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The 12 Rules of Sustainable Urbanism

The 12 rules of sustainable urbanism are enshrined in the Freiburg Charter, a document produced by what is possibly the world's most sustainable city; the city which won the World Habitat Award in 2013 (for which prize in 2014 nominations are now open, by the way. See:

 Freiburg from the air

Situated in southern Germany it has long been a beacon of sustainable urban development and has already received many awards over the last 30 years, including the European City of the Year 2010 (from the Academy of Urbanism).

The Charter has 12 principles to guide planning and development if a sustainable city is to be achieved. The document is being widely discussed and used by planning authorities around the world. Many of these beat a path to its door to see at first hand what is going on. There's nothing like a site visit to inspire and really get a good idea of how things work on the ground.

 accommodation and gardens in FreiburgIn Germany, many local towns and cities have adopted some of the examples set by Freiburg, but it has also spread to other countries including Mulhouse in France and Basel in Switzerland, as well as further afield.

And I have already written about a suburb of Freiburg, Vauban, asking if it is the world's most successful model of and urban development.

The German city is twinned with nine other cities around the world, with which it has close connections, providing support and planning guidance. Prior to discussing the 12 Rules, the Charter begins by laying out nine objectives that should be at the forefront of every responsible development project:

  1. the conservation of identity, strengthening of neighbourhood and encouragement of its cultural diversity and distinctiveness;
  2. the expansion of public transport and its interconnection with existing and new developments;
  3. the wise use of resources, minimising additional land take up, and the encouragement of moderate degrees of urban density;
  4. safeguarding and interconnecting green spaces with networks working towards quality standards and the conservation of public spaces;
  5. the assurance of social harmony and advancement of social and functional interaction;
  6. safeguarding existing jobs and creating new and innovative ones;
  7. advancing a culture of discourse;
  8. creating long-term partnerships between the community, and the public and private sectors;
  9. participation in lifelong learning processes, seeing urban life in its wider context.

The authors of the Charter add that is important to ensure the early participation of citizens with dialog to promote positive, sustainable change.

Following the laying out of these objectives, the 12 guiding principles are then expounded upon, grouped in three categories:


1. Diversity, safety and tolerance
2. City of neighbourhoods, Including decentralised governance and the protection of a city's identity
3. City of short distances, with accessibility to all infrastructure networks available on foot or by bicycle
4. Public transport and density: land users with civic function and high frequency of use shall be located near to public transport nodes


5. Education, science and culture, as these have a strong influence on public life
6. Industry and jobs provision as the most important task for the future
7. Nature and environment, with all planning proposals evaluated for their environmental impact
8. Design quality, especially for public spaces, using expert panels.


9. Long-term vision, incorporating awareness of the past and looking way into the future
10. Communication and participation of all levels and sectors of society
11. Reliability, obligation and fairness, to build trust and consensus
12. Cooperation and partnership, with financial support for projects and incentives for investors plus exemplary actions.

The charter is available on the website of the Academy for Urbanism. For more information contact Prof. Wulf Daseking, Email: [email protected]; website