Greening the Grid – Low Impact, Fused Grid development in Calgary

The first of its kind in Canada

A community will soon be taking shape in North-East Calgary that breaks new ground. It is the first of its kind in Canada and will put Calgary on the map for innovative planning.

Two features make it a leading edge solution: its Fused Grid plan and its rainwater/stormwater management system.

To Learn More:

Click on Saddleton – A Low Impact Development Concept.

Fused Grid explainedFanis gammenos (180p)

The “Fused Grid” is a neighbourhood and district layout model that was developed by Fanis Grammenos, a senior researcher at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “It combines the geometries of inner city grids and of the conventional suburbs,” explains Fanis. “This fusion results in retaining the best characteristics of each and none of their disadvantages while raising the quality of the neighbourhood environment.”

According to Fanis, conventional subdivision street patterns inhibit walking and are disorienting and confusing to pedestrians as well as to drivers. “They provide tranquility, safety and security at the expense of connectivity,” adds Fanis.

Fused grid diagram (240p)Conversely, centre-city street grid patterns, the inheritance of a strictly pedestrian era, provide connectivity but at the expense of tranquility, safety and security. “These patterns ushered the era of traffic calming in response to their flaws,” continues Fanis. “Without intensive management they often cause traffic “gridlock”, which intensifies greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air impurity, noise and driver frustration.  They are the also most land consumptive and consequently the least environmentally sustainable.”

Enter the Fused Grid: the combination of the  two conventional patterns.  It uses a continuous grid of roads for district and regional connectivity and a discontinuous grid of streets for neighbourhood safety. “In other words it filters cars out of the places where pedestrians aught to have full freedom of movement,” Fanis points out. “This new grid is supplemented by footpaths that connect all streets turning a neighbourhood into a fully connected pedestrian realm.”

This combination of continuous and discontinuous street grids:

  • Optimizes the use of land for streets
  • Secures tranquil and safe neighbourhoods
  • Increases the potential for social interaction
  • Reduces the amount of impermeable surfaces
  • Optimizes infrastructure
  • Assists district and regional traffic flow
  • Encourages walking while positively discouraging short-distance driving
  • Provides opportunities for rain water management

To read another story on a Fused Grid case study application led by Fanis Grammenos, click on this link to A Plan for Rainy Days: Water Runoff and Site Planning.

Low Impact and Fused Grid – a perfect match

The second feature of the Saddleton development that puts it on the leading edge is its rainwater/stormwater management approach. It takes advantage of the opportunities that the Fused Grid creates through its systematic use of open spaces.

As shown in the concept plan above, two of the four neighbourhoods in the Saddleton community have parks that are designed to do four jobs at once. Provide a place for relaxing, play and socializing, become the hub of foot circulation, improve the views of adjacent houses and importantly do the neighbourhoods rainwater/stormwater handling. This is done by using the most up to date technique – the rain garden.

“The inspiration for the Saddleton vision for rain garden features occurred in March 2005 when CMHC arranged for Kim Stephens (Program Coordinator, Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia) and Cori Barraclough (Nature’s Revenue Streams) to meet with Jeff Blair of Genesis to share their pioneer British Columbia experience related to green development,” reports Fanis Grammenos. “It was one of those light-bulb moments when Kim made an observation about the development plan reminding him of rain gardens, and the observation resonated with Jeff. ‘Hey, I like that’, he said. And as they say, the rest is history.”

Saddleton ushers a new era in subdivision planning that puts pedestrians and the environment FIRST.

“Given its advantages for residents, municipalities, developers and the environment, expect to see more “Saddletons” springing up across Canada,” predicts Fanis Grammenos.

What is a Rain Garden?

rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff Fanis grammenos - rain garden example (200p)from impervious urban areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground (as opposed to flowing into storm drains and surface waters which causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater).

A critical success factor  in the growing popularity of rain gardens is that they serve both aesthetic and engineering functions. The landscaping details for one of the Saddleton rain gardens is shown below. Click on the image to download a large-size copy of the drawing.