The Story of Inclusio – Accessible Housing (Calgary)

Submitted by Accessible Housing

Accessible Housing is a non-profit organisation and registered charity, which helps open doors to homes that are both accessible and affordable for people with limited mobility, a growing population with unmet needs in the province of Alberta. Recognising a need in the community for increased mobility-restricted and cost-effective housing, the Accessible Housing Society undertook the development a 45-suite home known as Inclusio.

Inclusio is located in the community of Capitol Hill in Calgary, Alberta. It is the first building of its kind designed to serve those with limited mobility not only in Calgary, but also within the province of Alberta. Inclusio features 45 studio suites, shared common living spaces and laundry rooms available on each floor, a central dining room (designed to offer three meals per day, seven days per week), and wellness room (complete with a therapeutic tub). Residents also have access to an enclosed parking garage (with parking stalls wide enough to accommodate specialised vehicles), as well as on-site administration, maintenance and housekeeping services.

Through the initial design, development and operation of Inclusio, Accessible Housing gained a great deal of knowledge about not only construction design and development but also additionally, how the services provided integrate in the most useful way for residents within the building design. Through a generous grant provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Accessible Housing has been able to gather this learned information and share the story of Inclusio with many stakeholders. 

Further understanding of the needs that less than 3% of affordable housing units in Calgary are accessible; 58% of adults with disabilities in Calgary have incomes under $30,000 per year provides opportunity to reach out to government and other agency stakeholders to create plans for strategy and collaboration to fill a greater and increasing need.

 

The benefits realised through the building of Inclusio have been significant. Not only for residents but family members as well as staff working with residents each day.

While supportive living is not a new concept in the realm of housing the uniqueness of Inclusio is, as it was purpose built to support residents with limited mobility.

The success of Inclusio can be summed up best by comments shared from residents:

  • “Allows us to go out into the community and feel safe and comfortable”
  • “The supports we received offer us the ability to contribute to society (working/volunteering) and to offer what you can back”
  • “Has given me a sense of hope, purpose and fulfillment”
  • “Has helped reduce the feelings of uncertainty you feel when disabled”
  • “My mom sleeps at night now not being worried to get a call that I have fallen and need help”
  • “Accessible is not in the business of building places, they are in the business of saving lives”
  • “I have so much I want to do and I feel like I can do it now!”
  • “I was very isolated and depressed, now I have started to live”
  • “My mom took a vacation for the first time in 10 years”

 

The ability for Accessible Housing to tell the story of Inclusio and share learnings will continue long into the future thanks again to the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF). Together, we are creating opportunity that empowers people, and emphasises the importance of a more accessible Alberta.

To learn more about the important work Accessible Housing is doing visit our website www.accessiblehousing.ca.

Pedesting app is helping Calgarians find the easiest, safest, most accessible routes

Submitted by Bricolage Calgary

The Pedesting app is navigation software that provides the easiest, safest and most accessible pedestrian routes through the City of Calgary for various mobility types, including wheelchair users, strollers, and walkers.

The software employs cutting edge data collection methods and recognizes the different mobility requirements of the user. In this way Pedesting can enable all pedestrians to find authoritative directions from point A to point B anywhere in the city. Further, once at the location, Pedesting is able to assist with navigating indoors to find the ultimate destination. We designed the Pedesting app to understand routes through spaces that are complex, such as Calgary’s +15 system or a university campus. Pedesting will establish routes that are easily navigable by anyone, anywhere: from a smart device at home or a phone on the go.

The Pedesting app was created to help people who feel that the urban environment is full of barriers and  challenging to navigate; Pedesting will enable more involvement in society by people who want to contribute but feel isolated. Pedesting is more than an app: it is a community of people who see their respective city as a place for everyone to come together and contribute. The Pedesting community is unified by the belief that a society is best served when everyone is represented, when all citizens are accounted for and able to partake.

Pedesting was formally introduced to the citizens of Calgary through a series of showcases in the fall of 2019 and into the early months of 2020. These showcases were made possible by a generous grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF). At the showcases the Pedesting app was presented to a variety of groups; the Pedesting team fielded questions and actively enrolled beta testers for the app as to assist with the ongoing software development.

Photo Credit: Laura Colpitts Photography
Showcase at Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC)

The showcases were tailored to address the different groups at each event: the City of Calgary was represented by the Mayor, several Councillors, Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), Facilities Management, Roads, Transportation, Calgary Tourism and other municipal employees from a variety of departments; other showcases targeted business and industry, the real estate community, the general public and the disabled community. A final showcase was held in January 2020 at Civic Tech and included the technology community. The showcases were important and successful. Pedesting is now a part of the public conversation in Calgary and many alliances and potential working relationships were formed as a result. The events also enabled the Pedesting team to actively recruit a variety of guest bloggers, as well as beta testers to assist us as we move forward to the next iteration of the app.

This important public introduction of the Pedesting app was only possible due to the funding from AREF. The Pedesting team was able to provide a professional event in safe and public venues such as the New Central Public Library and  the CMLC event space at the St. Louis Hotel. We were able to employ closed captioning and ASL interpreters for persons with hearing limitations as well as a modest variety of sandwiches or baked goods. The following are some pictures from the respective showcases:

We would like to express our appreciation to AREF for helping Pedesting to present the culmination of three years of research and software development. It was a rewarding experience for our team and we were proud to formally introduce the Pedesting app to the leaders, early adopters and citizens of Calgary.

For more information about the Pedesting™ app and to receive news and updates, please visit our website or follow us on social media (@pedesting)

Your Trees do have Value

by the Agroforestry & Woodlet Extension Society 

Most people that live in Alberta have trees as part of their landscape. That can be in the yard around their home as ornamentals and fruit trees, or it can be in rural Alberta as large tracts of natural native trees that existed prior to any land clearing or shelterbelts and windbreaks that have been planted over the years. Those trees have a large variety of value to the owners and the communities in the province. So how do you find out those values and what can you do manage or improve those values?

In 2019 the Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society initiated a project, with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, to assist primarily rural landowners of acreages and farms in learning about the value of their trees and also how manage aspects of the trees to improve the growth and quality of the trees and the overall value of their property. However, the project efforts can also benefit landowners in cities, towns, and small hamlets as all these areas have plenty to trees and can use some assistance.

The project involved meeting with landowners talking about their treed area or about an area they would like in trees and providing them advise on best way to achieve their goals. In many cases, the conversation turned to how to successfully plant more trees or how to improve the health and growth of their existing trees. Over the past year the program resulted in benefits to over 30 landowners, leading to six new planting projects that involved planting over 20,000 trees on private lands in central and northwest Alberta. It also has the potential of creating another 6-8 projects that will be planted in the spring of 2021, with a growing number as the project proceeds.

So, what are some of the values that might come from your trees? There are obvious values like producing wood if the tree is cut down, to be used in the manufacture of many things, including most of the homes in Alberta, but there are a lot of other values that they can provide as they stand and live in our backyards. As examples: trees will affect the microclimate (climate of a localised area) around them, primarily by altering wind, potentially reducing heating and cooling costs by 17.5% – 25%, and protecting livestock; they act as a physical buffer for odours and particulates, improving air quality; the reduction of wind speed prevents the movement of valuable topsoil off of fields and helps prevent the drying situation that leads to loose soils in the first place. One of the most beneficial synergies of trees is in how they interact with water and water bodies on a property. Their ability to control snow can be quite extensive, and they can act as water filters for runoff. Wooded areas also offer a variety of habitats for wildlife, which in turn offer their own benefits.

This partnership has allowed us to demonstrate that there are many and varied values the forested areas and trees can have, from their economic values to their inherent value as natural areas. Due to the complexity of these forested areas and trees, it is important to look at each case individually, and assess a forest or shelterbelt’s value on a case-by-case basis. All of this is explained in detail in the educational document produced as part of the project on the many and wonderful values that trees provide to people.

Evict Radon Update: UCalgary research finds short-term radon test kits are not effective in measuring radon gas exposure

For immediate release: As awareness increases about the health danger of radon gas, more people are making the decision to test their homes for the deadly gas. A University of Calgary-led study finds the only reliable way to measure exposure to radon gas is with a long-term testing kit, which takes readings within the home for 90 or more days.

“Radon gas levels can fluctuate wildly day to day,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Oncology and member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).  “Short-term tests can give a false sense of alarm, or worse, a false sense of security as they cannot precisely predict long-term exposure.”

Researchers placed two test kits, a short-term (five-day) and long-term (90-day) in the same homes. Tests were conducted during summer and winter months. Findings showed the short-term kits were imprecise up to 99 percent of the time when compared to a long term test.

Radon is a known carcinogen. Health Canada lists radon as the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The gas is naturally occurring, colourless, and odourless. It can accumulate to unnaturally high and dangerous levels in homes. Health Canada has promoted the use of long-term testing kits for some time.

“Our recommendation was based on research from international authorities including the US and Europe,” says Kelley Bush, manager, radon education and awareness Health Canada. “This research is critical because it provides Canadian data that confirms the value of long term testing.”

Goodarzi has also been working with the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) to educate realtors against using short term radon kits for real estate transactions.

“RECA is appreciative of the assistance provided by Dr. Goodarzi in the development of education enabling real estate professionals to advise buyers and sellers to take radon into consideration during the purchase and sale of a home, in the absence of reliable short-term testing,” says Joseph Fernandez, director of education programs at RECA. “All real estate professionals have completed radon related education and new professionals will be required to complete it before entering the real estate profession.”

The findings also show the Prairies are home to the second highest radon exposed population on Earth. The pan-Canadian scientist and physician led Evict Radon research initiative is now recruiting participation from all Canadians. The research is aimed at gathering as much data as possible to understand and ultimately defeat Canadian’s exposure to radon problem.

“We need to know exactly what factors influence high and low radon in Canadian homes. It’s not just in the Prairies, we know of high concentrations in areas throughout the country,” says Goodarzi. “This is easily one of the most preventable forms of environmentally-caused cancer. We have already learned so much from the work we’ve done in Alberta and Saskatchewan to test for and mitigate radon. We plan to build on that.”

In addition to the data gathered on short-term testing kits, Goodarzi’s team was also able to get a better understanding of how the size, design and age of home are related to radon gas exposure.

Findings are published in Scientific Reports.

This research was supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Alberta Cancer Foundation, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Robson DNA Science Centre Fund at the Charbonneau Cancer Institute.

Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, holds the Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure disease. Evict Radon represents a confederation of Canadian Scholars with expertise in radon biology, architecture, population health, geology and communications.

Learn more about the Evict Radon campaign, and sign up for research study radon kits at http://www.evictradon.org/.

Find the full media release here.

 

Media Contact

Kelly Johnston
Sr. Communications Specialist
Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Kelly.johnston2@ucalgary.ca
403-220-5012

About the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary is a global intellectual hub located in Canada’s most enterprising city. In our spirited, high-quality learning environment, students thrive in programs made rich by research, hands-on experiences and entrepreneurial thinking. Our strategy drives us to be recognized as one of Canada’s top five research universities, engaging the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university’s Gaelic motto, which translates as ‘I will lift up my eyes.’ For more information, visit ucalgary.ca/eyeshigh.

For more information, visit ucalgary.ca. Stay up to date with University of Calgary news headlines on Twitter @UCalgary. For details on faculties and how to reach experts go to our media centre at ucalgary.ca/mediacentre.

About the Cumming School of Medicine

The University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) is driven to create the future of health. We are a proud leader with seven world-class research institutes and 2,900 students, as well as faculty and staff, working to advance education and research in precision medicine and precision public health, improving lives in our community and around the world. Visit cumming.ucalgary.ca and follow us @UCalgaryMed.

ReFraming the WaterShed raises the roof on sustainable building

Submitted by ReThink Red Deer

For the last five years, an ambitious group of organizations, businesses, and volunteers have been busy as beavers at the Piper Creek Community Gardens. Together, we’ve done some cool things like install one of Canada’s largest Food Forests and Pollinator Gardens, restore the banks of Piper Creek, and plant lots of new beaver habitat! Oh ya, AND we hosted some hungry goats with the City’s Parks Department!

But in the summer of 2017, we were sad to see the old iconic barn be demolished for safety reasons. The site looked so empty because, in spite of all the beautiful plants growing, it’s just not the same when you know what it looked like before.

So we teamed up with our friends at Top Peg Timber Frame Construction and Living Lands Landscape and Design to host a community barn raising that replaced the beloved structure and aims to break the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Pollinator Hotel…! With a lot of hard work and persistence we secured a $25,000 grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation to host local timber framers and coordinate the project, plus $27,766 from the Government of Alberta’s Community Facility Enhancement Program, $40,000 from Co-Op’s Community Spaces program for barn materials, and official approvals (permits) from The City of Red Deer.

The new barn design is an open-air timber frame structure to harvest rainwater for the planted areas of the site and the walls serve as space for installing pollinator habitat (with the help of Living Lands) making it Canada’s largest pollinator hotel and supporting – in a BIG way – the City of Red Deer’s Pollinator Parks initiative!

Check out photos of the barn raising held on the 2019 Alberta Culture Days weekend, alongside our Fall Harvest Supper and Garlic City Market – click here.

picture of raised timberframe barn

Piper Creek Timberframe Barn – constructed by Top Peg Timber Frame Construction and High Peak Timberframing (Sept, 2019), sponsored by Alberta Real Estate Foundation, The Government of Alberta, and Federated Co-Op’s “Community Spaces” program.

 

What do rural landowners need to know about inactive and orphaned wells?

Pembina Institute’s latest primer on oil and gas liabilities in Alberta

By Nikki Way and Morrigan Simpson-Marran

Increasingly, Albertans have heard about the number of oil and gas wells that sit inactive, neglected, or potentially orphaned in this province. Inactive and orphaned well numbers are growing in parallel with a prolonged energy recession in Alberta since 2014. Often this issue is discussed in an abstract way, mainly focusing on the financial implications for the province or referencing liabilities that companies do not have the funds to properly care for, which raises questions about whether some of these wells will be cleaned up at all.

At the end of the day, rural landowners are the ones who have this infrastructure on their land and have to live with these uncertainties. With support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the Pembina Institute has published the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells to help those who are most impacted. Designed as a complementary follow up to our 2016 publication, the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development , this primer addresses questions and examines problems landowners face when dealing with operators who are under financial strain and still have unreclaimed oil and gas infrastructure on landowners’ property.

Since the price downturn of 2014, multitudes of oil and gas companies that had accrued significant clean-up costs in Alberta have declared bankruptcy, in some cases leaving their infrastructure under the care of the Orphan Well Association. Many of the names of bankrupt operators have been in the news recently, such as Sequoia Resources, Lexin Resources, Trident Exploration, and Redwater Energy.

Although these are some of the high profile examples of operators who reneged on their responsibility to clean up hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – of wells, there are many other lesser known instances in which landowners are left with few answers for what might happen, or even who they could seek out to get questions answered. Currently in Alberta there are 90,000 inactive wells and 3,406 orphan wells that are up for abandonment (also known as decommissioning), while another 2,772 orphan sites need to be reclaimed.

Frequently, when wells are orphaned, sold off in bankruptcy, or even neglected and left inactive by companies that are financially struggling, landowners are left without an explanation of how to proceed and what their rights are. They may struggle to navigate the process of insolvency, or to understand the role of the operator or the regulator through this process.

The Pembina Institute’s Landowner’s primer outlines what a typical reclamation process should look like, and what issues may arise if the reclamation process does not go as planned. It explains what may happen if the operator on your land declares bankruptcy, and who might take over the responsibility of the well next. It offers guidance on issues such as missed lease payments and who to contact in case of a leak from the well. It also offers advice on how to navigate an untended well site. Should more questions remain, the guide has a list of contacts for landowners in order to get the help they need.

Without legislative changes that can ensure the timely reclamation of oil and gas infrastructure before companies reach their financial limits, many landowners will continue to experience this problem. It is important that as many landowners as possible have resources to navigate this situation.

Whether you are a real estate professional, an organization that works with landowners, or if you have an oil or gas well on your property, this primer is for you. You can download a copy of the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells. In addition, you can order a printed copy of the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development for the cost of shipping.

Download your copy of the Landowner’s primer. 

About the Pembina Institute
The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more: www.pembina.org

Land Access Strategies for New Farmers in Alberta

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Statistics Canada reports that only 8 per cent of farmers across the country have a succession plan. Meanwhile they’re getting closer to retirement. The average age of producers in Alberta is 57 and fewer of their children want to take over the family farm.

“Seventy-five per cent of farmers say they will sell their land in the next 10 years. That’s a huge transfer of land,” says Dana Penrice, prairie program manager at Young Agrarians. “At the same time we’re seeing a trend of new farmers coming from non-farming backgrounds.

They’re first generation farmers and they’re looking for land.” AREF is supporting the Young Agrarians’ Organic Alberta project which will research, consult and survey new farmers, older farmers as well as land experts to better understand the upcoming land transfer in Alberta.

The project will host workshops on intergenerational communication, succession planning and other topics regarding land transfer. They’re branding the initiative: ‘Want land? Got land?’

“What we’re facing is a really significant change in assets in terms of land and farm ownership,” says Penrice.

“We need to figure out this whole land access issue. How do we match up people who are looking for land and people who have land?”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Methods of Remediation of Contaminated Water and Excess Nutrients

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Research at Olds College has determined at least three native wetland plants in Alberta—sedges, cattails and bulrushes—are “working very well” removing contaminants and excess nutrients from the water. “There’s no data that indicates what plants, what kind of contaminants or nutrients each plant takes up and how much the plants can take up at a time,” says Ruth Elvestad, research technician at Olds College Centre for Innovation.

That’s why AREF supported furthering the research with a project called: Use of Native Wetland Plants and Cold Climate Floating Island Systems for the Remediation of Contaminated Water and Water with Excess Nutrients. The project will test several more native wetland plants to help landowners understand the value of wetlands on their property and how different plants can clean up different contaminants.

“We would say let’s test the water that has algae or other contaminants,” says Elvestad. “Then we should be able to say ‘This is what you’ve got going on in your pond so you need plant X, Y or Z and this is how many you need of each in order to assist in cleaning your water so it can be recycled and used in agriculture, irrigation, and other applicable industries.’”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Rural Climate Solutions Online Resources and Broadcasting

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

The Stettler Learning Centre is creating a series of podcasts and a website that are “part educational tool, part source of inspiration” aimed at Alberta producers who want to understand what they can do on the farm to help move toward a clean energy economy.

“This podcast comes straight out of Alberta—one of Canada’s biggest agriculture and energy producers— and dives into the technology and practices that are both good for the farm and good for the climate,” says Derek Leahy, the project coordinator for Rural Routes to Climate Solutions at the Stettler Learning Centre. “The agriculture sector is often characterized as a cause of climate change as opposed to a solution but most people do not realize that there are farming practices that can help us in the fight against climate change.”

From solar power to better land management, many of the practices that can help the environment can also help improve farming and ranching operations. “There are many producers who do not realize many climate solutions can help their farming and ranching operations thrive,” says Leahy. For example, using biodiversity can boost productivity, manage pests and help the land endure Alberta’s endless cycle of floods and droughts. Another podcast covers the benefits of formalizing a cooperative among agricultural producers to save on costs and minimize operators’ environmental footprints.

“Producers are constantly looking for opportunities and new techniques to improve my agricultural operations,” says Leahy. “Our project connects those dots by providing clear, informative and entertaining explanations on how producers can benefit from using climate solutions on their land.”

AREF’s support for the project allows the Learning Centre extend an existing program that received funding from the Alberta Government Community Environment Action Grant program. The initial program developed workshops and other materials for producers about agricultural and land-use practices that reduce carbon emissions.

Turning those materials into podcasts provides a really convenient method for producers to consume the information. “For producers, time is limited and it is also a precious commodity. But with the podcast, a producer can simply download episodes on to his or her phone and listen on the job, particularly on those days that they’re on a tractor or combine all day.” says Leahy.

“It is our hope that through this easily accessible method of learning, producers will be informed and inspired to use climate solutions on their farms. They will benefit and we will all benefit from this.”

Listen to the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast here!

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Understanding Behavioural Environmental Design Contributors of High Radon Exposure to Protect Canadian Health

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer— after smoking— and the invisible, odorless, radioactive gas may be lurking in your home. AREF is supporting Evict Radon, an awareness campaign that encourages homeowners across the province to test their houses for radon gas while also providing data for researchers who are looking for a solution.

“We want to educate people about the effects of radon gas and encourage as many Albertans as possible to test their homes while also gathering data for medical research,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and lead of the Western Canadian Prairie Radon Study.

Radon occurs naturally when radium in the soil and rock breaks down. Goodarzi and his team have detailed radon gas analysis from more than 11,000 homes across Alberta and Saskatchewan. They found a staggering one in six houses contain hazardous levels of radon.

“We now have radon readings from all across Alberta and other parts of the prairies,” says Goodarzi. “We know that homes with higher square footage have higher radon. However, there are still several unknown home metrics that are contributing to high radon.” They’re trying to determine the “X factor” about why newer houses have higher radon than older houses.

The researchers are aiming to test more homes in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat and rural parts of Alberta. The best time to test for radon is during the winter. “That’s when we spend more time inside, and due to the cold, our homes are sealed up tight — the perfect conditions for radon exposure,” says Goodarzi.

People order a $60 Evict Radon test kit at evictradon.ca. They put the device in the lowest level of their home where they spend more than four hours a day and leave it there for at least 90 days. They register their device online, enter the start and end dates and fill out a short home metric survey. After the 90 days are up, the homeowner sends their device to the lab for analysis. They’ll get their radon level within a few weeks.

Radon occurs in areas all across the country. It’s the primary cause of lung cancer diagnosis in 10,000 to 40,000 Canadians every decade. And every day, an Albertan is diagnosed with radon-induced lung cancer despite never having used tobacco.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

New look of Pembina’s New Energy Economy Map

It’s been over a year since the New Energy Economy project got its start, premiering at the 2017 Alberta Climate Summit. The goal was to share stories of Albertans taking hold of the energy evolution well underway in the province, and in less than a year it has made amazing progress.

Today, the New Energy Economy Map has over 200 projects, each having broken ground after 2012. They have published more than 20 stories and profiles about these projects and the people who make them happen — touching on renewable energy, efficiency, education, transportation, clean technologies and more. The map is always growing, with new stories published every week.

 

University of Alberta Enhances Research on Urban Expansion

“Urban Alberta is spilling into rural,” says Brent Swallow, an environment and development economist. Too often, decisions about land designation are driven by short-term goals, he says. But there are long-term costs to development and to the “ecosystem services” that rural land provides for cities, such as clean air and water.

Balancing urban expansion with rural conservation is challenging and heavily influenced by people’s attitudes and beliefs. For example, do urbanites in Alberta want to preserve the rural land around their cities? Do they want more locally grown produce at the farmers markets? Are they willing to pay extra to keep the city outskirts green?

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation wants to find answers to these questions to help the real estate industry better understand issues around land stewardship. The foundation’s $50,000 donation will make it possible for Swallow and his research team in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences to conduct a province wide survey of urban attitudes toward fragmentation, conversion and conservation of agricultural land.

Announcement of new Executive Director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA)

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is pleased to announce that Ms. Amelia Martin has been appointed as the Executive Director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA).

Ms. Martin joined CPLEA in January 2015 as the public legal education lawyer after leaving private practice in Calgary. While obtaining her law degree at the University of Ottawa, she was selected to be one of the Dean’s Legal Research and Writing Fellows and was involved in teaching the legal research and writing class. As a caseworker at the University’s Community Legal Clinic, she assisted vulnerable clients who were experiencing housing issues or facing criminal charges. She also worked closely with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation and contributed to a report for the United Nations titled Forced Evictions: Global Crisis, Global Solutions.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation has been a proud supporter of CPLEA for 15 years and are looking forward to working with Ms. Martin in her role as Executive Director.

The CPLEA’s mission is to enhance the accessibility and quality of justice realized in Canada. It addresses its mission by creating learning opportunities and building learning communities that facilitate the creation, management, exchange, and integration of knowledge among people within the justice system and between them and the general public.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is currently providing funding to CPLEA’s Condo Law for Albertans project which you can learn more about on our website: Phase One and Phase Two

Unlocking the door to Smart Energy Communities – a Framework for Implementation

Communities – the places where we live, work and play – account for 60% of energy use in Canada, as well as over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In other words, when we invest, plan and implement effectively for Smart Energy Communities, we can have a direct impact on addressing Canada’s energy and GHG challenges.

QUEST believes that there are three fundamental features of a Smart Energy Community that you can view by watching this video.

  • First, a Smart Energy Community integrates conventional energy networks. That means that the electricity, natural gas, district energy and transportation fuel networks in a community are better coordinated to match energy needs with the most efficient energy source.
  • Second, a Smart Energy Community integrates land use, recognizing that poor land use can equal a whole lot of energy waste.
  • Third, a Smart Energy Community harnesses local energy opportunities.

Many cities and communities in Canada have taken ownership over their energy, recognizing the significant impact energy has on the local economy, health and community resilience. These communities are exemplifying some of the features of a Smart Energy Community.

Consider Surrey, British Columbia, where the municipal government is building a district energy system that will efficiently provide heating and cooling to buildings in the City Centre. Surrey is also developing the largest Organic Biofuels facility in Canada which will turn organic waste into renewable natural gas that will replace diesel and gasoline fueling for municipal vehicle fleets.

Consider also Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, which successfully completed a 10-year community energy plan and exceeded greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 100%, in part by converting from oil to renewable wood-pellet burning heating systems throughout the city.

And finally, consider Guelph, Ontario where the municipal government and electric utility have collaborated to develop the Galt District Energy system, seven solar energy facilities, a small-scale combined heat and power system, and plans for both a large-scale combined heat and power facility and biomass projects. Guelph is also playing host to net-zero residential developments.

These and many other communities are blazing trails – led in particular by the initiative and leadership of the municipal and provincial governments, gas and electric utilities, and real estate stakeholders that make them up.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a Smart Energy Community, Surrey, Yellowknife and Guelph each use a Community Energy Plan to guide decision making around energy.  Lessons learned in these communities can be applied in every community across Canada.

A Community Energy Plan is a tool that helps communities define priorities around energy with a view to improving efficiency, cutting emissions and driving economic development. Community Energy Plans are an important and effective enabler for becoming a Smart Energy Community.

Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada

That is why QUEST has partnered with The Community Energy Association and Sustainable Prosperity, Canada’s leading community energy experts, to launch a national initiative entitled Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada. The objective of this multiyear initiative is to build the capacity of Canadian communities to develop and implement Community Energy Plans. This will be done through the development of a Community Energy Implementation Framework.

Over the next year, the project will be drawing on lessons learned from communities across Canada through research, as well as a series of national workshops, to develop the Implementation Framework.  The Framework will help communities navigate the challenges faced when it comes to implementing Community Energy Plans and will provide them with the tools they need to become Smart Energy Communities.

QUEST recognizes that every community will have its own unique set of opportunities and challenges for advancing Smart Energy Communities. The solutions will vary from community to community. The Getting to Implementation initiative is one of the first steps for identifying the success factors and barriers for CEP implementation. Understanding these will bring QUEST one step closer to defining how other communities across Canada can develop and implement Community Energy Plans effectively, and become Smart Energy Communities.

Be sure to attend Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Alberta on June 18th 9:30 am – 3:30 pm at the University of Alberta. Register here.

By: Eric Campbell, Acting Director, Programs & Service, QUEST and Sarah Marchionda, Manager, Research & Education, QUEST

Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

What Lies Beneath? Buyer beware

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You buy a home, move in, then find out there’s an abandoned gas well beneath, leaking and contaminating your property. Think it can’t happen to you? It can. According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in November 2012 over 150,000 abandoned well sites dotted the Alberta landscape, making it essential that buyers do their homework.

These nightmares happen because of gaps between what Albertans should know, could know and actually do know about their environment,” says Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel and author of a new Environmental Law Centre publication, What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta.

In real estate transactions the onus is generally on the buyer to do their due diligence and the general rule for buying and selling real estate is ‘buyer beware’. Unfortunately there’s no checklist to prove due diligence and no one-stop shop for environmental information.

The best way to demonstrate due diligence is to identify environmental concerns, learn what information is available about those concerns and act on that knowledge. Buyers who make inquiries into the environmental conditions of the specific site and the local area are in the best position to make sound choices and solid deals.

Most land in Alberta has already been used for something. In Calmar, oil and gas extraction took place on farmland that was re-zoned, subdivided, developed into a residential community and sold without exposing what lay beneath or what other activities had taken place on the land previously.

And in Alberta it isn’t just oil and gas activities that are concerning. Whether you’re looking to buy a giant parcel of farmland or a tiny infill lot in the city, there are many activities that can impact the land, air and water that surround your potential new home. Feedlots, pesticide application, old dry-cleaners or landfills – even recreational activities like off highway vehicle use – can affect your quality of life.

What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta provides practical information-finding tips, outlines environmental concerns you may want to think about and describes where to get started to find the information you need to make the best choices when buying property in Alberta. A twelve-page booklet based on this guidebook, Buyer Beware, is also available.

The Environmental Law Centre is Alberta’s leading environmental public policy and law reform charity. The full publication and booklet can both be downloaded on the Environmental Law Centre website.

Stewarding Lac La Biche, by Living Lakes Canada

Lac La Biche is the seventh largest lake in Alberta, with importance to the local economy and culture.  Local and provincial government, in collaboration with lake stakeholders, created a watershed management plan for Lac La Biche in 2009, but little has been done to date to implement it.  That is soon about to change, with the formation of the Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed, a group of community stakeholders committed to implementing the monitoring, outreach and stewardship recommendations in the plan.  With the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the newly formed group will be able to take on activities that will increase publicly available science about the lake and provide means of disseminating that information to stakeholders.  Since the project start date, a group of steering committee members has formed to work out the mechanics of the group so that it will make the broadest and most enduring impact on protecting the lake values.

Location of Lac La Biche

 

 

 

Thirty-Five sites will get naked during Doors Open Calgary

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 – Many of Calgary’s most culturally and historically significant buildings are going to bare it all during Doors Open YYC – DO YYC Naked on September 29 and 30, 2012.

For these two days only, buildings in all quadrants of the city are opening their doors – free of charge – to the public and providing special revealing tours and experiences designed specifically for DO YYC Naked. No matter where you live, you’ll be able to find something close-by and memorable to experience. In some places, the sites are close enough together that you’ll be able to take in a few in a single day.

“This year is the perfect time to take a great event like Doors Open and do it in a way that is pure Calgary energy,” says board member for Doors Open YYC, Jeff Hessel of Tourism Calgary.

Arts lovers will find inspiration in sites like the National Music Centre, King Edward School, Atlantic Avenue Art Block and the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts.
History buffs will love sharing the experiences and stories of the Colonel Walker House, Deane House, Fort Calgary and will even get a chance to view rarely shared archives at the Lougheed House.

Sports enthusiasts will have a hard time choosing between taking in a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Olympic Oval or getting behind the scenes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Kids will love to visit the Oliver Bowen LRV Facility where they can ride a C-Train car as it goes through the wash, the Nat Christie Centre where they can learn about the costumes of the Alberta Ballet and The Military Museums for the always loud and impressive cannon demonstrations.

For people who love to know how things work, there are special tours of the City of Calgary Victoria Park Bus Maintenance Facility and the Traffic Management Centre.
Environmentally minded Calgarians will be awed and inspired by tours of The City of Calgary Water Centre and the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Centre as well as the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness and the Energy Environment Experiential Learning building at the University of Calgary.

“As you can see, a lot of effort went into putting together an event that would have something for everyone and would showcase the architecture, culture, heritage and inner workings of our unique city” explains Joni Carroll, Doors Open YYC program manager.

Doors Open YYC will show you Calgary like you’ve never seen it before. For the full list of Doors Open YYC sites with details about accessibility, programming and a map to help visitors get the most out of the weekend, visit doyycnaked.com

You can see a full listing of the sites by going here.

Affordable homes is a dream come true for two Albertan families

Owning a home is so much than acquiring an appreciating asset – it’s a source of pride and new tie to the community. You could see the emotion on the faces of all four families that benefited from new Habitat for Humanity homes in Strathcona County. On a sunny July 27th, four families were handed keys that started new chapters in their lives. Two of the four homes were supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the REALTORS® Community Foundation and the Government of Alberta. The County of Strathcona also played a key role with significant contributions to all the homes.

Jay Freeman, Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), said of all the worthwhile projects that the Foundation supports, Habitat for Humanity is one of his favourites. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony he said, “With these projects we can see, in a very concrete way, how our small contribution is benefiting.” The families moving into the new homes couldn’t agree more. Both parents and children spoke about how owning a home will make a difference to them and their families. One of the new owners named Clodia said, “Owing a house means stability and security, but also it means I can be a good role model for my daughter.”

 

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Habitat for Humanity believes in giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Habitat Homes are built by volunteers and donors and sold to qualified families. Those who are approved to receive a home must agree to work 500 hours at the build site in place of a down payment. Habitat holds the mortgage interest-free and amortizes it over as many years as necessary to ensure the families do not pay over 25 percent of their income for housing.

Affordable housing is one of the Foundation’s areas of interest for projects. It often partners with Real Estate Boards across the province, such as the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton, to match their donation and double the impact in communities across Alberta. Habitat for Humanity is a deserving partner as it serves families that are low to moderate income and offers them an innovative financing option. The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is proud of its contribution to this great event and join with others in welcoming these four families home.