Social drivers for nature-based solutions: The case of Longvic’s eco-neighborhood in France

by Nov 11, 2021News

In early autumn, Resilience Brokers organized a Lightning Lab knowledge-sharing session as part of the ACT on NBS project of EIT Climate-KIC with Philippe Chagnon, town director general of administration and coordinator of Agenda 2030 for Longvic in France. Philippe took participants through the journey of a successful eco-neighborhood, ‘Les Rives du Bief’, in Longvic, a town of 8,500 inhabitants in Greater Dijon.

It was quite fascinating to see how this project’s origins rose from social integration and diversity concerns rather than more directly climate- and biodiversity-related concerns, which more often drive nature-based solutions initiatives. In a way, this is a perfect manifestation of how interrelated social and environmental benefits are. Almost without intending it, nature-based solutions were found to be a solution for some of the town’s social-diversity objectives.

A social reconnection project

In 2008, Longvic implemented an eco-neighborhood using nature-based solutions to answer the need for nature in an urban area and to strengthen social cohesion. The interconnections between the social and environmental aspirations are at the core of this project.

The eco-neighborhood was built on the site of a former school, surrounded with social housing areas (quartier prioritaire) and community facilities, including a school, library, play areas and athletic fields. Residents from the social housing aspired to have access to more green spaces and playground areas for their children but did not have the means to live in a house with a garden. The creation of the eco-neighborhood had the co-benefits of providing green space and public-playground areas for the surrounding social housing residents in addition to the more obvious environmental benefits of implementing nature-based solutions in urban areas. But at the time, the project was thought more of as a social reconnection project rather than as a nature-based solutions project. The creation of the eco-neighborhood did favor social diversity in the area, especially for children who would then go to the same school and use the same playgrounds.

But even if it was perhaps not the reason why this eco-neighborhood was created in the first place, the nature-based solutions implemented in Longvic turned out to have great outcomes in terms of adaptation to climate change and the protection of ecosystems.    

Photo credit: adapted from ‘Ecoquartier les Rives du Bief – Longvic

Nature-based solutions at the eco-neighborhood of Longvic

The masterplan of the eco-neighborhood was committed to a landscape architect to bring back nature and water at the core of the town and to develop cycling and walking routes across the neighborhood and connecting to a network.

The cornerstone of Longvic’s eco-neighborhood is a green corridor bioswale that collects rainwater from pathways, streets and from concrete roofs and that filters water with specific vegetation. The project’s  hydrologists intended these features to absorb enough rainwater during storm events without retaining excessive stillwater during other periods to prevent the presence of insects such as mosquitoes (which was one of the residents’ biggest fears ahead of the project). Whilst Longvic experienced major storm events in the mid-2010s, the eco-neighborhood’s bioswale proved to be effective in preventing flooding in the development and surrounding areas. 

Another main asset of the eco-neighborhood is the revegetation of the neighborhood. It seems interesting to note that, a decade ago, these micro-forests were introduced for residents’ well-being and access to greenspaces more than for the cooling benefits of urban forests. Communities were very much involved in this stage of the project, going beyond typical consultation. Children from the local school participated in tree planting as part of a broader educational program aiming at bringing students closer to nature and fostering greater awareness of the importance of green spaces. Involving local communities and especially children to the (re)introduction of nature in the city is probably one of the best ways to sustainably impact behaviour and enable system change. 

Photo credit: adapted from ‘Ecoquartier les Rives du Bief – Longvic

 This project was part of the bigger framework of Longvic’s Agenda 2021 and, later, Agenda 2030 with the delivery of the SDGs.  In 2020, the French national government even recognized Longvic’s eco-neighborhood — representing towns of its size in France — in the government’s annual reporting of the SDGs to the United Nations. The project’s successes and the popularity of the parks and recreational spaces have even inspired a second eco-neighborhood in Longvic, under planning and development, as part of Longvic’s Agenda 2030.

At Resilience Brokers, we were truly inspired by the unique story behind this eco-neighborhood, which from its origins linked social and environmental objectives. We’re working a lot with the value and implementation of nature-based solutions in cities and districts, and we firmly believe a better understanding of the social drivers and benefits can help to make the case for more nature-based solutions. This can be fostered by coupling nature-based solutions with Living Labs to create a space where various communities can share ideas and expertise and ensure sustainable system change. 

If you want to see Philippe’s presentation to learn more about the Longvic’s eco-neighborhood,, you can watch the recording of the Lightning Lab

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