Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood Networks (SUNN)

This project involves joint development of a creative community engagement process that borrows from the tradition of the architectural ‘design charette’ while also retaining features of ‘community mapping’ common in environmental education practice.

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Zandvliet

How This Project is Carried Out

The aim of the urban design charrette is to explore ways to meet population targets identified in Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy by applying the principles of human-scaled urbanism at the scale of the neighbourhood centre, or “quartier”.

Coordinating community design with implementation of public transit and the provision of social housing, educators and urban design experts worked with 42 SFU students from the Summer Institute in Environmental Education to demonstrate socially, economically and environmentally sustainable urbanism implemented in our Historic Area.

The charrette is part of the BC UN-RCE’s Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood Network (SUNN) project, an initiative to research and develop a more open, inclusive, and cost-effective neighbourhood planning protocol. Focused on long-term sustainability through growth, the charrette will demonstrate and test a streamlined sustainable Community Planning process in Vancouver’s Historic Area.

Why This Project Matters

The project is important because a charrette space acts to set up a learning experience for Educating about Sustainable Development (ESD) or 'good urbanism'. The Vancouver Historical Quartiers Charrette is a process that can be repeated with different groups in the community as part of the planning process, or taught in the classroom (post-secondary or K-12) in a scaled-down format. The process of applying the elements of good urbanism to a site by designing for livability, social mixing, and sustainability is best understood through the hands-on experience provided by the environmental learning space of the charrette. Fostering a collaborative exchange the charrette gives participants an understanding of how sustainable development emerges from local values of community, and values of place. Participants have the opportunity to experience the people, and the place first hand before working, and testing for themselves, how the long-established principles of good urbanism fit the locality under study.

How This Project is Put into Action

SUNN Vancouver Historic Quartiers

If we were to rate urbanism according to its tenacity and resilience resisting obliteration against all odds, then the 25-foot Cottage Lots of the Historic Neighbourhoods would win First Prize. To say these places clung to life would not be accurate because their urban quality is superb. In the face of threats to their neighbourhood’s very existence from pressures mounting all around, Strathcona residents kept the beat of life alive in a manner quite unlike any other part of our city. Further, consider that there is plenty of room left in the tank. The charrette analysis shows that over time the population in these streets can double through simple home renovations—this time with the municipality and the local lending institutions on side.
The results would be very desirable. A stable neighbourhood would be given a new license to add living space, create mortgage helper suites, and build affordable rental housing all within easy walking distance of Japantown, Chinatown, Gastown, and a new LRT on Hastings Street.

Planning Vancouver