UniverCity Sets a New Standard for Sustainable Construction

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Aug. 4, 2010

Last week, SFU Community Trust, the developers of the innovative UniverCity community located on Burnaby Mountain, held a ceremony to kick off Canada’s first “living building.”

It was a big moment for the developer, and for Canada, and as someone who works with real estate developers as a living it was a pretty big moment for me too. Here’s why.

The building will:
• generate more energy annually than it uses
• recycle or harvest from rainwater more water than it uses
• be free of toxic materials
• obtain the majority of its materials from within a 400 kilometre radius, and
• will cost less to construct than a conventional childcare facility

Full disclosure: this master-planned community is one of our clients, but that doesn’t change the fact that this building is totally cool. Trying new things and taking on new challenges always is. But this is a concrete (pun intended) example of all that sustainability rhetoric actually coming together to make a big leap forward happen. One that matters. One that we can all get our head around.

And it’s for kids! This is the perfect feel-good/do-good story!

This building is inspiring. It challenges us to create structures and communities that make peoples’ lives better. Even though it’s only a small structure in a much larger master-planned community, it’s something people can circle around for motivation. It’s something that’s being done, not just talked about.

And that’s not all. As part of UniverCity’s third phase of building, the City of Burnaby approved North America’s first comprehensive green zoning bylaw. They’re now set to build a whole whack of new buildings, all of which will be at least 30 per cent more energy efficient than a regular building.

Finally! Enough with the plans and the “that might be a good idea” discussions. Let’s get our hands dirty trying new things. Let’s make some moves so that others can follow suit. In a game of chess, players are constantly thinking and rethinking their next play, but ultimately to checkmate your opponent and win the game, a move needs to be made. This living building is a solid move. It’s the first of its kind, but it won’t be the last.

So, as a developer, what’s your next move? What project have you been humming and hawing over? What can you focus your efforts on to create the same stimulus as this “living building”?

Want to know more about the first living building in Canada? Click here.



David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more




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