Sustainable urban planning, also known as environmentally friendly urban planning or ecological urbanism, aims to rethink spatial planning to recreate a symbiosis between the urban environment and nature. In Luxembourg, an urban planning strategy with positive impacts promotes the creation of neighbourhoods where the citizen's quality of life is at the heart of the debate. This fresh approach to urban planning calls for a multidisciplinary strategy in which professionals in the sector, administrations and civil society work together.
Environmentally friendly urban development: the model of environmentally friendly neighbourhoods
Doing more than just reducing the negative impacts is one of the key factors in the new approach to environmentally friendly urban planning. In fact, it is not simply about minimising the effects of urban development on the environment and human beings, it aims to create positive outcomes.
The practical steps which aim to diminish the negative consequences on the urban environment are already well known: limiting light pollution or earthworks, for example. However, in order to create a positive impact, practical steps must go beyond compliance with current regulations in order to achieve an optimal outcome. For example, the benefits of sunlight must be taken into account when developing a site and buildings in order to strike a balance between reducing summer overheating and maximising natural light and solar energy production.
Environmentally friendly neighbourhoods
To deliver environmentally friendly neighbourhoods in Luxembourg, environmentally friendly urban planning with positive impacts places an emphasis the cross-sectional approach, the local context and the permanent collaborative interaction.
With regard to the development of environmentally friendly neighbourhoods, Luxembourg published the Environmentally Friendly Urban Planning Guide (Guide éco-urbanisme) (July 2021). This guide is a tool to promote town and country planning based on 15 themes related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including Goals #3 Good Health and Well-Being, #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production and #13 Climate Action.
The 15 themes, covering objectives and strategies, are structured into three main chapters:
- The 'Human Being' chapter, which covers welfare, health, social and economic, and mobility.
- The 'Resources' chapter, which deals with soil, air, water, energy, materials, nature and food.
- The chapter on 'Process, methodology', which shines a light on co-creation and participation.
Of specific interest is the fact that the practical steps to create positive impacts have multiple effects on several themes at the same time. The implementation of an active mobility and public transport strategy is an ideal example: it not only has an impact on well-being (as neighbourhoods would have fewer vehicles on the roads and therefore less noise pollution), but also on health (by promoting cycling and better air quality).
The citizen, at the heart of ecological urbanism
One of the key aspects of the environmentally friendly approach is that citizens are at the heart of the strategy. The central role of human beings is expressed in two ways: on the one hand, they are the beneficiaries of the positive impacts, and on the other hand, they are actively involved in the decision-making process as part of a permanent cooperation.
Well-being and health are two essential factors linked to citizens as the beneficiaries of urban development. Indeed, it is a question of building neighbourhoods that provide a high quality of life and allow the inhabitants to identify with their social environment and its developed surroundings. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to create environments on a human scale (neighbourhoods) or to offer a variety of urban atmospheres in which people of all ages live their lives to the full, among other factors. It is also important to ensure acoustic comfort and to encourage, for example, natural light in order to benefit from its direct positive impact on health.
Luxembourg already has initiatives that promote environmentally friendly urban planning where the citizen is at the centre of the debate. For example, the village of Elmen, has fostered the concept of quality of life, sustainability and a blend of urban activities. In fact, it is not only a question of providing affordable and partially subsidised housing owing to its innovative environmental advantages, but also of offering the future 2,000 inhabitants green spaces and an environment to promote the concept of "living together". The idea is to encourage inhabitants to reclaim the streets and to travel by foot or bicycle when moving around the village. The local services will also foster the creation of a community spirit, such as second-hand boutiques or sharing points to rent tools or household equipment.
On the other hand, co-creation and active participation are the means by which the citizen becomes a decision-maker. In fact, ecological urbanism nurtures multidisciplinary teamwork, the sharing of ideas and knowledge, and involves all stakeholders in the planning, consultation and co-decision process. The know-how of professionals in the urban planning, landscape and construction sector (urban planners and landscape architects) remains essential because of their technical skills and their ability to propose positive solutions which extend beyond the regulations. Nevertheless, the design will pave the way for the civil society that will live in these new areas.
Le Neischmelz project in Dudelange
The objective of the Neischmelz project, which is developed by the Fonds du Logement, is to transform the former steel works in Dudelange into a carbon-neutral, environmentally friendly neighbourhood. From the beginning of the project, the city of Dudelange decided to involve its population as much as possible and to encourage its citizens to reclaim the spaces.
Even before the neighbourhood was built, temporary facilities and transitional activities were created. For example, the DKollektiv artist collective took up residence in the Fondoucq hall. In 2019, in collaboration with FerroForum, they organised Alerte Gourmande – Iessen op eege Gefor! (an artistic performance-culinary evening) to highlight the multiple influences of migration in the Red Rocks region. Following this event, the book Gudden Appetit! was published.
The role of the circular economy in environmentally friendly urban planning
In essence, the ultimate aim of the circular economy is to create environmentally friendly neighbourhoods. Indeed, the circular economy is defined as an economic system of exchange and production that, at all stages of the life cycle of products (goods and services), aims to increase the efficiency of resource use and reduce the impact on the environment, while fostering well-being amongst human beings.
The dismantling of the Jean Monnet building
In contrast to the classic linear model of 'extract-produce-use-discard', the circular economy creates and maintains value via the principles of sharing, repairing and reusing, among others. The dismantling of the Jean Monnet building, in Kirchberg, is a successful example of this strategy. The intention was not to demolish the building at the end of its life. Instead, the aim was to sort the materials in order to re-use them. In all, 400 tonnes of aluminium, 45 tonnes of wood and 150 tonnes of glass were recycled in regional factories, creating a dual added value - both economic and environmental.
With regard to building materials in environmentally friendly neighbourhoods, the objective is to make the most of what already exists and to apply the principles of the circular economy to ensure optimal waste reclamation of the buildings and its resources at the end of its useful life.