I’ve always wanted to work on something like this – a clean slate! As a brownfield project, we’re essentially starting from scratch, redeveloping and re-purposing the land to meet the evolving needs of the community, in this case, the University District in Calgary.
Offering over 6,000 new housing units and 250,000 square feet of commercial space on nearly 200 acres, we’re building the foundation of a new, vibrant community. From the start, we wanted to incorporate the most advanced green and connective technologies, and leverage recycled and reused materials, leading to the first community in Alberta to achieve LEED-ND Platinum status (see sidebar). For residents and businesses, it brings together all the amenities you’d expect, with the services and experiences you want for an urban lifestyle.
We worked to ensure it was thoughtfully and sustainably planned, designed to embrace the natural environment, yet allow people to move with ease to all the places where they work, live and play. In all, it’s been a collaborative effort between dedicated partners committed to creating something special for the city.
It comes with its own challenges, of course. The engineering requires a specific expertise and some nimble planning to allow all the work to happen. We were fortunate in that we have had great experiences with leading similar projects for the client, including the nearby East Village project. It was certainly advantageous when addressing the needs of multiple stakeholders, and meeting the standards and specifications set out in the project scope.
The interesting thing about working with so many different stakeholders is that I identify with almost all of them. We’re all residents of somewhere, and so we all have certain expectations, or at least preferences, about what our neighborhoods need. As a family man, I understand the importance of safety features for children and people with accessibility or mobility issues. As part of EXP, and as an engineer, I see the importance of the physical, and the virtual, infrastructure. As a citizen, I have a whole other set of requirements. It gets complicated quickly. That’s why I’m so grateful to have a design team that I can rely on to help find the right balance of technical requirements and community needs.
In the design process, we placed emphasis on the public realm. We incorporated new lighting standards to decrease light pollution, made streetscapes pedestrian friendly, included enhanced storm water management, explored opportunities for water re-use and ensured public spaces are accessible for everyone. Our holistic approach also led to innovative surface treatments so that intersections became tactile experiences for those with visual impairments.
I can say with confidence that time, attention, care and thought have been put into all of the University District’s sustainability commitments. Our three-pronged approach, across environmental, social and financial sustainability pillars, led to international recognition with a LEED-ND Platinum designation; a nod to being a leader in building an accessible and connected community, and long-term stewardship for residents and retailers alike.
Greg Bodnarchuk, P.Eng. | Principal | Calgary, AB
*Originally published in EXP’s Expresso: Convergence