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Vancouver, BC Canada: 2030

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Leadership & Transparency
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This post is Jan Lee's entry into the 2015 Masdar Engage Blogging Contest.

The sustainable city of the future builds for tomorrow, respects the lessons of the past and harnesses the opportunities afforded by the present. For Vancouver, Canada’s most populous West Coast city, that approach has been part of its vision for years.

In 2009, when the city realized that its burgeoning metropolis would eventually exhaust the area’s natural resources, it launched its Greenest City 2020 initiative, a preliminary and bold aim at sustainability in the 21st century. The year 2030 will see a city where climate change, growth and demand will be met with smart transportation infrastructure, innovative energy use and production, and adaptable living environments that meet the needs of an inclusive society.

Water: Varied Resources for Varied Needs


For Vancouver, a city of nearly a million, water will be its most vital resource in 2030. The Vancouver Lower Mainland relies on a diverse network of reservoirs, aquifers, and glacial sources, but prioritizing water consumption will be the new challenge. The city’s network of neighborhood communities will play a role in this:

  • Locally controlled rain and gray water catchment systems will feed Vancouver’s abundant parks, community gardens and private green spaces, reducing demand on potable water sources.

  • A desalination facility south of the city will provide agricultural irrigation and emergency water sources during times of prolonged drought.

Green Building Codes, Shared Resources


In 2013, the City of Vancouver began introducing “green” building requirements. The use of eco-friendly construction materials and smart design will help meet the demands of Vancouver’s sustainable city building codes.

Vancouver’s community “hub” system will make it easier to supplement the city’s hydro-electric power with the use of community solar “trees” and arrays in gardens, rooftops and open spaces. Offshore and onshore wind generation will support Vancouver’s increasing population.

Neighborhood energy centers will supply community hydronic heating and can run on a number of resources, including converted sewage waste. Shared heating systems, an offshoot of a concept that once ran the city’s hospitals, reduce supply costs and down time, and can be self-funded. Passive heating and improved architectural design will reduce demand.

In neighborhood shopping areas, specially designed transparent awnings will bring relief from UV exposure, heat and rain, making commercial districts accessible in all seasons.

Eco-friendly cultural centers that recognize Vancouver’s legacy as a multicultural city would provide inviting areas for neighborhood events, festivals and gatherings.

In the downtown core, buildings will be outfitted with “air scrubbers” or tiles that absorb CO2 emissions. Greenways, attractive parklets and recycled water features will enhance and cool walking areas.

Accessible and Sustainable Transportation Options


Accessible transportation is essential in a sustainable city. Because one travel system rarely fits all needs (particularly in changing, adverse climates), there will be a well synchronized transportation network to link commuters with city and suburbs. It will include:

  • Vancouver’s high-speed SkyTrain network, which uses a low-emission linear induction motor system common in MagLev propulsion. Increased services will replace the city bus system, with improved discounts for use

  • Electrically or solar powered shuttles for local transportation within neighborhood regions

  • A diverse network of bike routes, lanes and paths

  • Neighborhood kiosks with bicycle and electrically charged accessible scooters for individuals with varying mobility needs

  • Hybrid electric/solar-run vehicles and community chargers for inclement weather periods that could replace high-emission sources.
“Smart” highways would link together provincial highway systems. Electric charging lanes and adaptable road surfaces that signal changing conditions would reduce accidents and improve sustainability.

An Evolving Design

Smart, inclusive design that plans for a changing climate and evolving community will be Vancouver’s steps to a sustainable and resilient future.

Image: Jan Lee

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

Read more stories by Jan Lee