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BioRegional on Core Working Group of the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict initiative

14 Jun Posted by in Canada, News, One Planet Districts, Ottawa | Comments Off
BioRegional on Core Working Group of the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict initiative

BioRegional North America’s executive director has been invited to join the core working group of the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict Initiative, which aims to turn downtown Ottawa into a laboratory for sustainable programs and energy-saving approaches that might someday be rolled out across the entire city. The emerging program will seek to intensify and green Ottawa’s downtown core, building on the neighbourhood’s wealth of existing and proposed green assets, including: 30 certified green buildings in the core; the potential to advance green energy infrastructure during the construction of incoming LRT routes; a fantastic set of proposed new bikes lanes under the city’s Downtown Moves study; and a growing local food movement, including a large community garden and numerous Savour Ottawa restaurants. The opportunity to build on these existing assets is monumental.  The EcoDistrict will help stimulate innovation that will help local businesses save money, create jobs, and care for the planet. Opportunities to innovate range from electric car-charging stations to sharing district energy and incorporating ecoConcierges in buildings to reduce the footprint of occupants. For further background on this exciting initiative, please read this excerpt from Hilary Samuel’s article entitled Business, NGOs, Community Groups, find Common Ground,” in the Summer 2012 edition of THE VOICE: Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Magazine.

Between five million and 11 million square feet of office space could become available in the downtown core over the next several years due to federal relocation and downsizing.  McNeil believes this will create an opportunity to upgrade more of Ottawa’s existing building stock to LEED or other sustainability standards.  The amount of green certified office space in Ottawa has already increased by 375 per cent in the past two years.  If this trend were to continue with new investments in buildings upgrades, Ottawa could become more attractive to companies with CSR (corporate social responsibility) policies that require environmental sustainability to be a consideration when selecting office space. “The potential is to link to the economic development of the city and provide places where these guys want to be.”  McNeil said.  “Sustainability is good for business, bottom line.” The Ottawa Centre Eco District project would lever existing and planned green infrastructure, including more than 30 certified green buildings in the city core, several green rooftops, and plans for the LRT.  The intention would be to create a virtuous cycle by encouraging other organizations to follow suit with their own sustainability initiatives. “This is generally a profile enhancer.”  Connelly said,  “It could also provide a method and an opportunity for business to get on board.  Many companies don’t know how to get started.  This project could provide a toolkit for business to easily tag into.” But a shared vision is crucial to make such a project successful. “How we conduct our affairs will fall out of that,” McNeil said.  “We need a shared common vision from key stakeholders at every level – from top corporate CEOs to bottom up community support.”

Greg Searle was a faculty member at the inaugural EcoDistrict Institute in Portland from May 8-10, 2012, an initiative of the Portland Sustainability Institute. An overview of the institute’s approach bringing together ecodistrict leaders from 10 US and Canadian cities were published in an article  in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, entitled Ten Cities, Ten Projects: A report from the first-ever EcoDistricts Institute—how 10 cities are integrating green buildings and infrastructure with community action and civic entrepreneurship.  Here is an excerpt:

The reason for these projects in North America—and dozens more like them around the world—is more apparent than ever: Municipal and business leaders must find effective ways to repurpose neighborhoods so that they can take advantage of the growing trends in both urbanization (millions of people are bound for a city near you over the next ten years) and the changing economy, which places a premium on knowledge and innovation. According to leading local economists such as Joe Cortright and urban redevelopment organizations such as Preservation Green Lab, the cities that focus on rehabilitating and building vibrant, green, and diverse neighborhoods have the best chance of thriving in the future. Even with the economy struggling to rebound and cities facing unprecedented pressure to do more with less, it is clear to me that this year is shaping up to be a busy one for the green cities movement. After spending three days with this group at the institute, I left feeling exhilarated and also convinced that—more than ever before—we’re on the cusp of an urban sustainability revolution.

Interested in learning more about EcoDistricts? Come to the 2012 International EcoDistrict Summit: one of the world’s leading conferences dedicated to urban and district-scale sustainability. Greg Searle will present with Dr. Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez at the 2012 International EcoDistricts Summit in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the Portland Sustainability Institute.