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Le Développement Durable Urbain (DDU)... de quoi on parle au fait ?
Le 03/03/07

Puisque là, tout de suite, je n’ai pas le temps d’écrire quelque chose, et qu’il y a quelque temps j’avais demandé à mon ami et « collègue » de YUN, Edouard, de m’écrire un petit topo sur le Développement Durable Urbain, je vous le livre tel quel.
Pour ceux que ça intéresse vraiment, et qui ne comprennent pas l’anglais, je vais peut-être essayer de faire une traduction en français un jour... quand j’en aurais le temps !

Urban Sustainability

Key concepts, issues and challenges
by Edouard Moreau -

Sustainability is slowly becoming a central development strategy in most urban settlement policies around the world.
The concept of “sustainable development” appeared in the famous 1987 Brundtland Report which defines : “a development that meets the needs of the present generation withoutcompromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
In 1995, this concept was adopted by the Agenda 21 program of the United Nations which sees sustainable development as "the framework for our efforts to achieve a higher quality of life for all people", in which "economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components".

However, urban sustainability has really become a true matter of concern - not only in global policies but in the public opinion and in actual practices - since a few years ago only, thanks to the combination of the growing concern of three major issues : the highly symbolical proportion of 50% of the world population living in urban settlements, the issue of global warming and other environmental problems increasingly put forward in the media, and the growing concern of social and economical disparities in cities whereas it is in the French cités, the Brazilian favelas or in the Indian slums.

In this context, sustainability has been advocated as the way forward into the future and as the remedy to the grave mistakes of the past policies and practices. Despite the growing literature on the subject, the concept has been described as elusive, vague and subject to wide interpretations resultingsometimes in contradictory meanings. It is often pointed out that sustainability has become a cliché and a slogan used for marketing projects or political policies.

The complexity of the concept of urban sustainability is related to the complexity of cities themselves.

In order to better understand this complexity, certain main aspects of cities have to be looked at separately, even though the interrelationship of all those elements should not be forgotten.

Additionally, urban sustainability has to be understood, rather than as an aim in itself, as a driving force throughout the process of any urban project.

Urban Form

This first aspect of cities is at the heart of every urban sustainable strategy, usually advocating a compact and sufficiently dense city.


_(in opposition to urban sprawl) implies less necessary travels and better accessibility to facilities. Density in the other hand (a notion close but still different to compactness) ensure a sufficient vibrant urban life and make - in a global context of urban growth - compactness possible.

Land Use

In relation to urban form, the land use pattern in a city is a crucial element of the urban sustainability debate. Introducing mixed-use and social mix is one of the main strategies to ensure a vibrant city, to encourage social interactions, to reduce travel needs, to encourage the local economy and to provide a 24hours use important to ensure urban safety.


Mobility is an important aspect of urban sustainability. The overwhelming presence of cars in our modern cities is a symbol of an unsustainable urban environment.
The strategies to reduce the importance of cars and encourage walking, cycling and public transport (that won’t be detailed here asthere are numerous) is not only a environmental necessity, it is also of equal social importance for the vibrancy of our cities. The idea is not to reduce mobility (which could underpin the economy) but to reduce the amount on unnecessary travels (which is closely linked with land use and the urban form) and find alternative ways to move around the city.

Infrastructure and technologies

Infrastructure is the system of interconnected structural elements that provide the framework which supports the City. Transportation elements, water network, waste treatment and disposal, electrical network and telecommunication systems are among the main city’s infrastructure. The concept of sustainability around infrastructure mainly implies environmental aspects like a reduction of carbon emission and energy consumption : in other words, the reduction of the “ecological footprint”. The latest developments in that field imply a series of “green technologies” as renewable energies (solar, wind, etc.), efficient isolation materials or recycling techniques.
A sustainable city should in addition provide for every of its citizens the access and the fair distribution of its infrastructure, a crucial issue in developing countries.

Food production

The food chain is a hidden but essential network in the city and the development of “organic food” has usually proven to be in reality highly unsustainable, each product traveling thousands of kilometers before reaching consumers. The idea of local food production inside cities - called urban agriculture - is one avant-guarde solution on this aspect of sustainability.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is one aspect of urban sustainability that is being increasingly studied since a few years only. This less tangible aspect promotes through design, policies and process, social interactions and cultural enrichment while respecting social diversity.

Relevant selected bibliography :

-  Richard Rogers, Cities for a Small Planet, Faber and Faber (1997)
-  Herbert Girardet, Cities, People, Planet, John Wiley & Sons Lt (2004)
-  Herbert Girardet, Creating sustainable cities, Green Books (2003)
-  Thomas Randall, Sustainable Urban Design - An environmental approach, Spon Press (2003)
-  Urban Task Force, Towards an Urban Renaissance, HMSO (1999)
-  Stephen Wheeler, The Sustainable Urban Development, Routledge, London (2004)

Relevant selected urban projects :

-  Dongtan, Shanghai (ARUP) ?pageid=7009 ?nav=green
-  Bedzed, London (Bill Dunster)
-  Quartier Vauban, Freiburg

Réalisé avec SPIP - article.html