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17 Dec 2019

I was fortunate enough recently to visit the city of Freiburg in Germany with the CIH and some amazing people from Housing. Why Freiburg? Well it’s pretty simple really - it’s one of the greenest cities in the world with a record of sustainable housing development and a must visit destination for those interested in how to develop places and homes to meet the challenges of climate change, affordability, health and wellbeing.

The trip was a great opportunity to understand how Freiburg had earned its accolade as one of the greenest cities and the direction it’s taking with regards to development.  The city is surround by the Black Forrest which results in it having its own micro-climate and many years ago the powers that be took the decision to only develop within the city itself. As a university town that’s growing by 1% in population annually, it felt that it was time to address that decision for the future. So, in February 2019, the city held a referendum and it was decided that a new eco-district would be created called
Dietenbach which is located in the west of Freiburg in the district of Rieselfeld.  Whilst on the trip we got to hear from Dr. Rüdiger Engel, project leader of the Dietenbach district extension who told us that the objective is to create a new district of 6,500 - predominantly affordable apartments for more than 15,000 people by 2040. When the district was created, it was separated out allowing different designers and developer to bid for sections of the development and it provides a way for sustainable development in a measured, but efficient way.

As part of the trip we also had the opportunity to meet with Freiburger Stadtbau GmbH (FSB) - the largest housing association in Südbaden. FSB is an expert in development of urban and residential projects and is also in the service-oriented management of housing, commercial space and parking garage operations, with 11,000 apartments in their stock. The housing association has sustainability at its heart and explained to us that when properties are taken on by a tenant they do not come with a kitchen and it is the tenant’s responsibility to source this.  They have a belief that the tenant will look after their kitchen better if they bought it themselves.

It’s not just housing either – infrastructure is also at the heart of making the city incredibly green. Many years ago, it reduced the use of vehicles and installed a tram system connecting all parts of the locality. The new apartments being created all come with a minimal number of parking spaces and these are priced as premium meaning the residents in the area have a tendency to walk or use the tram system significantly reducing congestion. The new district will be equipped with a modern public transport system, active mobility dominating infrastructures as well as car-sharing possibilities. Energy-efficient construction, green roofs and facades, solar energy and the use of alternative (waste) heat sources ensures its climate-neutrality. Last, but not least, the city council has also confirmed that 50% of the quota built will be for social housing, to make it affordable to people with modest incomes, which shows the level of commitment to social value.

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