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Our society has various environmental issues and challenges to confront with, such as global warming, sea level rise, water scarcity, air and water pollution, etc. The United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009 was claimed to be the last chance to deal with climate change; the global awareness of negative impacts of human activities on the environment has let us rethink about our ways of living. Low-carbon Community takes a variety of methods to achieve energy saving and reduce carbon emission in planning, construction and management process, which responds to the environmental crises at a community level.

Design Strategies

  1. Compact development

Compact development is an important feature of low-carbon community, because mixed land use, higher housing density and pedestrian-friendly transport are effective ways to create neighbourhoods that consume minimum resources, produce less pollution and protect the natural environment.

  1. Low-carbon emission

In order to achieve less carbon emission, the design of community should respect its existing context and retain the original natural forms including topography, vegetation and rivers if possible. In addition, the use of renewable energy and eco-technologies should be encouraged.

  1. Transport

Environmentally friendly transport is encouraged to replace motorised vehicles within the low-carbon community; and streets with leisure facilities become public space that allows various activities to take place. Furthermore, the community should also be well-connected to public transport system.

  1. Water efficiency

Water efficiency is another important aspect to be considered in low-carbon community design: it is estimated that about half water consumption can be saved by utilising water-saving equipment, grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting.

Vauban District

Bicycle parking area in Vauban community (Image Source:

The Vauban district of Freiburg in southern Germany is well known as an exemplar of low-carbon sustainable communities. The 38 hectares area accommodates approximately 5000 population. Due to the motto of “living without car”, no car parking space is provided in community core area, while a well-connected green transport network is provided to guarantee the priority of pedestrians and cyclists. Additionally, public transport, businesses, schools and shopping centres are located within reasonable walking distance. As a result, 70% of local residents live without a car.

For energy saving and efficiency, 80% sawdust and 20% efficient natural gas are utilised for high efficient cogeneration that provides community central heating. As for waste management, organic household waste is collected and treated with an anaerobic digester to generate biogas for cooking. Besides, grey-water is recycled after cleaned in biofilm plants.

Vauban sustainable model is successful and inspiring in terms of green transport, energy saving and waste recycling. Hopefully there will be more low-carbon communities in future to minimise the negative impact of human activity on natural environment and encourage a sustainable way of living.

References: (2011). Low Carbon Neighbourhoods – what are they and how do we get there? [online] Available at: [Accessed May 2019].

Thorpe, D. (n.d.). The World’s Most Successful Model for Sustainable Urban Development? | Smart Cities Dive. [online] Available at: [Accessed May 2019].

Zhou, X. (2011). The Low Carbon and Recycling Theory of “Cradle to Cradle” Applied in Community Planning in Germany and Its Inspiration to China. [online] Available at: [Accessed May 2019]

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509


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