UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An evaluation of neighbourhood sustainability assessment frameworks using ecosystem characteristics and principles of systems resilience as the evaluation criteria Hofer, Nancy Dee


If human societies are to sustain over the long-term, we must manage human societies and our products, including settlements, to work within the context of a living environment. While conventional practice in neighbourhood planning has made advances in acknowledging the importance of sustainability in the built environment, it generally does not acknowledge fundamental ecological concepts such as the ecology of sites, global ecological productive carrying capacity or the dynamic nature of a living, rapidly eroding, biophysical environment. This thesis articulates the need to acknowledge the ecological context as the basis of sustainable communities. A living ecological system is not only the context in which settlements operate; ecosystems may also be a viable model from which to form settlements. This thesis proposes incorporating the model of ecosystems, the characteristics they embody and principles by which they are governed into the planning and design of settlements as a method of informing a physical form that can support sustainable communities. A case study of a local Vancouver neighbourhood, False Creek North, is used as a tangible reference point around which to frame the discussion of sustainable communities. Although not planned explicitly to be a “sustainable community” the neighbourhood embodies many of the characteristics of conventional thinking about sustainable neighbourhoods. Using sustainability assessment frameworks, the False Creek North development is evaluated for sustainability merits and weaknesses in order to understand how this model of development could be improved to better reflect concepts of sustainability. In order to ensure that the frameworks reflect a strong, ecologically bound concept of sustainability the assessment frameworks are also evaluated based on their ability to capture characteristics and principles of ecological systems using an evaluation matrix. An integrated discussion is presented on a) how well the frameworks reflect ecological principles and b) what elements of FCN display ecological sustainability characteristics. Overall, the assessment frameworks are found to be limiting in their ability to capture fundamental ecological concepts. Indicators that reflect ecological principles and characteristics are therefore proposed and examples are given as to how they might be used to measure aspects of the case study site, False Creek North.

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