University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: Urban planner Bev Sandalack

UToday HomeMarch 15, 2013

By Jennifer Allford

EVDS professor Bev Sandalack, second from right, in the Urban Lab in which students get real world experience exploring urban design, community planning and urban development in the community. Photo by Mel de JagerEVDS professor Bev Sandalack, second from right, in the Urban Lab in which students get real world experience exploring urban design, community planning and urban development in the community. Photo by Mel de JagerFrom planning more off-leash dog parks in Grand Prairie, to calling for more trees on Calgary streets, Bev Sandalack, professor and associate dean in the Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS), is always thinking about landscape.

The urban planner, with a private practice and a research and teaching career, started out as a landscape architect: “It always came back to landscape and the environmental aspects of everything you do in planning,” she says of her decades of work.

Sandalack runs the Urban Lab at EVDS, where students take on applied research projects with community groups and municipalities to explore urban design, community planning and urban development.

From working with tiny hamlets such as Benalto, neighbourhoods like Killarney-Glengarry, to several Calgary-wide studies, and even bigger — developing a comprehensive Open Space Master Plan for Red Deer County — the students get “real world practice and experience” in planning more sustainable spaces.

“We emphasize more walkable, liveable communities and cities and if the students can take that into their future professional roles, they can transform the way city planning is done,” she says. “It’s immensely satisfying and it’s very important because our students are going to be the planners and professionals of tomorrow.”

The Urban Lab was set up in 2000 as an “ongoing experiment” in collaboration between faculty, students and the public. It’s also an opportunity to participate in the “paradigm shift” Sandalack sees in the way we plan our cities.

“There is the right kind of political will and we have the knowledge and the skills to do things differently,” she says. “It’s really exciting because we have the capability of radically changing things and progressing past what had become a conventional planning approach of zoning and land-use regulation to a much more comprehensive approach that includes ideas of sustainability together with physical design.”

Good urbanism is also good environmentalism, she says. “Making more compact developments are good for people in that they provide the density and intensity required for high quality urban life, and this also saves valuable landscapes.

Sandalack, who has co-chaired the City of Calgary Urban Design Review Panel, and is now co-chairing the new Design Review Panel for the City of Fort McMurray, says it’s gratifying to be part of the evolution of the discipline of urban design.

“Sometimes I just feel like I am just beginning because there are always things to learn. It’s always exciting.”

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.

 

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