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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community clean air shelters : community centre’s response to wildfire smoke events in Vancouver Sorathiya, Rashmin Ramzan Ali


Severe wildfire season occurred in 2017, and 2018 set new records in British Columbia, impacting the health of the communities through immediate fire and smoke exposure. This trend is predicted to occur more frequently in the future due to climate change patterns such as rising temperatures and decreased precipitation. These wildfires are uncontrolled fires from the forests in B.C. that emit smoke, which travels distances impacting not just rural but also the urban areas in B.C. The wildfire smoke consists of gases and fine particles that impact human health and their daily lifestyles. For this reason, providing a safe physical environment by establishing community clean air shelters (CCASs) during wildfire smoke events for the communities was considered a critical public health priority in various jurisdictions across Canada. These CCAS can be established in any existing community facilities such as community centres, libraries, schools and sports complexes. Since community centres are places that encourage community engagement and provide social support for community development and wellbeing, it is crucial to test the potential of community centres to serve as CCAS during the wildfire smoke event. Therefore, this research aims to understand the emerging needs of communities in Vancouver during wildfire smoke events, analyze the existing conditions of community centres relative to their ability to respond as CCAS, identify the interior spatial requirements of CCAS and deliver design guidelines for existing community centres in Vancouver to function as CCAS during wildfire smoke events. The research methodology includes a literature review, a comparative case study analysis of four community centres through interviews, site visits and floor plan review, data analysis, and finally, design guidelines proposal and recommendations. The outcome of the analysis distinctly highlights the need for minor or major upgrades, which need to be considered in existing community centres to function as CCAS during wildfire smoke events depending on the building’s physical and spatial condition, and project funding. This research underlines the importance of understanding the needs of the community during extreme weather events, planning for renewal of existing infrastructure and designing for building transformation based on the changing needs of the communities.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International