Cynthia Girling


Research Classification

Landscape and Restoration
People, Cities and Lands
Design and Planning of Space

Research Interests

Sustainable neighbourhood design
Vizualization and community engagement
Public realm design and planning

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

case study methods


Doctoral students

Geospatial analysis at neighbouhood scale/ measuring spatial indicators of livable, sustainable neighbourhoods.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Bridging the gap between theory and practice of green building water system at the University of British Columbia, Canada (2018)

No abstract available.

Planning and designing urban open spaces for low income neighbourhoods in Chile : case study, Alto Hospicio Chile (2013)

With the global increase in the density of urban population, policy makers and planners have been paying significantly more attention to measures designed to promote sustainable development and to improve the quality of life in the urban environment. Chile’s marked demographic explosion and its rapid urbanisation increased the housing demand; as a result, this overcrowding created land invasions and informal settlements. From the 1980s to 2006, the Chilean government implemented a policy that reduced the total housing deficit by half, unfortunately, this policy favoured quantity over quality and resulted in extended social housing complexes as opposed to designing complete neighbourhoods. In addition, unplanned and informal settlements arose in many regions of the country and were relocated to the periphery of existing cities. This excluded residents from their entire social and economic system. Due to a lack of spatial and social connections, especially urban open space, these communities have morphed into pockets of inequity, delinquency and spatial segregation. Using a case study approach to address the research questions, this study evaluates how urban open space currently functions in Alto Hospicio and aims to contribute with a design framework that may guide and inform government, municipal authorities, planners, and designers in the implementation of more adequate urban open spaces in the under-utilized landscape of Chile’s low-income communities.

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Water footprint of coastal tourism facilities in small island developing states : a case-study of a beach resort in the Maldives (2013)

Research on climate change indicates that the risk of water scarcity at many remote tourist destinations will increase in the next few decades. Tourism development puts strong pressure on freshwater resources, the availability of which is especially limited in remote areas. At locations with no access to conventional water sources, tourism facilities require supply alternatives, such as desalinated or imported water, which implies elevated energy demands and carbon emissions. In this context, a shift in the way freshwater use is assessed is crucial for moving toward a more sustainable model of water management for tourism development. This research adapts the Water Footprint framework to the design of tourism facilities and explains how and why this is a promising model for water accounting in isolated locations. Defined as 'an indicator of freshwater resources appropriation', the Water Footprint concept was introduced by Hoekstra in 2002. This methodology goes beyond the conventional direct water use assessment model, upon which most common benchmarking systems in sustainable tourism are based. Measuring the water footprint of a tourism facility allows operators and design teams to understand the environmental and socio-economic impacts associated with its direct and indirect water uses. Furthermore, this methodology enables a holistic consideration of all the water system components: supply, demand, and wastewater. Based on this framework, this thesis presents a Water Footprint Design Tool (Tool) for designers to use in the early stages of design. This Tool enables design teams to run various scenarios and understand how different water system designs can impact the footprint of a project. A case-study of a beach resort in the Maldives illustrates the application of the Tool in a specific context. The results showed that significant desalinated water footprint reductions (75.5%, 80.6% and 95.5%, depending on the precipitation year) could be achieved through the application of a series of water-saving strategies. Finally, this research introduces a three-scale process to be applied in new tourism development operations. This framework allows designers to easily identify which areas need improvement in order to achieve more ambitious water goals that would help make tourism development more sustainable in the future.

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