Enabling Low-Carbon Cities: The Role of Energy + Emissions Modelling

As an affiliate event to the Global Climate Action Summit held in September 2018 in San Francisco, Sustainability Solutions Group hosted a one-day symposium on modelling energy use and greenhouse gas emissions mitigation in cities. The event was a presentation and discussion forum for cities’ climate action success and challenges to date, and a discussion platform to determine future requirements and opportunities in modelling low carbon pathways for cities. The symposium convened top modelers, policy makers, academics, consultants, non-profits, and other key thinkers on city climate action.

Energy and emissions modelling is empowering cities to create informed climate policy. In leading cities, modelling is evolving to include broad land use, financial, and societal considerations, which is enabling urban policy that is balanced and effective in addressing climate and societal issues simultaneously. There are critical challenges in extending these approaches to all cities and in distributing climate action throughout city management and operations. With leadership from local, regional and senior governments, cities can secure resources, adopt leading approaches, and use appropriate modelling processes to create effective policy and achieve substantial progress in mitigating GHG emissions.

This brief draws on the presentations made and the discussions held during the day-long workshop. Download the full report here: Enabling Low Carbon Cities – SSG Symposium 1903_vIssued

Aerial view of city

Sustainability, Social Value and Wellbeing in Buildings

Kelly Watson is a Research Associate at the University of Manchester. She recently submitted her PhD thesis that investigated how to measure and disseminate the social value of buildings, using methodologies from the social impact sector. Her current post-doc research has developed a wellbeing valuation approach for the built environment, to promote understanding of the impact of design on the people that use it.

The Seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

We’ve created a new model to help change the way cities plan for sustainability. Meet Places+Spaces.

SSG partnered with Royal Roads University and whatIf? Technologies on a three year project to create Places+Spaces, a new model to assist local government decision-makers in accurately assessing multiple policy options for sustainable community development. The “engine” of this tool is an integrated systems simulation model of the community incorporating community-specific data and reflecting community-specific policies and scenarios. (The “engine” works by tracing complex relationships between policy options – investment choices and impacts – and impacts – built environment, resource consumption, and financial viability).

This ambitious project was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund. Places+Spaces is the first model of its kind in Canada and was tested in three cities: Tofino, Moncton, and Colwood.

“Communities are faced with a gamut of wicked problems,” says Professor Ann Dale of Royal Roads University who led the project. “We needed a wicked solution to support more sustainable community decision-making and that’s where systems dynamic modelling like Places+Spaces comes in. This approach allows us to quantify relationships that are too complex to understand using mere intuition.”

One of the largest issues facing local government decision-makers when it comes to implementing strategies for sustainable development is the potential complexity of the strategies proposed, which makes evaluation and comparison of pathways difficult. Cities are no longer seen as just ‘pipes and roads’ – citizens are calling for their backyards to be developed with sustainability in mind – and planning is moving toward discussion of ‘ideas and systems’.

The beta version of Places+Spaces has been released as an open source tool and is available as a free resource for use by all regional and municipal staff and elected leaders.

“Right now the tool is in the realm of dedicated users and we hope that over time by releasing it as open source, we anticipate developing version 2.0 which will be more user friendly,” says Dale. Development of the next version will be led by a new private/public sector partnership between SSG and whatif? Technologies.

Read more about the development of Places+Spaces in the RRU News Release here.

Check out Places+Spaces for yourself here.