The ecological and energy transition of cities cannot be the outcome of economic and technical decisions or investments alone, but will necessarily entail enhanced articulation between technical aspects and inhabitants’ practices. In fact, a large amount of experiential and research findings which integrate such articulation reveal the importance of lifestyles and practices in the sustainability of a project. Co-creating the technical and social aspects upstream and encouraging inhabitants’ participation from the outset thus emerge as necessary steps.

Key messages:

  • Sustainable urban development is, above all, a collective project whose success depends on enhancing inhabitants’ involvement and breaking free from a strictly normative, top-down approach. The changes in lifestyle and habits in question require the appropriation of a collective process. Participatory housing design, which is a representative example of this approach, shows that the process is not imposed, but rather planned and designed collectively.


  • Participatory housing design experiments can fuel innovations. While limited in their scope for use, they can help re-examine existing practices and models in urban planning and point the way forward. The hybridization of participatory approaches and more conventional processes could hold the key to a broader transformation.


  • The wide variety of participatory housing models reflect the differing mindsets of authorities depending on their specific local contexts. This variety offers a wide range of solutions to combine technical design and a consideration of uses. In integrating differing participation levels by households and support from local authorities or committed actors, this variety can help widen the scope of these models beyond militant circles.