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5 Questions About City Building We’ll be Asking in 2022

This year, we’re full of questions about — and optimism for — how city-building can evolve and innovate to meet the current moment. 

People walking in a city in winter

Published on January 19, 2022

This year, we’re full of questions about — and optimism for — how city-building can evolve to meet the current moment. 

During the pandemic, long-standing inequities in everything from housing, to education, to who has access to our public spaces, have risen to the surface. Many have started to ask how we can work towards creating cities and communities that are livable, green and prosperous for all, not just some, residents.  

These questions are what drive our work at Evergreen. Here are five we’re focusing on this year. 

How can we prepare for the impacts of climate change? 

This is the question that should be at the front of every city-builder's mind this year. The impacts of climate change are already with us, from extreme heat, to flooding and other extreme weather events.  

It is essential that we factor the reality of climate change into every public space we build. It is perhaps more important that we adapt our current spaces to be resilient to these current and coming stressors. 

At Evergreen, this is a question we’re constantly asking. Ten years into the creation of our headquarters and demonstration hub Evergreen Brick Works, we’re looking at new ways to make it more climate resilient, while improving access and visitor experience. Our beloved farmers market works to provide food security in the form of access to fresh, local food, and our programs let youth connect to the land, building an understanding of the importance of stewardship. 

In our Climate Ready Schools pilot project, our team is working closely with partners to transform a school ground in Milton, ON into beautiful green space for both students and the wider community. The design will also build the area’s climate resilience by adding more shade to help with hotter temperatures, and more green space to absorb and manage floodwaters. 

Our AI for the Resilient City program asks how can we use technology to understand and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Our pilot program with the City of Calgary uses a mapping tool to show which areas of the city are most impacted by hotter temperatures and suggests what could be done to address it. 

How can public spaces be built for all, not just some? 

The reality is that public spaces are not always built with everyone in mind. Often, the greenest spaces are located in the highest-income neighbourhoods, many spaces lack adequate seating, shade and bathrooms, and too many are built without accessibility in mind. 

City builders across the country have been asking this question and advancing real solutions. At Evergreen, we want to provide a space for leaders across Canada to come and discuss this important question.  

This past year as part of Future Cities Canada: The Summit, we hosted experts who addressed this question from a range of perspectives. From Wanda Dalla Costa, member of the Saddle Lake First Nation and Canada’s first Indigenous architect, and Selina Martinez, an architectural designer at ASU’s Indigenous Design Collaborative, discussing how to center Indigenous voices and perspectives in cities, to Lanrick Bennett Jr., Managing Director of 8 80 Cities, and Lezlie Lowe, a Halifax-based journalist and author, discussing how to build more accessible cities, we heard from those leading this work. These important conversations need to continue into 2022. 

We’ve also been asking it in different ways across our programs, and trying to find new opportunities to increase access to green spaces.  

In our programming in Toronto’s ravines, we’ve led bike rides and nature walks aimed at getting residents who might not know much about the ravines into this special natural space. The Gateway Bicycle Hub, which we are proud to partner in, leads some of these bike rides, along with workshops teaching basic bike repair and riding skills, to break down barriers to active transportation. 

How can we break down barriers to creating new housing supply? 

One of the biggest issues facing Canadian cities is housing, or more accurately, a lack of it. More and more residents are struggling to find safe housing they can afford. 

There are many layers to this challenge, and even more potential solutions. The Housing Supply Challenge, led by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC), is asking residents, stakeholders and experts from across Canada to propose innovative solutions that will break down the barriers to creating new housing supply.  

The Housing Supply Challenge Support Program, led by Evergreen, supports applicants by providing guidance, mentorship and the resources needed to develop and improve their submission to the challenge. Just have a peek at the 14 solutions that received funding from the Data Driven Round. The soon-to-be launched round — Northern Access: Supply Chain Solutions for Nothern and Remote Housing — is asking applications to propose solutions that will improve access to building materials in northern and remote regions. 

How can technology help solve some of cities and communities most pressing issues? 

Tackling some of the challenges we’ve outlined above is no small order. The good news is that across the country, from remote northern communities to our largest cities, innovative solutions are being tested and scaled. 

Often a barrier is how to access these solutions and connect with a network to learn from. Enter, the  Community Solutions Portal, Canada’s largest, curated online collection of smart cities resources, where you’ll find practical examples of approaches that can help communities thrive.  The recently refreshed Portal features resources to help communities launch their own innovative projects, whether it's getting started with community broadband, or tips on how to plan and implement smart technology.  

How have our cities changed during the pandemic? How will they continue to? 

We’ll admit it — this isn’t a new question for just this year. It is as relevant as it was those first few months in the spring of 2020. The pandemic is still highlighting and exacerbating the issues facing our cities and communities, and in some cases, it’s providing an opportunity to see how we could do things differently. 

From open street programs and expanded cycling infrastructure, to a renewed focus on the importance of outdoor learning spaces for kids, and a realization that our public spaces are essential resources that we need to continue investing in, there are plenty of lessons we’ve learned over the course of the pandemic, and plenty of solutions we’ve started to implement.  

We’re asking, how can we build on the momentum we’ve built in the city building world so far? And what questions do we still need to be asking, to create the cities we want for current and future generations? We hope you’ll join us as we explore just that in the year ahead.