Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

OBFT: Sun Villages + Vauban

June 2013

by Leigh Duxson, Woden SEE-Change

Just over the border in Queanbeyan is an emerging eco-village called Sun Villages.

SEE Change Woden organised a visit to the site to see the completed first stage and to hear about the objectives of the village from a part owner of the development Stina Kerins.  This was also an opportunity to hear a presentation by Leigh Duxson on two famous eco-villages he visited last year in the district of Freiburg, Germany.  They were developed using a cooperative housing model.

Sun Villages is designed to allow integrated living – that is, the chance to mix with your neighbours in common areas such as the common kitchen, recreation areas or the vegetable garden or to retreat to your home, whether it is a studio or a spacious 4 bedroom home or something in between.  The homes are designed to be flexible so that living spaces can be combined to make a larger home or separated to provide entirely independent apartments or you can buy standard strata title units.

The village is designed to accommodate people through all stages of their life rather than the usual situation of being forced to continually change houses and neighbourhoods as accommodation needs change.  This helps to maintain the sense of community that is a key to the development.

The village is designed to be sustainable as well as water and energy efficient.  The homes are rated at EER 7, have northern orientation to the main rooms, highly efficient Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning, solar hot water, double glazing, water saving taps, shower heads and toilets with all collected rainwater stored under the driveway in a large tank and used in laundries, toilets and garden.  Surface storm water is fed into a retention basin for garden use. There are vegetable gardens, a shady grove, BBQ facilities and in the next stage a common building where people can meet, cook, converse, hold social events, accommodate guests or run a small business.  There is even a large common workshop and a second free standing building for residents with a children’s play space above it as well as a separate cubby house (all opening in stage3).

Most facilities such as shops and schools are nearby and can be reached by walking or bike riding but the next phase will also include a shared electric car which will further reduce the need to own a car and contribute to the lowering of CO2 emissions.

VaubanVauban and Rieselfeld are internationally acclaimed models of sustainable urban design.  These districts of the City of Frieburg are developed as high density sustainable communities consuming little energy or water.

Each co-housing development in the district is limited to 5 stories high and holds about 12 families which gives a population density of approximately 125/hectare compared with Canberra  4.5/hectare.  There are fewer than 300 cars/1000 residents compared with the Australian average of 730/1000.

vauban 2The streets of Vauban are called “play streets” as cars are only allowed in them to pick up disabled residents or to deliver heavy goods.  Mostly they are used by children as a play space.

At the rear of the co-housing units is a large community park with recreation facilities.

Trams connecting to the city are available within 400m of all housing, bikes and walking are used to access shopping and schools and small local businesses such as cafés, a hotel, bike repair shop and car share cooperative.  Heating is provided by a district heating plant, using natural gas or wood fibre from the nearby Black Forest.

vauban 3Many of the co-housing units have a complete roof of photovoltaic cells as have the supermarket and the multi-storey car park.

Some of the development is so well insulated and covered with PV cells that they generate more energy than they consume.

If you ever have the chance to visit these places I strongly recommend it.

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government