Curb Magazine 4.1 - Stewardship

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by Brittany Stares



City of Terrebonne

12 14 15

by Jennifer Janzen



Rob Shields, Director City-Region Studies Centre, University of Alberta

Faculty of Extension – Enterprise Square 2–184, 10230 Jasper Avenue Edmonton, Alberta







E-mail: Phone: 780.492.9957 Fax: 780.492.0627

WEEDING OUT THE INVADERS Wabamun Watershed Management Council



GREENING RURAL LIVING Land Stewardship Centre

by Katrina Jansen



by Guy Greenaway




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Disclaimer: The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the City-Region Studies Centre, Faculty of Extension or the University of Alberta Printed in Canada

LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER Welcome to Curb Magazine! Curb Magazine showcases practical innovations, successes and best practices in Canadian planning. Direct from the City-Region Studies Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Curb is part of a research unit that is almost unique in North America in its focus on city-regions and its broad-based interest in participatory approaches to community futures that are socially equitable, innovative, sustainable and economically successful for their inhabitants. Drawing on our research and community of practice in the West and North, we now offer Curb as a forum for debate and dissemination across the country and the border-states. We have chosen the magazine format as a highly visual medium, something that can kick around a municipal office and go from hand to hand over several years.

Curb deals with cities, city-regions and rural municipalities that face changing seasons, populations and pressures, and that are grappling with the need for sustainability and resilience through new partnerships and new approaches. We are looking for your interventions in key debates and needs. Whether it is walkability, density or socially-mixed housing, waste treatment or drainage, or municipal governance and property law, many planners and administrators face similar challenges of pushing innovation, new visions and sustainable practices in risk-averse times. We are looking for your stories – 500 words on a key idea anchored with a compelling image, a high-res map or diagram that gets your point across to fellow practitioners. Give us a shout, follow the City-Region Studies Centre on Facebook and pass Curb around.

Rob Shields Publisher

In simple terms, the world of Stantec is the water we drink, the routes we travel, the buildings we visit, the industries in which we work, and the neighbourhoods we call home.

O n e Te am. Infi n i t e So lut i o n s .



In the face of looming environmental challenges, municipalities are at a crossroads. Being directly “on the ground,” local officials have the capacity to help green growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage citizens towards more eco-conscious patterns of living. But ever-limited funds, not to mention dwindling public interest in the face of a turbulent economy, often sees steps towards environmental progress watered down or relegated to the backburner. This is compounded at all levels of government by the widespread use of “sustainability” discourse, which has strayed from its original understanding to include, if not prioritize, economic interests. Despite the pressing need to systematically reduce their environmental footprint, municipalities are, by and large, lacking the comprehensive framework necessary to make such change. In this special section of Curb, we explore the components of a successful framework for local stewardship. This framework: • Empowers the municipality to be a leading actor in tackling environmental problems • Addresses the urgency of environmental crises by targeting root causes and avoiding band-aid solutions • Provides an overall context for action that resists watered-down, piecemeal initiatives which adequately respond to


neither environmental needs nor stated municipal goals. Three factors underpin the success of this foundation.

ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES (EVEN LARGESCALE ONES) MUST BE VIEWED AS LOCAL ISSUES The trans-boundary nature of problems such as climate change, resource depletion and widespread loss of biodiversity does not lend itself well to local thinking. While municipalities across the country have stepped up to tackle these issues where federal and international bodies have stalled, the quality and extent of such efforts are undermined by the ease with which other jurisdictions can be blamed for these problems (and their failed management). It is true that the carbon emissions of a rural town, for instance, have substantially less impact on the global climate system than those of, say, the entire United States. Such thinking, however, can and does minimize the vast contribution that individual municipalities do make to problems such as climate change – and erodes any sense of responsibility for them. A successful framework for local stewardship requires that local impacts on the environment are considered independent of normalizing comparisons to others. Equally important is considering the local effects of such challenges

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

as climate change – both strategies help to bring the environment under the local viewfinder. Ultimately, this creates a heightened sense of urgency and impetus to act; responding efforts invariably become more thoughtful and appropriate to the scope of the problem. In the following article, Guy Greenaway explores using the concept of “ecosystem services” to bridge the gap between municipalities and seemingly faraway environmental challenges.

A SUCCESSFUL FRAMEWORK FOR LOCAL STEWARDSHIP REQUIRES REGIONAL THINKING For some municipalities, the term “regional thinking” – or any connotation to “regionalism” – is intimidating; regional capacity-building can lead to de facto limitations on municipal policy options and force competing jurisdictions to work together. But municipalities do not exist in isolation of one another. A city’s water supply, no matter how carefully managed, will be inherently impacted by other users of the same source. Development in one locale can displace wildlife into another. While environmental issues need to be conceptualized locally, success in addressing these challenges – particularly at their root – requires action at a greater scale. Regional dialogue and inter-jurisdictional cooperation facilitates common

approaches to shared problems. Collaboration also creates opportunities to pool knowledge, better informing local policy practice and especially useful when local data on environmental indicators is otherwise limited. Katrina Jansen provides an excellent example of successful regional collaboration in her article on the Beaver Hills Initiative.

ages car use; utilizing existing slopes of the land reduces harmful run-off and aids stormwater management (for an example of both, see “Sustainable Neighbourhood Planning: The Urbanova Project�).


To achieve this end, municipal planners and officials need tools that shift smart land use planning from the abstract to the approachable. Jennifer Janzen highlights one such resource in her discussion of the Alberta Tomorrow project.

Like regional thinking, smart land use planning (based on what the land can provide for) can alleviate pressures of resource shortages before they happen. Allocating sufficient amounts of (unfragmented) land for conservation can help avert biodiversity crises , with the added bonus of providing carbon sinks that reduce pressure on the global climate system.

A framework for local stewardship can help municipalities maximize the benefits of the innovative practices and design strategies they are already exploring. And as we continue to interact with our natural environment, so too must we continuously develop and maintain that framework to ensure that this relationship has the foundation it needs to last.

Within municipal boundaries, smart land use planning facilitates greener practices and behaviours. Designing walkable neighbourhoods discour-

Brittany Stares is the Managing Editor of Curb Magazine.

Image: Miistakis Institute

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“Like pushing an elephant through a straw.” That’s how I view making the vast (and growing) realm of climate change data usable by local decision-makers. It is a huge task to focus the climate numbers and models down to a provincial level, let alone that of a city, town or county. By and large, local governments and their communities are aware that the climate is changing. But the question that halts everything is “what can we do?” One piece of the puzzle is climate change mitigation – reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Many Canadian municipalities are at the forefront of this, setting aggressive GHG reduction targets through energyefficient retrofits, adapting municipal fleets, expanding public transit and so forth. However, another piece of the puzzle recognizes that the climate is already changing, and that this will increasingly impact our everyday lives. For communities, climate change adaptation focuses on what they can do to respond to a changing climate and become more climate-resilient. Now what about biodiversity?


We know that diverse, healthy ecosystems are the basis of all life on earth (including humanity). And we know that our actions are having an ongoing – and accelerating – negative impact on that diversity. We also know that climate change is exacerbating that impact – and that like climate change, most information on biodiversity focuses on the macrolevel, not individual communities. Can the recipe for addressing these two huge issues be to… combine them? Good cooks know that two powerful ingredients in a stew need to be spiced with something that makes the flavours work in concert. Increasingly, it appears this third ingredient is “ecosystem services.” Ecosystem services are the benefits we derive from nature – a measure of both the function of ecosystems and the resources and processes we enjoy from them, such as food, water and the decomposition of waste. This utilitarian view of nature can make people nervous, but it is okay – even vital – to consider it. Addressing environmental issues has long been confounded by the sense that ecosystems are “over there,” at

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

a distance from human society. The concept of ecosystem services places us (and our well-being) back in the ecosystem, dependent upon what it provides. So how do ecosystem services bridge climate change adaptation and biodiversity management at the local level? This is exactly the question we at the Miistakis Institute have been pursuing as part of an initiative to create climateresilient communities in Alberta. In exploring this challenge, we sought out existing approaches that did – or could – reconcile climate change adaptation, biodiversity management and ecosystem services at the local scale. That search inevitably led to municipalities and the emerging world of climate change adaptation action planning. Several efforts are underway to help communities create these action plans. Three stood out in particular in our review: • The Columbia Basin Trust’s Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative (CACCI), which works with communities in southeastern British Columbia to help them to adapt to local climate change impacts ( Change/?Adapting_to_Climate_Change)


• The GEOS Institute, a not-for-profit consulting firm in Oregon, which provides a series of consulting services under their ClimateWise program to help communities project and prepare for local impacts of climate change ( • The Canadian chapter of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an international association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development, which has created “The Adaptation Tool” workbook and series of exercises to assist communities in developing municipal climate change adaptation plans ( adaptationtool)

(ecosystem services), but also provide habitat for birds (biodiversity) and shade to cool buildings (climate change adaptation) • Retaining and protecting wetlands: wetlands store and filter water (ecosystem services), but also provide habitat (biodiversity) and buffer floodprone areas during extreme storm events (climate change adaptation)

Each of these does, or can, include biodiversity as an integral part of building community resilience to climate change, and each lends itself well to an ecosystem services-based approach. ICLEI Canada’s recent report, “Finding the Nexus: Exploring Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity,” illustrates how ecosystem services serve to create “win-win scenarios” for biodiversity and climate-resilient communities. Their examples include:

The practicalities of this approach are key. Resistance within municipalities to new programs is often based on a lack of resources and an already full plate of issues. When climate resilience and biodiversity discussions are couched in ecosystem services, it becomes:

• Promoting urban forests – urban forests absorb carbon and pollution

Other examples cover pollination, recreational values and protected green spaces, all of which represent what ICLEI Canada calls “nexus” actions: strategies that draw upon biodiversity to help with climate change adaptation and upon adaptation to support biodiversity.

Image: Miistakis Institute

• Easier to calculate the cost of action… and inaction The bottom line? Thinking of climate change adaptation and biodiversity management in terms of ecosystem services makes it easier to see practical connections in a complex world. Attention to ecosystem services protects biodiversity and creates climate change resilience; biodiversity protects communities’ ability to derive benefits from ecological systems, especially in the face of a changing climate. Win-win-win. Guy Greenaway is a Senior Project Manager with the Miistakis Institute in Calgary, Alberta. The Institute’s work on creating climate-resilient communities is part of the Biodiversity Management and Climate Change Adaptation project, funded by the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation and led by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute with partners from the University of Alberta and Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures.

• Easier to make the utilitarian case (“what this means to you”) to councils, staff and communities • Easier to focus strategies on existing plans, such as those for infrastructure, sub-division, protected areas, transportation and so forth

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Any local effort for stewardship requires engagement and collaboration with a wide variety of partners. When local goals transcend municipal boundaries, the number of partners involved necessarily increases. To facilitate action that is regional in nature, securing the cooperation of surrounding municipalities, industries and other stakeholders is essential, but doing so is easier said than done. Here, finding common goals – and common obstacles – can help build capacity for environmental action across multiple jurisdictions and interests. One highly successful example of regional collaboration for stewardship is the Beaver Hills Initiative (BHI) in Alberta. Formed in September 2002 following a workshop jointly hosted by Strathcona County and Elk Island National Park and attended by all levels of government, industry, academics and NGOs, the BHI is an inter-jurisdictional, multi-actor partnership dedicated to the conservation and best land management of the Beaver Hills Moraine. By providing a forum for dialogue, shared initiatives and action, the BHI has helped to coordinate a single approach to land use management across five municipal jurisdictions (Strathcona, Lamont, Beaver, Leduc and Camrose Counties), as well the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary, Cooking Lake/ Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Elk Island National Park and other protect-

ed areas – a total of 1595 km2. Since its inception, the BHI has grown to include over 30 partner organizations, built trust and established new goals for the future.

has also led to new opportunities for regional stewardship. Most recently, this included nominating the Beaver Hills for international recognition as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The Beaver Hills Moraine features a unique “knob and kettle” terrain; it is an island of dry mixedwood boreal forest with aspen woodlands, wetlands and lakes, and supports a wide range of wildlife. Recognizing that many different aspects of the landscape must be considered in responsible land management, the BHI has established expert councils called “working groups,” which develop and recommend strategies for each of these aspects. These working groups include a Planners Working Group, a Protected Areas Working Group, a Research and Monitoring Working Group and a Communications and Education Working Group, just to name a few. The working groups report to a governing Board of Directors, which facilitates long-term planning and partnerships, is comprised of voluntary representatives from member organizations and is managed by an Executive Director, employed by Strathcona County.

The prospect of attaining Biosphere Reserve status was introduced to the BHI in 2008 by Dr. Guy Swinnerton, Professor Emeritus of the University of Alberta, and several staff from Elk Island National Park. The BHI partnership endorsed the idea, and under Dr. Swinnterton’s guidance, began the complicated and extensive nomination

STRENGTHENED CAPACITY FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES Cooperation between BHI partners has not only resulted in the successful development of a shared approach to land management in the Moraine, but Map showing BHI target area


CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Images: Beaver Hills Initiative

process. Among other things, this process included creating a Land Management Framework for the area, which focused on five key elements: land, water, air, biodiversity and quality of life. Biosphere Reserves are managed under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and exemplify community-driven sustainable development. According to UNESCO, ideal candidates for Biosphere Reserves are: • Sites of excellence where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated • Tools to help countries implement the results of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and, in particular, the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Ecosystem Approach • Learning sites for the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development Currently, there are 15 Biosphere Reserves in Canada, with only one in Alberta (Waterton Biosphere Reserve). The process of moving towards Biosphere Reserve status is still ongoing, with the MAB committee acknowledging the good work of the BHI to date. Cooperation through the BHI has also laid the foundation for the use of Transfer of Development Credits (TDCs) in the region. TDC programs enable concentrated development in desig-

nated areas while lessening development pressure in areas that municipalities wish to conserve. Landowners in the desired conservation areas (“sending” areas) can sell development credits to developers in the designated devel-

“BY PROVIDING A FORUM FOR DIALOGUE, SHARED INITIATIVES AND ACTION, THE BHI HAS HELPED TO COORDINATE A SINGLE APPROACH TO LAND USE MANAGEMENT ACROSS… A TOTAL OF 1595 KM2” opment areas (“receiving areas”), thus receiving financial compensation for keeping their land undeveloped while allowing developers to build beyond their land’s zoning restrictions. While not presently implemented, the BHI is concluding a three-year research project on TDCs and aims to establish a TDC pilot program between 2013-2015. Through 2013, the BHI aims to act on its strengthened capacity for planning, research and education. A new naturebased tourism strategy will connect nature tourism operators and promote the diversity of tourism industries within the BHI area. Another important project for 2013-2014 is the completion of the

State of the Moraine report, which provides up-to-date information on environmental indicators and will be used to assess the general health of the Moraine, as well as identify areas of improvement. Stewardship engagement has also emerged as a future focus for the BHI; the recently completed Stewardship Engagement Strategy will more closely connect partner stewardship organizations and volunteers and see the development of educational citizen-science programs.

CONCLUSION Regional partnerships for stewardship, such as the BHI, have great potential for success, but require ongoing effort and support. These collaborations can be vulnerable to conflicting interests and priorities, particularly in turbulent economic times. Like many organizations, the BHI is dependent upon grants and municipal funding from its partners; as external situations change, it becomes at risk for capacity and funds. Developing sound partnerships, particularly with elected officials who advocate for such collaborations in their jurisdictions, is essential to overcome this. For the BHI, it has been the hard work and dedication of the individuals involved that have sustained these much-needed links and ensured the successful conservation and management to date of the Beaver Hills Moraine. Katrina Jansen is the Citizen Science Coordinator for the Beaver Hills Initiative. For more information, visit

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Alberta, like many places, has experienced rapid growth over the past decades, due primarily to its vast oil and gas deposits, forest resources and agricultural land. Yet this growth has placed tremendous strain on the natural environment that helps sustain its economy and population. Uncoordinated development threatens local water supplies, wildlife species are at risk and critical agricultural lands are being lost. To address the pressure from the cumulative effects of land use, long-term plans are needed that balance the social, economic and environmental goals of society. In the case of Alberta, the Alberta Tomorrow project is a free, web-based initiative that supports planners, policy makers and concerned citizens in shaping

strategies for land use and responsible resource management. Using cutting-edge GIS technology, real data and research from leading scientists, users are able to see the cumulative effects of land use in Alberta – both in the present and over the past hundred years, as well as possible future scenarios. With ready-to-implement classroom resources and online data sharing, Alberta Tomorrow is particularly attractive to teachers, who appreciate the challenges and trade-offs required. As Pat Worthington of Rocky View School Division states, “Created and tested here in our province, Alberta Tomorrow provides a wonderful tool for educators as they seek to engage their learners, facilitating their critical assessment of the future they wish to see.” The most recent changes to the program have made the simulator more visually engaging and relevant to today’s students, allowing them to focus on past, present and future land use in their specific area. Students can then build on that knowledge through videos, simulations and fieldwork to create a balanced land use plan for the province as a whole. The hands-on appeal of Alberta Tomorrow, as well as the visual aid it provides, makes it a useful educational tool beyond the classroom setting.

Images: Alberta Tomorrow


CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Citizen engagement is essential to creating land use plans that are representative to the needs and interests of those who live, work and play there, and to facilitate broader understanding about human-environment interaction. As Brad Stelfox, one of the original creators of Alberta Tomorrow, says, “One of the most critical issues confronting contemporary society is the need to effectively plan our future landscapes. Alberta Tomorrow is a dynamic online tool that helps Albertans of all ages understand the importance of this issue and how they might become involved in the dialogue of building a future Alberta we will be proud of.” Alberta cannot continue to have it all. Having tools to support comprehensive land use planning, as well as students and citizens who are knowledgeable about the tough decisions this requires, will only help to ensure the long-term success of such plans. Jennifer Janzen is the Executive Director of the Alberta Tomorrow Foundation. For more information, visit: Editor’s note: The Alberta Real Estate Foundation, as featured on the back cover of this issue of Curb, is a sponsor of both the Alberta Tomorrow Project and the Green Acreages Guide (pg.13). Sponsorship has no influence on content or inclusion of these articles.

Students using Alberta Tomorrow in the classroom

Software capturing the complex, multiple uses and needs of a given area

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WHAT IS IT? • An award-winning planned neighbourhood in the City of Terrebonne, Quebec that breaks with the traditional automobilecentred model of suburban development – one of the first on this scale in Canada • Different islands (“zones”) are planned, each designed around a core of activities – from offices and industry to shopping, schools, parks, daycares and public transit • The key to sustainability lies in the proximity of the different zones. Residents will be able to get around easily on foot or by bicycle and will have access to all the facilities they need • 38% of the total developable area will be set aside for biodiversity corridors, thereby protecting 462.7 hectares


BIODIVERSITY CORRIDORS The Urbanova project is unique in that the urban development plan includes a vast biodiversity corridor, representing nearly 40% of the entire neighbourhood. One of the first steps in planning the project was to conduct an extensive inventory the main waterways and the natural habitats and wooded areas of interest to identify their environmental value. Three main streams – the Ruisseau La Pinière, Ruisseau Lapointe and Grand Ruisseau – were identified. Various smaller streams feed into them. Two large wooded areas were also considered, one in each the eastern and western part of the neighbourhood, along with an exceptional forest ecosystem made up of black maples, a vulnerable species. A number of wetland areas were also inventoried. To ensure critical habitats are preserved and that wildlife will be able to move freely between them, these major natural features have been protected and linked to create the biodiversity corridor.

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

But the fauna and flora in this natural conservation zone will not be its only beneficiaries; it can be enjoyed by all neighbourhood and Terrebonne residents. Infrastructure such as interpretive trails and observation areas will eventually be added. Protecting and enhancing these large areas make it possible to create islands of greenery and to substantially improve residents’ lives now and in the years to come.

STORMWATER MANAGEMENT The Urbanova project also takes an innovative approach to stormwater management. In the past, rainwater was collected and routed directly into the storm sewer system, and from


Images: City of Terrebonne

there, to different waterways. This approach required large-diameter sewer pipes and had serious negative impacts on those waterways. During heavy rains, vast amounts of water had to be managed in a short time, requiring larger pipes to handle the volume. This water outflowed quickly into nearby waterways and wetlands, eroding banks and causing large accumulations of sediment. With the new stormwater management approach, Urbanova will encourage rainwater to seep directly into the natural soil wherever possible.

Biofiltration gardens (man-made and planted drainage zones) will be created in some areas to facilitate the process. The plants will allow the soil to absorb close to 40% of the water routed to these zones. Later, retention basins will be built to handle temporary excess volumes of water before it is discharged. Sediment will also settle in these basins. Additionally, select sediment-retaining equipment will be installed in developed zones. Taken together, this approach makes it possible to limit the amount of damage to natural habitats caused by heavy discharges from storm sewers.

The City of Terrebonne is located in Quebec, Canada. The Côte Terrebonne Master Plan for Sustainable Development (Urbanova project) won the 2012 Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities PlanningNeighbourhood Award.

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RISING UP TO THE URBAN FARMING CHALLENGE KIRA HUNT Growing food in urban areas makes sense, reducing the cost of transportation, refrigeration and labour. As the human population grows, there is a mounting need to reduce the distance between production and consumption, and to create human systems that are self-sustaining. Many people are already participating in urban farming: planting gardens in their yards, using fruit-producing plants in place of ornamentals, buying or selling food at farmers markets, and investing their time in community gardens. Growing food locally has the potential to bring neighbours together in cooperation and trade, and to reconnect people with nature and the very source of what gives them life. Yet even with such strategies, production in many places grinds to a halt in the winter, a time at which securing a viable food source is already a challenge. Options exist to those who want to produce food through the colder seasons: window gardening is a growing trend; another, albeit less popular option, is underground gardening – planting root vegetables midsummer and digging them up for a winter harvest. These are not options for all people, however, and it would be difficult to feed an entire city with these methods alone. Enter Dr. Dickson Despommier, who thinks he has a solution to this, and to many of the world’s food-related


problems with a strategy allowing food to be grown 365 days a year within our urban areas. Despommier’s solution, called vertical farming, is essentially floor upon floor of stacked greenhouses. Their height allows a number of activities to occur in close proximity while conserving space and resources. He proposes that plants in this indoor system be grown hydroponically, a process that uses nutrient-rich mineral water instead of soil, producing higher yields and more predictable results than traditional soil-based farming. In his book, Vertical Farming: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, Dr. Despommier states that “the efficiency of each floor of a vertical farm, one acre in footprint, could be equivalent to as many as ten to twenty traditional soil-based acres, depending upon the crop.”1 Vertical farms could provide a diversity of produce, grown fresh within the city limits, regardless of the conditions outside. Growing inside negates many environmental variables, including fluctuating temperatures, destructive pests, droughts and floods. This, in addition to short travel distances and predictable yields, makes vertical farms an economically viable option that would steer cities towards true self-sustainability. While not all crops would be ideal for vertical farming, those that produce high yields, are expensive to import,

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

or are grown farthest away might be good options, increasing the diversity of local food available throughout the year. Hydroponic systems and controlled conditions eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides, and because food is grown close to the consumer, preservatives are not necessary. The end result: a fresher, simpler product and a healthier population. While fruits and vegetables are the logical choice, there has also been success with indoor breeding of freshwater fish, crustaceans and mollusks.2 Incorporating living creatures into the mix more closely emulates natural ecosystems: the livestock eat leftovers, such as pruned vegetation and compost; in return, they produce fertilizer for the crops and contribute another source of nutrition to the food chain. If the system is well designed, water-loving creatures could live within the hydroponic tanks, requiring little additional infrastructure. A recycling centre of sorts, vertical farms could collect greywater and compost from nearby businesses for a fee, turning this “waste” material into fresh water and a range of edibles. Products formerly known as garbage would become a valuable commodity essential to the healthy functioning of the city – similar to how nature works, using waste from one part of a system to nourish another.

By enabling food production to move, at least in part, to urban regions, areas of farmland could be returned to natural states simply by being left alone. These places might once again fulfil valuable ecosystem services for people and for the planet: promoting biodiversity, absorbing water and sequestering carbon. Recreational opportunities could move into these spaces, providing increased contexts for work and play. A significant appeal of vertical farming is that all of the technology already exists. Despite this, serious questions remain: in cities where there are few or no daylight hours during the winter, without access to solar energy, can these farms produce light economically? The emergence of LEDs and the evolution of new technologies may be key in brightening those long, dark months.


On its own, vertical farming may not be enough to make a self-sustaining city; however, it could prove a strong complement to other urban farming initiatives and broader sustainability efforts. It has the potential to reuse and recycle local waste streams and to improve the diversity of fresh food available within a city, especially in cold or otherwise adverse climates. Success in urban farming is merely a matter of combining known concepts and testing various iterations; over time, the equipment and expertise will evolve, making new technologies cheaper to build and more efficient. Far be it for human ingenuity to be daunted by a challenge! Kira Hunt is a Landscape Architectural Technologist with IBI Group in Edmonton, Alberta. 1

Vertical Farming, 2010, pg. 5


Vertical Farming, pg. 26

Images: Jungmin Nam, “Urban Epicenter/NYC.” Reproduced with permission

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Thousands of people are flocking to acreages outside urban municipalities in pursuit of the dream of country living. But living the dream comes with challenges: complex land management issues, such as septic system and private well maintenance, water runoff and weed management, that most city folk in particular lack the experience to deal with.

This is where the Green Acreages Guide comes in, a guidebook for helping acreage owners become better stewards of the land, produced by Land Stewardship Centre. Months of work and extensive consultation with acreage owners, agricultural fieldmen and municipalities went into the guide’s development. “We recognized that there was a need for a comprehensive resource and we felt it was important that the guide contain the information that landowners and municipalities want and need,” said Amrita Grewal, Project Coordinator for the Green Acreages Guide with Land Stewardship Centre. “The guide is a self-directed resource that provides acreage owners with the information they need to understand how good land use practices result in healthy ecosystems.”


For municipalities wanting to facilitate efforts towards sustainability, educating their rural residents on land management is important. “Most of the people who live on acreages have a desire to do the right thing with their property. They just need the tools to educate themselves to properly manage their land,” says Tim Dietzler (left), Agricultural Fieldman with Rocky View County. “Rural municipalities recognize the impact acreages have on the environment and many are working to develop programs to help educate acreage owners to be better environmental stewards.”

in developing their property. Steven Gehring, a relatively new acreage owner who recently participated in a Rocky View County workshop, has consulted the guide several times since then, most recently as he pondered plans for spring planting. “[I] pulled out the guide to see if there was information relating to forest ecosystems, and specifically, forest gardens,” said Gehring. “We have been able to use the guide as we work to improve the property. I learned about shelter belts from the guide and we are putting one in on our property. It’s all part of a 20-year plan.”

For Rocky View County, the Green Acreages Guide is proving to be an important asset in this regard. With more than 16,000 acreages in Rocky View County, these properties, taken together, have a huge impact on the environment. For several years, the County has held evening workshops for acreage owners, most recently piloting a successful educational course using the Green Acreages Guide workbook as the backbone. “[T]here was a real need for a resource like this that is geared specifically to acreage owners,” Dietzler says. “Participants who attended the recent workshops received the $30 guide for free. The feedback we received has been excellent and participants have indicated that the guide is a fantastic resource for them as acreage owners.”

Gehring would be the first to admit that acreage ownership is a big learning curve. Since moving from the city in 2011, he has pulled his entire water system apart, worked on the septic system and dealt with drainage issues. Despite this, he believes that country living is worth the effort. “Living in the country is something I have always wanted,” Gehring says. “I like the city, but I prefer the fresh air, freedom and clean living that are part of rural life. I want to be an environmentallyconscious landowner and the Green Acreages Guide helped me get a good start.”

The guide, in its workbook format, is also designed to be a resource that acreage owners can turn to repeatedly

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Land Stewardship Centre is a not-for-profit, charitable organization that works to improve understandings of healthy ecosystems, support community stewardship efforts and promote the development of practices and policies encouraging sustainable resource use. For more information, visit Images: (top) Miistakis Institute, (Green Acreages Guide and Tim Dietzler of Rocky View County, left) Land Stewardship Centre


They choke out native vegetation, poison livestock and reduce the productivity of agricultural and wild lands. They can sneak into an area and take over a significant amount of space before people realize they are there. Invasive weeds constitute an oft-forgotten threat to biodiversity and economic productivity. As responsible stewards, stakeholders and community leaders must factor these invaders into broader efforts for sustainability and citizen engagement. At the January 2012 meeting of the Wabamun Watershed Management Council (WWMC), Hugh Wollis, Area Wildlife Biologist for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), explained how invasive plant species are affecting fish and wildlife habitat in or near Wabamun Lake. He was seeking assistance from the council to fight this threat to the biodiversity of the region. It’s a rule-of-thumb in ecology that the higher the biodiversity, the more stable the local ecosystem. Communities with a high biodiversity are better able to endure changes in the environment, such as weather and disease, than communities with a lower biodiversity. The Wabamun Lake community has a fairly high biodiversity of fish and wildlife. It took a hit in 2005 from the CN oil spill; however, through favourable weather conditions and an intensive clean-up, most of the plants and animals have rebounded. One of the most affected species was the western grebe, which

has a large breeding colony along the north shore of the lake near the Village of Wabamun. The colony did recover but now faces a new threat in the form of purple loosestrife. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a popular ornamental pond plant native to Europe and Asia that arrived in North America in the 19th century. The flowering plant is very pretty but has a large reproductive capacity, with mature plants producing upwards of a million seeds each year. If not controlled, infestations can quickly take over wetlands and lake shores. This is the problem facing the grebe colony on Wabamun Lake: the plant is displacing the reeds and cattails that the grebes use for nesting. Similarly, many fish species, such as the northern pike, use the native plants to spawn. The loosestrife packs in too tightly for the fish to use for breeding, resulting in the loss of important spawning habitat.

Canada Thistle


Purple loosestrife is classified as a “prohibited noxious weed” under the Alberta Weed Control Act. Established plants must be physically removed (root and all), bagged and burned. As in many things, prevention of the infestation is the best control method. At the grebe colony, Alberta ESRD has been pulling weeds each August after the birds have left for the year. The WWMC will join this work to ensure the colony is protected. To inform its members, watershed residents and organizations about the issues that loosestrife and other local

Purple Loosestrife Images: (top) Wabamun Watershed Management Council (bottom) Fice courtesy of Wikipedia

CURB VOL 4 | ISSUE 1 | 2013


Common Tansy Members of the Stony Plain Fish and Game Association clip the flowers of the common tansy before the plant is sprayed with pesticide. Image: Don Meredith

invasive plant species present, the WWMC held two workshops around the lake in June 2012. Barry Gibbs, the Director of the Alberta Invasive Plant Council, presented the main workshop on general awareness and species identification. He stressed the need for both municipalities and citizens to be aware of the consequences of allowing these species to propagate and affect the productivity of agricultural and wild lands. James Leskiw, the Supervisor of Agricultural Agronomics from Parkland County, explained what was being done locally to control invasive weeds, including tracking the spread of various species on both land and water, and encouraged citizens to take action on their own lands. Both workshops were well-attended and inspired at least one group, the Stony Plain Fish and Game Association, to take action on the wild lands they steward around East Pit Lake. After learning that Canada thistle, common tansy and perennial sow thistle were growing on this land, they held a working bee last July where volunteers came out to eradicate as many of these plants as possible. Flowers of the common tansy were removed and bagged, and all noxious weeds were sprayed with a


herbicide that has little effect on wildlife and livestock. What became obvious to those who participated was that this must be an ongoing program to bring the weeds fully under control. To further help its members identify and control weeds they might have on their properties, the WWMC posted “Invasive Weed Watch” fact sheets on its website (, under Watershed Information/Educational Resources). These included information on those species which present a threat to the Wabamun Lake area in addition to purple loosestrife, such as flowering rush, scentless chamomile and Himalayan balsam. More information on invasive weeds can also be found at

Flowering Rush

Scentless Chamomile

The WWMC is a not-for-profit, registered society representing a cross-section of Wabamun Lake stakeholders who are committed to maintaining and improving the health of the lake and its watershed. The Council was formed in 2006 to address the concerns raised by Dr. David Schindler in his 2004 report concerning the health and viability of Wabamun Lake.

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Himalayan Balsam

Images: (top to bottom) Fice, Georg Slickers and ArtMechanic courtesy of Wikipedia

CREATING FORUMS FOR EFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT CHAKA ZINYEMBA Sustainability encompasses the balancing out of an ecosystem connected by the social, environmental, cultural and economic dimensions of our community. This requires engaging stakeholders from all facets of society and providing forums that adequately address the complexity of sustainability goals. Successful engagement goes beyond informing those listening of the problem, or even of potential solutions. It provides opportunities for education, critical thinking, innovation, capacity-building and networking, so as to facilitate the skills, momentum and connections necessary for solutions to become a reality.

agriculture in the Alberta Capital Region, as well as big-name guest lecturers, including Ken Greenberg, David Wolfe, Jennifer Keesmaat and Doug Olson. Talks touched on such topics as placemaking, drivers of growth, the cultural component of sustainability (Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto) and a “nested approach” to sustainable urbanism – that being, considering the natural landscape of the region first, then developing plans from there (Doug Olson, President, O2 Planning + Design Inc). After the public lecture, attendees were invited to swap thoughts and network, snacking on wine and cheese in an art gallery.

The Regional Planning Speakers Series (RPSS), organized by the City-Region Studies Centre at the University of Alberta, is a year-long educational program that brings together stakeholders – planners, architects, designers, elected officials, academics, students and community members – in regional planning. This program helps Albertan communities manage growth in a way that promotes sustainability, supports a robust economy, encourages collaboration and improves quality of life by providing learning opportunities and a forum through which to connect and share ideas.

The success of RPSS in engaging people of diverse backgrounds is demonstrated

through the high public turnout at events (often filling the auditorium to or near capacity), as well as its mention in local blogs by attendees. Next year’s series will focus on Energy, Planning and the Capital Region – bringing stakeholders together yet again to engage crucial, dynamic issues. For more information about RPSS, including the full sponsor list, please visit: RegionalPlanningSpeakersSeries Chaka Zinyemba is the Events Coordinator of the City-Region Studies Centre.

The 2012-2013 RPSS (completed March 2013) was framed by two broad topics: “Innovation and the Planning Community” and “Development of Sustainable Cities.” The series featured discussion panels on local topics, such as urban

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In 2006 and 2007, water demand during peak day was within 98 percent of the system capacity. While average day demands were easily manageable throughout these years, the peak day demand was up to 80% greater than the average day demand. Although a peaking factor of 1.8 is common in many areas – and often higher in other municipalities – the issue of rapid development and limited system capacity was cause for concern. Based on demand projections, it was predicted that a new water source would be needed by 2016. In response, the AMWSC approved a three-pronged approach in 2010 for the future of the water system: identify a new water source, squeeze more capacity out of the current system and focus heavily on water conservation. A new source was identified and significant effort was invested to optimize existing infrastructure. As a short- to medium-term solution,



2011 2012

33% reduction in peak day from 2007

120 Water demand (MLD)

Water conservation is a common term in areas of the southern and mid-west United States, due to dry climates and low rainfall. However, in some areas of Canada it is also becoming extremely important. While rainfall is plentiful in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, rapid growth in the last 15 years has put a strain on infrastructure. Since 2006, the Abbotsford Mission Water and Sewer Commission (AMWSC) has watched regional peak day water demands carefully.

100 80 60

12% reduction in average day from 2007

40 20 0 Jan





the AMWSC developed additional groundwater supply to supplement existing sources. Until the new water source was online, conservation became extremely important. Using 2007 as a baseline year, a target of 25% in reduction of peak demand was set. Encouraging water conservation came with challenges, as many residents wondered why such measures were necessary. Water conservation is easier to understand and promote in a dry climate, but harder to convey in a coastal community that experiences significant rainfall for three-quarters of the year. As such, efforts including a full sprinkling ban in July and August 2010 were effective but not popular with numerous members of the public. That system capacity is related to not only

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta







availability of supply, but also the ability of infrastructure to meet water demands on peak days thus became a focal point in education. In order to make water conservation successful, educational initiatives need to be accompanied by tools and policies, as show in Table 1. Tools and policies, such as metering, building code changes and volume-based pricing, are generally the responsibility of the municipality or provincial and federal governments. They are among the most effective measures as they provide a monetary or regulatory incentive to conserve. At the municipal level, Abbotsford has been universally metered since 1995. In 2010, City Council approved a new

smart metering project and was one of the first cities in Canada to install an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system. With this system, the City was able to change water billing frequency from annual to bi-monthly and implement tiered seasonal water rates. This change in billing structure rewarded average and wise water users with savings on their bill and fiscally encouraged high users to adjust their consumption. Results obtained by these changes were drastic, but the transition caused considerable public reaction. Abbotsford was at the “bleeding edge” and both municipal staff and the AMWSC felt it.

“WATER CONSERVATION IS EASIER TO UNDERSTAND AND PROMOTE IN A DRY CLIMATE, BUT HARDER TO CONVEY IN A COASTAL COMMUNITY THAT EXPERIENCES SIGNIFICANT RAINFALL FOR THREE-QUARTERS OF THE YEAR.” Once customers have been motivated to conserve water through tools, policies and education, programs can be implemented. With the installation of smart meters, implementation of bi-monthly billing and introduction of tiered water rates, the AMWSC conservation programs took off in Abbotsford. Rebates for high-efficiency toilets and washing machines increased by 40%; customers signed up for irrigation and landscape assessments and purchased subsidized indoor and outdoor low-flow kits. Rainwater harvesting systems were installed at municipal facilities and several households.

As a result of these combined efforts, the water-use reduction goal was exceeded in 2011 without implementing a full watering ban. The region saw a 33% reduction in peak day demand and a 12% reduction in average day demand, relative to 2007. The numbers remained similar in 2012, with more golden lawns throughout the community. The AMWSC and municipal staff, however, were careful not to negate the role of weather along with conservation measures in this demand change, as the cooler summers of 2011 and 2012 contributed to reduced water use. Nonetheless, the success of these policies and programs has helped defer future infrastructure development. Due to the difference in metering infrastructure between Mission and Abbotsford, most of the AMWSC’s success in water conservation to date has been in Abbotsford. The majority of customers in Mission are not metered and thus have great potential to recognize a reduction in demand.

Currently, Abbotsford’s per capita demand is at 200 litres per day, reduced from 281 litres in 2007. Mission’s per capita demand is estimated at 466 litres per day. The region is currently working on a Water Efficiency Plan, which estimates that Mission could achieve a 30% reduction on their per capita demand with metering and increased programming alone. This is just the beginning of the Commission’s hopes for conservation, but as consumption remains so variable, the AMWSC will continuously need to remind the public to use water wisely.

The Abbotsford Mission Water & Sewer Commission is made up of Councillors and the Mayors from both Abbotsford and Mission. The current Chair of the AMWSC is Patricia Ross, Abbotsford Councillor. Images: The Abbotsford Mission Water & Sewer Commission

Table 1 Municipal and Regional Water Conservation Programs



BC Building Code


Purple piping, Rainwater Harvesting and Greywater Reuse

Volume-based Pricing

REGIONAL (PROGRAMS) Rebates for low flow fixtures

Waterwaste regulations Water Reuse Regulations Tiered Water Rates

Rainwater Harvesting Systems, Rainbarrels ICI Water Audits and Retrofits Irrigation Audits and Retrofits

Seasonal Water Rates Watering Restrictions Landscape and Irrigation Bylaws

Public and School Education System Leak Delection

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SITES FOR CHANGE: INCORPORATING PRIVATE GARDEN OWNERS INTO BIODIVERSITY PLANNING YOLANDA VAN HEEZIK AND CLAIRE FREEMAN Private gardens collectively cover surprisingly large areas, even in big cities. In the UK, gardens make up between 22% and 27% of cities1, and in our modestly-sized city of 100,000 inhabitants in New Zealand, 36%2. That’s more than any other single green space. Gardens offer huge potential as sites for native biodiversity conservation. It is true that many cities have parks or wild areas where animals can live, but cumulatively, these areas can be small and somewhat removed from our daily lives. There are many compelling reasons why we should care about green space in our cities. Green spaces and the species they support provide the ecosystem services that we take for granted, enhance our psychological and physical well-being and provide opportunities for interacting with nature. Urban green spaces can also function as important havens for native plant and animal populations struggling to persist in the modified agricultural landscapes outside of cities. However, the management of private gardens is typically not integrated into the biodiversity strategies of city councils. If we wish to create a better quality, wellconnected habitat across a city, a larger number of private garden owners need to be incentivized and mobilized. Gardens are diverse in their structure and composition, reflecting private owners’ ideas of what is attractive, ease of maintenance and the provision of


safe or recreational space for children and pets. Neighbourhood and cultural norms also play a role; neighbourhood norms in particular can make it socially difficult to buck the trend and cultivate a garden radically different in style from others in your street, especially if it involves messiness. Gardening for nature or biodiversity is currently carried out by only a small proportion

IF WE WISH TO CREATE A BETTER QUALITY, WELL-CONNECTED HABITAT ACROSS A CITY, A LARGER NUMBER OF PRIVATE GARDEN OWNERS NEED TO BE INCENTIVIZED AND MOBILIZED. of garden owners. Most residents are unaware of the contribution they can make to supporting other species in their neighbourhoods. Given the diversity of residents’ needs and preferences, councils should develop an overview of the city landscape as a resource for wildlife and then manage neighbourhoods as “habitat patches,” ensuring adequate connectivity between patches through motivating householders to manage their gardens differently. So how can we motivate residents to consider other species when they manage their gardens? Is educating people about native biodiversity enough?

CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Unfortunately, a gap exists between environmental knowledge and environmentally-based behaviour; efforts intended to change behaviour are challenging, because it is difficult to get people to cross that gap – even those with all the necessary information and the best intentions. The Dunedin Garden Study (DGS) was conceived as a study into the biodiversity contained across a spectrum of 55 gardens in Dunedin, New Zealand. As part of the process of evaluating people’s relationships with their gardens and the diversity of woody plants, birds and invertebrates found there, we also explored the potential for changing people’s behaviour to support biodiversity, native species in particular. To do so, we needed a communication style that would be effective in achieving long-term behaviour change. We opted to inform through dialogue rather than simply presenting a message; engaging in dialogue does not require high motivation or information-processing skills, but involves a two-way communication that is seen as a more collaborative exchange of information. Our investigative team consisted of a biologist (Yolanda van Heezik), a planner (Claire Freeman), a plant ecologist (Kath Dickinson), an entomologist (Barbara Barrett) and perhaps most importantly, the individual who collected the data and established a collaborative dialogue with our householders, Stefan

Porter. Over a year, Stefan conducted interviews with participants and documented what was in their gardens, visiting each garden on approximately ten occasions. Based on these interviews, we evaluated householders’ knowledge about common species (including whether or not they were native), the features of their gardens they particularly valued and their ecological worldview. We provided attractive feedback tailored to individual gardens with images to identify species, resources for accessing information, an observation (always encouraging) specific to their garden and a normative component, such as information about how their garden ranked against others with respect to vegetation diversity, attractiveness to native birds and so forth.

allowing weeds to grow and, in one outstanding case, converting lawn to diverse native plants. Social norms have been reported to influence people’s landscaping preferences3. In our study, 20% of householders reported that the normative component of our feedback was of particular interest – they liked being able to compare their gardens against others. Our experience suggests that non-judgemental dialogue that goes beyond the provision of information has the potential to influence values, attitudes and behaviour, and that introducing a normative component in that dialogue can prove an effective motivator.

Despite the vital role that gardens play in urban western living, the humble garden is itself under threat, as an increasing urban population places pressure on available land and changes in lifestyle mean larger houses built on smaller land plots. In Australia, between 1984 and 2003, the floor area of houses rose by 40% to an average of 227.6 m2, while plot size dropped from 802m2 to 735m2 4. In the UK, front gardens are turning into paved car parking spaces; a study in Ealing, London estimated the average front garden is now 68% hard landscaped5. It is ironic that this reduction in green garden space is occurring at the same time as public interest in gardening

Our householders were, on the whole, well-educated and knowledgeable at the start of our study, but after a year, two-thirds (64%) of householders reported an even greater awareness and appreciation of different facets of their gardens. 40% reported an improved understanding of species and natural processes, most being impressed by the abundance, diversity and ecological role of invertebrates in particular. One quarter of householders (26%) made changes to their gardens as a result of being involved in the DGS, 13% of these to support native biodiversity. This included creating refuges for skinks, no longer killing insects, Private gardens in New Zealand supporting native biodiversity. Images: Dunedin Garden Study.

CURB VOL 4 | ISSUE 1 | 2013


Our experience suggests that non-judgemental dialogue that goes beyond the provision of information has the potential to influence values, attitudes and behaviour, and that introducing a normative component in that dialogue can prove an effective motivator.

Images: Dunedin Garden Study (top and bottom)

grows, along with an awareness of the benefits that gardens offer. However, if municipalities integrate the design and management of private gardens into city-wide biodiversity strategies – and motivate a sufficient number of householders to turn their gardens into places where wild animals can thrive – we will ultimately have greater and better-connected expanses of nativedominated habitat that we can share with other species. Yolanda van Heezik is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Zoology, University of Otago. Claire Freeman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Loram A, Tratalos J, Warren PH, Gaston.KJ. 2007. Urban domestic gardens (X): the extent and structure of the resource in five major cities. Landscape Ecology 22:601-615. 2 Mathieu R, Freeman C, Aryal J. 2007. Mapping private gardens in urban areas using object-oriented techniques and very high resolution satellite imagery. Landscape and Urban Planning 81: 179-192. 3 Nassauer, J.I., Z. Wang, and E. Dayrell. 2009. What will the neighbours think? Cultural norms and ecological design. Landscape and Urban Planning 92:282-292. 4 Hall, T. 2008. Where have all the gardens gone? Australian Planner, 45(1), 30e37; Hall, T. 2010. Life and death of the Australian backyard. Victoria, Australia: CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood 5 Ealing’s LA21. 2005. Front gardens project. http:// 1


CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta

Images: Yolanda van Heezik (center)

STEWARDSHIP AND SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUILDINGS JESSE ROW The way we produce and consume energy is one of the top environmental challenges of our time. One of the best ways to meet this challenge is through increasing the energy efficiency of our communities and the buildings within those communities. Saving energy in buildings can be as simple as turning off computer monitors at night or changing light bulbs. A visit from a contractor to test and adjust the heating and cooling settings for larger buildings can lead to significant energy savings without any equipment changes. In some cases, capital expenditures are needed to do larger retrofits. Fortunately, the cost of these retrofits is commonly recovered over a 3-5 year period. There are often barriers to these types of energy saving measures, however. These barriers can definitely be overcome, but their ability to derail energy savings initiatives should not be underestimated. Here are a few of the most common barriers encountered in commercial buildings. Barrier #1: The cost of utilities are paid by individual tenants, but the building is owned by a landlord. This makes utility costs less noticeable for tenants and provides no direct motivation for landlords to reduce energy consumption.

Ways to Overcome the Barrier: “Green leases” can help tenants encourage landlords to reduce a

building’s energy costs, and can be negotiated at the time of a lease renewal. The Real Property Association of Canada is a great source for more information on green leases. Sub-metering and billing of a single tenant space can motivate individual tenants to save energy, as cost savings are recovered by the tenant involved instead of being spread across the entire building. Tenants and landlords can also jointly undertake retrofits, as there are benefits for both through lower operating costs, increased building value and increased attractiveness for future tenants. Barrier #2: Landlords or tenants lack the confidence or expertise to undertake energy saving measures.

Ways to Overcome the Barrier: There are a wide variety of services available to support energy saving initiatives. These often come at a price, but this is not always the case. For buildings in Calgary, a new initiative called EE Check is a useful starting point ( ee-check.pdf), providing low-cost, comprehensive advice to property owners from energy efficiency experts. To build confidence in energy saving measures, it is common for businesses to start with “low hanging fruit” – relatively simple upgrades, such as lighting changes – to test their effectiveness before moving on to more complex and costly upgrades. Some programs and

insurance products will guarantee energy savings, as they have high confidence in the upgrades and the companies that provide them. Barrier #3: The potential to lower utility bills by 10% to 20% is often not a top priority for businesses.

Ways to Overcome the Barrier: A dedicated staff member or consultant to manage energy bills in larger businesses can go a long way towards initiating energy savings. For smaller buildings, it is often most effective when government programs provide incentives and support. While these barriers to energy savings can be overcome, they require attention and expertise. Local, regional and/or national efforts to establish energy saving initiatives should address each of these barriers on an ongoing basis. These undertakings also benefit from certain economies-of-scale and can be designed to save taxpayers more money than they cost. Ultimately, these efforts to increase energy efficiency will be essential to become more sustainable in a world of increasing environmental challenges.

Jesse Row is a Senior Advisor for the Pembina Institute. He is currently piloting a building retrofit program in Calgary, Alberta.

CURB VOL 4 | ISSUE 1 | 2013




CITY-REGION STUDIES CENTRE In January 2013, the City-Region Studies Centre hosted Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, as part of its Regional Planning Speakers Series. Her talk, “Place-making and the Politics of Planning,” emphasized the importance of “planning with intention” to create spaces that are useful, aesthetically-pleasing and adaptable to our changing needs and demographics. But planning with intention, she says, also relates closely to environmental stewardship. Below are her words from the lecture. “… [P]lace-making also matters because when we are intentional about design and beauty, we can be intentional about our efforts to minimize our environmental footprint. By being intentional about where growth will go, we are intentional about where growth will not go. And this juxtaposition of Vancouver, and all its urbanity and intensity in contrast to the water and Stanley Park, is a pertinent example of having clarity in our place-making and being intentional about what we are seeking to achieve and to create. Now, an example in Ontario, shown here in… the Greenbelt, is, in fact, a recognition that our waterways and greenfields are part of our place-making as well. They sustain us, and as a result, we need to protect them. We need to identify the ways that our urban places interact and relate to the context around them. You can see [in the Greenbelt Plan] a large swath of green, which is where no development is taking place. When the province identified this in the aptly-named document Places to Grow, they shifted in a fundamental form… Prior to this Greenbelt, the Greater Toronto Area was sprawling, absolutely endlessly. With this Greenbelt Plan, which is fundamentally a regional tool for place-making, we saw the urban form transition overnight, from being low-density, sprawling communities to very urban intensified forms. It wasn’t the market that called for a change. It was a policy framework that was intentional about creating a place with a very high quality of life that, in fact, has resulted in a very different kind of built form in Toronto.”

-Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner, City of Toronto, speaking January 22, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta For the full podcast of Jennifer’s talk, visit:


CITY–REGION STUDIES CENTRE | University of Alberta


Curb Magazine is about policy practice and community experiences in cities, regions and rural areas. Curb is distributed to municipal offices and planning departments across Canada. Curb articles are policy-relevant and accessible to a diverse audience including urban planners and designers, elected officials and administrators, architects, developers and people interested in community development. Curb Magazine is currently inviting articles on such topics as urban and regional cultures, governance, public spaces, energy, transportation, innovation and housing. Articles must be between 500-800 words, preferably with accompanying images. Articles are unpaid and may be edited to suit Curb’s tone and subject matter. Please send completed articles to



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Edmonton, Alberta: A stand out capital city for investment with its robust economic outlook

A place like no other, Edmonton is an economic powerhouse where business thrives and citizens enjoy a dynamic and vibrant lifestyle. With enviable infrastructure and transportation networks, a highly skilled labour force, nation-leading growth, and a high quality of life with a diverse and vibrant culture, the city clearly has its eye on the future.

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