November 22, 2018

North Cowichan and Duncan’s University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan

University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan
University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan

North Cowichan and Duncan’s collaborative University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan sets climate-friendly urban design and land-use policies.

Working closely together, the municipalities of North Cowichan and Duncan have developed an innovative, climate-friendly neighbourhood plan for an area that straddles the municipalities’ common border. The University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan (Plan) applies to an area that had quickly become a regional hub facing significant development pressures. The Plan sets the framework for compact and energy-efficient future development that supports climate friendly modes of transportation.

Project Summary

The University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan (UVSLAP) sets land use and urban design guidelines for the area just north of downtown Duncan, near the Vancouver Island University Campus. It includes land within the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan.

In 2007, North Cowichan and Duncan signed a Memorandum of Understanding that committed both municipalities to developing a local area plan for the University Village area. The two municipalities recognized that despite the fact that the area had evolved into a regional hub, it had been subject to inconsistent and ad hoc planning in the past. With development pressures mounting, and the increasing importance of sustainability to both municipalities, the time was right to initiate a comprehensive, sustainable and innovative planning process for the area.

In 2013 North Cowichan and Duncan selected a private sector consulting team to prepare the Plan. Both municipalities then agreed to Terms of Reference and an extensive public engagement process that included consultation with the neighboring Cowichan Tribes. The Plan was adopted by North Cowichan as a Bylaw in July 2015. The City of Duncan followed soon after, adopting a separate bylaw to implement its component of the Plan in September 2015.

Within the context of each community’s Official Community Plan, UVSLAP provides a finer level of planning and urban design for a unique, high-growth neighborhood for the next 30 years. A major focus of UVSLAP is climate change mitigation. The Plan follows the climate action objectives of the OCPs of the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan by creating a land use framework that prioritizes walking, cycling, and public transit; directs growth in an environmentally sustainable and efficient manner; and utilizes development concepts that contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions and create opportunities for greater energy efficiency and renewable energy adoption.

The Plan’s policies promote sustainability and GHG reductions in several distinct elements of urban design, including:

  • built form (i.e. architecture and building design),
  • street design,
  • utilities servicing,
  • water conservation,
  • recycling, and
  • erosion and flood management.

The Plan’s policies for built forms are particularly notable for their innovative energy efficiency and sustainability policies. The Plan specifies that at least 10% of the estimated energy consumption for new and retrofitted buildings should come from on-site or community-based renewable energy generation. Building designs should include passive heating, lighting, and cooling features, and ensure that buildings can be adapted to future sustainable energy and grey water reclamation technologies. The Plan also specifies that, if a district energy system is built in the area, the municipalities must adopt service area bylaws requiring most buildings to be connectable to the district energy system.

Energy Savings/GHG reductions

Taking into account all of the Plan’s energy efficiency policies, the Plan predicts a reduction in GHG emissions from 6.8 tonnes per capita in 2016 to 3.4 tonnes per capita in 2044. It also projects reductions in per residential building energy consumption from the current 135 gigajoules /year to 68 gigajoules /year and a reduction in commercial/institutional reduction energy use from 1084 gigajoules/year to 542 gigajoules /year.

For communities in British Columbia that share municipal boundaries, the Plan can serve as a model for collaborative and sustainable community planning in such communities.

Business case

The University Village Sustainable Local Area Plan took four years to complete and cost $188,000. Since the majority (approximately 80%) of University Village is located within North Cowichan’s borders, that municipality contributed approximately $165,000 to the planning process, while Duncan contributed the remaining $23,000. These costs were offset by several planning grants received by the municipality. North Cowichan received $20,000 from BC Hydro and $63,000 from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund. Additionally, $20,000 was provided by the Province and another $15,000 by Duncan to help finance a design study of the portion of the Trans-Canada Highway between Beverly Street and Boys Road, a process that was integrated with the UVLAP.


While climate friendly policies are central to the Plan, it has the potential to also deliver a range of other sustainability benefits in a distinct and rapidly growing area within the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan. The design and land-use framework in the Plan:

  • supports a diverse community by encouraging a mix of land uses, particularly a wide choice of residential homes, enhanced with neighbourhood commercial facilities;
  • enhances and expands urban forest coverage and park space;
  • preserves historical structures;
  • promotes compact, pedestrian-focused urban development;
  • establishes built form standards that strengthen a coherent and engaging urban form;
  • mitigates flooding; and
  • improves accessibility and mobility by providing complete, connective streets.
Lessons learned
Collaboration for sustainability takes time and effort

The Plan demonstrates that two municipalities can work closely together to achieve sustainability objectives in community planning. Throughout the process, project proponents from both municipalities made concerted efforts to ensure a mutual understanding of the needs and interests of both communities. For communities in British Columbia that share municipal boundaries, the Plan can serve as a model for collaborative and sustainable community planning in such communities.

Local government contact

Kyle Young, Assistant Manager of Planning and Subdivision
Municipality of North Cowichan
T: 250.746.3178

Dave Pady, Manager of Planning
Municipality of Duncan
T: 250.746.6126

Success Story Snapshot

The Plan has established energy saving and GHG reduction targets for 2044, when the 30-year plan comes to an end. It predicts energy savings of 68 GJ/year per residential building and 542 GJ/year per commercial/institutional building. It also predicts overall per capita GHG reductions of 3.4 Tc02E/year.
Business Case
Investment in a Local Area Plan for the University Village will provide long-term cost savings through reduced energy consumption and more efficient land use.
In addition to establishing urban design policies aimed at reducing energy use and GHG emissions, the Plan establishes sustainable land use policies for the distinct and growing University Village Area.
Total project cost
The total cost to develop the Plan was $165,000, plus a $23,000 contribution by the City of Duncan; $103,000 was provided by external funders.