Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sensitive Urban Infill in Surrey BC - Project Goals, Objectives and Methodology - Long Version

Context and Purpose
As the largest city in the Metro Vancouver region by area, with a rapidly growing population, and equipped with a comprehensive Sustainability Charter, the City of Surrey is emerging as a leader in fostering sustainability across the Lower Mainland and beyond. As part of embracing this leadership role, the municipality has embarked on a process of establishing a comprehensive set of policies and objectives in support of achieving an economically, socio-culturally and environmentally healthy and prosperous future for its residents. The practical achievement of these policies and objectives now entails developing a range of implementation strategies. A challenging area of municipal interest and influence involve identifying how established neighbourhoods can incorporate change over time while maintaining their integrity through sensitive urban infill.

In this context, the UBC Design Centre for Sustainability (DCS) propose to help the City of Surrey move towards its 50-­year sustainability vision by identifying leading-edge strategies and solutions in this area. The project will provide a mechanism for achieving broad consensus for how to grow sustainably while simultaneously achieving the following objectives and benefits:
§         facilitating the introduction of rapid transit along key corridors through sensitive neighbourhood infill and densification;
§         reducing the municipal costs of infrastructure over time;
§         increasing community resilience to a scarce carbon future through reducing the per capita use of energy of all kinds, and by making Surrey a top-performer in achieving provincial GHG emissions reduction targets;
§         mitigating the impact of greenhouse gas emissions through biological sinks (agriculture);
§         addressing the housing needs of Surrey’s unique demographic mix;
§         supporting the successful implementation of Surrey’s ambitious Sustainability Charter.
The result will be innovative strategies that allow for sustainable urban infill.

Project Goal 
The project’s core goal is to develop a Sustainable Urban Infill Implementation Strategy for the sensitive infill of Surrey’s established districts.

Project Objectives

The Sensitive Urban Infill project will suggest solutions, strategies and tools in support of the following community development objectives:
1.      Moving the current job ratio (.7 to 1) closer to a ratio of one job for each worker.
2.      Reducing per capita GHG emissions attributable to area residents by 80% from 2007 levels by 2050 (in conformance with Bill 44, The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act).
3.      Develop practical and politically viable strategies for sensitive urban infill, particularly with regard to residential areas occupied by detached structures.
4.      Develop practical and affordable green infrastructure best practices for retrofitting existing streets and public ways.
5.      Develop practical and politically palatable strategies for providing diverse housing options for a rapidly changing demographic.
6.      Propose creative and affordable transportation options for transforming largely auto oriented areas to areas compatible with a wider range of transportation choices.
7.      Develop design strategies implementable over time for the protection/ enhancement of natural area ecological function and value as recreational amenity.

Detailed Project Description
Sustainable Urban Infill Implementation Strategy
While this project is focused on sensitive urban infill, the integrated-systems nature of sustainability means that it also affords the opportunity to contribute to the implementation of other aspects of Surrey’s sustainability agenda. By examining gentle urban infill as part of this larger system, we will identify strategies and actions that contribute to implementing Surrey’s 50-year vision, including increasing and diversifying the local employment and tax base; promoting economic synergies; creating an efficient transit system; decreasing lifecycle infrastructure costs; enhancing food security through integration of community agriculture; and achieving carbon neutrality.

A key methodological tool for this project is the DCS sustainable planning framework. The DCS framework strategically organizes high-level sustainability intentions into a structure that can transparently guide decision-making throughout the process. For this project, the DCS Framework will allow us to integrate the content of the Surrey Sustainability Charter and Surrey’s developing Sustainability Indicators directly into this implementation-focused project. Research outputs from the DCS and relevant elements from other related municipal and provincial plans and policy, will also be integrated into the resulting Urban Infill Implementation Strategy.

We will use research on key transformational trends and best practices to identify opportunities for urban infill and associated sustainability strategies to help make a sustainable, diverse, low carbon community. We will also use collaborative engagement as a tool for developing the Urban Infill Implementation Strategy, with City staff and stakeholders shaping design strategies through workshops examining a large and previously developed section of the city. This section will include prototypical Surrey community development types, including two or more distinct types of residential district and two or more types of commercial/jobs areas. Taken together these development types will constitute a representative sampling, or urban transect, of Surrey development types found in other parts of the City as well. In this way results and policies derived from this case study will find appropriate application in other parts of the city.

Scope of Work
The section below details tasks and deliverables by the DCS for each of the five project phases.

Phase 1: Goals and Objectives and Research Priorities Workshop (May 2011)
Using established bylaws, policies, and planning objectives of the City of Surrey, particularly the City of Surrey Sustainability Charter, and other related municipal and provincial plans and policies, the DCS will work with city officials and a select number of stakeholders in one (1) workshop to integrate the content of these documents directly into the form of a collaboratively authorized goals and objectives document. This will comprise an urban-infill-specific overarching goal and vision statement, a set of project specific design and implementation principles, and a set of sustainability targets calibrated to the City of Surrey Sustainability Charter. Effective and efficient integration of contributions by city representatives will be ensured through this staff and a stakeholder workshop.

Phase 2: Implementation Issues Research (May 2011 to August 2011)
This phase relies on deep background and best practices research to develop an understanding of future needs and opportunities in the community, particularly in relation to gentle urban infill and community carbon reduction opportunities. To this end, the DCS will conduct research on demographic trends (to identify their influence on community needs, such as shifting housing and service types). Other areas of interest to Surrey that could become the focus of further research by the DCS as part of this project include: opportunities and best practices for reducing carbon emissions and infrastructure costs associated with corridor development.

The DCS will work with the City to identify study sites within the study area that represent a typical cross section of land uses, or an urban transect, from commercial corridor, to residential areas of various types and density, through community agriculture lands. The opportunities and challenges of these characteristic study sites will be carefully investigated, resulting in strategies and other outputs that are Surrey-specific and applicable to other, similar sites throughout the City.

At this stage, the DCS will also frame the low carbon community element of the project by preparing a baseline GHG emission for the transect study sites, first by spatializing carbon emission and other selected data into Surrey-specific development patterns, and then using these to map and measure GHG emissions and other selected measures for the existing conditions of the selected transect case study sites. This will provide the baseline against which to evaluate the design workshop outputs generated in Phase 2.

Phase 3: Design strategies and targets / Baseline GHG modeling workshop (September 2011)
This phase brings together the policy synthesis and the consensually derived project goals objectives and targets to formulate a project “design brief” (or implementation strategy framework). The design brief establishes performance objectives and numeric targets for the district (and/or its transect case study areas) to be used during the charrette.

Phase 4: Explore Options through Case Studies (January 2012)
The focal point of this phase is the exciting and highly collaborative design workshop
(case study charrette) that is a hallmark of DCS processes. The charrette serves to translate the words and numbers that were integrated/ generated into the design brief in Phase 2 into user-friendly and meaningful pictures, designs and visualizations (including maps, diagrams, etc). It is during this event that optimization and integration of creative ideas occurs, ensuring that the resulting Implementation Strategy for sensitive urban infill in Surrey is economically feasible, socially embraced, and environmentally sustainable in an innovative manner.

The DCS will prepare and facilitate a City-hosted workshop, including: preparation of the
design brief, coordination of context and base mapping by the City, coordination of
logistics with the City, working with the City to develop the workshop team, identifying and engaging issue-specific design facilitators (in addition to the DCS team), and providing DCS process and design facilitators for the event. The workshop will run for two (2) days and will have multiple breakout groups to address specific issues and/ or different study sites. Working with the City, the DCS will aim to generate additional funding to potentially extend the charrette to four (4) days toward expanding on the potential for solutions generation through the charrette process, and to enable a public review of the charrette outputs by the community at a public presentation on the evening of the final charrette day – ideal for informing residents about options for what sustainable and sensitive urban infill might look like, and subsequently to gaining support for resulting outputs. Key deliverables will include illustrative plans for the district defining land use, infrastructure, habitat systems, and visual quality.  A 2050 GHG map, the corollary to the baseline GHG map, will also be a key deliverable. 

Phase 5: Develop Implementation Strategies (January 2012 to May 2012)
This final phase involves evaluating, synthesizing and compiling the outputs from the design charrette into a practical and site Surrey specific Urban Infill Implementation Strategy. This document will be prepared in a format and manner that ensures the research results and data as well as ideas and recommended strategies generated through the workshops can be readily and effectively transferred into municipal policy and actions. This will include translating workshop outputs into development patterns, measuring the estimated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the concept plans for each of the case study sites, and analyzing the outputs to demonstrate how the results contribute to Surrey achieving provincially legislated GHG emissions targets. Strategies will generally address sustainable urban infill, with a focus on gentle infill and low carbon community development. 

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