A few weeks ago I was standing in what was once an unnamed alley on our campus, using paper fish to mock up a layout on the planters that line the alley. A student sitting on the bench next to me was watching with curiosity, and asked if we’re planning to paint fish motifs on the planters. I started to explain that the fish would be made of metal and were meant to be symbolic, and he said, “Because we’re trying to daylight the creek that runs underground, right?” This is a conversation that would not have happened four years ago. For one thing, there were no benches for the students to sit on in this alley, nor were there any big mural posters to tell the history of “Guichon Creek,” culverted stream flowing under their feet, nor was there signage proclaiming BCIT’s commitment to daylight it. But today, hundreds of students who take courses at BCIT pass through Guichon Alley and they all know the story.
The Guichon Alley Student Space, named after the creek that flows underground, was created to increase awareness of the creek in the alley between BCIT’s Piping and Welding educational buildings. The project was funded by the BCIT Student Association and the design of the student recreational space was developed by BCIT’s interior design students as part of BCIT’s “Campuses as Living Laboratories of Sustainability” strategy. The design adds much needed outdoor space for students to enjoy on breaks and lunches. This student space is just one of many projects that have brightened up the North East side of campus, engaging students, instructors, and BCIT campus development staff in the creation of an ecocity fractal on the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Burnaby campus.
Started in 2012 and wrapping up this year, the Eco-Streets project is part of the larger Factor Four initiative, www.bcit.ca/factorfour, which itself is part of the still larger vision to convert the North East quadrant of campus into an ecocity fractal. This is a place where all the elements of an ecocity come together and can be seen in a small microcosm. Eco-Streets uses Ecocity Builders’ “Street Repair” techniques comprising quick projects that enhance the livability of an area, engage people in thinking about the changes they can make to improve their community, and raise expectations for the eventual ecological restoration of their urban area.
BCIT’s Eco-Streets project has improved the pedestrian environment by taking road space away from cars and creating new sidewalks with planters. We created new social spaces, raised awareness of the underground creek, and added public artwork to the area as well. Over 150 students have been a part of Eco-Streets, along with numerous instructors and staff. These projects have improved the understanding of the sustainability issues on campus, and each completed project has helped build momentum towards long-lasting changes that make our long term creek daylighting goal more achievable