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Welcome to everyone participating today from across the country. My name is ….? and I am the …. I’m joined by ?……We’ll be talking about the EQuilbrium Communities Initiative, a jointly funded and equal partnership between CMHC and Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY R&D Centre that brings together the intellectual and financial resources of both organizations, announced on June 1.
So today we will walk you through an overview of the initiative, which is currently in the proposal selection phase, and identify who it is designed to support. We’ll briefly explain how it will work in terms of what types of projects and work activities that it has been designed to support. Finally, we’ll describe how to get more information about existing resources from both of our organizations, as well as receiving new learning that will evolve as the initiative progresses. We also want to have time at the end for questions.
Our overall goal is to speed up the implementation of sustainable approaches to neighbourhood design in Canada. We’ll do this by funding and supporting qualifying Developers, who working with their municipalities and consultants, to improve the operational performance of their project by designing and developing sustainable communities. It is really a matter of thinking from a broader perspective that integrates design decisions about housing and land use mix, with those about transportation, energy use, water use and so on. Because of this integration, Developers will need both support and the active involvement of the municipality. Which brings me to the next goal: to demonstrate how the neighbourhood scale offers unique opportunities for integration across systems, such as energy, transportation and water systems because neighbourhoods involve multiple buildings and mixed land uses. As the developer of the Emerald Hills SuN Living project in Strathcona County, Alberta put it -- &quot;Typically buildings get designed first and then you work your way backwards. Here we started with the community, and then the buildings. That way, we had a site that was integrated.” Another goal of our Initiative is to measure and share what works with interested audiences so they can learn from the success and lessons or these demonstration projects. The Initiative will showcase high environmental- and energy-performance levels.
I’m going to provide a quick overview of the Equilibrium Communities initiative. This is a three year program, jointly managed and funded by CMHC and NRCan’s CanmetENERGY R&D Energy Technology Centre, and under the Government of Canada’s ecoACTION umbrella, that will run until 2012. It builds on many other NRCan’s CanmetENERGY and CMHC initiatives in energy efficiency, community planning, water efficiency, and so on. It builds on CMHC’s EQuilibrium TM Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative, which has drawn extensively on CanmetENERGY’s expertise, that is supporting 15 homes across Canada - home which combine resource- and energy-efficient technologies with renewable energy technologies to reduce their environmental impact,. It further builds on CanmetENERGY’s SuN Living planning and design process whose first use has been in the award-winning Emerald Hills Urban Village development in Strathcona County in Alberta. This new Initiative, with equal partnership both organizations, will provide $4.2 million for financial, technical and promotional support. It will fund approximately 6 development projects. The amount of support for each project will be determined by the scope and effectiveness of the proposed activities to be funded by the Initiative. The Request for Submissions closed on September 22 and proposals are currently being reviewed.
Up to $550,000 will be available for each selected project, along with technical and promotional assistance. The funds will be for activities aimed at design modifications that improve the project’s performance, including research aimed at design modifications. Funds can also be used for monitoring, commissioning and showcasing the development project. Through the funding strategy, the Initiative will emphasize innovation in planning and design, and secure those improvements through operation and monitoring. Capital funding for construction, materials or equipment will not be provided. Each project will also receive regional, national and most likely international attention through planned publicity from the Initiative’s Communications team. Details and results will be documented and published so that other developers and communities can benefit from these experiences.
The Initiative has identified six themes as a common, integrated framework for selecting projects and measuring their performance. They address socio-cultural and economic themes, but focus primarily on environmental ones. More specifically, they focus on the aspects that are most directly affected by urban form and which are most readily measured. First we’ll talk about the Energy theme: The goal is to “balance energy supply and use to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.” Some examples of what we’ll ask you to describe include the energy consumption in the project’s buildings and its use of renewable and waste energy sources. We’ve been asked if this means that all the buildings have to be net-zero energy buildings. The answer is “not necessarily”. We’ll look for significant improvements in building performance. Whether they are net-zero or not depends on the submissions we receive. Another theme is Land Use and Housing : By this we mean “A compact community with a balanced mix of activities, housing choices, and commercial, institutional, recreational and industrial land uses.” You will be asked to describe, among others, the project’s land-use mix, access to daily destinations such as stores, schools and parks, as well as housing type and affordability. Third is Transportation – which is about “opportunities for energy-efficient and healthy alternatives to personal vehicle use.” In addition to the land-use indicators described earlier, some of the indicators you will be asked to describe include the project’s transit-supportive density, transit access and pedestrian route connectivity and safety.
Before we move to the next part of the presentation, we would like to spend one minute outlining what we think that developers and municipalities will gain by participating in this initiative. And by developers, we mean private, public and non-profit sector developers, all of whom were eligible. What we might consider today to be a niche market -- sustainable mixed-use developments – is quickly moving towards the mainstream. Having the opportunity to participate in an initiative like this, that will enable the teams to be recognized as leaders, will give them a real leg up. The financial and technical support we will provide will allow them to progress up that learning curve faster, and with less downside risk. Initiatives like this one receive a lot of attention – not only locally, but also at the national and sometimes international level. That kind of exposure of their brand and reputation is valuable not only for private sector developers, but also for municipalities.
The initiative was designed to explore options that are not viable at the smaller scale. To explore how working at the neighbourhood scale, with multiple buildings and land uses, offers opportunities to integrate systems, such as energy and water systems. For example, this scale enhances the opportunities to capitalize on renewable and waste energy for use in community energy systems. The proximity of daily destinations and pedestrian-friendly site design features make transportation alternatives viable, such as walking, cycling and public transit.
Two types of projects are being considered for funding. Both project types are being evaluated using the same indicators and criteria. The two types are: Showcase Projects which are projects that were recently completed, or are under construction, OR. Improvement projects whichare projects that have already begun the planning and design phase but have not yet started construction.
Most of the funding for Showcase projects is for commissioning, monitoring and showcasing. The purpose is to share effective approaches and results with interested audiences. Teams will measure and report the actual results achieved in the built project. Most of the funding for Improvements projects will be for improving the project’s performance through activities such as research and technical analysis aimed at design modifications, and potentially for visioning and alignment activities, such as charettes.
The projects will be selected, according to pre-determined key evaluation criteria that includes: Scale and scope of the development project Readiness to proceed with the work Performance on the themes and indicators: and The work plan We will also be looking for the level of integration over all aspects of the neighbourhood design.
We are looking for neighbourhood scale development projects. By this we mean, multi-building, multi-use projects. Single-use projects may be considered if they are located in a multi-use context, for example a residential project adjacent to a retail/employment node. At least 50% of the built or renovated square footage must be residential.
Proposed activities must be completed by 2012. This may seem like a long way away to some, but as you know, in the development world, this is really a very short time frame, already requiring a certain state of readiness. For showcase projects, these are ones that will be able to complete their monitoring and showcasing activities on the constructed project within the timeframe. For improvements projects, these are ones that can complete the work activities they propose and have begun construction within the timeframe so that performance can begin to be monitored. Proponents will need to verify that they have control of their site and municipal support for the project, among other issues related to state of readiness.
We have spoken a lot about project performance and this will be a major evaluation filter. The initiative aims to show how in their planning, design, implementation and operation, the selected projects will demonstrate measurable improvements over conventional community development approaches in the 6 theme areas. Submissions were asked to describe each project’s targeted performance levels related to 18 specific indicators. We mentioned some of them earlier when introducing the themes. The indicators included: the project’s use of renewable and waste energy, proximity to daily destinations, land-use mix, pedestrian route connectivity and safety, access to transit, on-site stormwater infiltration, natural habitat protection and housing price ranges. For Improvement projects, proponents were asked to describe the performance levels that would be achieved without the Initiative support (the baseline performance) as well as the improved or target performance that would be achieved with the support from the Initiative. In addition, submissions were asked to describe how they would integrate features across the indicators. One of our goals is to show how the projects use the neighbourhood scale to integrate features and systems to enhance their performance.
Proponents were also asked to include how they planned to use their requested funding. Because we know that it is complicated to build projects of this scale and that innovate beyond standard practice, we made the eligible work activities and funding levels flexible to meet project needs, not just our program requirements. We requested detailed work plans explaining the research, analysis, design work and monitoring each project team planned to carry out and the budget and timeline for the work to be funded under the initiative. We also requested information for the proposed activities and resources needed for each activity, along with the qualifications and experience each project team. The detailed criteria was available in the Request Package.
Proponents were given approx 3 months to prepare submissions. The Request for Submissions closed in September and the evaluation of proposals is currently underway.
We hope we have been able to provide an outline of the EQuilibrium Communities Initiative that will help build innovative neighbourhoods that will make people sit up and take notice. We’d now like to move to the next part of our presentation which is to inform you about some of our existing resources that are accessible through our websites….