Sustainable Cities

To kick off Cannon Design’s Annual Environmental Awareness week, Mike Harcourt spoke about Sustainable Cities.  There were 3 numbers to keep in mind during his talk.

10 BILLION: the projected number of people that will be on the planet in 2050

95%: the proportion of canadians that will be living in or adjacent to cities by 2050

$350 TRILLION: the amount of money that will be invested into city building between now and 2050.

Harcourt described this migration of people to cities as an urban tsunami yet was quick to dispel the myth that “cities are inevitable”. Instead, he insists that cities are all about choices.

Some of the upcoming challenges that we will face is incorporating:

  • Sustainable city strategies
    • prosperous economy
    • healthy environment
    • social justice
    • creativity
  • community energy plans
  • governments and private sectors that cooperate with each other.

There were two local neighborhood examples that describe many of these principles. The first was Dockside Green near Victoria BC and the other was Vancouver’s own Olympic village.

To create a new neighborhood from scratch to be ‘green’ is one thing. But what about taking an existing city and transforming it? Harcourt says that there are two main principles to changing the face of a city. You need to both re-energize the inner city and reinvent suburbia. When this occurs, amazing changes can occur over a few decades. Traditional car-based/ freeway-based cities can become more sustainable, denser core cities.

Surrey is a great example of where this is occurring. Over the last 10 years, Whalley has turned into Central City. There is increased density, increased mass transit, and decreased crime rates. Surrey has ambitious goals and is on its way to being the largest city in BC.

Some other examples that Mike Harcourt gave are Mississauga, Ontario and Guelph, Ontario. Mississauga is revising their transit infrastructure, investing in energy efficient street lighting and controls, incorporating sustainable water filtration and overflow methods and is planning on planting 1 Million trees over the next 20 years.

Final question: How can 10 Billion of us live on this small fragile planet?

Huge changes are needed fairly quickly. The engineers, planners and architects need to push for this change.