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Retrofitting suburbia in an urban watershed : sustainable growth in the Beecher Creek subbasin Foster, Karla Karine

Abstract

It is estimated that 3.3 million people will inhabit the Vancouver Region within the next 25 years. Traditionally, constructing low-density suburbs well into the Fraser Valley was the method to accommodate this regional growth. However, the detrimental impacts of urban sprawl are now well documented and are having an impact on how Vancouver envisions the growth boundary. Traffic congestion, auto dependency, and long commutes from isolated suburbs are the noticeable effects of sprawl for many people living in the Lower Mainland yet another important impact is the threatened local and regional ecosystems. Urban sprawl is consuming arable land and endangering the natural ecosystems. In response to these social and ecological problems, the Greater Vancouver Regional District has developed the Livable Region Strategic Plan which intends to manage growth through the promotion of more compact communities, to increase transportation choice, and to protect the green zone within the GVRD's twenty municipalities. Instead of building upon unused and undeveloped land outside the metropolitan areas, the plan looks for opportunities within existing communities. The goal is to alleviate sprawl on a regional scale and maintain the ecological integrity of the hinterlands. However, how can the intensification within the growth concentration areas be managed to maintain the integrity of our urban ecosystems? The Beecher Creek subbasin is a typical example of a highly urbanized watershed within the Bumaby growth,concentration area. The upper two-thirds of the watershed is mainly single family residential. This area has the potential to accommodate the current high demand for ground oriented, low cost housing in the region. However, measures must be taken to mitigate the impacts that increased density will have on the watershed and the community. This thesis examines a sustainable growth strategy for the region using a watershed approach and is based on sensitive infill practices, Best Management Practices (BMP's) and sustainable design. The result is the Beecher Creek Urban Watershed Retrofit Plan. The watershed components such as the block, dwelling unit, yard, lane, street, cul de sac, driveway, sidewalk, open space and stream corridors are examined and retro-fitted to accommodate density while improving the ecological, social and experiential functioning of the whole. Retrofitting is the term used to describe "the process where communities incrementally add or alter the built environment to accommodate the needs that are shaped by changing social and economic realities" (Lee 1999, 12). Each component speaks to a denser, greener more livable watershed. The result is a comprehensive design of a retro-fitted Neighbourhood that has accommodated density while also improving the ecological, social and experiential function of the site. The design addresses the relationship of the site to its watershed context and its surrounding community. As a comprehensive document it also serves as a model for similar urban residential watersheds.

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