As is made clear by a quick overview of Vancouver’s last 40 years, the future of our city depends largely on how we continue to tackle our urban planning. With every decision having consequences across multiple areas, let’s hope that whoever takes power in the 2017 election knows that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
IT STARTED IN THE 60’s
Way back in the late 60’s, Vancouver developed a crush on the word liveability; and with good reason, too. Experiencing a mass exodus of families from the downtown region, the city realized that it had created a vacuum of children and couples from its core. Not only that, heavy protectionism of agricultural land meant that there was a shortage of available land where developers could build residential housing. As a result, a city planner was hired, and a blueprint for a “liveable region” with a focus on drawing people back to the urban centre was created.
At the time, much of what Vancouver was proposing was out-of-the-box. Many people viewed children living in apartments or downtown as being “trapped,” or somehow missing out on the better virtues of a happy childhood. But projects like the infamous False Creek South redevelopment changed all that. Suddenly, False Creek and areas like it were deemed “liveable” and as a result, therefore desirable. Bike trails and heavily pedestrianized neighbourhoods created ‘easy living’ communities where people needn’t commute long distances to work, and could even forego a car in lieu of walking or riding their bikes. This would even become the new norm in Vancouver. After all, why spend money building infrastructure like bridges or highways when all you need to do is convince people that living downtown is better?
Investments from Asia also played a role in developing metro Vancouver as more foreign investment poured into the city. Mixed-use buildings with residential and commercial space meant that all residents’ needs were met: entertainment, shopping, food, medical and other amenities. Vancouverites would want for nothing.
Fast-forward to where we are today and it’s clear that Vancouver has been successful in meeting most of its urban planning goals. Not only is metro Vancouver densely populated, it remains so while also being a safe place to live; constantly placing in the top of global indexes. But there are now obstacles as a result. The shortage of affordable housing has been widely reported on, and the city’s goal of becoming one of the greenest urban centres in the world can only be described as ambitious. Yet, we push on with constantly evolving policy.
TODAY IT’S NEAR-ZERO EMISSIONS HOMES & BUILDINGS
Now tackling other issues (like what to do with all these people?!), Vancouver is looking towards a greener future. In a recent article published in Huff Post by Karen Tam Wu, B.C. associate director and the Buildings and Urban Solutions Program director at the Pembina Institute, Wu reported on the City of Vancouver’s updated Green Buildings Policy for Rezoning. Essentially a guideline for commercial and multi-unit residential buildings, the policy mandates buildings be constructed to higher standards–improving functions such as insulation and ventilation. New buildings constructed under the policy are promised to emit just half as much carbon pollution as older buildings, which would significantly decrease Vancouver’s overall carbon footprint. And that’s not the only boon.
Buildings that meet the Passive House standard–a certification for energy-efficient buildings–will see its owners and/or renters enjoying significant savings on energy bills. In fact, it’s rumoured that one group of newly constructed apartment units will cost as little as $60 a year to heat. These new construction models also mean more jobs for B.C. with a new “eco-green” model in effect for builders who have this skill set. With somewhere around 23,000 jobs in constructing new buildings and upgrading existing homes already functioning, this policy could easily see these job numbers spike.
“Greening” urban areas can positively affect property values, accessibility, and even help decrease crime rates. And while each party vying for our vote in the 2017 election has their own approach, if Vancouver’s past is any indication, liveability will continue to remain a top priority for all.