Interview of the month: Louise de la Guéronnière

2 minutes of reading

Louise de la Guéronnière, a property developer at Losinger Marazzi, introduces the Sustainable Development Methods and Tools (SDMT) programme for creating sustainable neighbourhoods.

l'interview shared innovation

The SDMT programme arose from the Atequas research project (Sustainable Neighbourhoods Workshop) led by the Transform Institute at the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HEIA), Switzerland. What was the purpose of the research project and what was the advantage of a partnership between a university and a company?

The goal of the Atequas research project was to implement a decision-making and design tool to help stakeholders roll out sustainable development in operational terms at a neighbourhood scale. For the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, the purpose of the partnership with Losinger Marazzi was to test out the results of this research on a practical level on real eco-neighbourhood projects. The university-business partnership was encouraged and facilitated by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), the agency responsible for promoting innovation in the Swiss Confederation, which encourages applied R&D.

The company’s role was to provide sociological methods and tools for a better understanding of the social dimension in the design of eco-neighbourhoods, something that is often considered less than the environmental and economic aspects. Developing an urban planning approach suitable for different demographics that makes it easier for them to live alongside each other is all the more important in eco-neighbourhood projects because they have greater objectives in terms of population density. So, how can you create optimum conditions for an increase in population density, while maintaining a good quality of life for everyone?

The response envisaged in this applied research project was based on a detailed analysis of the sociological characteristics of each demographic to get a better understanding of their lifestyles, usage habits, and needs. How was this analysis performed?

The HEIA drew on the work of Marie-Paul Thomas from the Urban Sociology Laboratory (Lasur) at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to establish sociological profile types for residents and to identify their preferences in how they inhabit their homes, buildings, and neighbourhoods. A wide-scale survey was conducted amongst residents in several existing neighbourhoods to pinpoint how the neighbourhoods function, the relationships between residents, how residents feel, and their lifestyles in the neighbourhood. Qualitative data such as the level of urbanity acceptable to residents, quality of life in terms of community, and preferences in terms of transport were collected to create the different population profile types.

For example, ‘established alternative types’ have a lifestyle geared towards personal development. They are very ecologically and socially aware, with a keen interest in culture. Whether they live within city limits or the suburbs, they place greater importance on the cultural and creative aspects of their area than property ownership. They will in particular look for densely-populated neighbourhoods offering an active cultural life and housing with a strong element of sharing, such as flat sharing, intergenerational housing, and shared communal spaces.

Each profile was described in an observation notebook in order to better pinpoint the expectations of the demographics concerned.

Moving from theory to practice, how were these tools used in designing new neighbourhoods?

HEIA worked with Losinger Marazzi in 5 neighbourhood projects in French-speaking Switzerland to apply this method to real neighbourhood planning projects. The first step involved determining in advance of the project which demographic profiles were most likely to move to the future neighbourhood. This was determined by taking into account the character of the area, demographic profiles in neighbouring areas, current population trends, and the local political will to intervene in developing these trends.

This expected social composition of the neighbourhood was then compared with the sociological profiles from the research phase to anticipate future residents’ needs, usage habits, interactions, and any potential tension between the different demographic profiles. This information is an invaluable planning tool for more effectively addressing:
How to lay out and organise a neighbourhood to keep all future residents happy
Where to locate public spaces
How to distribute different demographic profiles in a neighbourhood so they can live peacefully side by side

It’s a real tool in favour of quality of use in future neighbourhoods which offers key information for creating a true vision of urban design. We are currently writing up a methodological guide to capitalise on the initiative, which is already being replicated in France.

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