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Cities in search of sustainability: Vancouver

A city on the west coast of Canada that has inspired the term “Vancouverism” as synonymous with the fight against urban decay and uncontrolled urban growth.

Vancouver is one of the most advanced cities in the world, according to the UN. It is located on the Pacific, with a significant and integrated Asian minority, and very close to the US city of Seattle (one of the most progressive metropolises in the US), with which it also shares an austere and industrious character- a character favored by a cold and rainy climate.

Its human development index, more related to the quality of life and happiness of its population than the artificial and archaic GDP per person, is one of the most developed in the world, something that it shares with Canada itself, always at the head of the most developed countries in the world.

Vancouver also boasts a privileged natural environment, where it is still possible to encounter large grizzly bears, and where the respect for nature of the city’s residents is evident: simply, nature, still valued by this metropolis, arrives at the doors of the city.

This Canadian Pacific city, that will host the Olympic Winter Games in 2010, is also the headquarters of Greenpeace, of the World Urban Forum and of personalities like environmentalist David Suzuki.

Vancouver hopes to take advantage of the celebration of the future Olympic Games to advance even further its sustainability, beyond the already remarkable ecological consciousness of many of its residents.

Planning has begun for a sustainable community of 32 hectares in an inlet, called False Creek, that will function as the Olympic village and later will become another city neighborhood:

  • All the buildings of False Creek will be designed to promote maximum water and energy savings.
  • Whenever possible local, recycled and recyclable materials will be used.
  • Vancouver is situated in North America, where the dependence on the car is still greater than that of Europe and public transportation suffers in quality and quantity when compared with the European equivalent. The city will try to change this underlying reality by limiting private parking spaces in the new neighborhood. Parking will be sold separately and not combined with home sales, in an attempt to discourage car use. Vancouver is betting on public transportation and the bicycle.
  • False Creek will combine private buildings and parking lots with public buildings, imitating the European urban centers and avoiding the American model of “downtown” as a place for business, where companies, public agencies and offices are located and suburbs as a solely residential zone. With this multi-use zoning they hope to promote foot traffic within the city.

Similarly, for years now Vancouver has promoted foot traffic, bicycle use and, whenever possible, public transportation for inner-city travel.

This Canadian city has also initiated modifications of all public buildings to improve energy efficiency. Currently, the town council uses hybrid cars and bio-diesel, besides reusing the methane generated in the city dumps to heat greenhouses and generate electricity.

  • More information on Vancouver, in Wikipedia.