Five quick questions with Hazel Borys

TEDxManitoba is ecstatic that Hazel Borys will take the stage at our 2012 event. The Managing Principal of PlaceMakers, Hazel is an electrical engineer with an MBA. She organizes the SmartCode Workshop and [email protected] webinar education series. Hazel guides governments through zoning reform to allow walkable, mixed-use, compact, sustainable places to develop. She helps developers build under form-based codes.

What motivates you?

Listening, finding common threads, weaving them together—with problem solving and design—to build community.

What do you do for a living and why?

I work toward a sustainable urbanism—character-rich places where people can walk to most of their daily needs. At PlaceMakers we feel that great communities are nurtured into greatness. Like gardens, they are the products of intention, of thoughtful design. And before design, of understanding what landscape and culture inspire. PlaceMakers is organized to listen to context, to nurture character, and to enable healthy growth in collaboration with locals.

I do this because I want my son to be able to enjoy as good of a life as I’ve led. The trajectory of our economic, social and environmental realities will make that unlikely unless we make some big changes. Our patterns of development over the past few decades are leading us into diminishing supplies of land and natural resources, particularly oil and natural gas. On top of that, our auto-centric tendencies are creating a crisis in health, along with diminished social capital. Worst of all, we’re generating 24 metric tons of CO2 per person per year—clearly not helping climate change.

Which TED talk do you think everyone should watch?

Ellen Dunham-Jones’ Retrofitting suburbia

Why are you excited to speak at TEDxManitoba?

Manitoba is one of the most delightful places I’ve ever lived. The communities are strong and diverse. The people are full of ideas and energy. The arts and culture are rich and deep. I’ve only lived here for three-and-a-half years, and feel like every time I give a talk here, that the work we’re doing internationally connects with and is enlivened by local insights, and we all move forward together.

What is your idea worth spreading?

The principal barrier to greening where we live is how we live. Misguided transportation planning, home and infrastructure financing systems and zoning practices incentivize sprawling, disconnected lifestyles that are increasingly unaffordable, unfulfilling and unhealthy. To reverse sprawl’s unintended consequences, we should incentivize compact, diverse, transit-oriented development. The foundation of sustainable urbanism is neighborhood, district and regional design, with high-performance infrastructure and green architecture layered upon that base.

North America comprises about 5% of the world’s population, uses 25% of the world’s oil, produces 22% of global warming CO2, and owns 33% of the world’s autos. Most of this has to do with the laws that govern how we design our cities and towns. This talk is about how to change those laws.


Have you applied to be one of our 100 in person guests on February 9th? It’s free, and we only have 3 simple questions for you. Applications close on November 27th. Apply now!

4 thoughts on “Five quick questions with Hazel Borys

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  4. Pingback: Retail: When it bends the rules and breaks the law. | PlaceMakers

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