SUPERBE - Potential of Superblock-concepts as contribution to planning energy-efficient urban quarters
In consideration of the need to significantly reduce energy consumption and emissions in cities, new planning measures to reduce energy consumption - especially in the mobility and building sectors - must be developed. The spatial design of urban structures - in particular street spaces as an extended living environment of the adjacent building structures - offers an effective tool for enabling energy-efficient mobility solutions, lifestyles and business practices. New planning instruments can, among other things, strengthen centrality and short distances, promote walking and cycling, achieve density and a mixture of functions, prioritise compact urban development over urban expansion, and empower the combination of environmental-friendly modes of transport.
The location of a residential area and the surrounding settlement structure have a major influence on mobility patterns - and thus on the energy consumption - of the population. Contrary to the objective of reducing overall energy demand, energy consumption in Austria continues to rise, especially in the transport sector. New planning concepts that support spatial proximity and prioritise sustainable forms of mobility can shift trips to more sustainable modes of transportation and thus reduce energy consumption. The implementation of Superblocks offers pathways for energy savings either through traffic avoidance, or by a direct shift of traffic volume to sustainable forms of mobility and finally the possibility to reclaim streets as public spaces with a high quality of life.
The exploratory project SUPERBE investigates the spatial organisation principle of a superblock for possible applications in the context of Austrian cities. This urban planning tool, already applied in Barcelona and other cities, focuses on a redesign of traffic organisation in order to prioritise active mobility and free up space for alternative uses. The implementation of superblocks offers potentials for energy savings on the one hand by avoiding traffic, on the other hand by directly shifting traffic volume to sustainable forms of mobility.
At present, there is no systemic approach to assess the suitability of existing urban neighbourhoods in terms of the traffic and energy effects of applying a superblock concept for the context of Austrian cities. The SUPERBE project shows, using Vienna as an example, how possible areas of application can be identified considering urban morphological criteria. In addition, three case-studies are identified to further demonstrate how they could be designed as superblocks. In addition, the potential for redesigning public space and for energy savings in the mobility sector was analysed.
The findings of the exploratory project show that superblock solutions can be implemented in the context of Vienna - especially so called "Gründerzeit" districts (built in the 2nd half of the 19th century) are strongly represented in the possible areas of application determined by GIS analysis. The detailed elaboration of the structural redesign in the three case-studies illustrates the potentials regarding a redesign of public space. For example, the tree population could be increased up to six times, the possible area for green infrastructure (tree discs, planters, etc.) could be increased fivefold. The potential for energy savings in the transport sector was estimated using a mode-choice model. Up to 0.790 car - km per person per day, equivalent to 738 kg CO2 per day or 2644 kwh per day could be saved.
The SUPERBE project thus well illustrates the positive effects of Superblocks on the energy saving potential and the potential for the redesign of public space. However, there is a need for further research and innovation, especially regarding the implementation process. Although the SUPERBE project demonstrates how a gradual implementation of superblocks could look like, a more comprehensive understanding and the development of detailed recommendations for an implementation process would be desirable.
Vienna University of Technology, Institute of Transportation, Research Center of Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering
Project or cooperation partners
- AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH (AIT)
- Florian Lorenz, Public-Relations Berater (FL)