Created in 1993, Cities & Environment Unit (CEU) is an award-winning community planning and design group based in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. CEU has extensive experience in comprehensive planning and collaborating with Indigenous communities. In 2000, CEU led development of the internationally recognized First Nations Community Planning Model. The Model continues to be implemented in communities across Canada. To date, CEU has completed community plans and design-build projects in over 35 Indigenous communities across Canada. We are experienced in project management and community engagement, including facilitating multi-stakeholder meetings and workshops. At every scale and context, our work is always comprehensive and community-based. 

First Nations Community Planning Model

Our work focuses on:

Creating community plans. We take on community planning projects at all scales. The plans consider all aspects of communities, including: economic development, housing, environment, health, education, culture, governance and settlement patterns.

Generating new knowledge, approaches and tools for community design. We are constantly learning from our experiences and using that knowledge to create planning tools and approaches for wide distribution and use. We endeavour to design new approaches to planning to make it more widely understood and practiced.

Inspiring communities to become great places to live. Through community outreach and public participation events, we are dedicated to increasing awareness of planning and inspiring citizens to get involved in shaping their communities.


Cities and Environment Unit has received many awards for its work, including 6 Canadian Institute of Planners Awards of Excellence. The most recent (2017) being the Award of Excellence for Urban Design (A Plan for the Ferry Dock Areas). The work of the CEU has also been recognized internationally, most prominently as the recipient of the UN Habitat Dubai Award, given every 4 years to recognize excellence in urban best practices. In 2004, the award recognized the CEU’s work in First Nations community development, engagement and design.

  • 2017 Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence, Urban Design.
    A Plan for the Ferry Dock Areas

  • 2011 Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence, Social Planning
    Community Plan Design Build - An Approach to Change

  • 2008 Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence, Rural/Small Town Planning
    Comprehensive Community-Based Planning Pilot Project, Saskatchewan

  • 2006 Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence, Neighbourhood Planning
    Old North End Community Planning Charrette and Action Plan, Saint John, New Brunswick

  • 2004 UN-Habitat/Dubai Best Practices Award
    First Nations Community Planning Project, Atlantic Canada

  • 2003 International EDRA/Places Planning Award
    First Nations Community Planning Project: Implementation, Atlantic Canada

  • 2001 Canadian Institute of Planners Dr. L. Gertler Award for Planning Excellence, Grand Prize
    First Nations Community Planning Model, First Edition

  • 1996 Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Excellence
    Windsor—Thinking Ahead! Community Action Plan, Windsor, Nova Scotia