What is sustainability?

Being part of a sustainable community may mean to rely on your neighbhours, walk, stay local.

When my family bought our presale home at UniverCity we had 2 years to learn about the community before our move in September 2006. I became so interested in the innovative ideas of a sustainable community that I took an Urban Design Certificate course at SFU. I understood instinctively that sustainability was a very complex effort. Vancouver’s current city planner, Brent Toderian, took this same course and in fact brought the program to Calgary, where he hails from. One of his chief programs is beautiful eco-density.

I have lived in BC all my life. I learned at an early age that architecture and the beautiful west coast nature can live in tandem. I lived in a home built around a large hemlock tree. The architect had designed soaring skylights to let in the surrounding natural light. Much of our property retained the original cedars and hemlocks. I grew up in Tsawwassen. Small town, yes? However; I was pleasantly surprised when I returned as an adult. The surrounding farm community and delta lands gives the hometown a substance above its colloquial charm.

The GVRD, to have such rich food sources, will prove crucial to our sustainability during Global Warming trials.

Part of our sustainability at UniverCity is a factor of design. The engineering of our mid-rises with underground shelf foundations to allow for deep tree roots while supporting our homes, allows for us to live with spectacular vicinity to the forest.

    Patrick MacGregor Graham, B Sc. Eng, Queen’s University 1998. Building Communities that Protect Urban Streams: A Case StudY of the Burnaby Mountain Community Project. Patrick MacGregor 2001 M.R.M. RESEARCH PROJECT SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. Report No. 287. Simon Fraser Univercity. December 2001.

also see:

    MacDonald, Robert Andrew. B.Comm (Honours), Sustainable Transportation and Land Use Planning at Simon Fraser University: A Case Study of the Burnaby Mountain Campus. M.R.M. RESEARCH PROJECT SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEREE OF MASTER AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT in the School of Resource and Environmental Management, Report 259. Robert Andrew MacDonald 2000, Simon Fraser University. February, 2000

The vicinity to forest in turn pays back with shade for the summer and heat retention in the winter. Trees and plants are a great mediating element to our buildings, increasing durability as it protects against the elements.

If you notice as trees are removed from the mountain, it becomes warmer during our walks across the community, for example.

Part of our sustainable living is Education.

I am concerned as neighbours ride out to see bears, or another person I encountered take their dog in the direction of a bear… for a looky loo

Bears are dangerous animals that deserve respect. If bears are acclimatized to humans they will lose their fear.
You can read about the black bear elsewhere. Basically this path leads to death of a nuisance bear.

While humans have a great ability to adapt to changing environments, this ability is much less in the wildlife community. There is a measured need to have access to water, food, and protection.
Our community will continue to grow, we have built in elements so that efficiency is high… less cars, smaller roads, walkable access to amenities …beautiful eco-density much as Brent Toderian is proposing in Vancouver.

Our footprint depends largely on our daily behaviour and choices.

I have noticed people creating paths through habitats and tree covenants in the community that are not intended for access. Every step in the forest leaves an impact. A person cutting across a water/tree covenant may be bringing an invasive plant spore in through their clothes, trampling plants needed for wildlife, for example upsetting the rotten log or stone that is amphibian habitat. Disruption of animals and plants low in the food chain, in turn leaves an imbalance of food for those higher on the food chain. The problem extends to people who use native plants from the wild to cultivate for their own home use and balconies. With unchecked removal, we may can see the extinction of local plant species. I understand human curiosity is a great quality. People explore the forest to find those very same slugs, salamanders, birds that we are at once trying to respect.

I was left in awe during the Native Plant Rescue last year as wildlife experts helped me scout the forest in order to organize and identify valuable plants for removal. The variety of native plants was spectacular (what a shame the forest would be removed in making room for a community elementary). The Native Plant Rescue is intended to preserve some of the native plant variety, that would be lost otherwise during development. I had avoided the thick forest previously. I may have never seen a rattlesnake plantain in the wild if I had not ventured the forest.

As we grow, we will encroach more and more on the natural habitats. We need to be aware now. When do we break the fine balance between public access to the local forest and upsetting ability for natural systems to absorb? What is capacity? With a soft and careful step we must proceed.
The surrounding conservation forest of Burnaby Mountain Park is 576 hectares. Already the path system for bikes and hikers reduces the habitat capacity for the park. 576 hectares is a small area when it comes to providing habitat for bear, black tailed deer, bobcat etc.

For this reason I think we need another Wildlife Nature Walk and education tour.

In fact I think this needs to be a regular event. I believe our walk last May 2009 was a great success, even with wet and muddy terrain!