Calgary Metropolitan Plan
Photo Credit: O2 Planning + Design Inc.
Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault
Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans
Case study compiled in 2017
Project: Calgary Metropolitan Plan
Type of Urban Strategy: Ecological Infrastructure, Green Cities
Type of Project: Regional Planning
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Date Designed/Planned: 2009
Construction Completed: 2011
Designer: O2 Planning + Design Inc.
Rapid urban and rural growth within a small period of time can generate a multitude of challenges to a city, region, and even province. For example, the Calgary region is expected to grow by an astounding 1.6 million people by the year 2076. That growth would result in an increase of over 700,000 thousand jobs, thousands of hectares of land-use and zoning, and a lot of infrastructure developments throughout the region. The risks of mismanaging this growth could be fatal to not only the Calgary regions’ economy but also to the ecological and environmental infrastructure that gives a sense of place to the region (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan provides the Calgary region with tools for regional land-use planning and future developments. Created in 2013, the plan accommodates for the overwhelming future growth by creating balance through conserving watershed basins, wildlife, ecological infrastructure, and providing the city with efficient and compact municipal growth. This comprehensive plan allows for sustainable, manageable and efficient growth within the Calgary region (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
The Calgary Metropolitan Environmental Strategy is a regional landscape planning model utilized in 18 municipalities across the Calgary region. The project is designed and planned by O2 Planning + Design Inc, who worked alongside the City of Calgary’s Calgary Regional Partnership which associates the municipalities of the Calgary region (CSLA, 2017). It strives to respond to the region’s rapid population growth within the next 50 to 70 years through land planning policies that encourage balanced growth and align with the Calgary regions aspirations and future goals of a sustainable environment (O2, 2014).
The Calgary Metropolitan Environmental Strategy analyses and identifies patterns within the ecological and urban framework to mitigate any developmental impacts and conserve resources (O2, 2014). The project offers Calgary a long-term plan to strategically develop future infrastructure while preserving wildlife, conserving watersheds, providing efficient sustainable infrastructure, conserving ecological networks, and creating a healthy environment and economy (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2014). By utilizing the plan, Calgary can ensure that the urban growth of the city is controlled, efficient and compact – minimizing damages to valuable resources and providing a safe and healthy environment for its citizens (Ibid.).
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan Environmental Strategies project stretches over a large area of Alberta, encompassing 18 municipalities, extensive ecological infrastructure, and multiple bodies of water (O2, 2013). The associated municipalities that are involved in the planning and development of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan are Airdrie, Banff, Black Diamond, Calgary, Canmore, Chestermere, Cochrane, Irricana, Nanton, Okotoks, Strathmore, and Turner Valley (Calgary regional Partnership, 2013). Smaller municipalities in the surrounding Calgary region provide information on their ecological networks and current infrastructure to help derive the strategic plan. The Calgary region includes very intensive ecological infrastructure and multiple bodies of water that are valuable to the Calgary Metropolitan Plan and are at the forefront of conservation in the Calgary region’s future developments (Ibid.).
The ecological infrastructure of the Calgary region includes large landscapes, grasslands, alpine forests, riparian landscapes, Rocky Mountains, subalpine sub-regions, montane sub-regions, coniferous forests, shrublands, and prairie landscapes that all give identity and character to the city of Calgary. These incredible landforms are what provide Calgarians with a sense of place and they are essential tools in the balancing of growth and future development for the region of Calgary (O2, 2013).
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
In 1999, the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) was formed. The partnership included over 18 municipalities and a First Nation community found across the Calgary region (Calgary regional Partnership, 2013). The integration of the association came as a response to the overwhelming reports of urban growth that the area was seeing. It was projected that by 2076, the Calgary region would increase its urban population by more than 1.5 million people with an additional 700,000 jobs (Ibid.). This would add more than 125,00-hectares of development throughout the region, including infrastructure above and below ground – all of which would need proper servicing, water, and resources (Ibid.). To create an economically, environmentally, and socially prosperous region it is important to create a navigational plan that provides balance and equal opportunity to every municipality, landform, and city in the Calgary region.
The Calgary Regional Partnership recognized the challenges of rapid urbanization and proceeded to create a regional plan that would respond to the growth management issues facing the region. The process of regional planning and land-use framing began in early 2006, where CRP and O2 Planning + Design studied the region on an ecological scale, transit scale, infrastructure scale, and land-use scale (Calgary regional Partnership, 2013). As a result, the Calgary Metropolitan Plan was created and provided the Calgary region with an established framework that focused on balancing growth and conserving water and ecological framework to enrich the communities of the region (Calgary regional Partnership, 2013). The plan focuses on 5 effective principles that are necessary for the future developments of the region:
1. Protecting the natural environment and watershed
2. Fostering our economic vitality
3. Accommodating growth in more compact settlement patterns
4. Integrating efficient regional infrastructure systems
5. Supported through a regional governance approach
(Calgary regional Partnership, 2013)
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan ensures a collaborative implementation and maintenance of future growth within the region. It secures the land’s visions and sense of place while creating a healthy environment and flourishing economy (O2, 2013).
GOAL OF THE PROJECT
DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS
Due to the large scale of the plan, the Calgary Regional Partnership alongside O2 Planning and Design Inc divided the planning into interconnected priority elements that would be explicit in maintaining the Calgary region’s growth. These elements included the Calgary region’s spatial qualities, ecological properties, infrastructural developments, watershed basins, riparian buffers, regional corridors, wetlands, ridges and escarpments – all of which are critical to the region’s interplay on growth (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
The planning process involved developing multiple spatial maps to showcase the relationships between these elements and interpret how interrelated these elements can be in different circumstances. The development and research for the Calgary Metropolitan Plan stretched over three years from 2007 to 2009, allowing both Calgary Regional Partnership and O2 Planning and Design Inc, to create a comprehensive regional planning tool that responded to the interrelationship between the ecological infrastructure and future developments (O2, 2013).
ROLE OF DESIGNERS
The Calgary Regional Partnership brought in the design and planning team of O2 Planning and Design Inc. to mitigate and develop the Calgary Metropolitan Plan. The O2 team was tasked with creating a core approach to regional planning while responding to the Calgary region’s multiple municipalities and their visions. The designers provided advice to the Calgary Regional Partnership and brought in three levels of planning strategies to guide to the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (O2, 2013).
The strategies - offensive, defensive and governance – respond directly to the environmental conservation efforts of the region during development and consider which order of governance is required for each level of growth. The designers aided in:
Developing plan evaluation criteria and performance indicators
Creating and mapping common land use and land cover Classifications for the entire region
Interpreting and mapping available GIS datasets
Identifying indispensable landscape ecological patterns
Developing and assessing three spatially explicit “learning scenarios”
Creating 2-D visualizations of scenarios
With its regional approach to planning, the Calgary Metropolitan Plan represents an opportunity to ensure development can be more efficient and compact. By implementing the goals in the Plan, we can expect to see a 70 per cent reduction in land used for urban development in the future. Infrastructure costs will decrease proportionately, benefitting us all.
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan is an opportunity to mitigate growth and implement the goals of the Calgary Region. Bringing together over 18 municipalities, the project allows for sustainable growth while providing a viable water source, clean air, renewable energy, healthy communities, shared infrastructure, and a prosperous economy. The Calgary Metropolitan plan is estimated to see a 70% reduction in land use for urban development, $400 million in savings for water and wastewater infrastructure, and a more sustainable approach to efficient growth management. The plan has gained recognition from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Interactive Media Awards.
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan Environmental Strategy is funded by a multitude of initiatives including government revenue sources such as taxes, fees, and bond funding. These will provide for dedicated funding allowing for an ongoing revenue stream to fund conservation tools and developments.
The total cost of the project is ongoing as it will evolve with future developments (O2, 2014). The Calgary Metropolitan Plan estimates savings of over $400 million in water and wastewater infrastructure capital and life-cycle maintenance costs (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2014).
An issue that is constantly on the rise on a Canadian and International scale is that regions are expecting an urban boom. Now, more than ever; cities, regions, and provinces are faced with serious issues such as population growth, climate change, declining resources, alarming waste rates, and dwindling water sources (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
The Calgary region has been acknowledging the challenges of urban growth since 1999 with the creation of the Calgary Regional Partnership (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013). The region is expected to grow by another 1.6 million people, occupying another 125,000-hectares of land, and increasing infrastructure exponentially both below ground and above ground (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013). Unmanaged growth is unsustainable and leads to a decrease in ecological infrastructure, declining water basins, high wastewater outputs and can be devastating to a region's economy. The Calgary Metropolitan plan was created in 2013 by the Calgary Regional Partnership and the O2 Planning + Design Inc. firm, it aims to tackle the issues of urbanization and provides a robust land planning and regional planning tool guide for future developments of the Calgary Region (Ibid.). The plan provides a regional approach to land-use planning and aligns with the goals and visions of the Calgary region such as:
Protect our watersheds
Enhance ecological infrastructure
Address climate change
Work together for change
Plan for resilient economies
Support sustainable rural economies
Develop compact settlements
Create sustainable and resilient communities
Support for sustainable rural development
Integrate and invest in regional infrastructure
Plan for regional transportation and complete mobility
Develop and implement strategic regional water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
Investigate a regional waste management system
Collaborate for a sustainable region
Implement a regional decision-making model
(Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013)
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan provides a secure structure for implementing growth in a way that is sustainable, resilient, and maintainable. The plan predicts a 60% reduction in the Calgary region’s development footprint and a 30% reduction in future infrastructure costs (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
GENESIS OF PROJECT
Rapid urban and rural growth within a small period of time can generate a multitude of challenges to a city, region, and even province. For example, the Calgary region is expected to grow by an astounding 1.6 million people by the year 2076. That growth would result in an increase of over 700,000 thousand jobs, thousands of hectares of land-use and zoning, and many infrastructure developments throughout the region. The risks of mismanaging this growth could be fatal to not only the Calgary regions’ economy but also to the ecological and environmental infrastructure that gives a sense of place to the region (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).
The Calgary Metropolitan Plan provides the Calgary region with actionable tools for regional land-use planning and future developments. Created in 2013, the plan accommodates the overwhelming growth of the future and provides balance by conserving watershed basins, wildlife and ecological infrastructure while also allowing for municipalities to grow compactly and efficiently. This comprehensive plan allows for sustainable, manageable and efficient growth within the Calgary region (Calgary Regional Partnership, 2013).