Plateau Subdivision: A Sustainable Arctic Subdivision

The Plateau Subdivision of Iqaluit is the first Arctic subdivision based on sustainable development principles. Given the sensitivity of the physical environment, the high energy and construction costs and the concern regarding the effects of global warming in the Arctic, city council and the residents of Iqaluit took on the challenge of developing in a more sustainable way.

To build a sustainable subdivision means to develop land and to build houses in a way:

  • that addresses social needs and fits with the cultural identity of this community;
  • that is more sensitive to the environment; and
  • that is more sensitive to the use of resources such as water, electricity and fuel.

The vision of developing a sustainable subdivision was achieved in various ways. For example, social needs and cultural uniqueness were addressed by protecting natural features, such as the berry picking areas; by establishing a network of walking trails and snowmobile trails; by maximizing the number of single-family lots and keeping them affordable by designing smaller lots, by pricing lots based on site characteristics; and by initiating the first purpose-built condominium project in Iqaluit, which is currently under construction with four dwelling units. Similarly, the majority of the roads of the subdivision are aligned with the prevailing winds to reduce snow accumulation thereby reducing the need for snow removal, which is very costly. Building standards were also put in place. Amongst others, the standards require that home builders use water saving devices such as low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads and energy efficient appliances. This reduces the demand the development puts on municipal infrastructure, the consumption of fuel and electricity, and the environment. In addition, several lots have enhanced standards requiring that the homes on these lots be built according to the R2000 standard.

The planning of the subdivision involved substantial community input. In May 2004, in partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Natural Resources Canada, the City of Iqaluit hosted a two-day design charrette (a workshop) where city council, city staff, government agencies, Inuit associations, local developers and other key stakeholders, including elders and the public, combined their efforts to develop best practice options that can be applied to the design of an Arctic sustainable subdivision for Iqaluit. The consultation process also involved a series of public meetings and open houses, as well as the necessary presentations to the City of Iqaluit’s Planning and Engineering Committee.

The Plateau Subdivision establishes new benchmarks for land development in the Arctic. This initiative is a symbol of the city’s ability to face the challenges of northern planning and of its commitment to sustainable development. The city intends to continue developing expertise in this area and to apply lessons learned and sustainable principles on future developments in Iqaluit, and to lend assistance to other initiatives in Nunavut and the Arctic in general.