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Sustainability: Balancing Economic, Social, and Environmental Dimension

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SUSTAINABILITY: Balancing Economic, Social, and Environmental Dimension

Athletes' Village

Adam Maglio


SOCI 430 99D

April 3, 2011

For the purpose of this paper I will discuss a recent sustainable project that has been completed in Vancouver, BC. First I would like to discuss the defining structure of what it means to be sustainable. For an identity to be called sustainable it is believed that it must be modeled around the 'three pillars' or 'three' dimensions of sustainability. This model includes three elements, environmental (conservative), economic (growth), and social (equity) which are all interconnected (A Model for Sustainability). Without all three of these elements present the reality of sustainability cannot be achieved. When speaking to a particular sustainable development, it is required that the project yields great sustainable benefit to present generations while still maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspiration of future generation (A Model For Sustainability). In saying this, it is evident that for a project, business, or organization to achieve sustainability many needs must be met. Highlighted in Professor John Robinson's paper, "technical fixes" are necessary but not sufficient. Robinson argues that achieving reductions in the environmental impacts of economic activity through the means of technological does not necessarily translate into improvements in the quality of life (Robinson). It is critical to understand that sustainability has a deep and valuable meaning and as Basiago states is not a tangible goal (Sustainability as an Analytic Tool). It is imperative when evaluating sustainable projects, as I aspire to do, to take into consideration what a sustainable identity must realize.

Vancouver, BC recently held the 2010 Winter Olympics and is globally recognized for one of the most livable cities and evidently one of the 'greenest'. Hosting the Olympics put pressure on the City of Vancouver to live up to these expectations and ultimately inspired the city to strive to leave a sustainable legacy. The International Olympic Committee has set precedence on the importance of a "green" Olympics, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the hosting city. False Creek, an area once known for its industrial prowess, was the centerpiece site that the City of Vancouver envisioned to build one of the most sustainable Olympic projects in history. Only days before the Olympics began, the city of Vancouver completed a one billion dollar sustainable project known as the Athletes' Village. This project was initially to be funded largely by private sources but the economic downturn and the collapse of the New York hedge fund, Fortress Investment Group, forced responsibility on the City of Vancouver to come up with funding. As a result taxpayers dollars became the primary mechanism of moving this project forward (Hiskes). However, the city has said that it has always had plans to develop the Southeast False Creek area whether the city was hosting the Olympics or not. Inevitably, because of the Olympics the city probably put in much more consideration around the sustainability of this project.

The goal of the Athletes' Village was to construct one of the greenest buildings known to the world, provide affordable housing at the conclusion of the Olympic games, grant a senior housing center, and eventually provide economic stimulus through the creation of grocery stores and retail shops. Design manager Roger Bayley illustrated his enthusiasm about the project by saying, "I personally believe it could have a very significant influence. It's being constructed on a scale and in a timeframe that is literally unheard of, except maybe in China. And it's embracing a whole series of innovations that I think many people will be extraordinarily impressed with" (Hiskes). The project has been questioned by some regarding if these goals are realistic. Are the issues the City of Vancouver are trying address with this project merely a campaign to justify the use of tax payers dollars?

The City of Vancouver believes that the Athletes' Village adequately considers all three dimension of sustainability. Economically, the City of Vancouver is committed to redevelop the remaining industrial land in False Creek. The sales of individual units are assumed to stimulate the local economy. Environmentally, Athletes' Village has reached new heights in green building innovations. Many of the buildings are platinum LEED (leadership in energy efficiency and environmental design) certified which include triple-glazed windows, ultra energy efficient walls/roofing, and LED lighting. Buildings with a high percentage of glazing (windows) behave like large greenhouses, so every time it's sunny, the sun's solar radiation penetrates through the exposed facades, triggering significant cooling requirements, which consume energy. Additionally, this project includes green roofing, storm water management, rainwater harvesting, and sewer heat recovery systems, recycled interior materials, and maximizes the site's Western orientation for energy purposes. Socially, Athletes' Village is developed around an accessible community design. Retail opportunities should increase jobs and trainings. As well, as noted above the City of Vancouver has stated that 250 affordable housing units will be allocated for low-income residents and there will be a significant area designated for a senior citizen center. There has been criticism amongst housing activists regarding the social goals of this project. "Examples of entrepreneurialism in planning for the Olympics included the centralization of planning powers, the increasing involvement of the private sector in government activities, and the relaxation of planning processes, resulting in reduced openness, accountability and public participation" (Owen



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