LEARNING & LIVING ENVIRONMENTS: How A Commitment to Sustainability Serves As The Foundation For Community Development

March 1, 2021

The University of British Columbia isn’t only one of the most beautiful campuses in Canada, it’s also one of the most sustainable. For over thirty years, the university has made sustainability an overarching principle that guides learning, research and land development. Numerous programs and initiatives have been committed to ensure that people, plans and resources are in place to help achieve this.

Developing Sustainable Communities

One such initiative is the university’s Campus as a Living Lab (CLL) which integrates academic research and teaching with campus planning, infrastructure, operations and community development. Working together, the focus is on transforming the campus and integrated residential neighbourhoods into a vibrant, sustainable and resilient community.

Take a tour of the five neighbourhoods that are part of the UBC campus and you’ll see first-hand how this has been accomplished. Wesbrook Place, Hampton Place, East Campus, Hawthorn Place and Chancellor Place are lush, dynamic communities that offer the best in west coast living. Developed as sustainable neighbourhoods, they are inter-connected to nature via trails, parks and green spaces yet are close to cultural attractions, learning hubs, sports facilities, essential services and culinary destinations.

Sustainable Planning At Work

The university works closely with Campus & Community Planning, a group whose primary focus is on “…designing sustainable buildings, landscapes and neighbourhoods to create healthy, resilient and animated learning and living environments.”

A recent project is the South Campus Greenway, a 700 metre path that will be integrated into an existing treed area located between UBC Farm and Wesbrook Place. While the greenway will provide local residents with more walking, biking and cycling opportunities, significant conservation and sustainability efforts went into the planning and development of the trail itself.

To help rehabilitate the natural landscape, several techniques were employed including:

Efforts were also made to preserve existing plant life and habitat. Along the new trail, you will find a number of trees that are more than a century old. (Fast fact: the oldest tree in the area is a Douglas fir that is estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old.)

Invasive plant species that were affecting nearly 1,000 square meters of greenway area were removed to prevent further damage.

To accommodate the changing climate, drought tolerant native planting took place throughout the greenway. Arbutus trees (Arbutus menziesii) – Canada’s only broadleaf evergreens – were planted due to the tree’s high tolerance for dry conditions.

Through planning, partnerships and a shared commitment to the ongoing development of sustainable, resilient communities, the South Campus Greenway is an excellent model for showcasing what can be achieved while ensuring that current and future generations will be able to enjoy true learning and living environments.