Southeast False Creek, Vancouver, Canada
by Mollie Freilicher


Planning Strategy

Various Plans for Southeast False Creek from left to right: Transportation Study; Water and Waste Management Plan; Urban Agriculture Study; Merge Consultancy Report

The city of Vancouver commissioned separate plans to address transportation, energy, water management, waste management, and urban agriculture. These separate strategies were then analyzed and merged to determine what was feasible for the site.

Transportation Strategy

Planners developed a hierarchy of users for streets and transport. Starting from highest priority to lowest priority, streets were designed first for pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, service vehicles, and lastly, cars. Streets, themselves, have a hierarchy as well, based on uses, with minimum emphasis on arterial, through streets. Streets were, thus, designed first with the pedestrian and non-motorized traveler in mind.

Street Plan
Image Source: Public Realm Plan, 2006



Example of a Neighborhood
Energy Utility building
Image Source: False Creek Neighborhood Energy Utility-Update, July 2006

The Olympic Village will have a unique source of heat for hot water. The site will be serviced by a Neighborhood Energy Utility which will function as a centralized source of hot water for heating and domestic potable uses.

Instead of individual buildings having their own boiler systems for heating water, the water will come from a facility that will use sewage heat as a base heat source, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. This type of utility opens up space in buildings that was formerly dedicated for heating water. Unlike conventional in-building boilers, this utility is designed to be flexible as the neighborhood changes over time.

The utility will have a conventional natural gas boiler for handling demand above what the facility can produce from the sewage heat source. Construction of the Neighborhood Energy Utility is scheduled to be completed in time for the Olympics, and once it is complete, it will be the first such neighborhood energy utility in North America, and will join three others worldwide.


Three-Neighborhood Strategy

Neighborhood Plan. From left to right, Worksyard, Shipyard, and Railyard
Image Source : Official Development Plan, March 2006.


Pocket Park with bridge crane integrated
Image Source: Public Realm Plan, 2006

Southeast False Creek will be divided into three neighborhoods: the Worksyard, the Shipyard, and the Railyard. The neighborhoods are named for their dominant historical uses. The modern rendering of these areas will incorporate their historic character into their planning. For example, in the Shipyard neighborhood, a bridge crane will be incorporated into the planning for a pocket park. This will make the park more than just a "green area," and will give it a local character and give visitors and residents a sense of place.




LEEDT and Net Zero Requirements

Vancouver will be among the first (if not the first) large North American city to mandate construction to a LEEDT Silver standard. LEEDT stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a building rating program of the U.S. Green Building Council that measures sustainability of buildings. Planners are also incorporating another program into the development: Net Zero Energy Healthy Housing (NZEHH), an initiative of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The ultimate goal of this program is for buildings to attain net zero energy use, with the possibility of a building generating more energy than it requires. When that occurs, a building will be able to sell that excess energy to a utility. Net Zero design incorporates design principles that minimize energy use and that take advantage of solar energy. Some principles of Net Zero include designing for climate, utilizing passive solar heating and cooling as well as natural daylight, using renewable energy systems, installing energy efficient appliances, incorporating water conservation and re-use, and land/habitat conservation. Southeast False Creek would be the first site for implementing Net Zero principles in a multi-unit dwelling, where it would be applied to senior housing.

Urban Agriculture

This is incorporated into many areas of the Southeast False Creek site. Urban agriculture comes in the form of farmers' markets, community gardens (including a demonstration garden adjacent to the elementary school), growing food on rooftops, balconies, yards, rights of way, and other areas of the public domain. This brings the possibility of food production closer to the public and addresses the three components of sustainability outlined in the guiding principles: ecological, economic, and social.

Public Participation

Advertisement for April open houses.
Image Source: e-mail notification
sent by City of Vancouver

Public participation has been an extensive part of the planning process for Southeast False Creek, from contributing to the formation of the 1999 Policy Statement to commenting on changes as the planning and construction progresses. Currently, there are periodic public events during which the city unveils new plans. These events include open houses, displays of site models, consultations (where specific public comments are taken), information sessions, and appearances at conferences and fairs, such as the EcoDensity Fair that took place in March 2007. The city notifies the public of these events through the city's web page, newspaper ads, e-mail notifications, and signs in and around Southeast False Creek and elsewhere in Vancouver. The internet has enabled the city to get instant feedback on its plans through public surveys that are available on the city website.



Public Realm Plan

2006: Stantec Architecture, Ltd.'s Public Realm Plan won a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Urban Design Award 2006 in the Conceptual / Theoretical Urban Design Project category


2006: Federation of Canadian Municipalities, HILL Sustainable Community Award for the transportation plan. The transportation plan prioritized pedestrians and bikers over motorized forms of transport. Planners are projecting that the walkability and ease of getting around without a car will enable residents to make about 60% of their daily trips without a car.


Southeast False Creek Policy Statement, 1999

2000: Canadian Institute of Planners, National Honor Award for the Southeast False Creek Environmentally Sustainable Community Policy Statement


Next: Selected Green Infrastructure

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Green Urbanism and Ecological Infrastructure || Instructor, Jack Ahern

Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Copyright © 2007