By Ben Bull
Published November 10, 2010
Is this the suburb of the future? As worsening gridlock, rising gas prices and ever-dwindling supplies of empty land cause us to re-examine the affordability of our suburbs, the Burnaby BC community of UniverCity is already building a solution.
"In his role as president and CEO of Simon Fraser University Trust, (Gordon) Harris is overseeing the creation of Canada's greenest community." Reports the Star.
"Called UniverCity, it is the very model of modern mixed-use, transit-oriented development; some of its buildings are so energy efficient, they generate more power than they use"
Among the many interesting aspects of this planned suburb are:
The Density Stats: 15,000 people per square kilometer (about the same as Vancouver)
Incentives: Developers are permitted extra density when they exceed the minimum energy-use requirements (already 30 per cent more than those mandated by law).
Green Billing: UniverCity residents pay for the green features as a separate item equal to the amount paid for utilities. According to the Star, "Once the start-up costs are discharged, energy costs will decrease 80 per cent."
The Payback: "UniverCity has so far returned $26 million to Simon Fraser University coffers, which will increase to $170 million over the next 12 to 15 years as the construction continues."
"What about the suburbs that already exist?" asks The Star's Chris Hume.
"They can be successfully urbanized," says Harris. "But not without significant investment in transit. People who commute don't see transit as an alternative. You don't need to move out of the city when you have kids and move back when they leave home. The suburbs are no place to grow old. In fact, you become a prisoner in them. But people are afraid. They sense they're going to run out of money before they run out of time. We need to optimize, not maximize."
As for the dreaded 'density' which seems to terrorize so many die-hard suburbanites, Harris has a suggestion:
People are afraid of the word density...Planners must think of better ways of describing what are really aspects of density - livability, affordability and sustainability. In the suburbs, rising energy costs mean diminishing prospects for personal affluence.