Having the chance to plan an entire community on the top of a mountain isn't something that happens often.
But even with that advantage, Burnaby's UniverCity is attempting to achieve something more, according to Gordon Harris, president and CEO of the SFU Community Trust. The trust is in charge of overseeing the UniverCity project.
"We do have an advantage, planning and developing an entire community," he said. "But it would be possible to do so without striving to these environmental and green standards."
It is that difference that brought the UniverCity project to the attention of the Canadian Institute of Planners.
UniverCity recently received an award for planning excellence from the institute.
The awards committee mentioned the collaborative and integrated planning of UniverCity as an example of best practices in sustainable community development when giving the award, according to a press release from the community trust.
"UniverCity exemplifies best practices in ecological urbanism and community building," the committee is quoted as saying.
"The plan takes a triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability, which puts forward innovative green building and engineering practices, expansive environmental protection areas, multimodel transportation opportunities and necessary community facilities."
Harris took City of Burnaby senior planner Robert Renger, who is the city planner working with the project, to the awards ceremony in St John's, N.L., at the institute's annual conference from July 10 to 13.
"I thought it would be important to include Robert and the city," Harris said, explaining that UniverCity has been a collaborative effort.
Harris took the award to Monday night's council meeting and presented it to Mayor Derek Corrigan.
"I wanted to say how much we appreciate the city's support," Harris said. "Really, it's an acknowledgement to Burnaby. It belongs to all of us."
The award shows that UniverCity is living up to the intentions of its planners, Harris said.
"It's easy for us to think we're doing a good job," he said. "This shows we are indeed doing the things we said we'd do."
The development has received multiple awards and recognition for its efforts towards sustainability and affordable housing, 20 awards to date, according to the trust's count.
UniverCity hopes to be a model sustainable community, Harris says.
"We'd like people to copy us." The planning of UniverCity includes various sustainability measures, from sustainable building practices for each new development to stormwater management to green roofs to the neighbourhood energy utility.
Anther green development aspect is the construction of one of Canada's first living buildings, UniverCity's child-care centre.
A "leave only footprints" philosophy is necessary when planning a community for 10,000 people directly above a wilderness conservation area, according to Harris.
Harris anticipates the community, which now has about 3,000 residents, will reach completion in about 12 years.