Taking the lab out of the classroom is becoming commonplace at UBCO as academics strive to apply what they know to the real world.
For researchers with UBCO’s Sustainability Institute and the School of Engineering, one current research lab is a sloping hillside in the northern part of Peachland.
The 125-acre parcel is the proposed site of New Monaco, a multi-use urban development that will eventually see a fully sustainable community of more than 5,000 residents, commercial businesses and light industry.
“We have created a regional innovation system that uses the Okanagan as a living lab for exploration of new ways of doing things together,” said Keith Culver, director of UBCO’s Sustainability Institute.
“And there’s mutual learning about how to apply research principles to solve real problems. We’re not afraid to be ambitious—problem-solving in the Okanagan can be globally relevant if done well.”
Researchers at UBCO have received a three-year, $125,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant that allows a group of graduate students from the School of Engineering to look at several aspects of sustainable development.
Engineering professor Rehan Sadiq said the students are working on projects including sustainable water and electricity supplies, wastewater containment and recycling, and transit.
“Research to transform sustainability principles into planning practices is complex and challenging,” said Sadiq.
“Sustainability on a neighbourhood scale requires a holistic and integrative approach to balancing flows of water, energy, material and finance.”
New Monaco, adopted into Peachland’s Official Community Plan in 2011, will be a community with mixed housing, commercial and artisan light-industrial zoning with a projected 5,000 residents. It could double the population of Peachland, creating new employment opportunities for the area.
District of Peachland Mayor Keith Fielding said the collaboration between the district and New Monaco is a good example of how communities and developers can plan for the future.
“The developers and district staff have a very effective working relationship,” Fielding said.
“It exemplifies best practices with respect to community consultation and the quest to ensure healthy and sustainable outcomes.”
Mark Holland, New Monaco’s VP Development and board director for the Urban Development Institute, said this project demonstrates the immense potential of strategic economic development in the Okanagan.
“We have a world-class university, a local government, a utility, a major developer, engineers and innovative researchers working together on a real community to drive market-ready innovation,” said Holland.
Culver noted the research will be valuable for decades to come as the goal is to provide results to all communities dealing with issues such as growth and sustainability.