Vauban, Germany is a sustainable town for every other city in the world to emulate. Vauban is a “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany.
The town is not completely carbon neutral, as cars are actually allowed, if you pay quite a bit (comparable to at least $23,000 USD) for a parking spot on the outskirts of town. Thus, the majority of residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle or simply walk. Most streets don’t even have parking spaces.
The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early 90’s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These vagabonds eventually organized Forum Vauban, creating a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.
Careful urban planning helped to create a city layout which lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit. The terms “filtered permeability” and "fused grid" refer to a plan that ultimately means connected streets throughout the town, as well as plenty of pedestrian and bike paths. Residents primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the "solar ship", a large area of co-op buildings that run strictly on renewable energy.
The "solar ship" is the first housing community in the world in which all the homes produce a positive energy balance. The solar ship is part of Vauban’s solar settlement, helping make the town one of Europe’s most significant solar communities. A biomass plant provides district heating for Vauban, augmenting their large supply of solar energy.
In addition, the city has a number of passive homes (called “passivhaus”). Passive homes are almost entirely heated by passive-solar gains and a technically simple heat recuperation system, and are also popular in Vaxjo, as well as throughout many European cities. “Plus-energy” homes (of which there is a large, representative sample in the 'solar ship'), found throughout Vauban, actually produce more energy than they use. Solar PV's combine with the local biomass plant to produce energy which is used to meet the needs of the city's residences, after which excess energy is sold back to the city's utility company from plus-energy homes.