Cynthia Girling

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Research Interests

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

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Research Methodology

case study methods

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Livable neighbourhoods in multicultural cities: immigrant women's experiences and preferences (2021)

Immigrant women’s needs and their experiences of neighbourhood livability in multicultural countries such as Canada have been demonstrated to be worthy of study because they face barriers to settlement, accessing supports, and social integration. This dissertation, therefore, aims to achieve a deeper knowledge of immigrant women’s experiences in residential neighbourhoods and specifically asks the main question of what makes a neighbourhood livable for them in multicultural cities? This study was conducted in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada, using mixed methods. The findings of this study have been organized into three major manuscript-based chapters. Using a survey, the first manuscript examines how immigrant women perceive the importance of livability factors and tests the combined effect of those factors on their neighbourhood selection. The results stress the importance of neighbourhood safety, housing affordability and quality, and proximity to public transit. This manuscript also argues that immigrant women who valued socio-cultural amenities/events, ethnolinguistic signs, and social contacts among neighbours preferred to live close to co-ethnics. Finally, this study reveals that participants who highly valued the factors of nightlife and proximity to workplaces, restaurants, and cafes had a tendency toward Vancouver neighbourhoods, while those who valued the factors of proximity to schools and daycares, police stations, and having friendly neighbours had a tendency toward suburban neighbourhoods.Data for the second manuscript was collected through interviews. Exploring how newcomer women experience the social aspects of neighbourhood livability, this manuscript identifies four potential actions to make neighbourhoods socially livable for newcomer women: boosting social cohesion, building multicultural neighbourhoods, developing settlement supports, and improving neighbourhood safety. The research data in the final manuscript was drawn from mental mapping exercises, investigating how newcomer women perceive their physical neighbourhood boundaries. The results of this manuscript demonstrate the contribution of the following four main amenities to shaping the perceived neighbourhood boundaries and livability: lively social and community-based spaces, inviting green spaces, shopping streets and shopping malls, and ethnic markets. According to these results, I proposed a guiding framework in the concluding chapter, including ten dimensions, for the design and development of more livable neighbourhoods in multicultural cities.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

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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