Building With Nature

Designing cities to fit the natural world.

Image Source

How do you bring nature into an urban setting? Parks and natural spaces are a start, but urban ecologists believe nature can—and shold—be part of a city’s design. So does Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan. One of its seven goals is to build a “greener” city, factoring the natural world into decisions about everything from energy use and water management to building design and transportation.

In a story in GreenBiz, writer Gregory Scruggs covers an April 2017 talk between architects, planners, designers and ecologists. These experts gathered in Portland, Oregon to discuss the role nature plays in cities. 

Here are three big ideas from the talks: 

1. Become a “biophilic” city
Cities are designed for humans…but can they be welcoming places for other forms of life? A biophilic city is one that is designed to support a range of plant and animal species—to everyone’s benefit.
Read more about the psychological perks of biophilic urban design, and find out where you can see these ideas in action in Calgary. 

2. Rethink infrastructure
Cities need structures like roads, tunnels and bridges, but these building projects can disrupt natural systems. When we treat nature as an essential part of a development project, it changes the way we approach these projects.

Green-roof bylaws in Toronto and Chicago have set official requirements for new development—just one example of a nature-focused approach to urban design. 

"How can we co-opt the word 'infrastructure' to make better decisions about the landscapes that sustain us?"

- Nina-Marie Lister, Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor, Ryerson University 

Find out why urban infrastructure that takes nature into account can make us happier, and what having a community garden means to residents of Calgary’s Legacy neighbourhood.

3. Use climate change as an incentive
In many developing countries, new construction is seen as desirable no matter what the environmental cost. Now, climate change is motivating governments and international organizations to support climate-friendly initiatives. 

Economic incentives are changing the way developed countries build, too. Find out why energy-efficient homes are becoming a must-have here in Calgary.

February 16th, 2018
Updated: February 20th, 2018

Everyone benefits when cities incorporate the natural world.