Sustainability and Resiliency
As the planet continues to warm, intensifying the effects of climate change, we must look to innovative solutions to combat erratic weather patterns. Communities need to address what sustainability and resiliency look like within their infrastructure and landscapes whether that’s through preventative building material for wildfires and flooding, the integration of renewable energy technologies, the adoption of new walkability policies and designs, or the renewed management of natural resources such as vegetation, wetlands and water.
Implementing sustainable and resilient innovation into our designs and processes is necessary to protect our communities. Complete communities, which transcends into our other areas of expertise such as mixed-use environments and public space and land art, is an important design concept that we must utilize in new developments as well as current ones.
At one time, innovation was considered to be a synonym for rebellion, revolt and heresy. We don’t think that’s necessarily changed. Every piece of sustainable and resilient innovation is a revolt from the status quo. Developing complete communities or integrating elements of it like mixed-use environments and public space and land art reflects a rebellion from urban sprawl. It challenges us to create amenities that require low maintenance, have minimal environmental impacts and provide resiliency for our changing climate.
However, one of the main antagonists of innovation is money. Now, we know money isn’t abundant or endless, but when we think about implementing sustainability and resiliency into our work, it can have future savings that will surpass the initial cost. For example, request for proposals is notoriously bad for this as price often outweighs innovation in the evaluation process, causing firms to underbid and require future change orders, which can increase the project’s cost dramatically.
Nadi’s principal and founder, Emeka Nnadi, believes that if we commit to valuing innovation over price, we must set a precedent between the consultants, contractors and developers who contribute to new communities, parks, public spaces, etc. Moreover, integrating sustainable and resilient innovation can make new developments more attractive to buyers. As climate change dominates the news and governmental policies, people will want to live, work and play in areas that have longevity and where their homes can withstand erratic weather, ensuring their valuables and loved ones remain safe. It’s the direction we need to go, and sustainable and resilient innovation is integral to that.
It’s impossible to separate technology from the majority of the activities we do. As Nadi’s executive assistant, Joshua Heron, argues, technology has redefined our relationship with nature and public spaces. Concerning the popularity of the augmented reality game Pokémon Go!, “These types of apps and games are filling the gap and creating a purpose amongst players to explore new regions, spend more time outdoors and travel to new places.”
At Nadi, we have experimented with blending design and technology into projects. One example is of a municipality that engaged the firm to explore design options for a Manitoba walk of fame, celebrating many of its laudable citizens.
What started with a two-dimensional exploration of several plaque designs led to broader questions that only an augmented reality solution seemed able to answer:
- Will all of our citizens, young and old, recognize the honouree only by their name? How can we make sure that they do?
- How do we ‘snow-proof’ the plaques for the winter season?
- How do we convey why that person is being honoured and bring their message to life?
Mainly, our challenge proved to be how we could use urban space (and technology) to tell a riveting and interactive story about exemplary members of the community, (some living, some not). As well, how we could design a walk of fame experience that forms closer bonds and deeper engagement with people who experience the place, increasing civic pride, and our sense of ‘happiness’ and ‘harmony’ within the surrounding community.
The conceptual solution was to design celebratory walk-of-fame plaques that doubled as high-tech augmented reality markers. When interacted with a mobile device, these markers would display three-dimensional avatars of the honourees (each one above their plaque). Furthermore, the digital avatar of each honouree could be animated, talk to the viewer and present additional information about himself or herself through text or audio (in multiple languages).
Other ways innovative technology can elevate design is through land reclamation. In the case of 99 Red Balloons, we anchored the balloons to the landfill vents through a tapering steel plinth and included perforations at the base, allowing the vents to aerate correctly and creating a safe barrier between visitors and the landfill infrastructure. Inside the balloon cavity, we placed solar panels to potentially generate enough energy to power 4,500 homes on an annual basis.
99 Red Balloons isn’t just a showcase for technology, but inspiration on how we can reclaim the land that was once used as a landfill to bring new life to space. Not only can it power 4,500 homes, but it also acts as a tourist attraction for visitors and locals.
Innovation and creativity can often feel interchangeable. However, we think these two descriptions act like more of a complementary process to one another. Innovation is the initial idea, dream or thought, while creativity acts as the wheel to move it forward.
Creativity breeds experimental designs that innovate and challenge conventional methods. In Five insanely creative and innovative bridge designs, Nadi’s marketing associate, Rebecca Henderson, explores how creative innovation and functionality don’t have to be competing concepts. Examples such as the circular pedestrian bridge similar to the Lujiazui Circular Pedestrian Bridge in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China, the Millennium Bridge that spans the Thames in London and the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir that spans the Seine in Paris showcase how functional architecture can also be a work of art.
However, while pedestrian bridges are expensive pieces of infrastructure, land art can be a less expensive alternative, especially working within a limited budget. Nadi’s Shovel Garden is an excellent example of taking a small budget but making a significant impact on the surrounding area. Creative innovation doesn’t need to be vast or all-encompassing. It can be small, incremental changes to the landscape.
Creativity also plays an essential role in reclaiming land from resource development and waste. As landscape architect and public space and land art practice lead, Meaghan Hunter, writes, “A garbage dump to designers, planners and engineers is a park in the making—a future city gem that everyone can enjoy” even though many people will not see it that way. Meaghan led Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park, a 50-acre park, half of which is a decommissioned landfill. What was once a mountain of waste, now has a soccer pitch, a beach volleyball court, basketball court, children’s playground, open recreational fields, picnic shelter and approximately five kilometres of pathways and trails.
Innovation must be encouraged, nurtured and inspired—not necessarily from a young age, but throughout your education and professional development.
At Nadi, our Insights page provides a collection of learning opportunities to expand our knowledge in the world of design. In one article, Nadi landscape architect, Kristen Struthers, examines the effect of light pollution on human health and the environment, referencing The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), an organization that advocates “to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting”. The IDA defines light pollution as “the inappropriate use of artificial light”, outlining appropriate light use as “only be on when needed, only light the area that needs it, be no brighter than necessary, minimize blue light emissions, and be fully shielded (pointing downward)”.
Shockingly, only one Canadian city fit the designation as a Dark Sky Place: Bon Accord, a town 40 kilometres north of Edmonton. What’s significant about diminishing light pollution is how innovative an idea it actually is. The fact that the majority of our cities around the world are negatively impacted by the inappropriate use of artificial light, causing harm to the environment, ecology, health and safety of our planet, is a prime example of how education can inspire innovative goals and objectives that strengthen the relationship between people and the environment around them.
Design competitions are another opportunity to encourage and inspire innovative thinking. Projects such as 99 Red Balloons, Convexus, Starry Night: SixtyNine-Seventy, Shovel Garden and Bokeh challenged Nadi to think outside the box while following specific parameters and limited budgets. While not every project listed above was actualized, projects like Shovel Garden and Bokeh were, proving that great ideas can come in small packages.
Nadi’s urban planner, Diana Garcia, however, would like to implement innovative learning practices for children to start the next generation on a path towards unconventional thinking. She cites several cities that have done just that with programs and games aimed towards children:
“New methodologies have surfaced to communicate and integrate the community in the early stages of the creative process and make decisions on which topics are necessary to find solutions in their own city problems. Amsterdam with the Play the City programs and games, Stockholm with the Method Kit that engages citizens for participation and the Imaginable guidelines card game created by an Istanbul-based architect Alexis Şanal, are a few examples that all voices are equally heard and accounted for in the planning process.”
What’s more, is innovative infrastructure can have the same effect, inspiring a new connection between children and the environment they grow. She describes how The Metro Cable, a Gondola Project integrated into the LRT system, found in Medellin Colombia, transformed ‘comunas’ (considered the most dangerous communities in the country) into more inclusive places. It encouraged kids and adults to better understand the environment around them and see how innovative ideas can act as affirmative instruments of change. She writes, “After the first few years of implementation, the community engagement process in the ‘comunas’ confirmed that sense of pride. It helped generate consciousness on how we are all responsible for the sustainability of the area we live in.”
Dreamscape’s founder engaged Nadi to develop a visionary 10,000-acre conceptual master plan for an innovative 22nd-century ‘complete community’. The client envisioned a 500-acre roofed megastructure, filled with world-class entertainment venues and theme parks, at the heart of the project. The balance of the 10,000-acre development would include extensive hospitality and recreational activities, and incorporate multiple mixed-use residential districts interwoven with business, commercial and green space networks.
Rose Lake Green started with an idea to design a centrally located sculptural water feature—that would act as a neighbourhood beacon and recreational splash pad—for the Bridgwater neighbourhoods. Bridgwater is a new neighbourhood in the South of Winnipeg.
The Brady Road Resource Management Facility retained Nadi to create a landscape plan for the Brady Landfill. The plan would address the desire for habitat creation with diversity planting, a buffer to address surrounding neighbourhood concerns regarding odour, landfill litter control (windblown materials), sounds and unsightly views. The plan would also include a landscape strategy to address immediate concerns of the impacts of the landfill on newly developing neighbourhoods and a 100+ year landscape master plan to be phased in as the city decommissions landfill sites.