22 May 2013 — Author Michael von Hausen shares his theories and knowledge regarding sustainable land development based on his over 30 years practicing and teaching in the field in his latest book, Dynamic Urban Design: A Handbook for Creating Sustainable Communities Worldwide.

Mr von Hausen combines personal experience with urban design principles to highlight the importance of creating communities worldwide that integrate sustainability principles with effective urban design.

Using 12 case studies from Calgary, Alberta, to Vladivostok, Russia, he creates a toolkit of charts and diagrams for the development of more efficient and sustainable communities.

“This book is about designing cities in their ecological, social/cultural, and economic place in order to achieve evolving, yet resilient cities,” he said.

“My practice and teaching tells me the possibilities are at our fingertips, but we have to change our process to get different results. That is what this book it all about – doing it right.”

Following are two case studies, of Garrison Woods in Calgary, Alberta, and Garrison Crossing in Chilliwack, British Columbia, from Chapter 11.

New urbanism and LEED_ND

Now it is time to measure sustainable urban design results on the ground. We hear about so many award-winning projects that fall short of expectations. Well, here are two projects that exceeded expectations. The following two case studies of Garrison Woods in Calgary, Alberta, and Garrison Crossing in Chilliwack, British Columbia, provide a basis to compare and contrast two community designs with interesting common histories but different locations, characters, and market forces. These sites are both former Canadian military bases and are being developed by the same company, the Canada Lands Company. My company was fortunate to be part of a consulting team for Garrison Crossing in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

What is LEED for neighbourhood development?

LEED-ND, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for neighbourhood development establishes one set of standards for sustainable neighbourhood design. It originated in the United States as part of the US Green Building Council and is a collaboration among the USGBC, the Council for the New Urbanism, and the National Defense Fund.

Comparing two New Urbanism projects

The objectives for reviewing the two projects of Garrison Woods and Garrison Crossing are as follows:

  • to examine the complexity of process and components in new community design, including LEED-ND and New Urbanism innovations in sustainable urban design
  • to discuss the interdisciplinary nature of urban design and the many different actors involved in forming the master plan
  • to illustrate the results of building the communities
  • to study the “anatomy” of sustainable urban design solutions in two different situations

These two case studies are examples of new community design in Canada. They exemplify the popular movement back to traditional neighbourhood design and are two of the first neighbourhood designs (the Currie Barracks portion of Garrison Woods) in North America recognised with the LEED-ND certification.

These two new communities represent the next generation of urban design in that they:

  • recognise their heritage as a point of strength and unique identity in their design signature;
  • provide a more pedestrian and transit orientation;
  • develop an active and connected local park system, building on the existing assets on-site;
  • create convenient services within walking distance, including shopping, schools, and recreation;
  • encourage a mix of higher densities and a broader choice of housing;
  • require multi- and single-family housing in the same block;
  • define narrower and safer local residential streets.

These developments also illustrate a regional move toward smarter, more sustainable growth that intensifies current land uses in urban and suburban areas with infill and redevelopment, where services are already available.

About the Canada Lands Company

Canada Lands is a self-financed federal, non-agent Crown Corporation that optimizes financial and community value through the development and sale of surplus federal properties. The corporation’s mandate is to revitalise properties and then manage and/or sell them in order to produce the best possible benefit for both local communities and Canadian taxpayers. As a non-agent Crown Corporation, Canada Lands operates like any other private company, paying taxes to all levels of government.

Case study: Urban renaissance, Garrison Woods, Calgary, Alberta

The closure of the Calgary “Currie Barracks” Canadian Forces Base in 1995 represented a significant loss to the community but also provided a significant opportunity. The 175-acre (70.8-ha) first stage of the former CFB has since been transformed into a renewed and integrated inner-city neighbourhood. After a transparent 16-month public process, the first stage of this redevelopment process began in 1998 and is now complete.

The base provided housing for married army personnel for more than seventy years. The development was arranged in a park-oriented design at three units per acre. The site was redeveloped into a compact, pedestrian-scaled neighbourhood of ten units per acre (24.7 units/ha) that will eventually be home to 3500 residents.

At the northern end of the site, 67,000 square feet (6225 m2) of retail/commercial space extends an existing Marda Loop retail district into the site. A 45,000-square-foot (4,181 m2) Safeway food store anchors the development, which also features a mixed-use complex of 160 apartments and 16,000 square feet (1486 m2) of ground-floor retail. The southern edge of the community is not served by retail, but the distance from north to south is one-third of a mile (1800 feet, or 550 m). The mix of uses is rounded out by two private schools (reusing existing buildings), a hockey arena, a senior complex, and a military museum. Every resident is located within a four-minute walk of a bus stop.

The Garrison Woods neighbourhood incorporates many elements of New Urbanism and additional unique features:

  • Efficient land use. Garrison Woods supports more efficient land use, infrastructure, and services by increasing density in an inner-city location.
  • Protection and enhancement of unique assets. The development retains unique elements of the site, including the existing homes (all have been retained or relocated on-site or off -site), portions of the historic street pattern (95 per cent replaced because of age), hundreds of very valuable trees (40 to 80 years old, some very close to homes), and several community facilities (schools, arena, and museum).
  • Mixed uses. Garrison Woods incorporates a mix of land uses and a variety of housing types along with affordability levels. The popularity of the development has driven up prices. In 2002 prices ranged from $73,000 for condominium apartments to $435,000 for new single-family homes. The completed community has 1700 housing units, consisting of 409 refurbished single and semidetached homes, 288 new single-family and semidetached homes, 314 street-oriented town houses, 646 apartment units, 67,000 square feet (6225 m2) of retail space, and two schools totalling 68,000 square feet (1925 m2). Approximately 80 per cent of the existing homes were relocated and upgraded. The refurbished homes were interspersed with new single-family homes and town houses and helped broaden the range of home prices.
  • Transit. The community is supported by a bus transportation system and a pedestrian-oriented environment that incorporates a linked network of streets and parks. (Transit ridership and private car use appear to be similar to conventional patterns of ridership and car use based on a recent survey.)
  • Parks expansion. The development has 11.7 acres (4.7 ha) of existing parks, in addition to the existing hockey arena and military museum (16 acres, or 6.5 ha). A variety of parks ensures that every resident is within 650 feet (about 200 m) of a park.
  • Military legacy. Garrison Woods commemorates the military legacy of the site through park and landscape design features that include monuments and plaques.
  • Public realm emphasis. The development recognises the importance of public realm and pays attention to it in the detailed site planning.
  • Customised development standards. The community has customised engineering standards for streets and lanes to conserve unique site features such as trees. For example, streets are 29.5 feet (nine m) wide, with a design speed of 20 mph (30 km/hr), which compares to a wider standard of 36 feet (11m) wide, with a higher design speed of 30 mph (50km/hr). All intersections have bulges for safety. Rear lanes are reduced to 19.5 feet (6 m) from the customary 29.5 feet (9 m).
  • Design guidance and quality. Garrison Woods has become a special urban place through specific design guidelines and themes (colonial, craftsman, Tudor, and Victorian house architectural codes.).

Case study: Suburban renaissance, Garrison Crossing, Chilliwack, British Columbia

Garrison Crossing builds on the 60 years of history at the former base in Chilliwack, located about 60 miles (100 km) east of the city of Vancouver.

The foundation blocks of an outstanding neighbourhood and a complete community were already in place – walkable streets, a variety of housing, active and passive parks, indoor recreation facilities, a grand boulevard, mature trees, conveniently located schools, and adjacent shopping.

A neighbourhood and a team with a vision

Here is the vision that guided development of the former military base:

  • Garrison Crossing is a unique, diverse, and thriving neighbourhood that complements its surroundings, contributes to the healthy growth of Chilliwack, and builds on its rich military past.
  • Garrison Crossing is a model of responsible development that seeks to respect the natural environment, connect to its neighbours, provide for housing choice, and reuse the existing built and natural assets where possible.

The project had the following goals, which included sustainable and New Urbanism goals:

  • Adaptive reuse. Use the significant natural and built resources of the site in redevelopment, including buildings, roadways, and trees where possible, to create an exceptional and unique neighbourhood.
  • Environmental sensitivity. Respect, conserve, and enhance the significant and valued natural assets of the site.
  • Legacy. Incorporate the rich military history of the site as an important central theme in redevelopment.
  • Diversity. Provide for a range of types and styles of homes, local services, and associated amenities that include all age groups and complement adjoining land uses.
  • Connection. Ensure that future redevelopment continues to provide activities and facilities for the surrounding neighbourhoods and the greater Chilliwack community.
  • Innovation. Explore new and proven urban forms that create a more pedestrian, compact, green, and complete neighbourhood that is more efficient, healthy, safe, and liveable.
  • Value. Build an outstanding neighbourhood that adds value to the greater community.

Predevelopment site conditions

The original site conditions created the important ingredients for the redevelopment of the property. The vision and goals (outlined earlier) provided a strong directive to use the natural and built resources on-site. The site receives good sunlight year-round and is relatively flat, with good access and proximity to services on-site or close by. Wooded areas and a host of mature trees provide natural amenity. Existing housing, recreational, commercial, and light industrial uses provided reuse potential. Aging buildings and infrastructure set the stage for redevelopment intensification and renewal.

Planning principles

The following social, ecological, and economic principles continue to guide development and design. The goal of these planning principles is to promote sustainable development that embraces the long-term interests of Garrison Crossing’s residents, workers, and visitors.

Social principles

  1.  Create a diverse and complete community. Provide a range of activities and land uses that enable residents to live, work, and play within a convenient walking, cycling, or transit-riding distance.
  2.  Celebrate the military legacy. Incorporate the rich military history as a major theme element throughout the neighbourhood.
  3.  Reinforce the neighbourhood heart. Enhance the Cheam Centre precinct as a recreational, cultural, ceremonial, and educational heart of the neighbourhood.
  4.  Expand the walkable neighbourhood. Provide a safe and extensive network of pathways that encourage walking and biking in the neighbourhood with public transit support.
  5.  Protect the distinctive character. Conserve and enhance the existing unique neighbourhood elements, including the significant trees, road patterns, and open space network.
  6.  Create housing choice. Provide a variety of housing forms and sizes, while also providing different ownership and rental opportunities, that together encourage a range of age groups and incomes.
  7.  Design for safety and security. Ensure that Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles are included in the planning framework, including lighting, traffic calming, signage, and housing orientation.

Ecological principles

  1. Promote responsible development. Retain, relocate, and replace significant trees and other natural heritage elements where possible.
  2. Protect the aquifer. Provide the necessary development standards to ensure the protection of the Vedder Aquifer.
  3. Improve storm water drainage. Reinforce the natural storm water drainage system, where necessary and reasonable, to ensure aquifer protection.
  4. Encourage environmental stewardship. Promote continued environmental responsibility and lifestyles, including tree stewardship and transit use.

Economic principles

  1. Integrate new uses. Incorporate existing residential and commercial uses into the new neighbourhood plan where possible.
  2. Use land efficiently. Make efficient use of the land and infrastructure by increasing housing units and other uses, while ensuring that the redevelopment is sensitive to adjoining developments.
  3. Integrate public infrastructure. Optimize the use of existing public infrastructure, including roadways, storm drainage, sanitary sewer, water, and other services.
  4. Create value by design. Encourage innovative high-quality urban design that fits the existing and future built form, enhances the streetscapes, and refines the open space network.
  5. Provide for adaptability. Ensure that Garrison Crossing, as it grows and changes, can renew and adapt itself effectively to new social and economic conditions, programs, policies, and technologies.

Major form-makers and big ideas

Specific elements of the former neighbourhood character emerged, both from the site inventory and the public open houses, which formed the major form-makers for future development.

These elements shaped the development opportunities on the site:

  • The boulevard. The central boulevard is one of the most memorable elements of the former CFB Chilliwack site. Its broad, sweeping curves, enhanced by mature trees, form the pedestrian and vehicular backbone of the site. The tree-lined central median divides car lanes, adding to the attractive driving and pedestrian experience.
  • The Cheam Centre. The heart of this neighbourhood is the Cheam Centre. Bustling with recreation activity throughout the day, the Cheam Centre serves as a valuable resource for both the immediate area and the city of Chilliwack.
  • Existing housing. The existing housing units on the site were in relatively good condition structurally but needed upgrades and improvements. These 388 units provided an opportunity to build on the architectural character of the site.
  • Central woods. Another memory for most residents and visitors was the central woodlot located adjacent to the Cheam Centre. A stand of mature coniferous trees dominated the site, with a variety of trails weaving their way among the tree trunks and the high tree canopy overhead.
  • Significant trees. The site had a wide variety of mature trees, both healthy and in decline. This “green” aspect of the site created an attractive base on which to build, where trees were retained where possible and replaced in suitable locations so that they could grow and thrive.
  • Existing roads. The existing local roads had no curbs and gutters. Their relatively narrow road widths contributed to a safer and more pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood. Limited through roads also discouraged any cut-through traffic. The neighbourhood plan tried to retain and enhance these safer neighbourhood-oriented streets.
  • Access points. There were two major vehicular access points to the site. The boulevard at Watson Road on the north and the boulevard at Keith Wilson Road on the south form the major gateways. These points provided an opportunity for improved traffic and pedestrian movement.
  • Access to Parcel B. The south section of the former CFB Chilliwack, Parcel B, was not connected with Parcel A at Keith Wilson Road. Access points for future development should be coordinated because of the strong physical connection between the two parcels.
  • Adjacent land uses. Connectivity to adjacent uses will be important in the neighbourhood plan. Pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Vedder Road commercial area, Vedder River Rotary Trail, Watson Elementary School, and Mount Slesse Middle School will help connect the site to the surrounding community. At the same time, any development should be sensitive to adjoining uses and the existing character in the area.
  • Flexibility. The Chilliwack market for residential, commercial, and light industrial uses will change over time. This residential focused neighbourhood plan for Garrison Crossing should be flexible to respond to these changes in an appropriate manner that fits with the integrity of the planning principles and the character envisioned for the area.

Land use concept

The original Garrison Crossing land use concept reflects the earlier vision, goals, and planning principles. At its core is the commitment to conserve the existing neighbourhood character. The Cheam Centre precinct, central woodlot, central boulevard, and road patterns are retained in a residential-focused neighbourhood.

Neighbourhood design vision

From standard single-family residential units to duplexes, town houses, and four-story apartments, the proposed redevelopment plan provides a wide variety of site planning.

Highlights of the urban design plan include the following:

  • Residential mix. The variety of housing units and densities are illustrated in the accompanying plan. The revitalization plan builds around the existing homes where possible and introduces a variety of new units that either infill between existing housing units or replace them when it is not practical to retain or relocate the houses. The lot sizes vary, as does their orientation to the street or the lane. The diverse types of homes include single-family and duplex renovated units, new single-family and duplex units, renovated row houses (town homes), new town homes, and walk-up multifamily units in the three- to four-story range. Former row houses have been renovated and sold. Some single-family units have coach houses in the rear yard over the garage. Zoning, design guidelines, and covenants strictly regulate residential site planning and uses to ensure compliance with standards over the long term.
  • Parks and greenways. The Cheam Centre is the centre of neighbourhood recreation and cultural activities. The centre has undergone major renovations. Surrounding “flex-field” open space and convenient parking will complement the recreation centre. The flex-field will provide recreation for a variety of sports and age groups. Walking paths encourage residents or visitors to walk or bike to the Cheam Centre. These walking paths are part of a commemorative walk theme that celebrates the military legacy at CFB Chilliwack. Pedestrian lighting, street furniture, and other features create a comfortable and safe walking environment. These paths connect other parts of the recreation network, including the proposed central greenway along the main street that provides a bikeway and walkway north to south through the site; the central tree park, which is enhanced and protected; the pathway connection to Watson Elementary School across Watson Road; and neighbourhood parks, like Cheamview Park, that emphasise passive visual space, local activities, and recreation for small children.
  • Roadways, access, and transit. Primary access is retained from Keith Wilson Road and Watson Road with access at Watson Road and the boulevard as well as a new street access along Keith Wilson Road aligned with the access to Parcel B. The roadways emphasise a neighbourhood orientation that reflects the existing character and standards in the community. The central boulevard acts as a collector road, while the existing road network and improvements function as local streets. Trees are carefully retained where possible in any road reconstruction to retain the richness of the existing landscape.
  • Garrison Village and future uses. Garrison Village, a neighbourhood commercial component, has been built in the southeast corner of the site to service Garrison Crossing and complement the Vedder Road commercial corridor adjacent to the site. The future multifamily belt along the balance of Keith Wilson Road responds to a further demand for residential uses on the parcels. The balance of the west side of the site is single-family and multifamily residential, following the existing patterns.