Modeling model communities

from Royal Roads University

Modeling model communities

A new housing development is proposed for a small western town. It will increase the population and the workforce, but how will it affect things like water use and the natural habitat?

To help local decision makers better predict the impact of choices such as this, a leading Royal Roads University researcher has received a major grant from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund, part of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), to develop a new computer model, a decision-making tool that will allow planners to drive beneficial future investment in their communities.

Ann Dale, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development at Royal Roads University (RRU), will receive $102,300 to create a new software model for municipalities, the CFI announced today.

To be hosted by RRU and developed and tested by a research team including Ottawa-based whatIf? Technologies Inc., and the Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG), Resource + will be the first computer-based model at the community level that combines land, water, and energy use data with statistics such as employment rates and economic output. The prototype will be co-developed with four Canadian communities (to be determined) in British Columbia, Ontario and the Maritimes.

“Without ways to compare new sustainable options with other traditional ways of development, municipal policy makers are increasingly unable to make a credible business case for innovation,” said Allan Cahoon, president and vice-chancellor of Royal Roads University. “This project is an example of Royal Roads’ commitment to sustainability and with the importance of working with our communities.”

“This federal funding is critical to Ann Dale’s important research on sustainable communities,” said Steve Grundy, vice-president, academic and provost at RRU. “We are pleased with the continued recognition of the leading contribution by an RRU faculty member.”

“This is an ambitious project, and I am delighted to be working with some of the best minds in the country to try to produce a model that is easy to use and produces useful knowledge for both municipal staff and their elected officials,” said Dale.

The tool builds on existing climate change mitigation models by also considering the economic inputs and outputs within the community as well as other variables, says Ben Finkelstein, manager – green communities for the Climate Action Secretariat, B.C. Ministry of Environment.

“Communities of all sizes face an increasing number of complex challenges, many of which relate to climate change,” he said. “With this tool, communities will be able to understand not only what happens to the local economy when a major employer comes to town, but also the health and environmental implications.”

Ann Dale

Ann Dale, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development at Royal Roads University, is internationally recognized for her research in the field of community sustainability. Based in Ottawa, she is a former executive in the federal government and was a co-founder of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in 1988.

Dale holds degrees in psychology and public administration from Carleton University and a doctorate in natural resources sciences from McGill University. She leads MC3, a research program studying climate change adaptation in BC communities. Dale is a member of the National Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, as well as chair of the Canadian Consortium for Sustainable Development Research. Dale’s YouTube channel is HEADTalks.

Canadian Fund for Innovation

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), created by the federal government in 1997, supports world-class research and technology development through investment in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions. The John R Evans Leaders Fund (formerly the Leaders Opportunity Fund) is designed to help universities attract and retain the very best researchers at a time of intense international competition. Candidates must be recognized leaders in their field of research.

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