February 9, 2006

Architects' Corner

Yves Gosselin, FIRAC

Culture, heritage, sustainability

The RAIC is in the midst of efforts to create a blueprint for Canada’s built environment – consulting widely, refining and reviewing what we call a Model Architecture Policy. The full text of the paper is now available online at www.raic.org. The consultation process is intended to involve Canadians from all walks of life, so your input is both welcomed and encouraged.

In my last column I looked at the policies and the efforts that will be required to implement a Model Architecture Policy. Also a priority however is ensuring our culture and heritage are exhibited in all building designs by all levels of government—national, provincial/territorial, local/regional.

Architects must act as role models to ensure all new public buildings support Canadians’ cultural aspirations.

Funding for conservation and restoration must be increased and tax credits and incentives provided for building conservation and re-use.

To promote an understanding of our collective culture and heritage we are encouraging support for, and an expansion of, the “Doors Open” program across Canada.

It is an effort to provide Canadians with more opportunities to view the nation’s architectural heritage in every city. In fact tourism organizations should be encouraged to help workers become aware of architecture as an important aspect of our culture and heritage.

Other ideas include:

Incentives to increase spending on public art for buildings to one or two per cent of project costs;

Guidelines to ensure architectural quality;

Information on Canada’s architecture for educators to include in curricula involving history, culture, and heritage.

Finally and probably most importantly, in order to create awareness among design and construction professionals/specialists there is a need to work to promote knowledge of developments in Canada’s architectural heritage.

Hand-in-hand with the need to protect our culture and heritage is the need to set standards and practices that will help Canada reach sustainability.

The government at all levels can act as a role model for “green” building designs.

This can be accomplished by:

Requiring the use of “Green Building” rating systems to meet minimum ratings in the design and construction of new projects and applying life-cycle costing and management to ensure operating and maintenance cost are considered throughout a building’s lifetime.

Increasing alternative and renewable energy sources through various incentive programs and increasing the use of “Green” labeling systems and developing a holistic database and system for life-cycle assessments and inventories of all building materials, products and processes.

Reducing construction waste through incentives and reducing water consumption in all new buildings or renovations.

These initiatives when implemented can create better architecture and a better built-environment in Canada and ensure that our culture and heritage is safeguarded and better yet, showcased.

To this end the RAIC has introduced its National Urban Design Awards recognizing excellence in urban design and demonstrating its importance to the general public. The two-tiered program is a co-operative venture between the RAIC and major metropolitan centres in Canada.

Last year some metropolitan centres administered a local, RAIC-endorsed, Urban Design Awards Program. This year the RAIC will conduct a National Urban Design Awards program. Participants will be recipients of the previous year’s winners from participating municipalities, as well as submissions from other communities in Canada. The call for submissions will be issued February 9, 2006. The deadline for entries is 4 p.m. April 13, 2006.

Yves Gosselin, FIRAC, is president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

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