Definition of key terms

SettlementSustainable settlements and neighbourhoodsEco-settlementQuartierCityEcologySettlement/urban ecologyLow-energy housing estatePassive house settlementSolar SettlementEfficiency house plus – PlusenergiesiedlungPlusEnergy QuarterCar-free settlement / Velo- or BikeCity Building communityHousing projectEcovillage
Urban production

any human settlement comprising all dwellings grouped in some form [Brockhaus 1999/Diercke].

Depending on the level of observation or scale, settlement is understood in different ways:

A) In architecture and urban planning, the settlement is a "residential development", which usually forms a design unit. In addition to the dwellings, the settlement also includes the plots of land, traffic areas and possibly public areas such as squares and green spaces. A housing estate consists of at least 5 residential units and, depending on its size, at least 3 buildings.

B) In spatial and regional planning as well as in geography, settlement is understood more comprehensively: it includes dwellings, supply and transport infrastructures as well as the associated surrounding land used for agriculture and forestry, i.e. the complete human habitat.

In interdisciplinary work contexts, the different uses of the term can lead to misunderstandings.

The Brockhaus (1999) also distinguishes settlements (generally not relevant for ecological settlements) according to the duration of use (permanent settlements, temporary settlements, seasonal settlements such as alpine pasture settlements, weekend settlements, nomadic camps, and ephemeral settlements, e.g. settlements of gamekeepers and hunter peoples). Forms of rural settlement include individual farm, hamlet, village, kibbutz, agro-town. Abandoned settlements are called deserts.

According to [Windler and Winkler 1950], settlements are defined as "individual dwellings or groups of dwellings with a certain spatial unity, a spatial coherence, but also with a clear demarcation from other settlements". The size of the settlement is irrelevant to its delineation. Accordingly, a town, a village, a hamlet or even an inhabited individual farmstead constitute settlements. For the practical delimitation of settlements, residential buildings are generally grouped together to form a settlement if they are less than 100 metres apart. Settlements are thus generally separated from each other by at least 100 metres of undeveloped land. In addition, however, differences in altitude, obstacles (valleys, ravines, bodies of water, railway tracks, roads, motorways, etc.) and traffic facilities (bridges, underpasses, level crossings) must also be taken into account as separating or connecting elements in the delimitation of settlements.

H. Windler, E. Winkler (1950): Zur quantitativen Bestimmung von Siedlungseinheiten. In: Plan und Ortsplanung, Heft 6, S. 180 ff.

Sustainable settlements and neighbourhoods
In addition to ecological aspects, which are the focus of planning and implementation in eco-settlements and ecological neighbourhoods, sustainable settlements and sustainable neighbourhoods also take into account economic and social sustainability aspects to the greatest possible extent. Operationalisation takes place in planning guidelines or criteria catalogues. In addition, an attempt is made to map the sustainability of settlements and neighbourhoods on the basis of individual overall indicators.

Ecological settlement / Eco-settlement
Ecological settlements are environmentally friendly, energy and land-saving settlements that are characterised by the economical use of natural resources. In addition, as few emissions as possible should have an effect on people and the environment through the construction, use and after demolition of the settlement. "Zero emissions" or zero emission are possible, and in most cases even positive effects on nature and the environment can be achieved without additional costs. The first ecological settlements in Europe were strongly influenced and shaped by the debates of building biology and the environmental movement. /

is defined in [Diercke] as "city quarters". According to this, quarters are described as "especially in terms of population structure, relatively homogeneous, small to medium-sized residential areas in a larger city."
Source: Diercke Dictionary General Geography

is a settlement with mostly non-agricultural functions (exception: ackerbürgerstadt), characterised, among other things, by a certain size, unity of the town form, high building density, central functions in trade, culture and administration; in larger towns, the differentiation of the townscape leads to the formation of districts (e.g. city, residential districts, industrial areas). The statistical definition of a city is based only on a certain number of inhabitants, independent of the city law; for international comparisons, a minimum population of 20,000 seems to be useful. In Germany, a distinction is made between small (5,000-20,000 inhabitants), medium (20,000-100,000 inhabitants) and large cities (over 100,000 inhabitants) [Brockhaus 1999]. The increasing urbanisation of the world is expressed by the fact that more than half of the world's population now lives in urban settlements.

Eco... (oeco Oeco [to Greek oikos "house"], determiner of compounds meaning "habitat, house, economy".

oikos logos (logika): the doctrine of the relations of living beings

Science originating in biology and concerned with the interrelationships between organisms and the inanimate (abiotic factors such as climate, soil) and animate environment (biotic factors). It studies their unfolding over time, crises in their development and mechanisms of rebalancing.

Ecology, when it turns to the complex interrelationships between man, his technical world and the ecosystem that supports it, requires the support of numerous other sciences; here the level of individual disciplines is left behind. The ecology thus extended is human ecology (it studies human-environment relations), which must be understood not as a new subject discipline but as the opposite of any specialization, as the attempt to solve the environmental problems by taking into account all possible aspects [MEYERS Pocket Encyclopedia 1990].

Settlement ecology, urban ecology
Settlement ecology is a relatively young discipline of biology and studies in particular the flora and fauna in human settlement areas. It is based on the fact that, due to high settlement pressure or the increasing displacement of original animal and plant habitats by secondary sites, more and more animal and plant species are forced to relocate their habitats to human settlement areas. In Zurich, for example, species diversity is already almost twice as high as in agricultural areas surrounding the city. One sub-field of settlement ecology is urban ecology.

Literature: Fachverband Schweizer Raumplanerinnen und Raumplaner (2003): Handbuch Siedlungsökologie: Praxisorientierter Beitrag zur ökologischen Aufwertung des Siedlungsraumes. St. Gallen
Sukopp, Herbert and Wittig, Rüdiger (1998): Stadtökologie. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Stuttgart

Low-energy housing estate
Housing estates that are built with a particular focus on energy efficiency and passive solar energy use and have a heating energy requirement of 70 kWh/sqm*a.

Lowest energy building
Buildings which, in accordance with the requirements of the EU Buildings Directive (EPBD 2010), have a very high overall energy efficiency (KfW Efficiency House 55 standard) and meet the very low energy requirement to a significant extent from renewable sources on site or in the immediate vicinity. The requirement applies:
- from 1.1.2019 for new buildings used by public authorities
- from 1.1.2021 for all new buildings

Passive house settlement
Low-energy house developments that have a heating energy requirement of less than 15 kWh/sqm*a and are characterised by the fact that they can be realised without a classic heating system with radiators and heating equipment. The passive house definition also sets limits for hot water and ventilation, which are also 15 kWh/sqm*a.

Solar Settlement
Low-energy or passive house developments that also use active solar energy systems to generate energy.

Efficiency House Plus (BMUB)
Final energy plus energy balance

Solar settlements that generate more energy over the annual average than they use themselves

PlusEnergy Quarter
Plusenergy developments that include a significant amount (>15% of floor area) of non-residential uses within the new/development in addition to residential uses only.

Car-free settlement / Velo- or BikeCity
Source: National Atlas of the Federal Republic of Germany - Living in Germany (2013)

  • car-free: area in which no motorised traffic is permitted, with the exception of ambulances, etc.; the
    living people voluntarily do without a car.
  • car-reduced: Area, with traffic calming measures (especially speed limit, parking space reduction) and incentives for households without their own car.
  • optically car-free: area in which no traffic is allowed except for ambulances, etc.; households residing there may own a car which is parked at the edge of the area; this category also includes pedestrian zones.
  • parking space-free: area in which the construction of parking spaces on one's own property is prohibited; driving on is possible.

Building community

A joint building venture (or building owners' association, building group) is an association of building enthusiasts with similar living ideas, who jointly create living space in a certain part of town.

Housing project
Following on from the self-help movements since the 1970s, housing projects want to confront conventional housing policy with alternatives that are "colourful, lateral and different". The goals are:

  • Revitalization of the cooperative movement in the sense of self-management and self-initiative (long-term withdrawal of housing from the speculation and inheritance stream)
  • Promotion of residential satisfaction through greater identification with the dwelling and the residential environment
  • Encouraging resident participation in the planning and management of the apartments
  • development of self-determined neighbourhoods to promote solidarity and build social networks
  • Integration of social and cultural initiatives and development of employment and work opportunities close to home
  • Permanent social ties of affordable housing.

See inter alia. => Goals

aims to fulfil as far as possible all human needs or aspects of human life in an ecological, sustainable way largely on site and in small, manageable contexts and living worlds (with around 300 people). In ecological settlements, in comparison to e.g. ecological and above all spiritual community projects, the degree of commitment of the residents to each other is much lower. It is a matter of a conscious and free decision for a more communal living or living together. They are also called intentional or elective communities [EUROPTOPIA 2004].

Urban production

refers to "the production and processing of material goods in densely populated areas, often using local resources and locally embedded value chains. The companies operate on a self-sufficient basis. The proximity to the living space requires low-emission and resource-efficient production and transport methods in order to avoid conflicts of use with local residents. In many cases, synergy effects arise with creative milieus and services" (Brandt et al. 2017b).