Frequent questions and answers

How many passive flats and houses are there in Vauban today? I was told that there are 150 passive flats. Is this correct?

We think they might be between 200 to 300 in total today. The Solar settlement alone has about 60, out house 21, Kleehäuser 26, ...

And what is total number of housing units (flats, houses and commercial) in Vauban? About 3,000 in all?

That might be but I'd say between 2000 and 3000, we have many big appartments (many children).- I'm sorry I have no reliable number. You might get better figures from the administration, but I'm sorry we don't have them.

What would be the average heating bill in a two or three-bedroom passive flat for one year -- as low as 120 to 150 euro?

You can always say 1 EUR per square metre and year, - not including (water and) energy for hot water. As the passive house idea only deals with heating and people are still showering the same, nothing much can be done with those costs. It is however possible to make hot water from solar thermal collectorsas we do, but that is not a part of the "passive house concept".

Are there any new passive flats and houses being built in Vauban currently?

New since when? There are only the last two construction sites open now and frankly, I don't know about their passive house status (or not). However, since 2011, every new private building must be built as passive house with less than 15 kWh/sq.m. year according to the building codes of Freiburg. The federal codes are not yet as strict.

If yes, how many? What is the cost today per sq metre?

The prize of a building in EUR per sq.m. is very difficult to compare to others, like the prize of cars. Even for new cars, there is the
Tata and there is a Lambourghini. So what do we get fro how much?

As in every other building, the following influences determine the total cost:

  • Is there an elevator?
  • Is there a garage in the building?
  • What is the ground prize?
  • How much ground is linked to how many stories and appartments?
  • Is the staircase in- our outside the building?
  • Are there "duplex" houses (the need for an internal starcase costs extra)
  • How is the electrical standard?
  • The bathroom standard alone can make up for 10% variation of the entire flat..
  • Are there common rooms (that cost money, but save hotel costs for visitors..)
  • The passive house technology account for 5-10% surplus cost.
  • How expensive is the architect's contract?
  • Are kitchen costs included?
  • Including plot acquisition costs (3,5%)?
  • Including VAT? (19%)
  • Inflation?

So we should not compare apple juice with apple pie :-)

Most important:

  • Is it a "building group" (Baugruppe) - that alone saves 20% of the
  • total construction costs.
  • Are there external influences?

And yes they are. After 2008, many wealthy persons draw their money from the banks in expectation of a second financial crash. Since then, the "demand" for construction skyrocketed in Germany and even low quality used buildings get high prize fixings. It would not be fair to attribute this to Vauban or the passive house.

One of the best documented prizes is the Kleehäuser, see . For a passive house, no parkings, but lifts, including ground, VAT, architects, CHP plant, solar thermal and PV collectors - everything - we had 2200 to 2400 EUR pro sq.m. in 2008.

The extremes might be 1250 EUR per sq.m. (lift but no parkings, common room, ground, taxes, ..) and I've heard even 4000 EUR. Developers really cash in today, especially in the highest floors. 4000 EUR definitely includes speculation already for many people want to move to Freiburg since ever..

How much would a two-bedroom passive flat cost in Vauban today - and a regular low-energy flat?

Please see above

How many kWh of energy per sq. metre does Vauban provide the local grid annually from its surplus energy production?

Where do you see a "surplus" production please? We have one big CHP plant with gas and woodchips of the district and two small ones.

And are we talking of electricity, heat or both?

Are passive houses becoming more and more popular in Germany?

Absolutely, yet I think not fast enough. It is a bit depressing to see that even after 15 years, many cling to old and bad designs. Every new idea needs a lot explaining, convincing, presenting the right facts, removing prejudice and misconceptions etc. Maybe this will take a generation, as in every other part of the world.. many make bad an unneccessary compromise as far as I can see.

What next for Vauban?

Since several years, we are a normal district. We could not and did not want to interfere with the individual behaviour. After the construction is completed, only that could be improved - if people would fly less, that would help tremendousl, but that is only one sector. We could only tackle the construction options..

About "sustainable development"

I get similar questions every once in a while:

Hello, Due to the fact that we were unable to translate some of the information and reports in German, we were wondering with reference to the Vauban development, is it possible that someone could answer the following questions regarding your monitoring practices in your community? We are interested in ANY monitoring of ANY indicator within Vauban. As a part of my academic research for my Sustainable Design Masters Program, I am looking to compile data on sustainable developments that are monitoring  (or will monitor) post occupancy sustainable performance in any indicator.  We are trying to ascertain the motivation to monitor performance in a community and the issues, best practices and lessons learned that can be gained from their experiences. This intent of this study is NOT to research HOW sustainable communities are performing. The intent of the study is to understand WHY they monitor and WHAT they monitor and learn from their experiences.

To put it bluntly: We don't monitor anything.

Yes, we or the city of Freiburg should compile data from our local energy company and set it into relation to other averages. At the moment, we can only guess that we consume about 50% of the energy of heat and electricity compared to a normal district, but that was not your question. (One reason that the city has not accomplished this so far is that some construction sites are not yet completed). You asked what we learn from monitoring.  We have hardly some monitoring at all, but we know what improvements we could accomplish, and to us, this means already a lot.

The Forum Vauban did write a research paper about our traffic concept with a lot of statistics and indicators, but I am sorry i can't translate that for you... is that what you're looking for? Here comes the text:


The term "monitoring" implies that the "Vauban organism" is something like a lab rat whose length and weight or behaviour may be measured over time. That is - I assume - called monitoring. If we had monitoring at all, it would be nice but could not get to the core of what we did.

The word "sustainable" was first used for a forest in germany to our knowing, in the 17th century. It meant that you should never cut more trees that the forest is able to regenerate. In the german forests, ironically enough, this is even working out today because mankind discovered oil and gas as other energy sources than wood. In Greece, 2000 years ago, they cut all the trees for war ship construction long before there was mineral oil. That is why they have not much forest left today, only tourism.. (I'm exaggerating and wish them all the best)

The same is happening right now, everywhere on the world. No one opposes wars. We're pressing out the last drops of oil, just to see what happens. Do we need monitoring in order to know that this is plain dumb? Excuse me for some emotions..

The word "sustainability" seems to be quite fashionably applied for cities, but everywhere on the world, we are far, far away of being "sustainable". So again, I personally never use that word for what has been done here. It is a goal much too far away. It is daydreaming. We know that we are consuming several earths, if we put resource consumption into perspective with resource supply.

I have absolutely no intention to offend. But you are not the first to ask questions about "sustainability" so that's why we have thought a bit about it.

We think that quality (in any aspect) is something than can and must be grasped in a direct way, partly intituitively. Indicators might be sometimes helpful, but they are not able to describe our work:'s_metaphysics_of_Quality

And yes, we have improved quality of life and at the same time saved costs, in many small places and details. As you know, any passive house saves about 90% of heating energy alone, compared to the standard new construction in 1995, 70% compared to actual federal standards.

To give you a constructive answer: What we did is / was just a little progress. We improved hundreds of details and in total, we are very happy about the outcome. Successors will build a much higher percentage of passive houses as we could, PV modules have become much cheaper, and so on. But we are unable to provide an object that can be monitored.

Whenever someone is using indicators it means that the person has to ignore everything the he or she did not find an indicator for. We'd rather invite you to see for yourself and then decide what you think of it.

However, I'll give it a try:

We are sending out this survey in order to gain insight into sustainable community development monitoring practices…If you are able to complete any of the questions below about your community, we would be very grateful.
1. Does your community monitor (or plan to monitor in the future) the performance of any sustainable performance indicator? If so, which ones? Are they listed online somewhere?

We don't, sorry.

We would like to measure energy use and put in into perspective, but this could only be done by out grid company and/or the city that owns it partly. I hope they will do it one day.

We did measure some indicators in 2003, for the traffic concept. Please refer to the abovementioned paper.

2. How far from completion is your community development? (in terms of % complete)
Every plot is sold since several years, only 2 construction sites are still running.
3.     Who is responsible (or will be responsible) for monitoring performance at your community? (administratively, funding and reporting duties)

Good question, - could only be answered if we knew what to monitor and how - and what not to.

The "Amt for Statistik" monitors the demographics as for every other district. I think that's it.

4.     What is the motivation to monitor sustainable performance? Is it required by the city of the developer or is it something that the development chose to invest in as a community?

Well, as we have no monitoring..

Maybe it would be enlightening to ask the city administration?

5.     Is (or will) energy performance be monitored?

I don't think so because the construction properties of passive houses etc. are known. There is no need to redo this for a mixed district. So many factors influence energy and cost..

How do you compile this information? (Do you obtain permissions from residents/businesses?)

Difficult and good question: In Freiburg, we have another project (in another district, named "Kraftwerk Wiehre") to propagate co-generation (CHP) into the residential buildings. Some houses are grouped together - then the total energy consumption is not a personal information any more and will be sent to the residents in order to estimate if a common CHP engine would be economic.

6.     What are some issues that you have run into in trying to monitor Sustainable Performance?

I wonder if we tried at all.

7.     How is performance reported? Is it publicly available? Do you monitor more than you include in your public report?

Nothing, nothing, .. we have not even a public report. Maybe some years ago, the Öko-Institut tried to compile some numbers about our district. ( ) I don't have them also because then, they were hardly more that educated guessing.

Please ask the city administration. We also think they are doing not enough. Maybe they will as soon our district is "completed".

8.     How much does it cost to operate the monitoring program and publish the annual report?
9.     Are there any lessons learned in monitoring sustainable performance that you would like to share with others?
Yes. We don't focus on the "lab rat" part of our reality so much. We know what we achieved, very often in terms of real, massive savings. Anyone is invited to copy and improve. We hope to continue learning, but all the houses are built now. We could fly less, and some or many do. We gained a lot of life quality, our district is the less noisy and yet the most densely populated one of Freiburg. 40% of us is below 18 years of age.

I hope very much that you'll see my answer not at all as offending, but as a critic to a too objectifying approach of urban planning, in our humble opinion. (I know from several discussions here that I speak not only for myself, btw :-)

Most of life's aspect is non-deterministic. Observing thinks means very often to have a certain bias, ignoring other phaenomena. The only thing is: We could tackle many small and bigger details together with the administration. This was a constructive process. We've neared the goal to consume less energy quite a bit, we'd appreciate some measuring but at the same time, the most important things are immeasurable. But you can perceive them in a very direct manner, as human being.

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