Places and Spaces

We developed a modelling tool, entitled Places + Spaces, for Canadian communities to assess alternative development pathways. Pathways are influenced by levers (policy options, investment choices in social and physical infrastructure) and impacts (community wellbeing, resource consumption and financial viability). The “engine” of this tool - which traces the complex relationships between levers and impacts - is an integrated systems simulation model of the community incorporating community-specific data and reflecting community-specific policies and scenarios. The infrastructure builds upon a platform developed through decades of research and development in the area of socio-economic, natural resource and urban land use models. The research team will work in partnership with 3 to 4 case study to iteratively develop the tool so that is both useful and user friendly for Canadian communities.  

Features of this innovative infrastructure include:

  • a biophysical foundation that represents population and demographics, buildings and urban form, physical infrastructure and services (transportation, water, waste, energy), social infrastructure and services (education, healthcare, recreation), and economic activity (labour, products and services);
  • accounting for financial states and activities of the public sector, private sector and households within the community and financial flows leaving and entering the community, and
  • explicit connection between biophysical elements and financial accounting.

Communities will be able to use the infrastructure to guide planning, development and investment decisions. The following examples highlight how Places + Spaces can be used.

  • A major new residential and commercial development project is proposed. Will this development result in a net economic benefit to the community? How will this impact the health of community members?
  • The municipality has proposed to apply an additional 5% on property taxes to fund climate action. Will this result in increased prosperity for the community? Will new jobs be created or will the new tax stifle economic activity?
  • A pulp mill is about to close. What will be the social and economic impact on the community? To what extent might the informal economy or local exchange trading systems mitigate the impact.
We are grateful for funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund. A final report is being prepared on the 2-year research project and for further details visit the Place + Spaces website.