Label Oasis urbain: Building together a quieter, healthier and more inviting city

This is the mission undertaken by Oasis urbain — a winning project from the 2019–2020 cohort of the MIS Civic Incubator with the creation of a quality label to enhance and multiply such spaces.

A shared vision to improve the quality of city life

When three people, who have studied or are studying at the INRS, and who are deeply concerned with environmental issues decide to pool their enthusiasm for improving the quality of life and health of city dwellers, it yields a lot of grey matter to make this colour disappear from the city.

Jérémy Gelb, Thomas Audrin and Déborah Delaunay are all mindful of urban pollution (atmospheric, noise and thermal) and have focused all their work on the study of noise in cities: quiet areas, airborne noise and the exposure of cyclists to atmospheric and noise pollution in different cities around the world.

Together, they want to act to improve the quality of life in the city and dispel the preconceived ideas about extreme urban pollution in Montréal.

Label Oasis urbain : construire ensemble une ville plus calme, saine et attrayante / Label Oasis urbain: Building together a quieter, healthier and more inviting city

Determined to fight against this stereotype, they propose to highlight the city’s potential for healthy and enjoyable spaces through a novel cross-disciplinary approach that encompasses many dimensions, including noise, air and visual pollution, accessibility, street furniture and safety.

What is their vision? To create conditions so that those who live in or visit Montréal can have access, on a daily basis, to quiet, healthy and pleasant urban spaces that are necessary for their well-being.

Their idea is therefore to support the enhancement, development and protection of these spaces through the creation of a labelling process with respect to the quality of urban oases. In other words, to change the way of living and planning the city by co-creating a label, based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which will take into account noise and air pollution levels, while integrating activities of scientific popularization, public awareness raising and citizen involvement.

Indeed, the users of a space will have an important role in the design of the label both through their awareness of the issue and their participation in the gathering of qualitative and quantitative data for the evaluation of the space.

Imagine a toddler’s playground that has signage on the quality of the space. Its excellent criteria will certainly inspire users to mobilize to maintain this quality, but also to take this playground as an example to pinpoint current problems in other spaces and to reflect on solutions to reduce pollution and nuisances as much as possible. Oasis urbain will then intervene to work with owners and decision makers to improve these spaces.

Finding support for the development of the project

After being initially involved in a collective project that failed to materialize, the trio felt somewhat discouraged.

But even with this first setback, neither the wish to act nor innovative ideas forsake them, and they bounced back enthusiastically as they envisioned Oasis urbain. However, designing a new project is still demanding in terms of time and energy. How could they ensure that they were heading in the right direction and guarantee that this initiative would be better received by future partners?

The call for projects from the Maison de l’innovation sociale (MIS) Civic Incubator arrived in the picture at the right time. The team saw it as the perfect lever to structure their ideas, confront them with the right questions, mature the project and move it in the right direction.

« The regular workshop format forces us to move forward even if the investment in time is significant and adds to our already busy agendas. The structure of the program is fluid and the tools are designed constructively, they help anchor the project. Spending time in pairs also builds confidence in the team, refocusing everyone’s point of view towards a common vision. »

Jérémy

Thomas Audrin et Jérémy Gelb – Atelier de l’Incubateur civique

The exchange of ideas with other cohort participants is another advantage noted by Jeremy and Thomas, who were confronted with different perspectives on their initiative, particularly by people who were unbiased from a political or financial point of view. They benefited from both an outsider’s perspective that prompted them to question the impacts of Oasis urbain and from non-scientific listeners who helped them tailor their arguments according to the audience and the issues at hand.

The next steps in the deployment of Oasis urbain

Several challenges remain to be met to ensure the project’s implementation, such as securing a partner willing to support this approach and determining a test territory to implement the methodology. The methodology is purposely rigorous and could be based on the creation of a city-wide scientific committee, depending on the partners who will join the adventure of the Oasis urbain label. 

A project that starts on solid foundations! We can only applaud this positive initiative for the health and quality of life of Montrealers.

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