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Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 14, Nos. 1/2, 2011


Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model: planning forms, constraints of implementation and emerging resilience practices Stella Kyvelou* University of Social and Political Sciences of Athens, Department of Economics and Regional Development, Director, ESPON2013 Hellenic Contact Point, Athens, Greece E-mail: *Corresponding author

Toni Papadopoulos Research and Technology Department, Worker’s Housing Organisation (OEK), 60, Solomou Str., 10432 Arhens, Greece Fax: 0030-210-5281473 E-mail: Abstract: The paper seeks to overview perspectives of eco-neighbourhoods in Southern Europe. Emphasis is given to spatial planning system related issues as well as organisational, investment, financial and governance specificities in countries that belong to Southern Europe, thus governed by ‘urbanism tradition’ (ESPON, 2005). In Northern European eco-neighbourhoods, one can conclude on certain typologies and a North European model (Souami, 2007). The paper aims at exploring a South European ‘model’, presenting some already existing methodological tools and experiences from realised projects. The key findings of the paper are both lessons learned from Northern European examples of eco-neighbourhoods and trends in France, Italy and Greece. In Greece, developments vary from public, for worker’s housing purposes to private ones mainly for marketing purposes. The paper concludes that implementation of an eco-district mostly depends on the degree of strategic spatial planning tradition and culture, community engagement, catalytic investments and the possibility of public-private partnerships. Keywords: eco-neighbourhood model; strategic spatial planning; resilience; social and spatial equity; Greece. Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Kyvelou, S. and Papadopoulos, T. (2011) ‘Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model: planning forms, constraints of implementation and emerging resilience practices’, Int. J. Sustainable Development, Vol. 14, Nos. 1/2, pp.77–94. Biographical notes: Stella Kyvelou, Architect-Engineer, spatial/environmental planner PhD, is an Asst. Professor at the Department of Economics and Regional Development of Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences of Athens. She is specialising in strategic spatial planning, sustainable territorial and urban development and management and sustainable

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S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos building. She is the Director of the ESPON2013 Contact Point ( for European territorial development and cohesion. She presides also at the International SDMed Association (for Cooperation on Sustainable Development and Construction in the Mediterranean, She has been a member of the Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis Unit of the Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation (1988–2002). Public-private partnerships and governance issues specifically linked with urban planning and development are among her main research fields. Toni Papadopoulos studied Civil Engineering-Architecture and holds a Masters degree in Engineering and Planning at the University of Liege. He started his career as an Assistant at the same university, Official at the Ministry of Public Works and as an Engineer. He is a co-founder of the group ECOS Liege. He continued his career in Saudi Arabia at the private office of Prince Halid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz and the company Thomson CSF. Since 1994, he works for the Workers Housing Organisation (OEK). Currently, he is the Head of Research and Technology Department. He has actively participated in the CECODHAS works and in the Med Eco-quartiers Interreg Project.



Eco-neighbourhoods are subject to increasing interest, resulting in the proliferation of articles, visits and exchanges of information about them. When reading or listening to what is discussed on this subject, often circulates the idea of ‘exemplary achievements’ in the countries of Northern Europe, as a counterpoint to a delay on the subject in Southern European countries. The following article proposes to go beyond the results (whether perceived as positive or negative), to understand how these districts ‘were designed, conducted and implemented’. It presents also the tools implemented by various stakeholders in the development of these urban projects used to qualify them as sustainable. For this purpose, five districts in three European countries have been analysed on the basis of a sample of 30 cases with ten years of life and enabling a sufficient observation (Kyvelou and Bidou, 2008). The lessons learned are based on a comparative analysis and a critique of the following neighbourhoods: Hammarby (Stockholm) and BO 01 (Malmö) in Sweden, Kronsberg (Hannover) in Germany, Vesterbro (Copenhagen) and Kolding in Denmark. The ambitions and goals set for the above eco-neighbourhoods, vary from case to case and each experience is a special case. Nevertheless, one can conclude on some common characteristics mainly governing the implementation of these projects, thus enabling to distinguish certain typologies and speak about a ‘North European model’ (Souami, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to explore this ‘model’, highlight research approaches and common processes of all cases studied, beyond the use of efficient environmental techniques for equipment and infrastructure or for construction (housing, tertiary buildings). It also attempts to specify ‘a possible South European model’ of eco-neighbourhood, by presenting some already elaborated methodological tools and some experiences from implemented projects in Mediterranean countries and specifically in France, Italy

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model


and Greece. Furthermore, conditions are explored under which ‘a movement of ‘eco-neighbourhoods’ can emerge in Southern Europe’, presenting on the one hand the results of the Med Eco-quartiers INTERREG Project and on the other hand the tendencies for a centrally directed generalisation in the framework of the ongoing ecological transformation of the European economies.


What is an eco-neighbourhood? A little of history

About the model of eco-neighbourhood or eco-district, we should mention that a meaningful typology has been drafted by Souami (2009). He distinguishes three phases of eco-neighbourhoods’ creation, in less than two decades. According to Souami, each phase is corresponding to one of the three different types of eco-neighbourhood and it is the second type that permits more performances than the other two types, thus representing in a certain way ‘the very model of the so-called ‘eco-neighbourhood’’.

2.1 The initial eco-neighbourhood type of the ‘80s According to Souami, the initial eco-neighbourhood type was most often a small pool of buildings located in the periphery of cities or in rural areas. The initiators of such projects were usually professionals and experts, politically active, enrolled in so-called alternative movements. Convinced about the importance of ‘green’ development and construction, the founders of eco-neighbourhoods adapted both the idea and the process before choosing the site to accommodate and implement their ideas which was chosen later on. During the 1980s, we meet neighbourhoods of this type in Austria, in the Netherlands and in Germany. They are, in fact, eco-villages transformed into neighbourhoods and the organisation in a community or associative form of development is often used to group the inhabitants, in order organise the public areas and implement the project.

2.2 The ‘prototype’ of eco-neighbourhood of the ‘90s In this case, some communities have taken advantage of exceptional urban events to initiate sustainable districts on their territory: World’s Fair in Hanover, B01 exhibition in Malmö, London Olympics, Olympic Games bid in Paris, Zaragoza’s candidature for EXPO 2008 that initiated the ‘Ecociudad Valdespartera’ etc. These events have been all opportunities to initiate positive processes that go beyond conventional practices, showing ambitious environmental goals. The projects are accompanied by an important work of communication, especially internationally. They are developed as exemplary neighbourhoods, particularly successful demonstration projects addressing both to technicians and local politicians. Nevertheless, some of them constitute events by themselves. As far as governance and investment schemes are concerned, we should note that: •

partnerships involve communities, private and public developers, social housing agencies, several operators of urban services and facilities (energy, water, etc.), groups of experts and many contractors

80 •

S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos funds are cumulative and come from various sources: local (municipalities, public and private developers), national (sectoral programmes, exceptional ministerial grants or subsidies) and international (various European programmes).

Leaders of local projects show innovative and mainly broadly applied technical solutions (systematic recycling of rainwater, deployment of extended solar panels, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and technicians and policy-makers have the opportunity to test, validate and correct certain choices. These projects are also considered as places that promote learning (Kyvelou, 2010).

2.3 From the mid-90s a new type of eco-neighbourhood appears based on environmental quality criteria In the third category, eco-neighbourhood projects are initiated in a conventional manner since they mobilise ordinary tools of development and construction but they integrate environmental quality objectives. In other words, these districts adopt common and unexceptional production methods in order to integrate sustainable development perspectives. Some of them clearly refer to the achievements of the ‘prototype’ sustainable neighbourhoods (the so-called European ‘vedettes’). These projects, often modest in size, are being planned in a long-term period and they are sometimes considered as resulting from the dissemination procedure of the proto-neighbourhoods and the ‘prototype’ ones. Nevertheless, Souami argues that, according to his investigations and research, there is no systematic genealogy and explicit influences between these neighbourhoods (Souami, 2009). Furthermore, history shows that eco-neighbourhood projects concern issues arising from territorial, urban, social and economic aspirations that go beyond environmental considerations. These socioeconomic and urban contexts are different in each case: economic prosperity for some of them, acute socioeconomic crisis for others, reshaping of political and institutional context, poverty, etc. ‘This diversity proves that there is no common profile to serve as a basis for the creation of an eco-neighbourhood’. In all cases, eco-neighbourhoods are implemented in order to ‘enhance image of the city and local identity’. The objective is to protect the sites concerned and therefore the cities where they belong, from their prior image. This image is part of the elaboration of public policies across the whole city. The classification of a district based on its environmental performance depends on a long-term work on the construction of neighbourhood identity and the deepening of the feeling of belonging to this neighbourhood. The place would no longer be identified by its history, its people, its animation or attendance. It would initially live through the image of environmental performance that circulates outside. The existence of prior approaches and actions on environmental issues is not always an asset for the development of operational projects aimed at sustainable development. In some cases, certain environmental policies have applications in connection with sustainable urban projects. In other cases, affected communities have not been able to mobilise their achievements of past policies to initiate and carry out operational projects of environmental quality. Sometimes, sustainable neighbourhoods are not preceded by pre-existing environmental policies. Summing up, we should note that: •

there is not a prerequisite for environmental policy or a pre-requisite for sustainable development to achieve eco-neighbourhoods

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model


eco-neighbourhoods are often conducted in parallel with the establishment of local policies for sustainable development and these projects may contribute to developing local sustainable development policies

eco-neighbourhoods are not the operational implementation of existing policies for sustainable development which prove and demonstrate their effectiveness.


Comparative approach of Northern European eco-neighbourhood projects

A comparative approach of the cases presented above, leads to several conclusions (Kyvelou and Papadopoulos, 2010): •

The first finding is, certainly, that the eco-neighbourhoods studied are being managed by communities leading a strong environmental policy. The Agenda 21 has been implemented for several years in these cities.

A second important finding concerns the temporality that is crucial to develop long-term and integrated community and neighbourhood policies. The fact that communities have, for the most part, the land ownership and control, gives more weight to freedom and imposes strict requirements on developers in terms of sustainable development.

The third finding relates to the demonstration and the exemplarity. All the districts examined, have shown a strong dynamic of ‘exemplary urban project’ used by communities to showcase their expertise in sustainable development and report on the project internationally and within their communities.

The participation of all actors, as inseparable elements during both the operational phase and the lifetime of these neighbourhoods – is probably a final common. The success of the projects listed above is the diversity and level of involvement of public and private sectors: policy-makers, technical services, neighbourhood associations, environmental associations, residents, architects, consultants, research institutes, universities, developers, network managers.

3.1 Structuring the projects The eco-neighbourhoods led to cross contracting authorities of different structures, previously specialised and sectoral: urban, architectural or environmental contracting authorities, social policy authorities, those involved in the financial promotion or in communication issues. To do this, the solution mostly used has been the formation of a hard core of these various stakeholders. This core had to adapt to the different missions and phases, the centre of gravity of project management moving from one component to another depending on periods and themes to be addressed. Leadership was assumed by various municipal services, public utilities or municipal agencies to undertake certain tasks but also empower and stabilise them. Thus, the image that summarises the institutional arrangements observed in projects aiming at environmental quality is the truncated cone.


S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos

Figure 1 The ‘truncated cone’ of the eco-neighbourhoods projects (see online version for colours)

Source: Souami (2007)

At the top of the cone there is a circle of key decision-makers, which do not necessarily occupy the same position. From this top, there are cascades of players and operators grouped either by relevant field (energy, water, etc.) or by delegation of roles or tasks subcontracted. The primary concern in the development of eco-neighbourhoods is the creation and establishment of an urban environmental ‘managing authority’.

3.2 Project financing The variety of players described above and the search for adapted technical solutions have led to the construction of fragmented budgets, by source of funding. These are often nested or parallel financing being complementary in order to implement in the same building or public area renewable energy or water recovery systems, more efficient insulations, environmentally friendly materials, etc. Each of these technical solutions results from a way of financing, from a budget or a specific and specialised fund. To access these funds, it is necessary to meet technical requirements and follow specific procedures required by the funding agency which usually shows little concern for the other components of the building or planning to be implemented. The fragmentation of funds for the improvement of environmental quality is being also reflected in the financial arrangement. The complexity of financial arrangements does not come only from efforts to select each time adapted solutions. It also follows the funding opportunities available to the project and the desire of responsible eco-neighbourhoods to capture the maximum of these opportunities. In other words, the financial opportunities will drive their choices as well as technical requirements or objectives.

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model



Eco-neighbourhoods in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean

As shown above, the North-European model is mainly described by its technical and environmental components. The performance in terms of energy, saving water or recycling materials are particularly highlighted. They seem to be the main mechanism to move from principles to the effective implementation of sustainable urban development. The urban planning and design and the implementation of networks are resulting from this approach. This ‘model governed by the environmental approach and its performance’ is mainly used by communities as a powerful tool of communication, promoting the region and even as leverage to reverse social and economic depreciation. However, these social and economic aspects are not sufficiently highlighted and are not explicitly included within the agreed content of the model of sustainable urban development. On the contrary, ‘Southern European countries and especially the Mediterranean seem to prefix social, economic and governance issues’ and less attention is paid to environmental performances at least from the point of view of their initial definition and specification.

4.1 The case of France: relative delay, centrally directed generalisation, focus on societal issues In France, many cities have been engaged recently in the process of sustainable neighbourhoods. Most of the projects are being actually studied and implemented, so their status does not allow to evaluate the results and presents a meaningful analysis. In addition, the famous ‘Grenelle de l’ Environnement’ in France has proposed to initiate a plan of voluntary eco-neighbourhoods driven by local governments: at least one eco-neighbourhood in all municipalities that intend to realise programmes of housing development until 2012 (in continuity with the existing urban texture and integrated in the city master plans ) and 15 large-scale projects of energy, architectural and social innovation, while the release of growth will be creating by 2012 through the creation of ten ‘Ecopolises’, that is cities of at least 50,000 inhabitants integrating environmental quality and new information and communication technologies (Committee for the Release of French Growth or ‘Attali’ Commission). Moreover, two relevant competitions, announced in 2008 by the Minister of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Planning, the first one for ‘Ecoquartiers’ of three different scales and the second one for ‘Ecocités’. These centrally directed processes in cooperation with local authorities highlight already major projects and underline the fact that the phenomenon of eco-neighbourhoods is widespread in France and building resilience is ongoing for these innovative projects of urban development. We should also note here that in France the HQE Association has recently presented a guide of how to integrate the HQE in urban projects, produced in collaboration with numerous partners (Carfantan et al., 2005). This guide is based on good practices already put in place and has been subject of experimentation since 2006 in ten pilot community projects. The approach aims to ensure that all environmental, social and economic concerns are handled by developers and should allow private or public developers to monitor the project so that it incorporates all concerns and all stakeholders likely to be involved: professionals, residents, technical services of the community… It is based on an operation management system (SMO) modelled on the classic course of an operation


S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos

since the birth of the project until the handover. The guide encourages also the signing of a contract between the community and the developer in the early project design phase. The document outlines the expected objectives and measures to be taken to address them. In contrast, the approach does not set any targets in terms of performance levels, leaving this task upon the developer and the community, in order to fix them in the local context. It therefore does not provide possibilities of certification, even if discussion has already begun to develop a method for evaluating projects that will be achieved through this guide. Meanwhile, the HQE Association intends to compare this tool with the similar ongoing work within the Department of Ecology of the ISO (Kyvelou et al., 2007). Figure 2

The proliferation of eco-neighbourhoods in France (see online version for colours)

Source: French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model


Finally, it is noteworthy that surveys of eco-neighbourhoods in France highlight the fact that as for the issue of sustainable development, the design of eco-neighbourhoods in France gives emphasis on the social dimension of the outputs (Lefèvre and Sabard, 2009) even by means of the rebirth of the cooperative movement, which is evident from the beginning of 2000 in France.

4.2 A programme of interregional cooperation stresses the interest on a Mediterranean eco-neighbourhood model In the framework of the INTERREG IIIB, the Medocc Programme aimed at developing common solutions between regions of the same geographical area, namely the Western Mediterranean. In this context, the European ‘Med Eco-quartiers’ Project has been formed, focusing on new urban developments and on their sustainability in the broadest sense of the word. The overall objective of the Med Eco-quartiers Project, based on a European regional partnership, was to implement the creation of new eco-neighbourhoods in the region. Several partners and Mediterranean cities of Europe have worked synergetically, to develop a harmonised and replicable methodology for designing an eco-district, that is to plan and realise urbanised areas in a sustainable development approach, taking into account protection of the environment, quality of life of their inhabitants and accessibility. The objective of the Med Eco-quartiers Project was to produce a common methodology in order to serve as a set of principles for the creation of new neighbourhoods that are consistent with the principles of sustainability (planning, building, energy, mobility, quality of life, activities, natural resources, historic buildings and landscape) in the member countries of MEDOCC, the Western Mediterranean region. It was financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and grouped the following cities: Pezenas (eco-Saint-Christol 29 ha for 1,700 inhabitants), Dos Hermanas (Spain, eco-neighbourhood Montequinto for 12,000 inhabitants), Faenza (Italy, eco-district of San Rocco 350 dwellings for 1,000 inhabitants), Elefsis (Greece, eco-neighbourhood of 88 apartments on 3 hectares). In the project, specialised agencies have participated too: the Hellenic Worker’s Housing Organization, owner of a proposed subdivision at Elefsis, the AFNOR, Néopolis CCI-Drome, a French training organisation in sustainable building, the University of Genoa, the ‘Fundación Laboral de la Construcción Andalucia’, a Spanish professional body and the Greek Med SOS environmental NGO.

4.2.1 The methodological tools developed by the Med Eco-quartiers Project As part of the Med Eco-quartiers project, four working tools have been developed. They range from the phase of project design to the final realisation phase. The objective was to define precisely the criteria and tools for creating eco-neighbourhoods in the Mediterranean region, by studying different cultures, procedural approaches and environments. •

1st tool: Med Eco-urbanisme: The Med Eco-planning tool consists of a grid of decision support and audience piloting development project. The overall approach, crossing the various themes of sustainable urban design leads to the fundamental objectives of the project. The study of the Med Eco-planning tool recommendations


S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos allows the specification of the characteristics of the new district. The Med Eco-planning tool provides a framework for reflection and action.

2nd tool: Med Eco-constructibilité: This tool allows to accurately determine the environmental performance criteria, economic and societal of the future construction project and to assess the contribution of each of these criteria to the viability of buildings. The tool offers a technical approach built by incorporating elements of the construction site (natural resources, interdependencies, impacts ...) and can contribute to the success of the future district.

3rd tool: Med Eco-gouvernance: With this tool, cities are guided in developing a project together with stakeholders including the public. The ‘Eco-Med governance’ tool allows to use all the elements of dialogue and consultation and adapt them to the context of the project.

4th tool: Med Eco-sensibilisation: The last tool developed aimed at educating and informing policy-makers, local public staff and private partners on issues of sustainable urban planning and Eco-constructibility issues.

Table 1

Preoccupations for the Mediterranean eco-neighbourhoods

Preoccupation Preserving resources

Total per preoccupation

Total over 15





Reducing pollution




Reducing wastes




Natural and technological risks management




Improving comfort




Preserving health




Culture and patrimony




Integration of the publics into the project




Maintenance evolutions




Mastering costs excess




Local networks




Low nuisances building sites




Source: ‘Med Eco-quartiers’

4.3 An Italian project focusing to strategic spatial planning The objective of the ‘Med Eco-quartiers’ Project has been to define precisely the criteria and tools for creating eco-neighbourhoods in the Mediterranean region, by studying different cultures, procedural approaches and environments. “...Conscious that there is no a unique Mediterranean city, but only many different Mediterranean cities and mindful of

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model


not looking for the features of one particular architecture but keen, instead, on describing as many varieties as possible…” ‘the Italian partners of the Med Eco-quartiers’ Project have elaborated one of the most significant examples in St. Rocco neighbourhood in the City of Faenza. The San Rocco neighbourhood project in Faenza addressed the two fundamental issues for the construction of new neighbourhoods; the first one was related to land use and consequently town planning, while the second one related to experimental aspects, implementation techniques, the use of materials and innovative technology that can improve the overall quality of the ecosystem. “In Europe, there have always been two town planning traditions: one focusing on the product and the other on relationships” (Lucien Kroll). Thus, the San Rocco neighbourhood seems to be totally pitched towards the ‘relationship style of planning’, even though a great deal of attention has been paid to the physical product, if only to ensure environmental sustainability. The experimental building (and planning) of the San Rocco neighbourhood bridges the gap between product focused and relationship focused planning and is strongly Mediterranean in culture. Residents involvement in the San Rocco project is also evident. Another useful conclusion deriving from the Italian Project is that ‘a Mediterranean eco-neighbourhood results from strategic planning’ (Nonni and Laghi, 2008). It is through the new 1996 Local Strategic Plan that the application of distinctly non-traditional planning strategies is being tested in Faenza. The objective is to design developments, right from the strategic planning level, with people and their relationships at the centre.

4.4 The Greek eco-neighbourhood projects Eco-district ideas are still in their infancy in Greece, despite a boost in green development initiated recently by the socialist government. There is no real ‘eco-neighbourhood’ implemented in Greece and many questions need to be answered on the way to implement eco-neighbourhood projects in the country. Nevertheless, Greece has participated in the Med Eco-quartiers through a project to construct 88 housing units in the City of Elefsis (Figure 3–6). The work has been carried out by the Workers’ Housing Organization, an institution that since its inception in 1954, is responsible for the construction of social or workers housing dwellings in Greece. The Elefsis Project was already in construction phase when the Workers’ Housing Organization joined the programme, which is a fact that has hampered the implementation of all tools developed by the programme. Thus, the Med Eco-quartiers tools contributed to a partial modification of the original design and improve the environmental performance of the project in some areas (see Figure 6). However, the involvement of the Workers’ Housing Organization in the Med Eco-quartiers programme has contributed to a broader learning process to the extent that achieved awareness and knowledge around the question of eco-neighbourhoods has influenced towards replication through the adoption of the criteria introduced by the programme to other projects managed by the same organisation. Thus, it is interesting that a new settlement in Iasmos (Rodopi) has been designed as a pilot village for implementing as much as possible the methodological tools produced by the above mentioned European project. Also, the Organisation has announced a European architectural competition in collaboration to the Greek Institute of Architecture (EIA) regarding the design of a new social housing settlement with environmental design strategies.

88 Figure 3

S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos Master plan of Elefsis (see online version for colours)

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model Figure 4

The Med Eco-quartiers Elefsis Project area (in brown) (see online version in colours)

Figure 5

Med Eco-quartiers Elefsis Project master plan (see online for colours)


90 Figure 6

S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos Result of the application of the ‘Med Eco-quartiers’ working tool in the Elefsis Project (see online version for colours)

4.4.1 The Iasmos Project Following the experience acquired from the Elefsis Project, a social housing project will be developed by the Worker’s Housing Organization (OEK) in Iasmos, a small town in northern Greece (Municipality of Rodopi). Protected from the northern prevailing winds by the mountain of Rodopi, Iasmos is a lively town, with active mixed population of Christian and Muslim that coexist harmoniously. Located on the northeast limits of the municipality, the settlement planned by OEK will be used as pilot project for the implementation of methodological eco-tools coming from the European project ‘Med Eco-quartiers’ and some relevant principles have already been drafted: buildings orientation so as to optimise sun penetration-obstruction and achieve energy saving; linking to the existing road and pedestrian network; planting with indigenous plants coming from the nearby forest; appropriate arrangement of high plants to serve as physical barriers to the northern prevailing winds; construction of a wastewater treatment station; use of ecological construction materials preferably originating from the local markets; possible natural gas heating and solar panels for water heating; urban equipment of ecological origin: photovoltaic lighting, recycling, composting. Part of the sustainable planning is the consultation between the various stakeholders, the local government and the residents in order to built the necessary resilience.

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model


Futhermore, the buildings typology created by OEK will be modified to shift to a sustainable construction approach.

4.4.2 The ‘Designer Village’: a private eco-district focusing on marketing A pioneer village named ‘Designer Village’ is being developed by a private construction company1 on the foothill of the Pendeli Mountain, in Dionysos (northern Athens). The settlement is located in the green surroundings of the mountain, close to the sea, offering nice views. Created in a calming and prestigious green environment for high revenue families, the settlement is designed without standardisation and uniformity, in contrast with the usual practice in other large housing complexes. In an attempt to use ‘green marketing tools’, nine Greek architectural cabinets of different architectural perceptions and tendencies have been invited by the construction company, to put down their inspirations and create the eco-village. Another innovation concerns the high quality and energy effective construction. ‘Designer Village’ is already referred to as a kind of park of exemplary Mediterranean architecture, characterised as an ‘excellent project’ by an EC programme competition. The whole project concerns the development of 85 plots in which 240 dwellings are being erected. Each plot has approx. area of 1,500 m2. According to the project’s Energy Saving Design new building techniques will be applied in order to decrease energy consumption, improve thermal and visual comfort and indoor air quality. Private projects can be often met in the Mediterranean area as they concern the creation of eco-villages either of secondary residences and touristic complexes or high income level housing in prestigious suburbs. In these programmes, innovation and marketing for commercial reasons are usually prevailing. Although the environmental objectives and targets associated with the rational use of resources (energy, water etc.) are ambitious, the complex is far from being characterised as eco-neighbourhood, since it does not promote neither social mixing, nor economic efficiency, accessibility and affordability or cooperation among inhabitants. In conclusion, we would say that an eco-neighbourhood may be regarded as such only if it is the result of social dynamics and not a simple consumer product.


What would be the model of a Southern European ‘eco-neighbourhood’ nowadays?

The debate about a possible Southern European eco-neighbourhood model goes beyond the limits of this text. Nevertheless, as a conclusion, we think it is important to argue that ‘eco-neighbourhoods’ are neither merely expressions of integration of sustainable development in city planning nor only products integrating new technologies and alternative energies, or enrichment of biodiversity and a prudent and rational financial management. The eco-neighbourhoods, as developed in Europe are, in our view, important ‘local aspects of strategic spatial planning’, as this is reborn and reshaped today in Europe, thus being ‘products of a dynamic political and social process’. Eco-neighbourhoods are manifestations of the change of regulatory planning (based on physical planning) to a spatial management oriented process where ‘spatial marketing’ has a predominant role (Kyvelou, 2010). They reaffirm, moreover, that sustainable development is a unique unifying element and point of recasting spatial policies.


S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos

Sustainable neighbourhoods are also emphasising the issue of scale, which is important for spatial and particularly strategic spatial planning. Strategic spatial planning is a tool that can increase the transparency of decisions through the use of democratic procedures and through forms of democracy that are specialised in specific scales. It is clear that social groups are not interconnected with the same level in a neighbourhood, a city or an urban area. This is nowadays one of the most important theoretical discussions in spatial and urban planning. In this discussion, sustainable neighbourhoods can provide a significant contribution. Another important conclusion is that an eco-neighbourhood mainly depends on the extent to which there is a tradition of strategic spatial planning, on the cultural tradition and level of collective involvement (Chiotinis, 2006) and on the presence of catalytic investments and the possibility of implementing public-private partnerships (Kyvelou and Karaiskou, 2006). These conditions, largely missing in the Mediterranean area, also justify the delay of implementation occurred and may provide a guidance for building a Mediterranean model. On the other hand, in these projects, special attention has to be paid on social equity issues as one of the aims of sustainable territorial development. The principle of social equity focuses on the right to work and housing but also on the access to services and public goods and on the fight against poverty and social exclusion. Each citizen must have access to a job and decent housing, but also to the essential public goods. The access to housing, medical care, education and information should lead to a more stable society capable of solidarity, tolerance and generating participation. It can develop its traditions while promoting a sustainable lifestyle. Finally, ‘social equity’ can be defined as the addition of the merit principle of equality. This aim can be divided into four targets: ensuring everyone an adequate housing, ensuring access to efficient public services, promoting access to employment, fighting against occupational and social exclusion. To achieve the first target, the issues in a territorial project are: •

promote the social mix

promote diversity of housing supply

promote affordable housing policy

integrate urban projects in a social housing policy consistent with the entire city.

Apart from social equity principles, an eco-neighbourhood initiative should be based on adaptive and flexible governance schemes (Chouvet, 2007), that is bring together community stakeholders, property developers, utilities, and the city to solidify a shared sense of purpose and partnership through the following actions: •

establish municipal policy and organisational structures to support the eco-district development

create an engagement and governance strategy to build community support, set priorities and actions

develop an assessment and management toolkit ( with all the preoccupations described in this text) to guide project development and track ongoing performance

identify commercialisation opportunities for the private sector to test promising products and practices

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model •


implement sustainability projects through technical and economic feasibility analysis, assembly of project financing, and establishment of public-private partnerships (Association SDMED, 2007).

It is, therefore, evident that in Greece, eco-neighbourhoods are still in their infancy and many questions remain to be answered. There is no real ‘eco-neighbourhood’ (Kyvelou and Papadopoulos, 2010) in Greece and there is a lack of experience in Southern Europe in general. Nevertheless, both lessons from the North-European examples of eco-neighbourhoods and observation from different types of eco-developments in Southern Europe ( public or private projects) can provide helpful criticism and a good framework to discuss issues of efficient implementation in the near future. This framework could help to modelling work that is to the construction of a model that can help to predict future trends and to the affirmation of the model, meaning that it can be used in the reproduction and replication of certain practices and related projects.

References Association SDΜED (2007) ‘Quelles politiques d’aménagement urbain dans le contexte du développement durable? Transformations du fait urbain, du cadre bâti et du marché de l’immobilier’, Actes des Rencontres Franco-Helléniques et Internationales, Athènes. Carfantan, G., Vignes-Rubio, C. and Bonnet, K. (2005) ‘Méthodologie pour une démarche de qualité environnementale sur les opérations d’aménagement dans une perspective de développement durable’, SETUR, Rapport Définitif. Chiotinis, N. (2006) ‘The request of sustainability and architecture as cultural paradigm’, Management of Environmental Quality International Journal, Vol. 17, No. 5, Emerald. Chouvet, C. (2007) ‘Les quartiers durables: un exemple de démarche intégrée et participative’, Comité 21/Angenius, pp.4–20. Kyvelou, S. (2010) ‘From spatial planning to spatial management: the concepts of strategic spatial planning and territorial cohesion in Europe’, Kritiki (Eds.), Athens. Kyvelou, S. and Bidou, D. (2008) ‘Quartiers durables, éco-quartiers, écopolis: quells enjeux en Europe?’, International SB08MED Conference Proceedings the Mediterranean City Facing Climate Change: Innovation, Investment, Governance for a Low-carbon City, Athens. Kyvelou, S. and Karaiskou, E. (2006) ‘Urban development through PPPs in the Euro-Mediterranean region’, Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 17, No. 5, pp.599–610, EMERALD Group Publishing Limited. Kyvelou, S. and Papadopoulos, A. (2010) ‘Sustainable neighborhoods: lessons from Northern Europe – issues arising from a Mediterranean paradigm’, in I. Beriatos and M. Papageorgiou (Eds.): Spatial Planning-Urban Planning-Environment in the 21st Century, pp.315–326, University Editions of Thessaly, Volos, Greece, Mediterranean. Kyvelou, S., Hetzel, J., Iwamura, K. and Sinou, M. (2007) ‘L’application du développement durable au cadre bâti dans l’espace Méditerranéen: La démarche SD-MED’, Pulim (Ed.), France, p.121 Lefèvre, P. and Sabard, M. ( 2009) Les écoquartiers, Editions Apogée, p.261. National Technical University of Athens – Laboratory for Spatial Planning and Urban Development (2005) ‘Greece: National overview’, Study elaborated for the ESPON Project 2.3.2. Governance of territorial and urban policies from EU to local level, Project coordinator for Greece: Pr. Louis Wassenhoven. Nonni, E. and Laghi, S. (2008) ‘Un eco quartiere mediterraneo: Il Quartiere Residenziale S. Rocco a Faenza’, Comune di Faenza.


S. Kyvelou and T. Papadopoulos

Souami, T. (2007) ‘Montage et conduite de projets de quartiers durables en Europe’, PUCA, Paris. Souami, T. (2009) ‘Ecoquartiers, Secrets de Fabrication’, Editions Les cahiers de l’info, Paris.

Notes 1


Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model  

Kyvelou S., Papadopoulos T., 2011

Exploring a South-European eco-neighbourhood model  

Kyvelou S., Papadopoulos T., 2011