Univer­sity Dis­trict cre­ates a sus­tain­able com­mu­nity

StarMetro Calgary - - SPECIAL FEATURE: NEW HOMES - Mario Toneguzzi

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.

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