GLOBE Foundation

Urban agriculture - vancouver case study

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

A major section of downtown Vancouver is being transformed into what could be one of the world’s first purpose-built sustainable communities, where growing food is at the top of the list. The South East False Creek (SEFC) site comprises 32 hectares (80 acres) that will eventually be the home to 12,000 to 16,000 people.

The first phase of SEFC will be temporarily used as Vancouver’s Olympic Village during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

When fully developed, SEFC will have 6 million square feet of development. This will include: more than 5000 residential units; a full-size community centre and non-motorized boating facility; three to five licensed childcare facilities; two out-of-school care facilities; an elementary school; restoration of five heritage buildings; interfaith spiritual centre and 10 hectares of park.

SEFC will be a model of sustainable development. Unique features include: urban agriculture; a rainwater management system; green roofs; and a neighbourhood energy system.

The SEFC development strategy serves many objectives (reduce energy and material consumption and the production of wastes; preserve the viability of ecosystems and halt the loss of biodiversity; ensure economic viability and vitality; strengthen social networks and enhance the quality of life for all in the neighbourhood), it also serves as a 'model' with respect to urban agriculture developments.

A Southeast False Creek Urban Agriculture Strategy policy study prepared for the City by the Holland Barrs Planning Group, now HB Lanarc, recommended community gardens, private (backyard) and semi-private gardens at grade, rooftop gardens and the use of balconies on residential buildings for food production, edible landscaping in public parks and selected street right-of-ways where appropriate, and commercial greenhouses.

Other food production elements recommended in the policy study and related reports involved aquaculture and on site food processing.

Another report prepared in 2007 dealt with designing urban agriculture opportunities for SEFC and provided a tool for designing urban agriculture into a neighbourhood development. This report offers design considerations for a full range of spaces from the private patio to the community demonstration garden. This report also offers technical and management considerations for planning a viable urban agriculture program.

The physical nature of SEFC zoning does not lend itself to a full-scale eco-industrial complex on the site, but the study recommended demonstration projects to showcase the concept and to learn more about the environment, agriculture and sustainable technologies that would be involved.

The report’s recommendations found formal endorsement in the Southeast False Creek Official Development Plan.

The full report prepared by Holland Barrs Planning Group has many photographs of communal gardens and urban agriculture designs from around the world.

While not focused on a vertical high-rise farming, the strategic approach adopted by the City of Vancouver for the development of SEFC is an example of what will be required in other jurisdictions if urban agriculture is to take root.

The City of Vancouver has published Urban Agriculture guidelines to help integrate consideration of UA into the development permit process i.e. policy to support and incentives to help in the uptake of the initiative.

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