Updated: Apr 30, 2019

Car mad - leads to high greenhouse gas emissions

Not house proud - leads to high greenhouse gas emissions

Are 'Calgarians' simply Car mad? A strange question you might think?

Ok, lets do a quick fact check before we embark on the real issue that we wish to raise.

  • FACT CHECK - 1. The population recorded in 2016 was 1.239 million, vehicle ownership for that same year stood at 1.007 million.

  • FACT CHECK - 2. The population recorded in 2014 stood at it's peak at around 1.266 million, while vehicle ownership in the same year was less at 972,193 vehicles registered.

So why were there more cars registered in Calgary in 2016 than in 2014 when the population was higher in 2014? It must because we are 'car mad'.

Ok, you might think... aren't you being a little premature with your conclusion? Our response: We really hope so, truly we do.

So what is the issue? Well it's not really an issue, but more of a concern that KHA holds dear to its heart of practice. Let us explain our experience and as to why we believe that the mentality of the Calgarians living within the inner-city limits have to change if we intend to prepare for future growth and existence.

Right now, the forecast is that the Calgary population is earmarked to double within the next 30 to 60 years (1.3 million). The vision for Calgary City's growth is captured in the Municipal Development Plan. However, a more pressing concern is what is presented within the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Report (October 2018).


The report mentions that the average global temperature is 1 degree warmer than before the industrial revolution, which is now heading rapidly to the 1.5 degree goal that nearly 200 countries agreed to under the Paris Agreement. We have learned that the years between 2015 and 2018 were the warmest on record. From sea level rise to forest fires, increased flooding and heatwaves, these are just some of the indicators showing the impact of climate change.

The State of the Climate Report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was released on 28 March 2019. This new report presents the latest science on the state of the climate as we know it. Basically, the physical signs and socio-economic impacts of climate change are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels according to the report.

The WMO clearly states that the physical and financial impacts of global warming are accelerating; 'the temperature is rising'. However, we must remember that hidden within the average global temperature of 1 degree increase is a huge disparity and much larger increase in some regions last year alone. It was recorded that in the Arctic, the annual average temperature was 2 degrees higher and even up to 3 degrees higher in some places.


Literally, the heat is on, as we are witnessing more heatwaves, which are hitting record levels globally. Most of the natural hazards which affected nearly 62 million people were associated with extreme weather and climate events. Floods continued to affect the largest number of people. Furthermore, half a billion more people, including Canada and northern Europe could be exposed to mosquito-transmitted diseases such as yellow fever, zika and dengue within 30 years as a result of the warming climate, according to the latest studies, unless we take combative action on global warming.


KHA has been responsible for a number of Land Use Amendment Applications happening in and around inner-city Calgary. As an architectural firm, we recognize that we need to make a difference by pursuing projects which contribute to urban density. The challenge is to assist to take the building sector to zero carbon design. Understanding the big picture and its issues that are concerning, KHA sees the potential and responsibility to make a major impact to fight against global warming.

Right now, Calgary inner-city communities are pushing back on land intensification within their neighbourhood with the common concerning question: "What about Parking?" The other concern raised is: "We feel that the land will have too much density... the building is too tall". It is very clear that we as Calgarians are not focusing on the bigger picture and the 'cause and affect' law of nature.

Many of the properties that KHA are focusing on within inner-city Calgary are those which are more than 40 years old, which sit on sites in locations that make sense to develop into more compact, sustainable and affordable homes and business units, which are easily serviced by public transport, bike paths and footpaths for walking. The properties that we wish to replace emit greenhouse gases at a level that is not sustainable; the aim is to rid the urban landscape of such buildings that are detrimental to Calgary's growth and environment.

However, the challenge that we face is the "Car Mad but not house proud" mentality shared by many neighbours located close to properties earmarked for change to accommodate growth and meet the MDP vision. The cry of resistance being: "What about parking?"

"Too many units, its too tall..."



Our response to these common concerns, shared within the different communities around Calgary that we work with, is this:

We have to change our focus.

We really have to change our lifestyle and support the bigger agenda...

We call it survival.


Inner-city development has to be more intensive so that future growth can be managed and remain affordable for generations to come. We need to combat global warming by removing old properties that are emitting too much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and replace them with buildings with zero-carbon footprint. Finally, we need to support more multi-family and mixed-use developments, which support zero car usage (i.e. not having to provide parking stalls for every unit, plus visitor); we should encourage alternative means of transport in and around inner-city Calgary.

So let us stop accommodating for the "Car mad" mentality of yesteryear and become more house proud by developing more creative and attractive 'GREEN' homes in the community that will benefit all for the present and the future.

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