Zibi is using One Planet Living to reinvigorate downtown Ottawa


To celebrate Zibi’s first One Planet Annual Review, we had a chat with Ashley Graham, Sustainability Project Manager at the community, to learn more about how it’s bringing One Planet Living to life

Can you tell us more about Zibi, Canada’s first One Planet Community?

Located in two municipalities and two provinces, Zibi is a transformative project on a physical, environmental, and societal level. It inhabits former contaminated industrial lands, and is transforming them into one of Canada’s most sustainable communities.

Incorporating public spaces and parks, as well as commercial, retail, and residential real estate, Zibi is poised to become a truly integrated mixed-use community, one that’ll reinvigorate both the Ottawa and Gatineau downtown core.

How long have you been working on the project and what’s your role?

I have been working as the Sustainability Project Manager with Zibi for a couple of months.  This new role was developed to champion Zibi’s One Planet Action Plan; this means that I advocate for the inclusion of principles of the One Planet Action Plan in the planning, design, construction and operation of Zibi to ensure that we are building one of Canada’s most sustainable communities.

My role also ensures that sustainability is engrained in the culture at Zibi by promoting internal initiatives such as Bike to Work Month.

How did Zibi become a One Planet Community?

Together with Bioregional, Zibi has developed an exceptionally ambitious One Planet Action Plan.  First developed in 2015, this is a living and breathing document that continues to evolve along with one of the largest urban developments in the National Capital Region. Its most recent version reflects additional input from our numerous stakeholders, including our Algonquin partners.

The Zibi One Planet Action Plan is comprehensive in its respect of the site’s rich history, integrates important regional characteristics, and is visionary in its ambition. It has been incorporated throughout every phase of our development, from design to construction, branding to site animation.

What do you like about One Planet Living?

One Planet Living under the guidance of an Action Plan is truly an achievable way to live a more rewarding yet less impactful life.  While it forces us to think outside of the box, One Planet Living fosters innovation, authenticity and happiness without sacrificing a modern lifestyle.

What I find especially exciting about the One Planet framework is how all-encompassing it is. Whereas other sustainability frameworks tend to concentrate on architecture and construction, they rarely integrate lifestyle choices, public health, transit options, etc. It’s really the combination of all these aspects that makes a big difference, and I can’t wait to see how it impacts life at Zibi.

Zibi is currently under construction, how are you embedding One Planet Living in this process?

In 2017, we began to see the power of the One Planet Action Plan for construction. With the implementation of an onsite quarry, our commitment to a zero-carbon community began in earnest. The quarry allows for Zibi to decrease construction emissions by processing excavated rock on site into aggregates for onsite use, rather than having to truck the excavated rock for off-site crushing.

In 2017, we reused approximately 500 tandem dump truck loads worth of this aggregate onsite eliminating the need for offsite trucking for this mass.  Not only has this proven to be a cost-effective measure, but this has allowed us to supply local and regional developers with whatever remaining aggregate we do not use.

Zibi under construction (with a view of Ottawa’s Parliament Hill)

While our commitment to 50% aggregate on-site reuse could not be achieved in 2017, due to lack of immediate need, our forecasts suggest that our target will be met on a project-wide scale.

This is but one small example of how our One Planet Action Plan has been instrumental in developing new sustainable strategies that would have otherwise not been considered. By changing perspectives on multiples fronts, we see the possibility for a number of other innovative tactics that can be applied on both a small and much larger scale.

What are you looking forward to over the next year for Zibi?

As Professor James DeFilippis states in his book Contesting Community, “One of the axioms of organizing is that you organize people where they are, and where people are, in much of their lives, is in their communities.”

One takeaway from the integration of the One Planet Action Plan, is that by encouraging employees to rethink their existing practices, they become more cognizant of new opportunities to be more sustainable in their personal lives and in their own communities. And hopefully, when Zibi welcomes its first residents by year’s end, we can do the same with them.

Zibi’s latest One Planet Annual Review shares its progress towards its ambitious One Planet Action Plan

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