«MANUFACTURING ‘HOME’: SUSTAINABILITY DISCOURSES IN SUBURBAN OTTAWA By Gary Martin, M.A. A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and ...»
SUSTAINABILITY DISCOURSES IN SUBURBAN OTTAWA
By Gary Martin, M.A.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral
Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
© Gary Martin, 2013
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The research explores the suburban tract development industry and sustainability over time in the City of Ottawa, Canada. After establishing the historical, economic, spatial and environmental context of suburban development in Ottawa, the focus shifts to City officials involved with sustainability efforts and several residential developers deemed to be ‘green’ or progressive. The research used public documents, interviews and a case study to compile and compare discourses about sustainable urban development. The interview portion of the research mainly involved asking City officials and development industry officials how they defined ‘sustainable development’ and ‘green building’, and what they thought were barriers to those processes. The main assumption underlying the research was that a common discourse is necessary for public and private bodies to work together towards curtailing low-density suburban development.
The research found that two terms, “green building” and “sustainable development,” are employed differently by public and private interests on the outskirts of Ottawa. The research demonstrated that a powerful development lobby in the Ottawa region resists attempts to regulate suburban development with a discourse that is devoid of reference to environmental issues. The dissertation argues that the growth lobby in Ottawa is integrated into a global growth regime that does not account for the full environmental consequences of current production and consumption practices. A conceptual tool, homecology, is found to be useful for exploring the full range of impacts of residential development.
In the case study of Minto Communities Inc., the research found that despite questionable claims, Minto as a company is in fact progressive with regards to certain green building initiatives. However, Minto also operates within an industry that is strongly resistant to both change and government regulation. At the same time that Minto publicly offers a simplified sustainability discourse, the company actively lobbies for low density ex-urban residential development. The dissertation concludes that suburban development is embedded in neoliberal political economy in Canada and abroad. The tract or production residential development industry depends on cheap labour and land, and discursively separates homes from global ecology, to continue unsustainable
Numerous people made it possible to complete this dissertation. I had the good fortune to recruit Professor Patricia Ballamingie as my supervisor and Professor Jill Wigle as a committee member when they were both new faculty in Carleton’s Geography Department. Both Trish and Jill were energized and energizing throughout, and I could not have asked for more attentive readers. If this dissertation is comprehensible, it is because o f them. I am especially grateful to Trish for her trust and faith despite my somewhat clumsy return to academia after a long hiatus. My instinct proved sound when I decided to pick excellent teachers to guide me.
I thank Benjamin Gianni from Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism for timely and critical comments early in the writing of this dissertation. Ben altered the whole focus of my research by compelling me to look beyond the building industry itself to the broader path-dependent influences on house building and homes.
I am very grateful to Professor Iain Wallace, now retired from Carleton. I think that, like Trish, Iain recognized that what I lacked in academic talent I would make up in dogged hard work. Iain led our core seminars with a deft restraint and was a profound inspiration in my first year. I consider it a real privilege to have studied with Iain, after my being away from school for so long, at the peak of his experience and wisdom. Iain also gracefully tolerated parts of my dissertation after he retired, offering continuing advice and support as I grappled with David Harvey and land rents.
Our Graduate Administrator, Natalie Pressburger, deserves special mention.
Natalie is very effective at the difficult task of herding cats (i.e. grad students). She is
deserves a raise for putting up with me for four-plus years. I could not have got through this without her.
I am very grateful to the producers and regulators, who must remain unnamed, who took time out of busy schedules to allow me inside their worlds for this research. I hope that, rather than reacting defensively, they are provoked by my findings to work harder than they already are towards making our homes fit better on this planet.
I must thank Carleton University and Carleton’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies for internal scholarships, and the Province of Quebec for bursaries that enabled my studies.
Finally, acquiring a Ph.D is a long, arduous process. It has also been arduous for those closest to my heart. This dissertation is for you, Irene, because every day you teach me home.
TABLE OF CONTENTSLIBRARY AND ARCHIVES NOTICE
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF MAPS AND FIGURES
LIST OF APPENDICES
LIST OF ACRONYMS
INTRODUCTION TO THE THESIS
CHAPTER 1. CONTEXT OF THE RESEARCH: SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT INOTTAWA, ONTARIO
1.2: Garden Cities and commuting in England and North America
1.3: Ottawa, Jacques Greber and the City Beautiful
1.4: Social reform and housing for “Mr. Canada”
1.5: North American housing production post World War II
1.6: Post-war suburban development in Ottawa
1.7: A political ecology of scale and periurban development
1.8: Conclusion to Chapter 1
CHAPTER 2: CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: TOWARDS A POLITICALECOLOGY OF HOMES
2.2: Theoretical confluence
2.3: Marxists and the production of urban space
2.4: Capitalism and nature
2.5: The evolution of marxist theory
2.6: Natures and social nature
2.7: Urban natures
2.8: Nature discourses and politics
2.9: Urban political ecology and Paul Robbins
2.10: Houses and hom es
2.11: Summary of Chapter 2
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH
3.2: Positionality and reflexivity
3.3: Research objectives
3.4: Theoretical statements and research questions
3.5: Discourse and representation
3.6: Rationale and overview of the methods employed
3.7: Clarification of key terms in the study
3.8: Development companies and other resources in the study
3.8: Interview rationale, participants, questions and variables in the study................ 133 3.9: Ethical considerations, anonymity and confidentiality
3.10: Limitations of the approach
CHAPTER 4: INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS AND CASE STUDY
4.1: Introduction and notes on producers and regulators
4.2: Defining green building and sustainability
4.3: Change drivers in Ottawa residential development
4.4: Analysis of perceptions of change drivers
4.5: Barriers to sustainable residential development as identified in the interviews..169 4.6: Analysis of barriers
4.7: Evaluation of interviews and some observations on the process
CASE STUDY: THE ENIGMA OF MINTO MAHOGANY
4.8: Case study background
4.9: Public policy, the growth lobby, and marketing green building in Ottawa 215 4.10: Minto Communities Inc. and selling ‘green’
CHAPTER 5: THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTION
5.2: Structuralism and the economics of low-density suburban residential development (LDSRD)
5.3: Bridging structuralism and post-structuralism
5.4: Homecology - a brief return
5.5: On Minto in Manotick: Leaders and greenwashers?
5.6: Summary and discussion of Chapter 5
CHAPTER 6: SUBSTANTIVE CONCLUSIONS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONSDRAWN FROM THE RESEARCH
6.1 Introduction to the final chapter
6.2: General conclusions and policy implications
6.3: Limitations and future research
6.4: Contributions to the geography literature
Table 1.1: Comparison of structure and characteristics of garden cities, streetcar suburbs and garden suburbs
Major recommendations in the 1950 Greber Plan (Adapted from Greber, 1950 and Gordon, 2001)
Dwelling starts by type, 1944 to 1950 (thousands of units)
Table 3.1: Variables in the study
Table 3.4: Links between research questions and interview questions
LIST OF MAPS AND FIGURESMap 1.1: Plan of Letchworth Garden City
Map 1.2: Hampstead Garden Suburb, London (1911 Plan by Parker and Unw in) 14 Figures 1.1 and 1.
2: Illustrations 59 and 60 of the Greber Plan entitled “Railway and industrial installations within the central area of the capital, between Wellington and Somerset streets: Views taken from Somerset Street Viaduct”
Figures 1.3 and 1.
4: Illustrations 43 and 44 from the Greber Plan entitled “Blighted houses, these regrettable conditions do not arise from poverty, but from lack of foresight and regulation resulting in blight and misuse in the development o f land”
Figure 1.5: Distribution of street cars and buses, Ottawa, 1948, Plate XIV of the Greber Plan
Figure 1.6: Urban densityand transport-related energy consumption
Figure 1.7: Energy use per capital in private passenger travel versus urban density in global cities, 1990
Figure 4.1: The Minto Ecohome in March of 2013
Figure 4.5: Part of the “Minto Green” web page
Figure 4.6: Frontspiece and logo, Minto Mahogany
Figure 4.7: Aerial view, Minto Mahogany property in Manotick, early 2012.
............. 238 Figure 4.8: Feel naturally at home. Art installation in Minto Mahogany Sales Centre, March 2013
Figure 4.9: The Mahogany building site, March, 2013
LIST OF APPENDICES
APPENDIX 1.1: HISTORY — CMHC MILESTONES
APPENDIX 3.1: INTRODUCTORY PACKAGE FOR INTERVIEWEES
APPENDIX 3.2: INTERVIEW PARTICIPANTS IN THE STUDY
APPENDIX 3.3: CARLETON UNIVERSITY RESEARCH ETHICS BOARD,ETHICS CLEARANCE
APPENDIX 4.1: GREEN BUILDING AND SUSTAINABILITY DEFINITIONSBY PRODUCERS AND REGULATORS
APPENDIX 4.2: DRIVERS FOR GREEN BUILDING AND SUSTAINABILITYBY PRODUCERS AND REGULATORS
APPENDIX 4.3: THEMES IN DRIVERS FOR GREEN BUILDING ANDSUSTAINABILITY BY PRODUCERS AND REGULATORS
APPENDIX 4.4: BARRIERS TO GREEN BUILDING BY PRODUCERS ANDREGULATORS
APPENDIX 4.5: BARRIERS TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT BYPRODUCERS AND REGULATORS
APPENDIX 4.6: “THE RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY IS
THE ENGINE THAT DRIVES OTTAWA’S ECONOMY” GOHBAONE-PAGE ‘FACT’ SHEET
LDSRD Low density suburban residential development LEEDH Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for LEEDND Neighborhood Design National Capital Commission NCC NRCan Natural Resources Canada
INTRODUCTION TO THE DISSERTATIONThis dissertation examines the suburban residential tract development industry and sustainability in the City of Ottawa, Canada. A large number of significant socioecological moments and processes combined during the project to make it relevant.
The main moment was, as a City policymaker in the research interviews called it, “the collision of private and public interests” as exemplified in debates about global warming.