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What is it?

The built environment includes all the physical buildings and infrastructure of a community, as well as the planning that integrates them. In our work, the Foundation divides the built environment into four subsystems:

  • Integrated community planning
  • Housing
  • Buildings, energy systems and infrastructure
  • Transportation systems

Sustainable built environments enable people to have a high quality of life without undermining the natural systems that support us - now and in the future. Sustainably built communities are resource efficient, resilient, prosperous, equitable, healthy, safe and attractive.

What does a sustainable built environment look like?

  • Inclusive, accessible, walkable, age-friendly and safe.
  • A mix of housing choices for all household sizes, stages and incomes.
  • Efficient, affordable, healthy and eco-friendly homes and buildings.
  • Access to a range of services, recreation, cultural and economic opportunities.
  • Protected green space and natural environments, with limits on urban sprawl.
  • Compact development - supported by renewable energy and transportation systems - that lowers infrastructure costs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and makes it easy to get around on foot, by bike, or on transit.

Why is it important?

Communities struggle with the challenge of how to plan, build, integrate and sustain the built environment in a way that meets current and future needs. Current opportunities and challenges to achieve a sustainable built environment include:

  • Reducing sprawl, car dependency, greenhouse gas emissions and the use of finite natural resource
  • Increasing affordability and livability in ways that meet diverse social, cultural and economic needs
  • Improving environmental outcomes and reducing waste

While there has been some progress in these areas, we need to continue to collaborate on smart strategies to create sustainable communities. By working together and concentrating efforts on areas of greatest impact, we can achieve positive change in both the long and short term.

Our interest

In our work as a grantmaker, convener and collaborator, the Real Estate Foundation of BC supports work that:

  • Builds public awareness and support for sustainable built environments
  • Builds understanding of indigenous peoples’ interests
  • Implements smart growth principles, especially by combining land use and transportation planning
  • Provides support for organizations to collaborate and share findings
  • Makes a clear case for predictable government funding in sustainable development (i.e. transit and active transportation, green buildings and infrastructure, affordable housing, climate action)
  • Aligns financial tools (taxes, pricing, accounting) with sustainability objectives

Want to learn more?

Download “Building Change” – a summary of REFBC’s research and recommendations on sustainable built environments.

Download “Public Views on Sustainability and the Built Environment: Highlights of Findings” – the results of an REFBC-commissioned public opinion survey.

Download “Alternative Sources of Capital for Social Housing” – an REFBC report on strategies for funding non-market housing.

REFBC Initiative: The Built Environment in BC

REFBC Initiative: Smart Growth Task Force

Grant examples: Built Environment Sustainability