How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.



Bamberton was a proposed new town that was to be built over 20 years on the site of an old cement works on the Saanich Inlet near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Bamberton was to be a different kind of town.

It was being designed to engender human community, a sense of belonging, and a positive vision of the future; to embody ecological sustainability, community values, traditional village-style neighbourhoods, and its own local economy.



Overall goal

Bamberton is designed to be a traditional town for 12,000 people which will enable its residents to enjoy a strong sense of community and a high quality of life, in a prosperous post-industrial economy, and to pursue ecologically sustainable lifestyles in harmony with the natural world.

Urban Design

Goal : A community which nourishes personal connection and relationship

* Traditional Neighbourhood Development, modelled on pre-1920s town designs

* Neighbourhood Centres with village greens, shops and businesses

* Conscious emphasis on creating a strong 'sense of place' (cf Alexander, A Pattern Language)

* Houses built within a 5-10 minute walking distance of a village centre

* Houses built close up to the street with front porches, to encourage conversation

* Pedestrian-friendly, narrow, slow streets

* Back lanes for car access where possible

* The town centre on the waterfront as a centre for cultural, artistic and business activities.

* A Design Code that lays down architectural standards emphasizing traditional designs, sloping gabled roofs, vertical windows, etc., which builders have to follow

Cultural and Social Infrastructure

* There were 300 hours of meetings with local community groups before planning commenced.

* 95 Issues and over 300 Design Principles were laid down to guide the project.

* The Bamberton Code was written as expression of the core values. Everyone is invited to sign.

* The town is to be inclusive, for residents of all ages and incomes.

* A Bamberton Health Advisory Committee has started work to develop a wellness based community health system

* Community Thinktanks will be held with future residents and professionals to begin planning in the areas of education, seniors, youth, disability and affordability.

* 5% of all housing units are to be wheelchair accessible.

* Tot-lot playspaces and community parks will be provided within the village neighbourhoods.

Affordable Housing

Goal : "Anyone who works at Bamberton should be able to live there"

Context : 12,000 people move to Vancouver Island every year, bringing a constant need for new housing. House prices are increasing steadily due to an excess of demand over supply. There is no affordability strategy for the region as a whole.

* The need for affordable housing is best met in an affordable community, which allows and provides reduced car ownership, good local jobs, strong social services, daycare, transit, etc.

* Bamberton will be 60% single family dwellings, and 40% row-housing and apartments.

* 10% of the single family housing are set aside for innovative approaches to affordability.

* 10% of the multi-family housing are set aside for affordable rental or ownership programs; this may occur through the development of a Community Land Trust.

* An affordable Housing Coordinator will be employed to implement programs and initiatives.

* An annual affordability review will be conducted by a committee established by the CVRD.

* An Affordable Housing Resource Book will supply "how to" plans (eg) :

* Growhomes (start small, grow later)

* Self-build and self-build cooperatives

* Coop housing and group cohousing initiatives

* Clustered housing, car-free space

* Secondary & granny suites for rental

* Charlie-Houses' (easy-to-convert)

* Housing initiatives for singles, single parents, seniors, the physically challenged.

Ecological Protection Policies

Goal : Harmonious co-existence between humans and nature

* Full biodiversity study and inventory of the site, showing areas to be protected.

* Forest condition analysis, revealing many badly logged areas and damaged trees.

* 46% of the site set is aside as park space, and private land under ecological protection.

* 300 acre park designation for an area of unique ecological value, at the south end of the site.

* Further 70 acres of land under full protection, including watercourses and wildlife corridors

* 40% of each single family lot is to be soft landscaped (no gravel, bark mulch, concrete), and 25% left under native species

* Standing snags & wildlife trees are to be left wherever possible (Landscape Code)

* Covenants on the land will restrict the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers

* Residents' education package re organic horticulture and integrated biological pest management

* Tree protection bylaw for all trees over 8" diameter at chest-height (approx. 8,000 trees)

* Zero-increase storm-water run-off from lots by retention and infiltration design

* Asphalt roads & roof shingles not allowed (toxic run-off)

* 40 metre buffer strip all along the waterfront - no waterfront development (except Town Centre)

* Saanich Inlet Marine Code to encourage environmentally responsible boating

* Individual ecological site analysis for each lot

* Lot-specific site clearance and preparation requirements

* Builders' Site Code written to protect sites during building

* Mandatory environmentally responsible building course for all builders and site workers

Resource Conservation

* Recycling of the 60 acre abandoned cement works site, industrial buildings, road system, docks, and water supply infrastructure

* Tertiary biological sewage treatment will produce compost + clean water effluent (cf Penticton)

* Community composting plant

* Pre-entry source control program for liquid waste stream

* Water supply from Oliphant Lake, licensed to provide 625,000 gallons per day

* Community utility sets water rates to encourage conservation

* High water efficiency standards mandatory for all homes, toilets, appliances

* Xeriscape garden design guidelines & 25% native species areas will reduce outdoor water-use

* A 3-bag user-pay recycling system (wet, dry, non-recyclable, cf Guelph, Ontario) can achieve 85% waste recycling (requires 100% market for recyclables)

* Waste reduction at source strategy (eg non-wrapped bulk purchasing)

* Business education and waste-stream auditing by community waste utility

* Community resource sharing possibilities (cars, tools, equipment)

* Building permits conditional on construction wastes recycling plan

Sustainable Transportation

Victoria (population 300,000) is only 30 minutes away,

and is experiencing growing traffic congestion.

* 60% reduction in external daily trips off the site by virtue of the urban design (local schools, shops, businesses, recreation, satellite offices and home-based businesses).

* The neighbourhood & street design will encourage pedestrian travel.

* The urban design is transit-friendly for trips into Victoria & Duncan. The current service is minimal because of the very spread-out nature of the surrounding area.

Possibilities include :

* Community minibus designed to carry bicycles. Biofuel under exploration

* Electric golf cart vehicles for non-pedestrian internal trips (hydroelectric generated)

* Residents invited to join community carpool on arrival (Easy-Rider™ software)

* Pro-active telecommuting strategy, focussed on Victoria government offices

* Community car-sharing program (cf Stattauto, Berlin, 800 people share 57 vehicles)

* Community transportation administrator to coordinate carpooling, transit, flexiwork options, worksharing & telecommuting.

Community Education

* Introductory 'welcome' meetings for new residents

* Parent participation in school concepts and design

* 3 elementary schools, one in each neighbourhood

* Tree-covered play areas for UV radiation protection

* High School close to the town centre for maximum integration

* Student participation in community organizations, businesses, non-profits

* Distance & Satellite College learning through world electronic community

* Courses, workshops, trainings in environmental/sustainability issues

* Possible Leadership Training Centre; Youth Leadership work; ropes course

A Sustainable Economy

Goal : One job per household (c. 5,000 jobs) at Bamberton

(1) Development & Construction : 600 jobs a year for 20 years, just building Bamberton.

(2) Value-Added Wood Products : furniture, cabinets, doors, windows, instruments, crafts.

(3) Environmental Technologies : 70 acre Park, as a centre for leading edge environmental, telecommunications and instrumentation industries

(4) Telecommuting, Satellite Offices & computer services : enabling people to work for government ministries and private companies from Bamberton

(5) Community Services, Retail : diverse range of local stores and services. Includes many home-based businesses

(6) Education/Ecotourism : courses, workshops, visitors, conferences

(7) Arts : working artists, sculptors, coop facilities, galleries.

(8) Human Resource Development & Consultancy

The Bamberton Business Network is working actively to develop each sector of the economy. The Network has 300+ members, and provides regular seminars and newsletters. Future intentions : mutual support, information & resource sharing; electronic conferencing & bulletin board.

* A Business Development Coordinator is to be employed full-time to develop the economy.

* A Bamberton Business Code has been written (social and environmental operating guidelines)

Other community economic development possibilities :

* Start-up Training & Business Development Circles

* 'Co-business' initiatives (woodworking, software businesses)

* Eco-sustainability advice for businesses (cf Anchorage, Alaska)

* An annual environmental audit & 'Green Seal' for approved businesses

* Future community banking possibilities.

Energy Management

* Bamberton is to be designated a Powersmart Community by BC Hydro

* Community utility will operate a demand management strategy

* There are plans for bulk-rate purchase from BC Hydro (90% hydroelectric generation) for resale with energy-saving incentives

* Overall energy-demand quota for each building (R2000 equivalent) permits 50% reduced demand

* Intelligent-house wiring to encourage peak-shaving and load transfer

* Program run by utility for purchase of solar systems, energy-efficient appliances

* E-Star Program to encourage use of building materials with reduced embodied energy.

* Ground-source energy supply (water & ground) and cogeneration/community district-heating system under exploration. Wind and small-scale hydro are non-effective under local conditions.

Building Materials & Design

* Building Design Review & Approval process, to maintain standards.

* Building guidelines for aesthetic, siting and environmental issues

* E-Star environmental building design rating system to recognize builders for low impact and healthy housing. (cf Greenhome Program, Austin, Texas)

* Individual lot-plan provided with ecological and house-siting information

* Prohibited materials include urea-formaldehyde products, CFC & HCFC blown foams, petroleum-based paints and floor finishes, vinyl siding, asphalt.

* Development of environmental accreditation program for builders with local college and public television involvement

* Resource book about building choices, embodied energy, resource conservation and human health prepared for distribution to residents, designers and builders.

* Local building supply store to provide environmentally sound alternatives.

* Recycling and composting areas incorporated into all building design

* Mandatory construction waste recycling system for 95% of construction wastes

Community Intelligence

* Active joint venture with BC Tel (provincial telecoms company)

* Fibre optic telecommunications grid providing greatly increased bandwidth

* Telecommuting, teleconferencing, satellite offices, home-based revolution

* Electronic town hall meetings (cable TV link-up)

* Telegovernment links to region, province, nation, NGOs, UN agencies

* Community Cable TV (permits permitting)

* Community FreeNet (conferencing, bulletin boards for arts, sports, businesses, environmental issues, community government, carpooling, resource-sharing)

* Smart schools (on-line links to global networks and databases)

* Global conferencing facilities (as for schools)

* Multi-media opportunities (businesses, arts, education)

The Arts

* Bamberton Arts Forum held; 85 members. Future Arts Team for active planning.

* Register of Artists to facilitate inclusion in contracts. Possibilities under discussion :

* Inclusion of sculptors and artists in the architectural design process

* Small, multi-purpose and open-air performance spaces

* Inclusion of artists in design of stone walls & trails

* Town centre coop space for working artists

* Low-cost live/work space for artists

* Floating stage, dance space.

Long-Term & Regional Sustainability

* Informal studies show long-term possibility for 80% CO2 reduction, through community design

* Residents to be invited to adopt community goals reflecting commitments to sustainability

* Community sustainability indicators for annual assessment and review

* Bamberton Institute to conduct research and development, initiate new programs, and work with the wider community towards a sustainability strategy for the region as a whole (agriculture, forestry, economy, transportation, communications, housing, energy, wastes, etc).

Land, Finance, Ownership, Legal Status

* The project is owned and financed by 200,000 workers through 4 Canadian Trade Union pension Funds - Carpentry Workers, IWA (woodworkers), Commercial Workers and Telecommunications Workers. The land (1560 acres) was bought for $14 million in 1989; $10 million has since been spent on planning.

* The project is managed by the South Island Development Corporation.

Legal Framework

In addition to the regulations and planning guidelines laid down in Zoning Bylaws 1500 and 1501, a detailed legal framework has been developed by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, making the Bamberton lands a 'Development Permit Area'. This adds an extra layer of detailed and binding regulation for the entire site. No subdivision, and with a few exceptions, no construction, can take place without a development permit. Permits will be granted on a phase-by-phase basis, only after the CVRD Board has received detailed information about the plans, park areas, walkways, tree protection details, etc. The whole site will also be a Registered Building Scheme, enabling the developer to enforce high standards for architectural style, lot protection, energy efficiency, etc.

Unless we are guided by a conscious vision of the kind of future we want,

We will be guided by an unconscious vision of the kind of present we already have.

Compiled by Guy Dauncey, February 1994