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Buildings Canada

Climate Resilience: Unlocking Cities for Disaster Relief

2023 has the dubious distinction of being considered for the hottest year on record [Is 2023 going to be the hottest year on record?, Published], synonymous with burning highways and firefighter sacrifice. The number of emergency evacuations, including Yellowknife residents' evacuations to Alberta’s cities, is unprecedented. Future climate data tells us that “Summer 2023” is the new normal: long spans of hot, dry days, smoky skies, and evacuation alerts, even in regions without a history of wildfires. The rise of displaced peoples due to climate hazards like heatwaves, wildfires, and floods raises many questions about the suitability of third spaces typically used in disaster response situations, e.g., community centres, school gymnasiums.

This seminar will explore the suitability, availability, and key adaptations needed to make atypical third spaces such as office towers and shopping malls a viable emergency housing alternative. The speakers will discuss opportunities for collaboration between municipalities and commercial real estate actors, while identifying municipal leaders paving the way with novel solutions. Perhaps most urgently, the seminar will explore opportunities to design urban infrastructure to help absorb the effects of future climate events impacting cities and the remote areas they will be called upon to serve.


  • Veronica Owens, Senior Advisor, Sustainability, WSP Canada Ltd
  • Sarmad Al-Mashta, Principle Architect, Architecture49