The creation of an Ecocity fractal is an ambitious task in any area. To attempt one in a built environment defined by industrial architecture that lacks green space is especially daunting – but also necessary as we attempt to transform our cities, often in less than ideal situations. An effective way to start is with small-scale “Street Repair” projects that create opportunities for immediate interventions to engage the community and psychologically prepare them for the change to a more sustainable system.
At the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), faculty, staff, and students are working towards sustainability within the Factor Four area at the north end of the Institute’s campus located in Burnaby, British Columbia. The project is attempting to create an Ecocity fractal and reduce energy and materials throughput by 75% to 90% without compromising service levels. To learn more about the origin of this project, please refer to the “Eco-Streets” article in the Ecocities Emerging November 2012 newsletter.
After a workshop led by Ecocity Builders’ Kirstin Miller and Richard Register at BCIT’s Burnaby Campus in 2010, a group of faculty and staff formed an Eco-Streets working group to tackle quick win projects aimed at creating a more pedestrian friendly streetscape, celebrating the School of Construction and Environment educational programs and their work towards creating sustainability, and drawing attention to the culverted creek that runs underground in the north end of Campus.
Students were engaged throughout these projects. Interior Design students presented ideas on low-cost changes to the look and feel of Smith Street (see photo) and proposed ways to create an identity for an alley way between two buildings where a creek, Guichon Creek was buried. These became the basis for many of the projects in the Factor Four Area. Smith Street, which is the main street in the area, only had a sidewalk on the north side of the road and students exiting from the northern buildings stepped directly onto the street dedicated to vehicles, with no clearly marked shoulder. Multiple waste bins also obstructed walking and views of traffic. Student suggested moving the bins and using paint and planters to create a pedestrian walkway. These changes were completed with the assistance of BCIT’s Facilities and Campus Development department and the street is now much more pedestrian friendly.
Informational signs have also been added to the exterior of building to highlight the energy savings and sustainable practices in each department and allow for a self-guided tour. Lamp post banners which celebrate the educational programs, also a concept of the interior design students, were added as part of BCIT’s 50th Anniversary. The banners were designed as part of a campus-wide student contest.
The most collaborative project has been the creation of an outdoor student seating area. The space functions as both an enhanced amenity and a reminder of the goal to daylight Guichon Creek. Guichon Creek flows above ground on the South side of campus, and then through a culvert on the North side. The goal is to one day restore the creek and create a fish bearing habitat. With funding from the School of Construction and the Environment and the Student Association, an alley on the north side of campus is now a student space that marks the path of the underground creek. Benches, planters, and a photo display highlighting the past and future have transformed what is now known as Guichon Alley, a new name to further draw attention to the creek. This project involved students from six different educational programs spanning building design and construction trades and technologies. It has has also sparked conversations and research projects on the next steps in daylighting the creek taken up by students in civil engineering and ecological restoration educational programs.
It is important to remember that these projects are not the end goal. We are not simply beautifying the campus, rather we are creating a sense of place, and visual reminders of the projects and goals of the Factor Four area and the long-term vision to create an Ecocity Fractal. While these projects have been underway, a much larger scope of work has been implemented to drastically reduce energy consumption and waste in the buildings where we teach our educational programs. A new ventilation system in the welding building improves energy efficiency, saving 6,500 GJ/yr of natural gas and 800,000 kWh/year of electricity, for a total 80% energy savings for that building. Other projects with significant energy savings are also underway. These projects are the real work of building an Ecocity, but visual reminders of our goals from the Eco-Streets projects are encouraging.
The sense of ownership, collaboration and excitement that these projects have sparked makes the task of creating an Ecocity fractal slightly less daunting.
For more information on this project, or other aspects of the Factor Four initiative, check out www.commons.bcit.ca/factorfour.
British Columbia Institute of Technology School of Construction and the Environment is Lead Sponsor of the International Ecocity Framework and Standards Initiative