15 Ways to Unlock Creative Innovation for Vancouver



On December 3, 2021, CityStudio Vancouver hosted another successful virtual event, HUBBUB 17. The event showcased 15 innovative projects with creative solutions to some of the city’s most pressing issues. This term was particularly challenging, with health, equity, and climate emergencies that are growing in intensity and continue to ravage the region, and those that are vulnerable. The roundup of projects drove home how essential it is to include students in everyday city-building to generate sustainability, equity, and joy. 

One of the most important things we can do for our cities, needing more and more help, is to work together, learn together, and leave the next generation better equipped to manage the challenges they will inevitably face.

Regardless of the challenges, post-secondary students, faculty, and City Staff continue to inspire us with their resilience and creativity. HUBBUB 17 was a celebration of the collaborative work between our partners that address city strategies in the areas of democratic participation, accessibility, youth climate action, seniors, habitat management, and more. This term, 893 students collaborated with 28 City staff and 27 faculty on multiple City of Vancouver strategic priorities. 

Our expert judges deliberated and selected this edition’s winners based on the HUBBUB criteria of replicability, scalability, novelty, and their potential to benefit the city. Additionally, we saw over 350 votes towards this term’s People’s Choice Award! Read on for HUBBUB 17’s top projects and, new to this term, a staff pick award.


First Place: The Laneway Menu

Langara College, Humanities & Social Sciences (ENVS 2100)

A Step-by-Step Toolkit That Empowers Communities To Activate Vancouver’s Laneways

In Vancouver, there are currently 23,582 laneways. At $800 per square foot, this untapped space has a net value upwards of $34 billion. The last two years of the pandemic has stressed the need for public space to encourage health and happiness within its communities. Given the vast development potential for laneways, a city-wide activation of this under-utilized network is necessary to meet the needs of our growing population. 

The Laneway Menu invites communities to create better laneways in Vancouver by streamlining the activation processes in an accessible, step-by-step toolkit. By offering adaptable development templates to address the local needs of any activation, this toolkit hopes to eliminate information barriers to equity amongst Vancouver neighbourhoods, and inspire a sense of civil agency within our city.

What the judges said: “The Laneway Menu embodies the spirit of CityStudio so well. We loved the out-of-the box dreaming that these students did and feel that it’s a timely project during a global pandemic when public space has become the social meeting place for so many. The Laneway Menu is large scale, but by engaging the community and getting all hands on deck, change can be exponential. As the young naive dreamer on the judging team, I’m excited for it to remind experienced staff that they’re allowed to entertain seemingly wild ideas!”


Second Place: GI Grow

Langara College, Humanities and Social Sciences (ENVS 2100)

Implementing Recycled Materials Into Green Infrastructure: A Closed-Loop System

Currently, there is no specification in Vancouver for constructing green infrastructure with recycled materials. In 2020, Metro Vancouver reported that construction and demolition waste was the largest proportion for the functional waste category. GI Grow suggests recycling parts of this waste by incorporating them into green infrastructure. 

GI Grow proposed bioswales as they’re easy to implement in urban settings, making them one of the most scalable forms of green infrastructure. By using recycled concrete as drainage aggregate, compost as soil, and recycled wood as mulch, we could divert waste from landfill and offset emissions and costs. GI Grow demonstrates the feasibility, viability, and importance of incorporating recycled materials into green infrastructure, as well as generates community engagement and promotes the benefits of a closed-loop recycling system. The student team constructed a physical prototype of a tree watering bag made of recycled billboard vinyl as seen in their pitch video. 

What the judges said: “The GI Grow pitch was very well-rounded, addressing the issue identified with a solution that was refreshing in its uniqueness and practicality. Inspired ideas are hard to draw out, but even harder to implement and we felt this student group balanced the two with a thoughtfulness that is relevant and timely.”


Third Place: Pop-IN Assessment

SFU, Geography (GEOG 363)

Site Assessment Tool For Vancouver’s Pop Up Plazas

Pop-IN is a site assessment tool designed for planners to gather data on whether themes of inclusion, diversity, and decolonization are apparent within the built and social environments of VIVA Vancouver’s Pavement-to-Plaza program. The creation of this tool aims to achieve inclusivity by incorporating into the VIVA Vancouver framework a public space planning and design approach that pays attention to the specific and multi-layered identities and experiences of the city’s diverse inhabitants.

The assessment tool is a questionnaire that first asks the planner questions of positionality as well as a few general site assessment observations, then challenges them to answer questions structured around themes of inclusion, diversity, and decolonization. This assessment offers a tangible process by which VIVA Vancouver can go about achieving one of their six program goals of fostering a culture shift toward more equitable and inclusive public space.  

What the judges said: “What [we] liked about Pop-IN is that the students challenged and critiqued an existing program within the City (and well known urban theory), and offered an internal tool to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion outcomes for public spaces.”


People’s Choice: Wheel Change Makers

UBC, Geography (GEOG 311)

Creating A Youth-led Community That Encourages Biking Habits, Promotes A Biking Culture And Ensures Safe Biking Routes

​​According to Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, 39% of Vancouver’s total carbon pollution is created by road transportation. Barriers to active transportation in BC include a lack of safety and accessibility to bike paths, weather, and the cost of equipment. It also finds only 5% of school commutes are on bikes. 

Wheel Change Makers is a youth-led biking community that reduces barriers to bike resources and information through a school BikeHub program while also increasing the connectivity of schools to protected bike lanes. This initiative will engage with and create a welcoming biking community through incentives and workshops, with the goal of increasing youth and adult bike ridership as a primary transportation method within the city.

What the people said: I am so in favour of this. Lots of trust in this new generation, tons of difference makers out there!!!!”


New to this year’s showcase, CityStudio Vancouver introduced a Staff Pick award. The award is significant to the team for how it speaks to the CityStudio Way. Our vision is for Vancouver to be sustainable, equitable, and joyful. Our Manifesto is all about believing in small projects with big impact for our communities, our city, and in ourselves. And our Theory of Change emphasizes that innovation requires transformational learning and collaboration. This project inspired us to introduce this new award designation. 

Staff Pick: Beat The Heat

SFU,  Health Science (HSCI 412)

A Multifaceted Approach To Protect Seniors From Extreme Heat Events In Vancouver

The creation of this project stemmed from the call to action for the City of Vancouver regarding the recent climate emergency in the summer. Extreme heat events, such as the heat dome, captured the gaps in the current communication and response system. 

Beat The Heat aims to help protect seniors from heat-related illness and death by improving health communication from the government to the public, raising awareness on extreme heat events, and inspiring community mobilization. There are 12 proposed recommendations that were actionized into a series of communication tools including branding, a website, and an awareness campaign. In addition, students formed a community partnership network and developed a training module for health care aids who can reach socially-isolated seniors.

What the team said: what impressed us about this project was how it truly embraced the CityStudio Way. With over 55 students in the course working together, the trust-based relationships that were created to bring this project’s vision to fruition was truly inspiring. This led the Beat The Heat project to be developed to an exceptional degree, with community organizations ready to join the network. As it becomes increasingly apparent in our province, extreme weather events are becoming a new norm for residents. This project moves to urgently respond to protect a vulnerable population with immediate effect, and with the potential to save lives. It is for this reason, Beat The Heat has been awarded the inaugural Staff Pick award.


Congratulations to all the winners! Onwards to 2022, and to CityStudio Vancouver’s 10th anniversary. We’ll see you online again this spring for HUBBUB 18: The Anniversary Edition. We look forward to celebrating with you.