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    A More Sustainable Urban Environment

    by Katharine Logan

    If Patrick Condon had his way, every new development would allow rainwater to infiltrate the earth at a minimum rate of 1/25 inch (one millimeter) per hour. This standard is the linchpin in a complete strategy for attaining urban environments that are compact, efficient, and harmoniously integrated with natural water systems.

    In January, 1999, Surrey, one of British Columbia's fastest-growing municipalities, entered into a partnership with UBC, the Pacific Resources Centre, and a multi-constituent advisory committee involving various levels of government to create the Headwaters Project.

    This project will offer a real-life demonstration of sustainable development principles and performance standards in a community neighborhood. It will demonstrate how an integrated approach to development can decrease site infrastructure costs (less pavement, no storm sewer) while also decreasing dependence on the automobile, promoting neighborhood vitality, and preserving natural water systems.

    Benefits of the project are expected to include a 20 to 40 percent reduction in housing costs, a 40 percent reduction in vehicle miles per person per day, an average walking time of four minutes to the nearest store, and two minutes to the nearest public green space.

    The first stage of the Headwaters Project will be the community of East Clayton, a 618-acre (250-hectare) development that will eventually provide homes for over 13,000 people. Situated upland of the region's agricultural land reserve, the site also drains into three of the area's most important rivers.

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    To protect streams and fish, new neighborhoods must drain like natural landscapes, through infiltration and evaporation.
    Photo: University of British Columbia James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments

    ArchWeek Photo

    Compact, diverse neighborhoods mean people can live, work, and play in their community life-long if they choose to.
    Image: UBC James Taylor Chair

     

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