How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.



"We, of the world's architectural and design professions, commit ourselves to ... place consideration for environmental and social sustainability at the core of our design work."

'Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future', World Congress of Architects, 1993.

To develop an ecologically sustainable livable community with a coherent local economy, developers and planners may find it helpful to consider the following questions :


1. Is it possible to design the community with neighbourhoods where most houses are within a 5-minute walk of a village centre, encouraging person-to-person meetings and discouraging automobile use ?

2. Is it possible to adopt alternative development standards, with narrower street-widths and houses closer to the street, to encourage face-to-face relationships ?

3. Is it possible to design a neighbourhood commercial centre around a village green ?

4. Can the housing affordability needs of the surrounding community be reflected in the plans ?

5. What initiatives can be taken to include younger people, single parent families, first-time buyers and others in the affordability planning process ?

6. Is it possible to include affordability options such as growhomes, self-build coops and cohousing ?

7. Is it possible to design clusters of houses where the parking is off to one side, leaving car-free space which is safe for children and neighbourhood activities ?

8. Is it possible to incorporate a day-care centre with open-air, tree-covered, defensible play space in the neighbourhood centre ?

9. Will the community support its own elementary and high schools, and if so, is there support for designing these as community schools ?

10. Is the area served by sufficient churches, or will space need to be set aside for worship ?

11. Is it possible to set aside 'sacred spaces' in suitable outdoors places, where people can enjoy a quiet moment's contemplation ?


12. Is it possible to include local naturalists in the process of conducting an ecological inventory ?

13. Will the site require restoration initiatives for forest, streams, ponds or other habitat areas ?

14. What measures and initiatives will be needed to protect existing trees, during the construction phase and in the long term ?

15. Is it possible to include areas of natural beauty in the fabric of the neighbourhoods, as well as in parks or ecological reserves ?

16. Is it possible to include a network of footpaths and green trails into the overall planning ?

17. Does the site require buffer zones to protect natural features ?

18. Does the project merit having a set of standards for efficient energy use, solar orientation, passive solar design, efficient water use and healthy building materials ?

19. Does the project merit having a Site Protection Code and training program to ensure that site workers, contractors and architects understand about site protection, tree protection, construction waste recycling and sustainable building technologies ?

20. On larger projects, can you work with the Regional District to design community-based solid waste management and recycling strategies ?

21. If independent sewage treatment is required, have you considered the use of artificial wetlands, solar aquatic sewage treatment, hydroxyl and other state-of-the art technologies ?

22. Are there opportunities for recycling greywater, and using rainwater retention systems for irrigation ?

23. Can you establish a storm-water run-off regime which minimizes the alienation of the land from its habitual rainwater absorption patterns, and minimizes 'artificial drought' situations ?

24. Is it possible for the landscaping and green space design to include native species, urban horticulture, community orchards, and edible landscaping ?

25. Is it possible to discourage the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in the community, to minimize toxic run-off, and lessen the hazards to chemically sensitive people ?


26. Will the project have its own plan for a community economy, developed in conjunction with the regional economic development strategy ?

27. Is it possible to lay a fibre optic telecommunications infrastructure ?

28. Is it possible to establish a community utility to maximize the business, educational and community opportunities inherent in fibre-optic cabling ?

29. Will the village/neighbourhood centre have commercial zoning to encourage the development of a local economy ?

30. Does the site lend itself to the establishment of easy transit routes, connecting the village/neighbourhood centres with existing transit routes ?

31. Is there market demand for a satellite office for telecommuters, to enable more people to work within walking or cycling distance of their homes ?

32. Have you considered using progressive home-based business by-laws, which encourage rather than discourage this activity ?

33. Will the project support the establishment of an eco-business or eco-industrial park ?

34. Have you considered hiring an economic development consultant, to attract residents who will either bring or start their own businesses ?

35. Will it be possible to establish a community carpool program, to lessen the amount of commuting that takes place to nearby commercial centres ?


36. Is it possible to establish a stakeholders group including both local residents and future residents, to maximize awareness of the planning process, minimize potential conflicts, and assist with planning for such things as affordability, economic development, ecological protection, children's needs, youth needs, the elderly and the arts ?

37. Is it possible for the land to be designated a Development Permit Area and the project a Registered Building Scheme, to uphold the desired standards ?

38. Could you establish an overall set of long-term community sustainability goals, to guide the community's development over future years ?

39. Is it possible to establish a non-profit Community Trust, enabling the residents to work together in partnership with Regional and Municipal governments, prior to any long-term incorporation ?


40. Is there likely to be support from the community, local planning departments and elected councillors for a conscious emphasis on sustainable community design, as described above ?

Guy Dauncey, Sustainable Communities Consultancy,
395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

May 1997