Intervenor: vol. 27, no. 1- 2, January - June 2002

Clean Air Hamilton's Air Quality and Urban Development Conference

Clean Air Hamilton held its second biennial Upwind Downwind Air Quality Conference in Hamilton on February 25 and 26, 2002. Two hundred registrants from Canada and the United States attended. This year's conference focussed on urban air quality issues. Presentation notes are available for viewing at www.airquality.hamilton.on.ca. Here is a sampling of the presentations on this subject. Where additional information is available on the web site, an * follows the presenter's name.

Our first keynote speaker, Russell Perry, of William McDonough and Partners, stressed we need to move beyond eco-effectiveness and eco-efficiency to building self-sustainability into our built environment. We will accomplish this when we plan for the life cycle of all materials used in our buildings. We will also rely more heavily on solar power for use in lighting and energy, respect social, cultural and biological diversity and knit built and natural forms together through storm water management, recycling and indoor and rooftop natural landscapes.

Barry Jessiman*, Health Canada, presented the health science behind Canada wide standards for particulate matter and ozone. Increases in air pollution cause corresponding increases in hospitalizations and mortality. Health effects are now found at levels that were once considered safe. Furthermore, environmental health thresholds for these substances may not exist. Particulate matter (PM) arising from particles smaller than PM2.5, PM10, black smoke and ozone have been shown to have negative health effects irrespective of their concentrations. Point and non-point urban sources contribute varying and significant amounts of these pollutants.

Dr. David Pengelly* examined Ontario's Air Quality Index and demonstrated that 92% of premature deaths and hospitalizations resulting from air quality related issues occurred when the index rates air quality as "very good" or "good". Alternatively 8% of the adverse effects occur when air quality is rated as "moderate" and "poor" to "very poor". This anomaly occurs because fine particles are not measured (PM2.5 and PM10). The index relies on single source measurements and some of the measured criteria are out of date.

Dr. Brian McCarry*, McMaster University and Clean Air Hamilton, described Clean Air Hamilton and its programs. Barry Boyer*, Buffalo's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth, focussed on international, provincial, state and local government initiatives to measure our environmental performance. Measurement and assessment are vital to defining goals, objectives and measures to address air quality. Furthermore, we need to co-ordinate our efforts horizontally throughout the region in which we live, even though this transcends Ontario and New York municipal and state/provincial jurisdictions. Co-operation in measuring our air quality performance will empower local leadership. The Institute monitors western New York and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula in the annual "State of the Environment" Report.

Reid Ewing, from Rutgers University, was our second key note speaker. He stressed wiser use of community design to improve resource use and reduce environmental impact. We need hybrid forms of land development which mix neo-traditional urbanism with more traditional urban forms. We should focus on communities, commercial centres, individual neighbourhoods and individual design elements such as traffic patterns which transcend each of these units.

Joanne McCallum*, McCallum Sather Architects Inc., focussed on green building design. Approximately 40% of the raw materials and energy produced in the world goes into buildings and is a main contributor to greenhouse gases emissions and toxic and non-toxic wastes. More emphasis is needed on life cycle management of building materials. We should also emphasize reuse and restoration over greenfield development.

Mark Mitchell*, Keen Engineering Co. Ltd., showed how we could use new energy efficient technology in the design of building mechanical systems to "touch the earth lightly" and minimize resource depletion and consumption. For example, if the building industry reduced green house gases by 25%, approximately 60% of the reductions required to achieve Canada's Kyoto commitment could be achieved. Joanne and Mark stressed that impressive improvements can be achieved through careful design.

Dr. Christopher Morgan*, City of Toronto, addressed air quality issues in the Greater Toronto Area. It is a complicated issue because sources of poor air quality include point and non-point sources (such as tire wear from freeway driving and pavement breakup of dust and debris). Mike LePage, Rowan Williams Davies and Irwin Inc., discussed regional air quality modelling and the role it can play in helping us understand this complexity. He described a modelling example in Calgary where 75% of the gas vehicles were replaced by electric vehicles. Ground level ozone was reduced by only 4 to 15%.

Dean Saito* reviewed southern California's efforts to address air quality. Significant reductions of ozone and PM10 are still required. Many areas experience 50 to 100 days each year in which State mandated standards are exceeded. Mobile sources contribute 76% of these emissions. Diesel combustion engines represent a significant regulatory challenge.

Reid Ewing ended this discussion by critically appraising smart growth programs in Florida, Oregon and Maryland. He observed both the Florida and Oregon programs have been only partly successful at best. But Maryland's program appears to be a success through the wise use of incentives and an emphasis on bottom up decision making. Incentives include monetary incentive programs to encourage people to live close to work. Municipalities still have the final authority to make decisions. But if municipal projects are not situated within pre-approved areas where growth is to be concentrated, state servicing monies are unavailable.

Many other speakers made interesting presentations over the two-day conference. Material on all the presentations and other related Clean Air Hamilton information can be viewed at www.airquality.hamilton.on.ca.

For further information please call Sonya Kapusin at 905 643 1262 ext. 275 or e-mail Clean Air Hamilton at haqic@city.hamilton.on.ca.
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George McKibbon, Liana Krahule and Sonya Kapusin are members of Clean Air Hamilton, George is also a member of OPPI