts in terms of more green space, less noise pollution and a safer playing environment for children.

Low energy, passive and energy surplus housing

All houses built in this district must comply with special low energy housing standards which require them to waste less than 60kWh of energy a year per square metre for heating (compared with the National Germany target of 100KWh per year).

This has been achieved through the use of passive housing design. Some areas of Vauban use pioneering technology from the work of Rolf Disch who has developed the surplus energy house in an area of Vauban called the Schlierberg Solar Settlement.

Andrea also described the work being taken forward in Weingarten, another district of Freiburg and home to more than 5000 inhabitants, to retrofit a 1960s complex of municipal housing in an effort to reduce energy use by 30%. In this area, the first energy passive skyscraper in Europe has been developed.

Key themes from Freiburg

  • The state has been crucial in making change happen – often in its role as a landowner and lead developer
  • Local activism has been a crucial force for change – at first in opposition to nuclear power and over time in making environmental sustainability a political priority
  • Maximising natural assets and resources – The emphasis upon passive housing and reducing car use illustrates how it is possible to make the most of the natural assets that exist in an area and how this can actually help create cost savings in terms of energy efficiency and making more land available for housing

Questions for practitioners in Scotland

  • How do we mobilise entrepreneurs and private businesses in partnership with the state?
  • How can we make similar progress at a time of pressure on public spending?
  • What’s the balance of social/private housing ownership in Freiburg,  what does that mean for change in Scotland?
  • How does the financing of low energy/passive housing work in a depressed housing market?
  • What’s the potential of green tourism in Scotland?
  • Is it feasible to adopt similar measures to limit private car use and parking in Scotland?
  • Is it possible to create a version of Freiburg’s achievements on non-brownfield sites?

We’ll explore these question in the follow-up discussion and through the forthcoming webinars.

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These seminars have been produced by Shared Intelligence and funded by the Scottish Government using the Learning networks Knowledge Exchange Fund.

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