Sustainable Community Development in Northern Alberta

Updated On

We may collect a share of sales from items linked to on this page. Learn more.

Typically, when Alberta makes the news for environmentalists, it’s the massive tar sands projects that grab the attention. Or oil wells, gas wells, or the huge strip mines of coal outside of the capital city of Edmonton. Seldom is Alberta mentioned as a place where something is going right from an environmental health perspective.

Just east of Edmonton, between the city and Elk Island national park, sits the ‘hamlet’ of Sherwood Park. This bedroom community of over 45,000 people generates most of its wealth from a nearby collection of oil refineries, and so is hardly the place one would look for any sort of sustainable development.

However, that is exactly what “Centre in the Park” is. This 5 hectare mixed-use development in the core of the community incorporates a number of green innovations and sustainable features, and served as a model of sustainable development at a UN conference in 2005.

Centre in the Park will contain a number of residential, retail and commercial spaces, all adjacent to a central sport and recreation complex that includes a performance auditorium and a mix of other facilities.

centre in the park

A central energy plant will produce heat for the entire complex. This heating plant meets or exceeds the LEED® Gold standard for environmental, economic and social impacts. Once all buildings are connected to the system, an estimated 1,100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced and avoided each year. In a community where winter temperatures can approach (or occasionally exceed) -40 degrees Celsius, this heating plant is a vital part of the project.

Other innovations include the collection of storm water for irrigation, “green” roofs on some buildings and a 20-meter-wide public walkway. All of the residential buildings will be constructed to meet the Built GreenTM checklist, promoting energy efficiency while preserving the use of natural resources.

Sustainable communities like this are designed to provide dynamic places for active living, and with the street-level shops in a pedestrian-friendly environment it encourages residents to shop at home, reducing their carbon footprint. In its location in the core of Sherwood Park, it also has excellent access to local mass transit systems, including commuter buses to nearby Edmonton. A shopping mall is nearby, complete with a supermarket and theatre complex, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment..

By placing this development in close proximity to all of these facilities and services, it encourages people to leave their cars parked in the underground garages, and walk wherever they need to go.

Building sustainable communities in northern climates is a challenge. For many months of the year, residents are practically required to drive everywhere they need to go, lest they freeze. However, with everything that they need so close at hand, it can be hoped that residents of Sherwood Park’s newest neighbourhood take the opportunity to live up to the promise of their new community.

  • Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn was born and raised in Northern Alberta. Growing up in the boreal forest gave him an appreciation for nature, an appreciation that was enhanced by the works of his artist mother, Svala Dunn, who captured the landscapes and wildlife of the north in her oils and watercolors. He holds a Degree in Geography from the University of Alberta, with a concentration in Urban Studies. He has since found career in information technology, but still pursues his first interests in geography and the environment. He lives and works in southern Vancouver Island, with his wife and three children.

What do you think? Leave a comment!