Nov. 27, 2019

How are we going to re-design our cities to combat the unfolding climate emergency?

UCalgary students research ways to transform older neighbourhood into walkable community
Noel Gerard Keough
Noel Gerard Keough, associate professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Calgary’s Manchester district is an older, industrial area that is home to hundreds of Calgarians, some of whom have disabilities, are low-income or immigrants. What would happen to established neighbourhoods like Manchester if a sustainability lens was used to explore how to better integrate housing, transportation and food in city policy-making, mused Noel Gerard Keough, an associate professor in UCalgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.

He teamed up with students Lina Chhom and Kevin Do to find out. Both students are enrolled in the Certificate in Sustainability Studies, and together with Keough they used the southeast neighbourhood to study safe active transportation behaviours, and food security and access. 

“In this project, we are using a sustainability lens to explore how we better integrate housing — or land use — transportation and food in city policy-making,” says Keough. “The Manchester research focuses on the critical question of how are we going to re-design our cities to meet the challenge of the unfolding climate emergency? We need circular, waste-free, diverse economies that provide meaningful livelihoods for all Calgarians.”

They collected data about vehicle-pedestrian interactions, pedestrian near-misses and active modes of transportation, in addition to mapping food sources such as grocery stores, restaurants, fast food outlets and food production facilities.

“We found that pedestrian pathways are inadequate, speeding through and not yielding at intersections is common, and that housing is located close to LRTs, but the infrastructure for pedestrians to get there is inadequate,” says Keough.

“In terms of food security, most people in the Manchester community shop at big box stores, but these supermarkets are located outside of their neighbourhood. Many people in Manchester don’t have cars, so accessing big box outlets is difficult. All of these items are roadblocks to creating a sustainable city.”

From the student perspective, this research specifically the TD Sustainability Project Grants provided an opportunity for Chhom and Do to be involved in undergraduate research and present their findings in public forums. Findings from this research will go toward informing City of Calgary Food Policy, The Municipal Development Plan and the Manchester Area Redevelopment Plan.

“Part of UCalgary’s Certificate in Sustainability Studies is introducing undergrads to research, as students typically only get these opportunities at the graduate level,” says Keough. “The Manchester research has given them that opportunity.”

Interested in UCalgary’s Certificate in Sustainability Studies? Contact

By leading the energy revolution, growing food security and protecting water resources, the University of Calgary is building a better future for all. Discover more of our sustainability success stories here.