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.
Vision for Kus-kus-sum estuary restoration in the Comox Valley: “This is a generational moment to create a legacy. Kus-kus-sum shines a light for many estuary communities in the province,” stated Tim Ennis, Executive Director, Comox Valley Land Trust
“After nearly 75 years, tides may soon flow again over Kus-kus-sum’s shoreline,” wrote Tim Ennis. “This is a generational moment for the Comox Valley to create a legacy based not on conquering nature, but a new era of collaborating to restore our relationships with the land and each other. One of its greatest values is that it’s literally creating common ground where citizens can imagine together with First Nations partners what a healthier, more inclusive and sustainable future looks like.”
FLASHBACK TO 2008: “Development and watershed protection can be compatible. Early success on the ground has given us increasing confidence that the 50-year vision is within our grasp,” stated Kim Stephens in a presentation to the Urban Development Institute
“Urban land use has been degrading the natural environment for more than 100 years. Sit on that for a while. 100 years, perhaps more. Holy smokes. So what’s all this talk about developers and builders, the ultimate urban land users, protecting watersheds? It’s true. Developers who increase the amount of pervious surfaces on their sites keep rain on-site, delay runoff, and reduce flooding. City planners and engineers love this,” stated Marie Savage.
LOOK THROUGH THE WORTH LENS: “At the end of the day, community and citizen decisions about how much to invest in restoration of watershed function boil down to this aspect of human nature: ‘what is it worth to me?’,” stated Tim Pringle when he described the philosophy guiding the Ecological Accounting Process
“By providing a value for the land underlying the stream and riparian zone, stakeholders have a much more realistic idea of the worth of ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle. “This form of financial information can then be used by local government to develop strategies guided by ‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’.” A key message, he said, is to draw a distinction between maintenance and management. “Maintenance prevents degradation, whereas management is about enhancement,” he said.
MIMIC NATURE, RESTORE THE WATER BALANCE, ADAPT TO A CHANGING CLIMATE: “The cumulative investment in sponge city projects in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan and other areas could reach $US300 billion by the end of 2020,” wrote Michael Standaert
“It’s a recognition that in arid areas of northern China, cities didn’t factor in heavy rains as they rapidly expanded and added roadways. That left sewer systems inadequate to deal with sudden storms or to capture rainfall for times of need. Huge storms have caused major damage and death in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan and Nanjing in recent years,” wrote Michael Standaert. “Chinese cities join a growing number of communities around the world creating green infrastructure.”
Research Shows U.S. Cities Lose Tree Cover Just When They Need It Most: “And it takes a lot more than a few cities with million tree programs to replace the trees that get chewed up by office buildings and big box stores and parking lots,” stated William Sullivan, professor of landscape architecture
Urban tree planting programs—even the heavily promoted ‘million tree’ campaigns taking place in many U.S. cities—have not kept up with losses. Adding tree cover will require a shift to long-term thinking—especially to plan ways to make room for nature while also accommodating new growth. “It’s not enough to have a phenomenal world-class park three miles from your home. A tree needs to grow outside every window and doorway,” stated William Sullivan.
“Urban foresters, planners and decision-makers need to understand trends in urban forests so they can develop and maintain sufficient levels of tree cover – and the accompanying forest benefits – for current and future generations of citizens,” stated David Nowak, lead author for research undertaken by US Forest Service
The study builds on a finding that was identified by David Nowak and co-author Eric Greenfield in a ground-breaking 2012 study that found 17 out of 20 American cities had experienced significant tree loss. Nowak is worried about what will happen if the trend continues. “If it keeps going down, I think we’re going to be in trouble. Cities will warm up, we might have more pollution, people will be more unhealthy,” he said. There is robust evidence to suggest that trees are good for public health.
YOUTUBE VIDEO: “The worth of a creekshed is a package of ecological services made possible by the hydrology,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (EAP), an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia
“EAP would help stakeholders / managers determine whether or not they should change practices and adopt new strategies regarding the ecological systems in the stream corridor, riparian zone and the entire watershed. EAP would contribute to a range of stakeholder interests and needs,” stated Tim Pringle. “Taking action would depend on what they think the creekshed is worth. The next step is doing. A strategy is the path to success, and becomes our primary interface with the world.”
DOWNLOAD: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) for Watershed Assessment (released at the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium, April 2018)
“The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land. An informed stewardship sector can be a catalyst for action on Vancouver Island and beyond, through collaboration with local government,” stated Kim Stephens. “Tim Pringle shared demonstration application anecdotes about EAP, a whole-system view of watersheds that assesses hydrology in order to accurately describe ecological services.”
SPONGE CITIES: “Design is a meeting point between technology and art where Western systematic thinking is grafted together with traditional Chinese wisdom,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture
“In order to increase the resilience of a natural system, it is important to find solutions beyond the level of the city and even nation. I’m talking about a whole global system, in which we think globally but must act locally,” says Kongjian Yu. He is famous for being the man who reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture.
“The Buttertubs Marsh pilot study added up the value of natural infrastructure, and found that environmental assets have dollar value,” says Rob Lawrance, City of Nanaimo environmental planner
Buttertubs Marsh is a bird and wildlife sanctuary located in the middle of the City of Nanaimo. The marsh is man-made. For anyone looking at a wetland or watercourse, the value is clear but it’s also subjective, said Rob Lawrance, who noted the study put the marsh in the context of a physical utility asset and a language city financial planners speak. The natural system is able to handle increased pressure and has resiliency, he said, adding it has more value than he thought.