Games Over: Vancouver After the Olympics

[The May edition of ReNew Canada is out and running an expanded version of a worldchanging post that I did on the green legacy of Vancouver's Olympics.  I had a chance to do interviews for the piece with Brent Toderian - Vancouver's Planning Director -- and Rob Bennett, the head of the Portland Sustainability Institute. The opener is below and you can download the PDF here.]

Vancouver’s Olympic Village and Convention Centre were the media-pleasing centrepieces for what was touted as the most sustainable Olympic Games ever.

But headline projects can be a double-edged sword. While they embody admirable principles, they risk absorbing enormous amounts of a city’s energy and distracting people from the fact that the city itself has changed very little.

For Vancouver, these two ultra-green developments are icons of a larger shift. Rather than being exceptions that prove the rules of unsustainable urbanization, they have helped change the rules. The city has used these two developments as a springboard to push the limits of green building practises
throughout the city.

Both developments are about as photogenic as it gets. The mixed-use Olympic Village—one of only two LEED Platinum neighbourhoods built so far—is a green
builder’s fantasy. Powered by district energy and local renewables, with a greywater system and a carbon-zero building, it’s been called the world’s greenest neighbourhood.

In the early days, when cities were just pushing their way onto the environmental stage, one or two successes like these would have been enough to establish a city’s green cred. But too often cities get stuck in the individual project stage. After having pushed their way onto the stage in frustration over the lack of climate change action at higher levels of government, cities too become better at making promises than delivering results. In fact, only a handful of cities in North America have managed to meet their emissions reduction targets.

[Download the rest of the article in PDF here.]

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1 Response to "Games Over: Vancouver After the Olympics"

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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.