University District creates a sustainable community
Sustainability in new home construction isn’t just about building energy-efficient homes.
The massive mixed-use University District development is an example of how sustainability is so much more that goes beyond bricks and mortar. It’s about building a community that is vibrant and liveable and that can reduce the overall carbon footprint in the city.
James Robertson, President and CEO of West Campus Development Trust, which is spearheading the University District project, says the development incorporates a philosophy of marrying the latest in building technology as well as providing people with lifestyle choices that reduce their dependence on vehicles.
University District is on 200 acres of land along 32nd Ave. NW and Shaganappi Trail. It will cost an estimated $25 billion to $35 billion to build for the entire project. When complete in 15 to 20 years, the community will have 15,000 to 17,000 people living and working there.
In its entirety, the project will include 40 acres of open space, 8.7 million square feet of buildable area, 250,000 square feet of ground floor retail along nine blocks, 1.5 million square feet of office space, and 6,000 to 6,500 residential units.
“Consumers have a complicated decision when they’re buying a house. They have to think about location. The type of house they’re going to buy. The builder they’re going to buy with. The size of the unit and unquestionably sustainability and environmental is on that list but it has a lot of competition on that list as to what goes into a decision to buy a new home,” says Robertson.
“One of the aspects we talk about is a sustainable lifestyle versus environmental sustainability . . . In our community one of the things we focus on is creating a complete community . . . We really worked hard to get a grocery store coming in on Phase One of our development and our grocery store should be opening in late 2019 or early 2020 and it’s well under construction. We’re going to have a coffee shop, a wine store, a bank. What we consider to be all the day-to-day necessities of life.
“We have 6,000 units of housing here. We can eliminate six tonnes of C02 just by creating a community that people don’t have to drive to everything. They don’t have to drive to their grocery store. They don’t have to drive to their coffee shop. In our case, they might not have to drive to their school or their job at the hospitals or the cancer centre. They don’t have to drive to go out for dinner. They don’t have to drive to the liquor store and so by making that life convenient we are tackling environmental sustainability just by doing that. It has nothing to do with building technology, the efficiency of the furnace system or any of those aspects.”
Robertson adds that most consumers are looking for convenience. By being mindful in how they design and build University District, the project can be sustainable and appeal to the marketplace at the same time.
“We have progressed so far to raise the bar in how we build homes and how we build buildings that we’re doing a great job but that’s only going to take us so far. I’m not an advocate for no cars. I’m an advocate for choice. So if I can walk to a pub to have a beer in the evening or walk to go out for dinner, I would choose that over getting into my car,” says Robertson. “Maybe not every night but if I do it enough . . . . we can save a lot of CO2 emissions. What else can we do around lifestyle? That’s one of the reasons we like the idea of having employment here.”
The University District is the first community in Alberta to receive LEED-ND Platinum Stage 2 Certification, the third in Canada, and the largest by far. The certification covers more than 65 individual aspects of sustainability, including sustainable design and infrastructure; numbers of trees planted; proximity to recreation facilities, services, transit and green spaces; winter city design, accessibility and connectivity; mixed housing options; and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings.
Ease of travel and minimizing dependency on vehicles is incorporated into the planning of housing, employment and services within its boundaries, with a strong integration of connections with adjacent communities and the University of Calgary. University District has certified green energy efficient buildings and homes to help residents reduce energy and water use. The building process includes using sustainable materials and practices, including mindful construction planning around energy efficiency, stormwater management, recycled content in infrastructure, water efficiency, minimize light pollution, and include bicycle parking.
With a mindful design, residents have full conveniences within the neighbourhood.