Ottawa's Maturing Neighbourhoods
CRITERIA FOR HEALTHY GROWTH AND CHANGE
Our neighbourhoods must become more environmentally sustainable. We are all aware of the impact of that improved home construction can have to reduce energy consumption. But in reality, the energy savings of living a walkable urban lifestyle exceeds the savings of building "green sprawl". Building footprints are closely related to the resultant environmental footprint.
In simple terms, we can understand development patterns as choices in 'earths' -- How many planet earths would we need if everyone lived the way I do? Here are some examples from our Ottawa experience:
The statistics above are surprising in a whole variety of ways. Notice that in 1950 there were many more people in one house. This included extended family, boarders, and often times, servants. Small households were much less common than they are today. See Stat's Canada chart below.
Our expectations for housing have ballooned, but our younger generations are now demonstrating a preference for smaller living, reflecting limitations from income and high housing prices. Options for affordable ground oriented housing is limited, and many young families have no option but to settle in suburbia, where house prices are lower... but the cost to our environment is much higher.
More and more low density housing produces more roads, more paving, reducing farmland, shrinking wetlands, creating car dependent lifestyles requiring longer commute times, and rising usage of fossil fuel.
We must intensify our Cities. How? Some suggest the solution lies in Vancouver-ism... build UP, building 'nodes' of high density. But newly constructed tall buildings are, for many of us, prohibitively expensive. Although living in towers suits some, many feel that 'high living' isolates from the natural environment that we are working to protect. We need to stay connected to our environment, immersed within our experience of the ecosystems in which we share.
Comparing the options for neighbourhood renewal (each year about 1 in every 100 homes in Westboro is replaced with some form of infill), the following options can all be built without negative impact on neighbourhood character, and within similar existing zoning envelopes.
Criteria for Growth:
Diverse (both in income and household demographics)
Affordable (individually & collectively)
“I don't want to protect the environment I want to create a world in which the environment doesn't need protecting.”
“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to”
"These neighbourhoods [with single family homes] accomplish several historic feats: They take up more space per person, and they are more expensive to build and operate than any urban form ever constructed. They require more roads for every resident, and more water pipes, more sewers – more power cables, utility wiring, sidewalks, signposts, and landscaping. They cost more for municipalities to maintain. They cost more to protect with emergency services. They pollute more and pour more carbon into the atmosphere. In short, the dispersed city is the most expensive, resource-intense, land gobbling, polluting way of living ever built."
Charles Montgomery, Happy City.
"...the location of the home is far more important than are the green features of the house itself. This is because urban location and local context (such as the presence of nearby shops and services, schools and employment opportunities, and the presence of walkable, connected streets) determine how much travel occurs and by what mode.”
Pamela Blais, Perverse Cities
"First, that urbanism – compact and walkable development – will arise naturally if the built-in bias of our current infrastructure investments, financial structures, zoning norms, and public policies is reformed. Second, that such urbanism, when mixed with simple conservation technologies, can have a major impact in reducing carbon emissions and energy demand. Third, that urbanism is the most cost-effective solution to climate change, more so than most renewable technologies. And finally, that urbanism's many collateral benefits – economic, social, and environmental – enhance its desirability and economics. In short, urbanism is the foundation for a low carbon future and is our least-cost option."
Peter Calthrope, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.
“Density means genuinely walkable neighbourhoods that can be effectively served by mass transit and rely less on the car. More to the point, denser living, in smaller homes and with shorter commutes, produces a low-carbon city.”
House Divided; How the Missing Middle Will Solve Toronto's Affordability Crisis
Assume for argument that weatherization and greening this home [average single-family home in the U.S.] can reduce building energy consumption by 30% and that the family buys new cars with 50% better mileage. The result is a 32% overall energy reduction -- not bad for "green sprawl". In contrast, a typical townhome located in a walkable neighbourhood (not necessarily downtown but near transit) without any solar panels for hybrid cars consumes 38% less energy than such a suburban single-family home. Traditional Urbanism, even without greet technology, is better than green sprawl.
Peter Calthrope, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.
Calculations are based on the information gathered from the websites listed below. The numbers in our work are based on national averages.
CALCULATE YOUR OWN FOOTPRINT:
There are a number of physical reasons that make the Multi Unit Home so much more sustainable; shared walls/floors/roofs reduce energy use, shared land and smaller dwelling units allow population growth without any sprawl, and high density allows existing neighbourhoods to become walkable thus reducing the use of fossil fuel.
Now consider what happens to the remaining homes within this neighbourhood (99 households of every 100 each year), who benefit from the walkable lifestyles that are possible as a result of the cumulative effect of Multi Unit Home infill projects.