The Most Sustainable Balcony in Vancouver

Part 1 – Preamble

As previously written on this superawesome blog, I’m taking a sustainability class at UBC – it’s offered by Continuing Studies and taught by the outstanding Sarah Northcott. Our final assignment is to create a map – using The Natural Step ‘ABCD analysis’ (Awareness, Baseline, Compelling Measures, Down to Business) – that reflects our ability to strategically plan from a systems perspective. For my plan, I will be addressing the sustainability of Michelle Burtnyk-Horn and my balcony at 288 E. 14th Avenue in Vancouver, BC.

[Editor's Note: none of these pictures are actually of my balcony, as it is empty and also behind the lock and key of a condo that we do not officially "own" until February 21, 2011 at 12:01am].


I will create the most sustainable balcony in the Metro Vancouver Region. This deck will be a model for sustainable-apartment-living from Bowen Island to Surrey and back again. Long story short: this balcony will be 36′ x 5’7″ of sustainable awesomeness.

Sharing in this vision will be the following fine folks: first and most importantly, my wife Michelle; second, the Strata Council of my building; third, my neighbours (within the building as well as the ones who will be looking at the balcony); fourth, the Daily Gumboot community, who will share in the successes and failures of this project.

Here is my “backcasted” painted picture of this project:

It is a warm Fall evening. Michelle and I are sitting in patio chairs made from harvested pine-beetle-killed-wood (possibly crafted by General Andrew Frank) and sharing a bottle of Red Mountain syrah (brewed and bottled by The Fermented Grape). Some delicious local and happy chicken is cooking on the barbecue and it smells terrific (we got the recipe from Mike Worth, after all) – we will compost all organic scraps from our meal in the container near the barbecue. Our two Biggest Little Gardens in Town yield a modest bounty of lettuces, broccoli, tomatoes, and a few root vegetables. Pots of herbs, flowers and native plants are tastefully arranged around the balcony. And the brilliant Sunshine is nicely shaded by some privacy-producing cedar hedges. Our baby girl, Fog McSpadden, is sound asleep in her room. And we’re all smiles.

So, this is where we’re going.

Core Purpose

The purpose is simple. We have been blessed with a huge, friggin’ outdoor space that has the potential to not only entertain and inspire our community, but also to yield food, process waste and contribute to the beauty of the alley between E. 14th and 15th Avenues. Most importantly, the purpose of this project is to create and sustain a really, really, really good story that visitors will tell their friends.

“Hey, do you have a minute? I’ve gotta tell you about this amazing balcony that I just came from in East Vancouver…”

That’s what they’ll say.

Core Values

I come from a proud, deck-rearing family. To this day, my family and I discuss important life decisions during conversations on the deck that my dad and I built* 12 years ago. It will always be important for me to have a vibrant, fresh, as-natural-as-possible, reflective, outdoor space for personal deep-thinking as well as community-minded hosting.

Community is our foundation. We feel that we have a responsibility – a duty – to make gorgeous use of this high-potential space. Passion for nature, for green things and for hosting fun parties with outdoor-indoor potential will be our drivers. Collaborative compromise amongst all stakeholders (especially Michelle) are our guideposts. We are The Bornk!s and this is our balcony!

Next Steps

Stay tuned for three more posts – parts B, C and D – that will fully unveil my balcony-building plan.

*really, I was kinda just “there” – El Heffe did the building!

6 thoughts on “The Most Sustainable Balcony in Vancouver

  1. The Ballcony. An Urban Utopia. The SkyGarden. You need a brand for this balcony if you want it to proliferate throughout the balconized universe. What is it called?

    Also — as mentioned last night, if you want some help: send me a list of desired objects, or desired functionality and their approximate dimensions (height X width X depth) and I’ll spatialize them into an infinite number of options. You, Michelle and Fog can then review along with related analysis.

  2. Stew!


    My next two posts are going to involve some planning and specifics. For example, the building materials have already been decided on, so I won’t have control over that. I will have control over the things that go on the balcony, though.

    Mrs. Bornk! and I will kick around some of your balcony-name ideas and bring this project to the next level. We will need to fit the following things:

    - two chairs
    - a table
    - a solar-powered barbecue
    - one or two Biggest Little Gardens (or knock-offs built by Geoff Horn)
    - one or two large western red cedar hedges
    - several potted plants and herbs of varying sizes
    - possibly two urban chickens
    - a composting facility
    - a hammock

    These things can be any shape and size, so long as they fit into a space that is 36 feet long and about five-and-a-half feet wide.

    Good luck!

  3. ” a solar-powered barbecue”… please tell me this involves a large magnifying glass.

  4. It could, Julian. It could. And you know what, I just finished my project plan for class and guess who got listed on my task-force. You did. That’s right, buddy. See you at the planning meetings.

    - JCH

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