Plans Aim To Turn Edmonton Into An Urban Environment That Thrives In Winter
Edmonton city council just approved some winter design recommendations that are aimed at creating thriving urban environments during the winter season. The recommendations place emphasis on adding podiums, balconies, and trees to tall buildings with the intentions of slowing down the wind. Focus has also been placed on raising crosswalks to keep pedestrians from the snow, planting evergreen trees to slow wind speed in walking trails and parks, and designing south-facing seating areas to create maximum sun exposure.
All of these guidelines have objectives that can be summed up into five core goals – block the wind, create maximum sun exposure, add color to the winter landscape, create some visual appeal in winter light, and build infrastructure that supports comfort during wintertime.
Ben Henderson, a member of the Edmonton City Council, already acknowledges that Edmonton has played a role in creating hostile micro-environments for the city’s inhabitants. North-facing patios and downtown wind tunnels have been viewed as not good enough in creating a thriving environment in which people can enjoy their city, especially during the winter. Meanwhile, some of the city’s winter design policies have already been incorporated into the city’s Design and Construction Standards. These include guidelines on how tree planting should take place within various parts of Edmonton – evergreen trees planted for the intentions of blocking and dispersing cold winds, while deciduous trees are put in place to allow in light once their leaves wither.
Edmonton’s development officers are asking for studies of the tall buildings in relation to the wind found in current standards. The Edmonton Journal provides insight that there is very little outlined on the acceptable level of wind-related tunnel effect, and there is also no direct link between the developers’ rights to construct high structures and the need to soften wind impact, in particular for pedestrians. The new building guidelines also incorporate beauty, and under this directive, buildings are supposed to have colorful paintings and creative lighting. The beauty directive goes further to add that buildings’ trails should be softer and have glare-free lighting that enhances the area.
Before the recommended guidelines get council approval, Sue Holdsworth, the city’s winter city coordinator, notes that it will be a challenge to turn the guidelines into bylaws and enforce their implementation in private practice. Ms. Holdsworth therefore holds that the guidelines are meaningless if they are just left on the council shelves and not acted upon.
Rick Preston, Edmonton’s executive director of the Urban Development Institute, has suggested that the city council come up with a plan that establishes a point of contact among the developers who would love to experiment with the new guidelines. Further, he added that the upcoming Winter Cities conference, which will be held in Edmonton in February, should help the private and public planners navigate through the new design suggestions. There is hope that planners come up with feasible means to make the city a thriving urban environment during winter.
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