Friday, November 29, 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment - Part 5


Ideas, policy and guidelines are all good.  We bandy around the words "sustainable", "green" and "resilient" but how do these words, these principals actually become groundtruthed and implemented?  How do you ensure that once you have interested developers, that they follow your vision and implement a development that reflects green design and construction? 

Many cities may have policy goals around this language to achieve in their Official Plans, Transportation and Greenspace Master Plans and Environmental Strategies but until these policies and values filter into the actual day-to-day operating principals and procedures of a municipality there is no way to guarantee that they will be implemented.

One method of encouraging this is to have these types of policies integrated into land development IMPLEMENTATION strategies.  These strategies will ensure that development can meet goals of 33% tree coverage, 50% green roof and walls, 75% native plant species, etc.  This can be done through Development Review Checklists (with biophilic goals outlined), bonusing and reduced development charges and LEED certification.

Waterfront Toronto development is one example of how this can be done.  The Waterfront Toronto has not only a Sustainability Framework but also Minimum Green Building Requirements which will "ensure that all new buildings along the waterfront are efficient in their use of resources and take advantage of new approaches and technologies to deliver a positive impact on the surrounding air, land and water".  For this development, "Twenty-five percent of the waterfront revitalization area is reserved for parks and open spaces." 

For Rockcliffe Lands, there needs to be as much thought put into a Framework, Guidelines and Implementation as there is for the Design Plan of this redevelopment.  Collaboration with both the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission are essential for this redevelopment to succeed.  Incentive programming should go hand in hand with guidelines so that this type of development is attractive to developers.  Specifically, what needs to be considered are:

Municipal Design Guidelines for Rockcliffe Lands:

- Green bus stops for onsite stormwater retention
- Native public gardens with both bee condos and insect hotels
- All public buildings Leeds Platinum with storm water retention onsite
- Natural playgrounds - playscapes (already in Ottawa)
- Dark Skies Lighting (already in Ottawa)
- Green Alleys (potential pedestrian/bicycle corridors)
- Native tree nursery (including Maples, Elms and "Champlain" Burr Oak)
- Bioswales as natural fencing between properties
- Good tree pit design (for trees that are bordered by concrete)
- Better standards for minimum soil volume for street trees

Private Development Guidelines for Rockcliffe Lands:

- LEEDS Platinum for all private development including:
- green paving technology and/or permeable pavement (already in Ottawa)
- green roofs and green walls for onsite stormwater retention and cleaner air
- bird safe building design - as found in Toronto (discourage glass condos)
tree canopy coverage and landscape best practices (already in Ottawa at EQuilibrium)
- supportive by-laws for naturalized gardens

Construction Guidelines for Rockcliffe Lands:

- Current tree protection during construction (from Westside Action)
"No grade change, storage of materials or equipment permitted with this Tree Protection Zone.  Tree protection barrier must not be removed without the written authorization... Urban Forestry Services."

Root damage, trunk/bark damage, soil compaction and other activities from construction such as exhaust fumes from equipment can all compromise the health of a tree.  Even if the tree does not seem to suffer during the time of construction, there may be enough damage that the tree's ability to survive over a longer period of time may be weakened.
- Structural earth for all new street trees (from Westside Action)


This redevelopment includes identifying ways in which the Algonquin presence can be reflected on the Rockcliffe lands. "The history and connection of the Algonquin People with the Rockcliffe lands may be recognized through: installation of commemorative elements design of park spaces naming of streets, etc. Through the Consultation Working Group, Canada Lands Company and the AOO will jointly coordinate public unveilings of these initiatives. CLC recognizes that a commemorative opportunity on parkland overlooking the Ottawa River is of particular significance and interest to the AOO."  A site that honours and protects the native species (both flora and fauna) and allows for them to continue to flourish would be a great way to commemorate the First Nations People.

Involvement with the First Nations (through the Wabano Centre perhaps?) could also include leading the new neighborhood in efforts to connect with the land after the development.  This could include tree plantings, nut-harvests, tracking and living off the land workshops and even managing the tree nursery!

And one last thought - shouldn't the naming of the this new development reflect its aboriginal heritage?  Prior to the 17th century when this land belonged to the Algonquin people was there a name for it or could it be named after a prominent figure in either the Algonquin people's past or someone who should currently be honoured?  This is a great opportunity to ensure that this site will be forever recognized as Algonquin lands.

If you still want to send your thoughts and comments to Canada Lands Company it is not too late. You can find their contact information on the Canada Lands Company Rockcliffe Lands website (, I did not find an email address for the Ottawa office however.

Posts on Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment:

First blog post: September 2011

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 1): November 2012

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 2) - April 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 3) - September 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 4) - October 2013


Images from: Skyscraper ForumRockcliffe blog,  Honouring SMH Beaver Pond

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What biophilic means to me...

Prenzlauer Berg District, Berlin - "Long one of Europe’s shabbier locales, 
the area is now one of its most livable." (Photograph by Westrich/laif/Redux)

One of botanists Patrick Blanc's most famous green walls in Paris.
(Photograph found here.)

"Swifting" - Chapman School in Portland Oregon.
(Photographs by K. Kendall & S. Benoit)

Green roof in Downtown Ottawa, Canada.
(Photograph by D&C Blog Author)

Montreal subway entrance surrounded by green.
(Photograph by D&C Blog Author)

Bat watching in Austin, Texas.
(Photograph from Fastcoexist)

New green roof at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada.
(Photograph by D&C Blog Author)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the greening of Chicago

Chicago's Mayor on Top of Green Roof - Image Source

First there was the City Hall's Rooftop Garden (in 2001) and the Green Roof Grant Program which provided grants to both big and small buildings in both the residential and commercial sectors.  By 2008, Chicago was the leading city in the U.S. with the most green roofs according to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' Annual Green Roof Industry Survey.

Next it was the city's Nature and Wildlife Plan (in 2006) along with a Nature Areas Directory which listed more than 4,800 acres of prairies, savannas, dunes, woodlands, wetlands and potential restoration areas at 98 sites throughout the city. This plan "established a framework to protect and expand ecosystems for the benefit of wildlife and people."

As a follow-up in 2007, Chicago initiated its Green Alley Program which addressed the municipalities infrastructure issues.  The program introduced permeable pavement, bioswales and encouraged residents to consider rain gardens and purchasing rain barrels.

And then after that it was an Urban Forest Agenda in 2009 which would work hand in hand with the already established Nature and Wildlife Plan.  The goal here was to strengthen the urban tree inventory that was already in place and to enhance it with more trees, green infrastructure linking parks and creating programs to enlist local citizens to play a part in their street and park trees.

Now it's the 606 - Chicago's answer to NYC's High Line and the Burnham Wildlife Corridor along the shore of Lake Michigan. 

Present Day 606 - Image Source

First of all the 606, which will ultimately dwarf the New York City's elevated park, will be 2.7 miles long (the High Line is 1 mile) and will encompass 13 acres of land (adding five new parks).  It will connect four neighborhoods in the northwest end of the city.  One other difference to the High Line is that bicyclists will be accommodated on the 606 (or Bloomingdale Trail) whereas only pedestrians are allowed on the High Line.

For the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, located on the city's south side, the Chicago Park District enlisted thousands of volunteers to plant 125,000 trees and shrubs this summer which will provide a resting area for the 5 million birds that migrate through the city every spring and fall.  Many of them, with no place to land, found themselves colliding with the glass highrises downtown. This project will help ensure the safety of Chicago's avian visitors.

Artist Rendering of 606 - Image Source

P.S.  Check out my new "urban wild" nature blog: Wild. Here.(2016 update) It would be amazing to visit this city and profile it at some point for Wild. Here.!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Imagine! The First Biophilic Redevelopment Project in Canada!

Finally!! I have written those much promised blog posts on the Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment.  I'm only a year late!  I still have one last post to do and I hope to get it done this month and provide my comments to CLC.  I can't wait to see what this development shapes into in the upcoming years!

Posts on Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment:

First blog post: September 2011

Announcement of the project by CLC

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 1): November 2012

Description of the first public open house (October 2012) and their Green and Blue conceptual drawings.

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 2): April 2013

Consideration for heritage old growth trees, green corridors to promote ecological diversity and the surrounding landscape.

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 3): September 2013

Suggestions regarding increasing the size of Montfort Woods, Expanding options for "Blue Landscaping" and adding Native Wildscaping

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 4): October 2013

Thoughts on supporting native fauna including birds, bees, bats and other wildlife

If you still want to send your thoughts and comments to Canada Lands Company it is not too late. You can find their contact information on the Canada Lands Company Rockcliffe Lands website (, I did not find an email address for the Ottawa office however.

UPCOMING: Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 5) which will include a discussion on the potential for Biophilic Guidelines (based on Toronto Waterfront's Sustainability Guidelines) and honoring Algonquin Lands.  Stay tuned!