Sustainability on a community scale is an opportunity to take advantage of the efficiencies from shared infrastructure and deliberate design. These efficiencies can mean communities achieve noteworthy improvements in efficiency and even carbon neutral status. For residents, sustainable communities are opportunities to live with reduced footprints without major shifts in quality of life.
Carbon neutral and sustainable communities are popping up around Alberta. In Edmonton, the Blatchford development on the site of the old municipal airport showcases the possibilities of community-level sustainability and partnerships between developers and municipalities.
Toolkits for sustainable communities include approaches and strategies that are possible for large and small municipalities. Included are toolkits and example strategies from municipalities across Canada to become carbon neutral communities.
Alberta’s up-and-coming carbon neutral community
At the core, Blatchford is a transformation from a municipal airport to a liveable community. The site is located north of downtown Edmonton, nearby NAIT and the Kingsway Mall, and it will be home to 30,000 Edmontonians. Through a community-wide sustainability philosophy, Blatchford will be carbon neutral and powered by renewable energy.
The history of Blatchford has its roots in air travel. Edmonton’s City Centre Airport opened in 1927 on the ground that Blatchford is being created. The airport was officially closed in 2013 and the first steps for Blatchford were taken: prepare the water and energy infrastructure to support a new community.
Considering the central location and access to Edmonton’s LRT line, Blatchford is becoming a demonstration community for urban sustainability and vibrancy. It will be a carbon neutral community by constructing high efficiency buildings and services, delivering heating and cooling through a district energy provider and sourcing energy from renewable sources.
The neighbourhood is under development and selling properties for phase 1. When complete, it will be home to over 10,000 townhome and condo units, a large park, a LRT station and many shops and services.
What contributed to Blatchford’s development
The City Centre Area Redevelopment Plan outlined the vision for the old site of the City Centre Airport. Considering the central location and size of the site, the plan calls it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
From the early stages of the project, the vision for Blatchford was a sustainable community.
“The principles seek to realize an innovative urbanism in which sustainability is truly a way of life, where citizens can engage with the community, where their physical and social well-being is fostered and where they can enjoy an eminently livable and sustainable environment. The City Centre Redevelopment site will be a model for urban renewal.”
The vision for Blatchford is an extension of Edmonton’s Capital Region Growth Plan, the guiding land use document. The core principles of the growth plan are:
- Protect the environment and resources
- Minimize regional footprint
- Strengthen communities
- Increase transportation choice
- Ensure efficient provision of services
- Support regional economic development
Toolkits that are available
Edmonton’s concept for Blatchford was the result of its guiding land use plans and a vision for a sustainable, connected and livable community in the heart of the city. As a major redevelopment project, the process to develop the vision and concept required multiple master plans and a timeline of many years.
On smaller scales, the vision for sustainable communities can be implemented on a quicker timeline. Toolkits for sustainable communities provide the framework to begin and implement this process. Here are some toolkits from around Canada to create concepts for sustainable communities.
Getting to carbon neutral: A guide for Canadian municipalities
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (2009)
Download the guide
This guide outlines the sources of greenhouse gases in Canadian municipalities, strategies for reducing emissions and real-life examples to explore how the strategies are implemented by municipalities. The document emphasizes the quantification of greenhouse gases and targeting significant sources with technology and regulatory tools.
There are four main pillars to reducing emissions on a community scale:
- Transportation and land use
- Energy sources and supply
- Municipal services
Specific strategies within each pillar includes the estimated reductions in greenhouse gases and the formulas for calculating emissions and their subsequent reductions. Strategies are also summed up with “Rule of Thumb” guides to succinctly evaluate which strategy would be suitable for your municipality.
This comprehensive guide is over a decade old, but the real-life examples and data can still be a valuable tool in starting or progressing strategies to reduce emissions on a community scale.
Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada
QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) Canada (2016)
See the guide
The goal of this tool is to move municipalities to action by providing a framework that fits within municipal decision-making processes. With 10 strategies for elected officials and municipal staff, this guide outlines the process to improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue to promote economic development.
The ten strategies included in this resource are:
- Develop a rationale
- Engage elected officials
- Governance plan
- Staff and oversight plan
- Engage staff
- Value proposition
- Engage stakeholders
- Monitor and report
- Create plans and policies
As an action-oriented guide, the Community Energy Planning process intends to help municipalities implement strategies that can reduce emissions throughout the community.
Greenhouse gas action toolkit for Alberta communities
Municipal Climate Change Action Centre Alberta (2011)
See the guide
Every community takes a different journey to reducing greenhouse gases, but this Alberta guide showcases the options available to achieve results. The guide from the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre has a variety of options and ideas for communities, but the focus of the strategies is centred around these five milestones:
- Inventory and forecast of greenhouse gas emissions
- Set targets for reductions
- Create an action plan
- Implement the plan
- Monitor and report on the progress
The toolkit breaks down the milestones and evaluates options considering their degree of influence, complexity and cost-benefit analyses. Case studies and examples of actions are included from Alberta municipalities.
Example plans for sustainable communities
The City of Guelph is a leading municipality in Canada for its approach to emission reductions and sustainability. Through Guelph’s Community Energy Initiative, the municipality plans on becoming a net zero carbon community by 2050.
One initiative to meet this goal is the development of a new carbon neutral community in a revitalized parcel of land that will be home to over 6,000 people. Here is the case study of Guelph’s initiative from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
City of Prince George, British Columbia
Created in 2010, Prince George’s carbon neutral plan – Our Path to Carbon Neutrality – sets the target of greenhouse gas reductions to achieve carbon neutrality for the corporate operations. The document includes the policy foundations and actions to meet reductions through energy management, transportation changes, improved procurement policies, a downtown district energy system and offsets.