Canadian Architect


RAIC launches Election 2015: Building Better Communities

September 2, 2015
by Canadian Architect

RAIC launches Election 2015: Building Better Communities

RAIC launches Election 2015: Building Better Communities

What architecture or urban design issue would you like to see addressed in the political arena this fall? Use the hashtag #RAICVOTES on social media to let the RAIC know.

Whether in a village or a large city, the way we plan, design, build and integrate our buildings and infrastructure has a significant impact on quality of life, the economy and the environment. Buildings and infrastructure that are durable, attractive, dignified and healthy represent a smart investment in Canada’s prosperity and liveability. The federal government is Canada’s single largest owner of buildings and land. As such, it has a central role in setting the highest standards of excellence and environmental sustainability to maximize the benefits to Canadians, achieve value for money and position Canada as an international leader.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is the voice of the architecture profession in Canada and advocates for excellence in the built environment. During the 2015 election campaign, the RAIC seeks to engage political candidates, along with the public, in a discussion about the importance of architecture and urban design in shaping a successful future for Canada.

The RAIC has highlighted four public policy issues and asks four questions. Responses will be posted on the RAIC website for the benefit of RAIC members and all voters.

Sustainable Future
Canadian architects have demonstrated through completed projects that energy consumption and associated costs can drop dramatically. The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada endorses the 2030 Challenge, a set of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and dependency on fossil fuels. The 2030 Challenge proposes that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations be carbon-neutral by 2030. In addition to a reduction in energy consumption, the benefits include an improved and healthier environment for workers and the surrounding neighbourhood.

Question: Do you support the 2030 Challenge for new or majorly renovated federal buildings?

First Nations
The federal government exercises almost total control over the design and construction of First Nation communities on reserves. Some of these settlements have been unfavourably compared to third world situations, or to refugee camps. Basic services such as fire protection and potable water are often unavailable. Planning and design that take architectural expression, economic sustainability, and environmental conservation into account can improve the situation and have been shown to have a transformative effect in some of Canada’s more successful communities.

Question: How should Canada address this situation?

Smart Investment
The federal government annually spends millions of dollars on buildings and infrastructure. This investment in Canada’s future can also be an investment in the quality of cities and towns, at no extra cost to taxpayers. Distinctive, solidly built public buildings help shape places whose beauty and character attract tourism and international recognition. They become treasured landmarks, a reflection of national identity, and the valued heritage buildings of the future.

Question: Do you agree design excellence must be a high priority for federally funded projects?

Community Mailboxes
Quality design of public spaces contributes to making safe, attractive and prosperous cities. Nevertheless, Canada Post is installing community mailboxes that are widely seen as a blight on the streetscape, a public safety hazard and an obstacle to the elderly and disabled.

Question: Is this the right decision for Canadian communities? If not, what solution can the federal government bring?

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Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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2 Comments » for RAIC launches Election 2015: Building Better Communities
  1. Colin Reed says:

    Four good questions, but one more should be added regarding the ridiculous proposal to install a memorial – any memorial – on the site west of the Supreme Court of Canada.
    As the major component of the built environment design community, architects should be making this a very serious election issue, firstly because a memorial in that location is so very inappropriate, and secondly because the design community (and the public at large) has been ignored in the process.

  2. So, the RAIC has launched its ‘Election 2015: Building better communities’ with the question “What architecture or urban design issue would you like to see addressed in the political arena this fall?” It opens with four points: Sustainable Future, First Nations, Smart Investment and Community Mailboxes. Really.

    Nothing about the ongoing housing crisis in Canada? Under the title of ‘Sustainable Future’, the question the RAIC comes up with is ‘Do you support the 2030 Challenge for new or majorly renovated federal buildings?’ In the meantime, the average price for a home in Vancouver is about $1.47M (Globe & Mail, 02SEP15). Is this a ‘sustainable future’? Even in the more straightforward terms of meeting the 2030 Challenge could we not be a little bolder and say ‘ALL buildings’ instead of just ‘new or majorly renovated federal buildings’? What in the world does sustainability mean here if this is the stance you present?

    Mailboxes?? Now I realize the proposed changes in mail delivery is a mounting problem –especially for the elderly and those with mobility problems. Still, the RAIC thinks mailboxes are a core issue for this election?

    This is simply not serious. There are basic human rights being abused in this country. Not just civil and political rights (Bill C-51 being a recent example of this abuse) but economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights and, I would say, this abuse of rights is being visited upon First Nations communities more than any others in our country. Now, I recognize that the courts in Canada (and the West generally) tend to disregard ESC rights, but Canada is still a signatory to the International Covenant on ESC Rights. Are we going to act on our promise to protect these rights? I gather not. The provincial and federal governments have abdicated their responsibilities towards the delivery of affordable housing and now, in every city in this country – the frontlines for homelessness – it is municipal governments, with their very limited revenue resources, which are forced to do whatever they can to reduce harm. We’re having to deal with tent cities here in Victoria. At the same time a small group of us are working on micro-housing as a response to this crisis. All of these initiatives at the local level fall far short of meeting the needs of our fellow citizens. A response would involve considerations of urban land economics, the use of public land, ownership of land, land banking, zoning and densities, privacy and many other issues. And, in raising issues about ‘Canadian communities’ the core problem the RAIC identifies is community mailboxes? We can’t think of anything else which might change this downward spiral of unaffordability and growing homelessness? Mailboxes? Are we that bereft of imagination?

    As an architect, I find this kind of representation more than a little disappointing, I must say. Actually, it’s embarrassing. The RAIC should be saying and doing a hell of a lot more than simply advocating ‘for excellence in the built environment’. When people in this country are living in tents in cities, this is not ‘excellence’. When First Nations communities in this country are compared to refugee camps, this is hardly excellence. Migrant construction workers are abused and dying on construction sites around the world and the response from one of the architectural luminaries regarding that abuse is “I’m not taking it lightly but I think it’s for the government to look to take care of. It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.” (Guardian, 25FEB14). This is a far cry from excellence.

    I think the late Whitney Young Jr. had our profession pegged when he addressed the AIA convention in 1968 on the heels of the riots in Detroit, Newark, Watts, etc. He said: “. . .you are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights, and I am sure this has not come to you as any shock. You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance.” (

    Not much has changed in the intervening 47 years. And that, quite simply, is not sustainable.

    Graeme Bristol, MRAIC, MAIBC
    Centre for Architecture and Human Rights

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