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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.

“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."

ARTICLE: “Blue Ecology is aligned with the whole-system, water balance vision for restoring ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’,” wrote Kim Stephens in an article published in the Asset Management BC Newsletter (September 2017)

“Hydrologists and water managers can help build a brighter future by rediscovering the meaning of water, and interweaving the predominant Western analytical models with the more intuitive indigenous models. Blue Ecology’s philosophy is meant to be the bridge between these two cultural ways of knowing," stated Michael Blackstock. He developed Blue Ecology, an ecological philosophy that is recognized by UNESCO.

Making Nature Count in the Town of Gibsons – celebrating and showcasing 5 years of leading by example

"Our eco-assets journey began in 2012,” stated Emanuel Machado. “The triggering event was the release of the Gibsons Aquifer Mapping Study. Shortly afterwards the Town changed the definition of infrastructure and formally acknowledged the need to understand and manage (eco)systems and not simply individual infrastructure assets. This action led directly to the Gibsons Eco-Asset Strategy."

“Sponge Cities” – a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally

In 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he launched China’s Sponge City program. And then in August 2017, the Senate of Berlin released its Sponge City Strategy. The common guiding philosophy for both? Mimic nature, restore the water balance, adapt to a changing climate. The ‘sponge city’ imagery resonates. People intuitively get it.

Adapting to Climate Change in Hong Kong: “To cope with stormwater flooding, the Government could adopt the ‘Sponge City’ concept,” urges Dr. Jeffrey Hung, Friends of the Earth

"Climate change is already happening and affecting all of us. Recent extreme weather highlight the concrete impact of climate change. It requires immediate action to improve the city’s resilience," wrote Dr. Jeffrey Hung. "The Hong Kong Government should identify the risks, reinforce the infrastructure, establish recovery programmes, educate the public, and finance the reinforcements and adaptation measures to make Hong Kong truly climate change ready."

At the 2017 Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium: “The latest milestones in the ‘green infrastructure’ journey focus on the services provided by nature,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC

“It is important to recognize that we are all on a journey, and this journey did not just start yesterday. This journey has a 20 year history," stated Kim Stephens. "Post-2015, there are two initiatives in play. One is the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative. The other is the Ecological Accounting Protocol Initiative. They have the potential to achieve complementary outcomes. It is important to establish precedents. We learn from precedents."