What is “Green Infrastructure”? – Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia
“Two complementary strategies can ‘green’ a community and its infrastructure: first, preserving as much as possible of the natural green infrastructure; and secondly, promoting designs that soften the footprint of development,” wrote Susan Rutherford. “Green infrastructure design is engineering design that takes a ‘design with nature’ approach, to both mitigate the potential impacts of existing and future development and growth and to provide valuable services.”
“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” observes Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership
“I see my years of chairing the Green Infrastructure Partnership as helping to get the ball rolling and ideas disseminated, on green infrastructure, all of which has subsequently been taken up by others to a much greater degree of implementation and success. Our efforts a decade ago moved the state of-the-art of green infrastructure to a more mainstream level,” said Paul Ham.
FLASHBACK TO 2009: “The Fused Grid combines the geometries of inner city grids and of the conventional suburbs.” stated Fanis Grammenos
The fused grid network pattern recently passed another test with top marks – the traffic safety test. Planers using it for its rainwater management advantages can now be confident that it will also enhance safety. “The city plan is organized in repeatable wards, with a square in the centre, which is visible to half of the homes in each ward”, explained Fanis Grammenos, “The square is protected from heavy traffic since through streets are located at the boundaries of the ward, leaving the centre relatively calm for casual strollers.”
Early outcomes of ‘Ecological Accounting Process’ showcased at Blue Ecology Workshop (November 2017) – “This unique approach accounts for the ecological services made possible by watershed hydrology,” said Tim Pringle, EAP Chair
“Initially, we saw EAP as a tool (i.e. ‘the protocol’) that would help practitioners calculate the opportunity cost of balancing ecological services with drainage infrastructure. However, our thinking has evolved over the past year. Testing the approach through two demonstration applications has resulted in this defining conclusion: EAP is a process, not a protocol. Thus, we are rebranding EAP as the Ecological Accounting Process,” stated Tim Pringle.
“Flooding has become a deadly problem in China, especially in major cities. As this Economist article notes, the country’s urban land has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and cities sometimes expand right into the floodplains,” wrote Janice Kaspersen. “Sponge cities are an approach to what we commonly call green infrastructure—an attempt to reduce flooding and infiltrate stormwater runoff in some of the areas most affected by rapid urbanization.”
“Launched in 2015, the Sponge City Initiative invests in projects that aim to soak up floodwater. The projects are being built in 30 cities. By 2020, China hopes that 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater,” wrote Leanna Garfield. “The initiative is facing some challenges. After surveying all 30 cities, the researchers noticed several roadblocks, including planning models that are too homogeneous and not locally specific.”
“The Liuzhou Forest City is the first experiment of the urban environment that’s really trying to find a balance with nature,” said Stefano Boeri, an internationally acclaimed architect
In 2016, China’s State Council released guidelines shifting the focus to the “economic, green and beautiful.” This shift created the opportunity for Stefano Boeri to implement his Forest City vision. The project comes on the heels of Vertical Forest, two residential towers in Milan covered in the equivalent of five acres of forest. “We started to imagine if it was possible to create an urban environment created from many of these vertical forests,” stated Stefano Boeri.
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY: “The structure is set up to support good ideas of an integrated nature so that staff can flourish in the work environment,” stated Stephen Richardson, the Township’s Director of Development Services
“Anticipating and responding to growth requires nimbleness on our part,” stated Stephen Richardson. “Technical teams input to long-range planning. There is a constant feedback loop. We raise the bar each time through an iterative process. This strengthens standards of practice. The continual enhancements are reflected in our neighbourhood plans. It is a team approach. Staff share and learn from each other.”
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY: “Our integrated process results in a better community. In turn, this attracts people who want to be here,” stated Dave Cocking, Manager of the Township’s Green Infrastructure Services Department
“The infrastructure we build today is integrated. We recognize that each part is a component of the whole. We strive to make all the parts work together without compromising any component,” stated Dave Cocking. “Working together, we are solving community design issues. We have a shared goal – improve the community and provide amenities. This requires integrated thinking.”
FLASHBACK TO 2004: City of Courtenay established a precedent when it was the first BC municipality to adopt and implement a ‘Soil Depth Policy’ for rainwater management
The policy was adopted in January 2004 immediately after the City became a founding member of the Water Balance Model Partnership. The requirement was included in the Official Community Plan. “Because the City places importance on the soil sponge as a rainwater management tool, we explored options to ensure that developers and house builders fulfil their obligations to provide and preserve the minimum required depth,” stated Sandy Pridmore.
FLASHBACK TO 2003: “Home Depot established a BC precedent when it implemented a deep deep-well system for injecting rainwater runoff,” stated Kevin Lagan, formerly Director of Operational Services with the City of Courtenay
“In 2003, the Home Depot development application in the City of Courtenay was to build a store and parking lot covering 90% of a four hectare second growth coniferous forest property,” stated Kevin Lagan. “The City required that post-development rainwater and stormwater flows leaving the site were equal to or less than the pre-development flows. For this property that was effectively zero.”
“A presentation many years ago by Patrick Condon put me on the path to integration. Patrick’s storytelling made me realize that everything we do has an effect somewhere else,” says Ramin Seifi, General Manager, Engineering & Community Development, Township of Langley
“When the previous General Manager of Engineering retired in 2011, our Chief Administrative Officer listened when I presented the case for doing both jobs – Engineering and Community Development,” stated Ramin Seifi. “The Township needed more integration to respond to the demands on infrastructure and the risks to the environment resulting from rapid population growth. Achieving integration depended on the Township having a better structure.”