VIU student examines how building design in Belize is adapting to changing climate realities

In addition to developing recommendations for a disaster management and redevelopment plan, a considerable portion of my research concerns design guidelines. Design guidelines can be used to ensure that a community’s sense of place is maintained by regulating the built form of new developments – especially those that are constructed by foreign agencies. As my research has been progressing, I have been steadily photo cataloging the community of Hopkins Village. This is to carefully map the built form.

The Village of Hopkins is considerably low-lying and vulnerable to erosive forces and extreme weather-related events, as well as to seal level rise. Sometimes, after a devastating weather event has made landfall, communities need to rebuild. In more extreme circumstances neighborhoods need to be relocated – especially when one considers the impacts related to climate change and sea level rise.

The photo above is an example of the housing typology. While this is an example of the emerging pattern, it important to try to see the community of Hopkins through the eyes of the residents. In addition to interviews and surveying, I arranged a community mapping exercise so that residents in the community were provided with an opportunity to inform my research. As a result of these activities I am developing an in depth understanding of how I employ myself while conducting research abroad. I have found that I am more resilient than I thought, and am fairly good at engaging with people in varying environments.

Over the past few months I have learned that not only is Hopkins in a vulnerable position, but residents here seem to be well aware of their situation – adaptation to these events is present in the built form.

There are also several parallels between my research methods here in Hopkins, and those that could be employed in communities on Vancouver Island. First, most coastal Belizean communities share similar physical characteristics to Vancouver Island. For example, the community of Sidney, B.C., is a relatively low-lying waterfront community, which is susceptible to the impacts of sea level rise. While Hurricanes are an unlikely event for Sidney, tangents can still be drawn between this Vancouver Island community and coastal communities in Belize. In Hopkins, the built form characteristics have displayed an adaptation to fluctuating water levels – some residents’ homes illustrate this adaptation by elevating their main floors well above ground level.

Darren Lucas, Community Planning, VIU

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