Change Charter

Resilience Through Adaptability

The Vancouver Change Charter was the culmination of two years of work for the Commission between 2007-2008. Its Principles for an Adaptable City embody a long-term view, encompassing current topics and also anticipating strategies to adapt to future pressures in our private and public realms.

Vancouver Change Charter
The VCPC Vancouver Change Charter. Click to download a pdf version

Throughout this Commission’s term the one constant element that entered into every discussion was change. Whether on a neighbourhood scale, a political scale, or an international scale, there appeared to be no status quo.

From a planning perspective this meant that the City was forced into new policy directions such as EcoDensity, and new social housing.

The Commission participated in these worthwhile efforts, but also saw that in the longer term many policies and, indeed, the built environment itself, could benefit from a rethinking of the traditional methods of delivery.

Vancouver’s built environment was seen as not being adaptive to change. Many worldwide cities have learned how to make public spaces into 24-hour venues. They have built structures that can change their uses hourly, daily and over hundreds of years. Perhaps because of Vancouver’s young age, these ideas have not formed part of an otherwise very progressive culture of planning and architecture. A City Built for Change emerged out of these discussions as a direction for exploration.

The Vancouver Change Charter is derived from this work, and intended to be a baseline from which deliberate and reasoned strategies around adaptability could be developed and applied to the City fabric.

Ultimately, Vancouver’s ability to adapt to change through time will be the decisive factor in the City’s continued success as one of the most livable places on earth.

The Vancouver Change Charter

This document represents the Vancouver City Planning Commission’s commitment to the City Council and her citizens to support and influence best practice in city planning, making for a resilient Vancouver.


Great Cities are built layer upon layer, weaving the ideas, principles and struggles of its citizenry into the fabric of the built environment. The result is an enduring, supportive and by definition, sustainable urban environment. Vancouver, by contrast, has often chosen to replace rather than renew, creating a less sustainable more ethereal landscape. Adaptable environments are the antithesis of this approach and are defined by the ability of structures and spaces to provide for continued use and occupancy through time;
adapting to the evolving needs of generations.

Whereas the City of Vancouver is facing unprecedented and ongoing
influences owing to changes in demography, climate, technology, and
the economy;

And Whereas the City of Vancouver, its public servants and those who govern
her through time, share an imperative to make a city that is livable, sustainable
and affordable;

And Whereas, in order to defend against potential consequences of an evolving planet, the City’s institutions and its built fabric must become increasingly responsive to change;

Now Therefore The Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC) has established the foregoing set of principles embedded in The Vancouver
Change Charter.

Principles for an Adaptable City

Adaptability is the key tenet of sustainability. An adaptable city is one that can grow and change in response to social, environmental and economic factors, while minimizing the disruption of these systems.

All developments respond to the natural, social and economic drivers of change such as:

  • Economic forces and their cyclical and non-cyclical variation over time
  • Ecological changes (the evolution of global natural systems producing
    impacts such as climate change, rising tides, pollution)
  • Non-renewable natural resource depletion
  • Evolving social change (population migration and cultural evolution)
  • Technological change (advances in communications and process automation)
  • Demographic change

1. A Flexible Public Realm

Public spaces including streets, squares parks and pedestrian pathways are designed to accommodate a multitude of activities with the ability to transform appropriately to these and to additional needs over time to ensure use by the broadest community.

2. Adaptable Building

Buildings are designed to adapt to change and constructed so that they can be used multiple times for multiple uses over their lifespan. Adaptable buildings are an efficient and sustainable method of accommodating changing societal and economic needs through time, such as housing, cultural and commercial activities.

3. Responsive Public Policy

Civic goals, planning initiatives and by-laws should fully consider the need for adaptable buildings, public spaces and infrastructure, including regulations that allow for changing uses over time.

4.Open Public Discussion

Any public discussion of City policy, planning and development projects should embed considerations of adaptability.

5.The Economy of Adaptability

Adaptable structures and spaces are economically sustainable, focusing on the long-term value to the community. Thus in addition to immediate economic considerations, life cycle costing, and community value should be integrated into the design of the built environment.


The Vancouver Change Charter is intended to synthesize and direct the City towards a truly adaptable future, thus lessening the burden on resources and ensuring a path towards the City’s continued viability and vibrancy.

The Vancouver City Planning Commission intends to be a catalyst and monitor of the efficacy of this initiative.

Application of the Charter

A City Built for Change will evolve using minimal resources and maximum creativity.

An application of the charter would involve:

  1. Maintaining the VCPC as a forum for open dialogue and discussion on planning projects.
  2. Creating a review process to monitor projects on their application of adaptability principles.
  3. Integrating ‘Built for Change’ concepts into City Policy and practice.
  4. Creating and disseminating ‘Built for Change’ criteria to the public and the development community.