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What is “Green Infrastructure”? – Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia

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"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

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“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.

“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."

Liuzhou Forest City Master Plan Breaks Ground in China

"Commissioned by the Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning department, the city will host some 30,000 residents and feature the hallmarks of a typical city, such as offices, houses, hotels, hospitals and schools. These buildings will draw on geothermal energy and rooftop solar panel for their power needs," wrote Nick Lavars. "Construction is currently underway, with the Liuzhou Forest City expected to be completed by 2020."

Coping with Heat and Rising Water Levels: “The Pacific Northwest is the best region in the United States for escaping the brunt of climate change,” stated Vivek Shandas, Portland State University

Places with newer infrastructure, with Climate Change Action Plans, that seek to build community across socioeconomic barriers, and are close to rivers or lakes are more likely to be prepared for the worst aspects of climate change. "When evaluating how prepared cities are for climate change, look at a handful of factors, including policy and politics, community organization, and infrastructure," said Professor Vivek Shandas.

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION: Architect Stefano Boeri has a vision for “forest cities”

Architect Stefano Boeri is passionate about green infrastructure and demonstrates the art of the possible. “Cities are two per cent of the entire Earth’s land surface, but they are producing 70 per cent of CO2. If we seriously want to deal with climate change, we have to study where climate change is produced. Forests absorb approximately 40 per cent of [man-made] CO2, so increasing the number of trees and plants inside a city is a crucial issue," comments Stefano Boeri.

100 RESILIENT CITIES: What Would an Entirely Flood-proof City Look Like? – Sophie Knight profiles leaders who are ‘designing with nature’ to lead the way to a water-resilient future (September 2017)

"Along with the explosion of the motorcar in the early 20th century came paved surfaces. Rainwater – instead of being sucked up by plants, evaporating, or filtering through the ground back to rivers and lakes – was suddenly forced to slide over pavements and roads into drains, pipes and sewers," wrote Sophie Knight. "As the recent floods from Bangladesh to Texas show, it’s not just the unprecedented magnitude of storms that can cause disaster: it’s urbanisation."