UniverCity: A Case Study

elementslab conducted a post-occupancy case study of UniverCity, an intentional sustainable community, to assess if and how it was meeting goals of compactness, diversity, completeness and walkability while being low environmental impact.

We conducted a case study of UniverCity at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, eight years after construction began, and five years after the first residents moved in. UniverCity is instructive because it adopted many physical design parameters common to New Urbanist communities and concurrently had goals to have low environmental impact This is a case study that integrates metrics of smart growth, and low impact development.

We asked if a development that set out to be “sustainable” could achieve compactness, diversity, completeness and walkability while concurrently achieving low environmental impact. We found that UniverCity was a very compact neighbourhood with a good range of commercial series. At that time only 1/3 of residents were within a 5 minute walk of the high street but all were within 5 minutes of the school and parks. Almost 50% of residents worked or studied at SFU. In terms of its impact on stream habitat the results were mixed— it was not meeting all goals.

Project Profile

Sponsor: SFU Community Trust
Research and graphics team: Cynthia Girling, Alexandre Man-Bourdon, Lainya Rowett, Miriam Plishka, Reza Davani
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dale Mikkelsen and Chris Hartman at SFU Community Trust (SFUCT) for coordination of information transfers from many staff and consultants including:
Lanarc Consultants Ltd.; Hotson Bakker Boniface Hayden Architects + Urbanistes;  PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.; Durante Kreuk Ltd.; Perry and Associates; CH2M HILL; R.U. Kistritz and Associates; Hunter Laird Engineering Ltd.