Salmon would have no clue that an urban community exists above it

Canadian UniverCity by Michael Geller

Canadian UniverCity is a green city district that has received dozens of prizes for sustainability, energy efficiency and original transport system. It was Michael Geller, one of the IFC's jury members, who led the planning and launch of the project. Michael Geller is a Canadian architect, planner and consultant with substantial experience in urban development and founder of The Geller Group, which provide development, construction and consultancy services.

UniverCity is one of Michael Geller's most famous projects. It is a large-scale development located near Simon Fraser University in Canadian Burnaby. Michael Geller participated in the planning process and construction of the first stage in 1999-2006.

UniverCity was built on a 65-hectare site near the Simon Fraser University to provide university professors, students and other Burnaby residents with quality housing. There were rigid ecological restrictions as the development site was initially park land on top of the Burnaby mountain. It was essential to use green technologies in the new district and minimise negative impact on the environment.


The comprehensive and award-winning stormwater management system is one of UniverCity’s successful sustainable initiatives. The system mimics nature by returning nearly 100% of stormwater to the ground instead of diverting large amounts into conventional drainage pipes or storm sewers. The objective is to maintain pre-development stormwater runoff quality and quantity such that a salmon swimming in a stream at the bottom of Burnaby Mountain would have no clue that a thriving urban community exists at the top. Buildings in Burnaby are 30% more energy efficient than the Model National Energy Code for Buildings and 40% more water efficient. SFU Community Trust also offers a 10% density bonus for projects that achieve advanced energy goals. As for energy, UniverCity runs on natural gas but as population grows (now it has 3,500 citizens versus potential 10,000) it will switch to biogas.

Michael Geller paid a lot of attention to the transport system. Pedestrians are the top priority in UniverCity followed by bicyclists and public transport, and city destination points are all situated within a walking distance from each other. As a result, private transport is used by 50% of the UniverCity residents versus 68% of those who live in Vancouver, and 27% use bikes, while in Vancouver this figure is three times lower. To convince people to use public transport, UniverCity introduced a discount system and public car renting services.