Nov. 27, 2019

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

Certificate in Sustainability Studies faculty champions undergrad research into sustainable city development

Noel Gerard Keough is a champion for undergraduate research. As an associate professor in UCalgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Keough worked with undergrad students last year to determine if Calgary’s community gardens were accessible via active transportation routes.

This year, he teamed up with students Lina Chhom and Kevin Do, this year’s winners of the 2019 TD Sustainability Project Grants and students in UCalgary’s Certificate in Sustainability Studies. Together, they used Calgary’s southeast Manchester 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.”

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. Keough’s undergrad team 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 taking UCalgary’s Certificate in Sustainability Studies next year to get exposure to similar research opportunities? Declare your interest now by processing a Change of Program (COP) through the feature of the same name available in your Student Centre (an adviser of your home faculty can assist you to do this if you have trouble). This function is only open until Feb. 1 of each year. Questions? Contact

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to become a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.