SMARTer Growth solutions for a more sustainable future in Kelowna.
My teaching and research focus is on using innovative engineering approaches to plan and design communities that sustain quality of life while protecting our environment. In 2017, I had the privilege to instruct over two-hundred students in three courses connected to the environment (ENGR 305 Engineering Economics, ENGR 435 Transportation System Design and ENGR 449 Sustainable Community Design). I also created the first Go Global course for the School of Engineering, one that enables UBC students and professionals to study the planning and design of new communities in Holland. The course teaches participants the importance of protecting the environment, maximizing green space, and achieving bio-diversity, all while achieving high quality of life through integrated housing, transportation choices, and coordinated, focused growth.
According to EGBC’s announcement “whether it’s through his teaching, his advocacy, or simply his contagious enthusiasm for creating a happier, healthier future, Gord has made a lasting impact on his community.”
As a long-standing champion for my community and the environment, I strive to make my community a more welcoming and accessible place for all.
I helped start the School of Engineering in 2005, and immediately connected with community stakeholders who shared my passion for the environment, community and sustainability. Through these partnerships, I have been active with the City of Kelowna’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy and with BC transit planning.
I am also a member of Kelowna’s Intentional Community Living group that is planning and designing the Okanagan’s first co-housing demonstration project, in collaboration with Interior Health Authority researchers.
I have also served in a variety of volunteer capacities for Kelowna’s Fresh Outlook Foundation, Kelowna’s Okanagan Car Share Co-Op, TRB Bicycle Committee and the Christian Service Brigade.
I co-lead UBCO's Homelessness Research Cluster technology node to support the City’s Journey Home homelessness initiatives to address knowledge gaps. It’s a very strong plan and I’m excited. But now comes the hard work to follow through on its implementation, from great plans to great actions, and to give you what your City Council promised.
We must address issues of the ‘missing middle’, that housing for young families – among others - who cannot afford single family attached, but must have ground-based access for toddlers to access nearby playgrounds and yards. Empty nesters and seniors who downsize and wish to age in place need infill and ground-oriented smaller units. The sheer cost of new construction, however, can make these types of dwellings expensive to buy, so rental units are also needed.
I am working with the City, Interior Health and Kelowna Intentional Communities, to develop Kelowna’s first co-Housing development (see cohousing.org, there are 100’s across NA). It will address social isolation, affordability, density, availability, aging-in-place, and diversity all in one shared-economy, community-first model.
Moreover, we need to reduce the cost of travel to/from and around Kelowna, which would also improve housing affordability and access to more housing choices.
Actions I would push for:
1. Implement and monitor the success of all parts of the City Housing plans
2. Expedite approval of Kelowna’s first co-Housing development demonstration project
3. Expedite the missing middle – ground-based homes using the RU7 zone created by the city’s award-winning Baxter Design.
4. Expedite seasonal worker housing approvals to help our farmers supply local food at competitive prices.
5. Push to expedite infill housing in existing neighborhoods, with increases to side and backyard setbacks if needed to preclude privacy invasion of existing neighbors.
As someone who has been the victim of crime - both minor and major - this issue hits close to home for my family and l. Even one crime is too much when you are the victim. Criminologists at UBC have developed design techniques, “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” (CPTED), that I have applied and train my students in ways to reduce crime. Briefly, CPTED looks at controlling three factors: Perpetrator, Victim, and Place (environment).
Perpetrators can be controlled thru patrols and enforcement, but police cannot be everywhere 24/7. Kelowna has great volunteer community patrols to help (my father-in-law is one), but we need more volunteers to help later into the night, especially at 2 am when pubs get out. This is a GREAT way to volunteer – join the RCMP Community Patrol. And keep RCMP resources indexed to Kelowna’s population growth.
Everyone can minimize the chances of being a victim by taking reasonable precautions, take self defence courses, stay out of dark alleys, don’t leave items on your car seat. I would push our Parks & Recreation Department to offer low-cost, family-friendly self defence programs as part of their membership privileges, for example Karate at Parkinson Rec Cntr.
Environment – how we design our communities – is the most controllable aspect. For example, put a light in that dark alley! I would push for CPTED experts to be more involved. City Park is a concern – how about more solar-powered LED lights at night? More ‘eyes on the street’ thru more events and buskers in the Park? Is bringing back the Kelowna Aquatic Center a possibility, so we can take back our Park?
Lets use our trusted voices – volunteers, police, academics, residents, businesses – to tackle this complex problem with each of us doing our respective part.
TRAFFIC & TRANSPORTATION
Build more roads! is one idea, but the research suggests that they’ll just encourage more driving, more congestion, more pollution, more noise, more safety problems, and more frustration, not to mention they cost $20 million/km – that’s not smart tax dollar spending – that’s a ‘tailpipe solution’
We need to look at the whole system – the ‘whole bus’ so to speak – how about ways to give people more choices so not everyone has to drive? Less cars means less congestion, noise, pollution, crashes! And roundabouts are cheaper and safer than traffic signals, and reduce congestion.
Lets ‘complete’ our existing communities, put 50% of jobs and services within a 20 minute walk/bike of home – this 50% job/home ratio is what works elsewhere.
Let’s get innovative transit programs here – NECO-Pass in Boulder, CO – a U-Pass for residents (like UBCO student U-Pass) has increased transit ridership over 20%, we have done the research to show the same could work in Kelowna.
Active transport networks (bike/walk) take a fraction of the space, cost less to build and maintain, and promote health and well-being – not to mention offering another way to get folks out of their cars.
Moreover, let’s take a longer term view, a strategic approach, and start planning for an Okanagan Valley Regional Electric Passenger Rail. Research has been going on for over 10 years at UBC, and makes economic sense as a 20 to 30 year vision – but we need to start planning for it now. It would cost less than $2 million (yes two million) per kilometer to build, take 30% of cars off the road, be zero emission, using made-in-BC technology and renewables.
These ideas on strategic, system-thinking solutions are NOT expensive tail-pipe solutions. And they will give us more choices and reduce congestion, at lower costs than building more roads.