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Four Years After Paris, France's Fréquel-Fontarabie Eco-...

Four Years After Paris, France's Fréquel-Fontarabie Eco-Neighborhood Opening

Four years after its opening, and one year after being labelled an “eco-neighborhood,” what has become of the Fréquel-Fontarabie housing block, located in Paris’s 20th district? Has it been able to fulfill its energy-conservation promises? A mid-February evaluation allowed us to take stock of the situation of this program developed ten years ago in partnership

Rue des Orteaux in Paris, France's 20th District

Four years after its opening, and one year after being labelled an “eco-neighborhood,” what has become of the Fréquel-Fontarabie housing block, located in Paris’s 20th district? Has it been able to fulfill its energy-conservation promises? A mid-February evaluation allowed us to take stock of the situation of this program developed ten years ago in partnership with the area’s inhabitants.

The block is situated in the middle of towers and large housing projects of the Saint-Blaise neighborhood. With its buildings only three stories high at most, the block is calm, and seems like a peaceful haven. The only sound on the sidewalks is that of strollers rolling towards the neighborhood daycare, opened by the City of Paris.

All around this paved quadrant, accessible only to pedestrians, are neighborhood buildings. There is a daycare and maternal and infant protection center, but also a center for local associations, two private co-owned buildings, and a series of social housing buildings belonging either to the Mixed Economy Real Estate Society of the City of Paris (SIEMP) or Paris Habitat. On the side of this area, a 1,000 square meter garden separates two rows of buildings.

Paris 20th District, Rue des Orteaux Greenery, France

To explain the creation of Fréquel-Fontarabie (named for the streets that encircle the block), it is necessary to go back to 2002. The City of Paris assigned the SIEMP to develop the area and eliminate insalubrious accommodations by developing lodgings that met modern standards of comfort and sustainability.

A Participative Process Encouraged by the Mayor

The inhabitants of the neighborhood were fully included in planning the neighborhood,” insists Eva Samuel, architect and project coordinator. “After a series of planning sessions, we decided to leave a large green space and to create two passages between the housing block and neighboring streets.”

The same idea was echoed by Florence de Massol, First Deputy to the Mayor of Paris’s 20th district and the official in charge of local democracy and participative budgeting. “All throughout the project, the inhabitants’ opinions were solicited. The dialogue between inhabitants, associations, contracting authorities, and city services permitted us to successfully bring this project to where it is today,” de Massol elaborated.

A Bioclimatic Facade for a Passive Building

Passage Frequel Wooden Bioclimatic Building, Paris, France

In total, 109 social-housing units were created, all in buildings boasting excellent energy-performance levels. It was this that led the block to be categorized an “eco-neighborhood” in 2013 - the first eco-neighborhood in the capital.

Therefore, “all of the 20 lodgings situated at 17-19 Orteaux Street are equipped with a bioclimatic facade. This includes single-glazed bay windows with interior aluminum blinds, to be used in the summer, as well as double-glazed windows with passive solar walls that store heat,” explains architect Armand Nouvet.

A little bit further into the housing block, an apartment building covered in wooden siding contains 17 social housing units, 26-centimeter wall insulation, dual-flow ventilation, and triple-glazed windows. All of these ingredients allowed for the construction of a passive building.

“According to our estimations, the buildings should consume 48 or 49 kwh per square meter, per year, therefore meeting the expectations of the city’s climate-energy plan,” explains architect Pascal Gontier. As a measure of comparison, in a traditional, Haussmannian Parisian apartment, energy consumption is at about 300 kwh per square meter per year.”

Typical Haussmannian Apartment Building in Paris, France

But what about the rest of the eco-neighborhood? It seems impossible to respond to that question for now. “Because our buildings are prototypes that date from 2005, we cannot accurately measure their energy consummation,” regrets Roland Pellerin, head of the SIEMP division of the project. “We are currently redoing the entire system so that we can take these accurate measurements.”

Raising Inhabitant's Awareness of Eco-responsible Actions

The promises made by the eco-neighborhood are therefore yet to be fulfilled. Mr. Lobaidau, Building Manager for the SIEMP’s buildings, sighs when he sees windows being left open for long periods of time, or blinds being left closed when they are supposed to be open. “Every time someone moves in, we are sure to inform the inhabitants of the sustainable habits they should be practicing.”

But some wake-up calls are in order, as certain residents block the passages of the dual-flow ventilation system, finding it too noisy. Others put their thermostats on high in their apartment. Thus, the work of educating residents, which is the landlords’ responsibility, is one that must be repeated regularly in order to ensure the eco-neighborhood’s future success.

How can eco-neighborhoods ensure that their citizens cooperate with the communities’ sustainability goals? Would you want to live in a sustainable building or eco-neighborhood? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Intern photo

Katelyn Hewett recently graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French. During her time at St. Olaf, she enjoyed playing the French Horn in the St. Olaf Band, working as a teaching assistant for first-year...

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