It Takes a Village

We have been touring the Olympic Village with design manager Roger Bayley for four years now in the SFU Applications course, part of a certificate in Sustainable Community Development. We were crawling around in the bellies of buildings looking at the green infrastructure long before the athletes moved in.

Last year, post Olympics, the Village was a bit of a ghost town, but this year there are definite signs of life. People and retailers have moved in. The beautifully landscaped seawall is jumping with cyclists and pedestrians. One of my favourite stops is the Neighbourhood Energy Utility. The system recovers energy from the sewer to provide heat and hot water to the community. But here’s what I love most, they turned the exhaust stacks that rise up beside the Cambie Street bridge into public art, cleverly averting any controversy over ugly stacks. The five fingers, decked out with LEDs, light up; blue indicates low energy demand, red is high. So we will all know when the community is living sustainably!

There is much to celebrate in this community, all the buildings are LEED Gold, two are platinum, one’s a Net Zero building and they also received LEED neighbourhood status. Unfortunately, because the Village has been so mired in politics, the achievements have been muddied. They were not lost on our students though. They were all quite blown away according to the comments on course evaluations. Here’s what one student wrote: “Amazing design, engineering, architecture and construction with truly sustainable foundations.” They appreciated hearing a very inside story about the successes, challenges and compromises that were made.

We should be pretty proud of our Village. And grateful to those who helped make it happen. Read the Challenge Series for a detailed account of the making of a Village and a more three dimensional story than the one we’re hearing in the media.


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