There are 100 units of passive energy homes in the district. No active system is needed to maintain a comfortable temperature for these homes, which are super-insulated with foam and lagging up to 30cm thick and triple-glazed. Fresh air enters at ceiling level, and the heat from the warm air going out is transferred to the cold air coming in. The result is that the ambient heat from cooking, lighting and the heat given off by people is normally enough to maintain a comfortable temperature. While a typical home in Germany squanders 220 kilowatt hours of energy a year for each square metre of floor space, these houses were built to a 15kWh/m2 standard. There are a further 60 or so houses built to an even higher standard, called ‘plus energy houses’, which actually produce a surplus of energy over the year from roof mounted solar panels which they sell to the grid. The rest of the houses are built to a low energy consumption standard, and are heated by a combined heat and power station burning wood chips. A sustainable urban drainage system covers the district and there have been innovations in waste water treatment.
The district is traffic-calmed. Within Vauban, transportation is primarily by foot or bicycle. The development is connected to the Freiburg city center by a tramway. The district transportation network is designed in order to “filter out” the car, few streets run through the neighbourhood as most are crescents and cul-de-sacs. Residents must sign an annual declaration that they do not own a car, and if they do they are required to purchase a space in one of the multi-storey car parks on the periphery. Vehicles may enter the roads in the carfree areas at walking pace, but for deliveries or drop-off only; they are not permitted to park. The level of car ownership has declined over time, as of 2009 around 70% of the households had chosen to live without a private car. Many residents of Vauban are members of the city’s car-sharing club.
The district is intended to have a mix of social groups, mixing privately owned and self-built houses with social housing. It is extremely family friendly. Public green spaces between rows of houses provide for a good climate and offer play areas for children and a network of pedestrian and bike paths permeate the entire neighbourhood. Public infrastructure was developed in parallel to private development, including schools, kindergartens, facilities for teenagers, community centres, and a market square, as well as leisure and playing areas. There are numerous community organisations, there are about four meetings of district groups each week in the rooms of Forum Vauban.