Author Archives: Partnership for Water Sustainability

  1. FLASHBACK TO 2009: “The Fused Grid combines the geometries of inner city grids and of the conventional suburbs.” stated Fanis Grammenos

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    Fused Grid Explained

    The “Fused Grid” is a neighbourhood and district layout model. It combines the geometries of inner city grids and of the conventional suburbs. This fusion results in retaining the best characteristics of each and none of their disadvantages while raising the quality of the neighbourhood environment.

    Fanis gammenos (180p)The planning model was developed by Fanis Grammenos, formerly a senior researcher at the CMHC in Ottawa, and a team of colleagues. It combines two traditional street designs: the conventional loop and cul-de-sac pattern of the modern suburb and the grid pattern from the early 1900s.

    According to Grammenos, “The traditional grid pattern provided efficient routes and “connectivity” for pedestrians and those travelling by horse and buggy. The loop and cul-de-sac pattern reduces the impact of traffic on a community.” Through his research, Grammenos discovered that residents want the best of both street patterns. In particular, they want connectivity, safety and the tranquility of quiet spaces.

    “It was apparent that these qualities needed to be established in a new pattern, because the old pattern would not deliver the new qualities,” Grammenos says. He also found in examining market research and buying patterns that people prefer quiet neighbourhoods without through streets.

    “People have consistently paid more money for houses located at the top of a cul-de-sac, near a ravine, facing a golf course or having a view of a lake,” Grammenos says. “Generally, people have paid more money willingly to have a view of nature and be as quiet as is feasible in the environment that they choose to live in.”

    The fused grid is inspired by a theme — the common space — from an 18th-century plan of Savannah, Georgia. “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”, explains 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.”

    Passing the Safety Test

    In 2009, the fused grid network pattern passed another test with top marks – the traffic safety test. Planners using it for its rainwater management advantages can now be confident that it will also enhance safety.

    A research team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) consisting of Dr. Gordon Lovegrove and James Sun did extensive modeling of five network patterns to compare their propensity for reducing collisions.

    Why We Need to Reduce Traffic Collisions

    According to the researchers, collisions stack up enormous social and personal costs in the range of 25 billion dollars a year in medical and insurance bills apart from the personal suffering caused by injuries. In addition, the perception of risk, that intensifies with each reported or witnessed accident, reduces the odds of people choosing to walk or bike, thus removing the opportunity for modest but therapeutic exercise. In this light, any reductions in collisions are welcome and the greater the reduction the better.

    Application of Collision Prediction Modeling

    Previous sporadic or anecdotal evidence had pointed to specific elements of street configurations as being safer, such three-way intersections for example. But this study for the first time put existing and proposed whole network patterns through the rigour of innovative computer modeling called CPM (Collision Prediction Modeling) to test their potential for reducing collisions. Five patterns were tested that are named in the chart below.

    The results show that the Fused Grid, along with the 3-Way Offset pattern, performs much better than other current models.

    The differences are substantial, particularly with the common traditional grid, which is found in most city central areas. The common grid is 2.5 times more prone to produce collisions than the Fused Grid.

    Integration with Rainwater Management

    From the point of view of managing rainwater, the bad news is that the traditional grid is also the pattern that inherently produces the highest impermeable surface ratio in developing new neighbourhoods. Replacing it with the fused grid will achieve two goals with one move: increase permeability and reduce collisions.

    Add to these two advantages the fact that walking is made more pleasant and convenient, and it becomes hard not to consider the fused grid as an option in the development of new neighbourhoods.

    Previous Stories Published on the Water Bucket

    To learn more about the Fused Grid and the work of Fanis Grammenos, please click on this link to The Fused Grid: A Contemporary Urban Pattern; as well as these links to stories posted on the Water Bucket website:

    The Fused Grid is increasingly attracting attention within the planning community – for example, the Fall 2008 issue of the Planning Commissioner’s Journal, a print and e-zine includes an article on the Fused Grid.

    Learning from the Experience of Others

    Two decades ago, the City of Surrey in British Columbia pioneered alternative development standards in the East Clayton Sustainable Community. “The City and others certainly learned a lot from the East Clayton experience,” stated Remi Dubé, the City’s Drainage Planning Manager at the Surrey Water Balance Model Forum in March 2009.

    “In addition to design and construction issues, the City also learned some lessons from a site development perspective. An unintended consequence was the higher than expected percentage of hardscape. With a different approach to built-form, we could have had both higher density and substantially more green space.”

    This is illustrated by the following comparison. On the left is what East Clayton looks like; on the right is what it might have been. For the complete story, click on Green Infrastructure in the City of Surrey: “Getting it built right”

     

     

     

  2. 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

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    Note to Reader:

    EAP, the acronym for Ecological Accounting Processis one of three streams of deliverables flowing from Sustainable Watershed System, through Asset ManagementFunded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia, this initiative is led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

    The EAP approach is being demonstrated through two case study applications on Vancouver Island – one in the Cowichan Valley (Busy Place Creek) and the other in the Comox Valley (Brooklyn Creek).

    At his presentation at the Blue Ecology Workshop in November 2017, EAP Chair Tim Pringle showcased the EAP case studies. He also announced the rebranding of EAP. No longer is EAP the acronym for Ecological Accounting Protocol, he said. Going forward, EAP stands for the Ecological Accounting Process.

    Getting the Most from Natural Drainage Infrastructure

    No longer is climate change a future scenario. Adapting to a changing climate requires transformational changes in how we apply hydrologic understanding, value nature, and service land.

    The Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) for valuing watersheds as infrastructure assets is viewed as a lynch-pin for driving change. EAP deals with the monetary value of renewable services provided by natural assets.

    Two Early Conclusions

    The vision for EAP is that it would help local governments in British Columbia progress along the Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery. Once a life-cycle approach is standard practice, the next logical step is to integrate ecological services from natural systems into asset management,” stated Tim Pringle.

    “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.

    “This is one of two early conclusions. The second relates to the distinction between worth and value.”

    A Process, not a Protocol

    “The term ‘Process’ more accurately describes the challenge of working with multiple stakeholders to assess the hydrology of an entire creekshed, or small watershed, in order to accurately describe the ecological services made possible by the hydrology,” explained Tim Pringle.

    “This comprehensive approach rarely takes place and it makes the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) unique.”

    Worth versus Value

    “Stakeholders have, by the nature of their engagement in dealing with hydrological and ecological concerns in a creekshed, confirmed what is or is not worthwhile to them,” reported Tim Pringle.

    “Looking through the ‘worth lens’ led us to a fundamental shift in approach. The EAP methodology now places less emphasis on the monetization of ecological services. Instead, the principal focus is on the investment of resources already made by many stakeholders, as well as their aspirations concerning the management (prevention of degradation to and work on enhancement) of ecological services in the creekshed.”

    To Lear More:

    Download a PDF copy of Watersheds: Perceptions of Worth; Perceptions of Value, the presentation slides for Tim Pringle.

    Framework for Undertaking Demonstration Applications

    “When we designed EAP, there were no predetermined outcomes, but there were goals,” continued Tim Pringle.

    “Goal #1 is to study two creeksheds with differing levels of alterations of the landscape and responses to the physical change.

    “Goal #2 is to apply the Water Balance Methodology as the analytical tool to assess the functioning condition of the creekshed hydrology.

    “Goal #3 is to confirm the definable benefits of the ecological services supported by the hydrology.

    “Goal #4 is to produce a social and financial account about the worth of these services.

    “Stakeholders in both the Cowichan and Comox valleys have produced a considerable amount of information about risks, concerns and opportunities.  Although the emphasis in this literature emphasizes human settlement, the intrinsic needs of nature also are addressed.”

    Brooklyn Creek Watershed in the Comox Valley

    Comox Valley EAP Demonstration Application

    Brooklyn Creek is the Comox Valley demonstration application. The creek originates in the City of Courtenay, soon crosses a finger of the Comox Valley Regional District, and then for most of its length flows through the Town of Comox.

    “Due to various land use impacts on watershed hydrology, the Town found it necessary in 2005 to carry out significant and expensive remediation works along its section of Brooklyn Creek to curtail serious erosion and property damage,” explained Tim Pringle.

    “This was a pivotal time. The Town and other stakeholders collaborated to set a strategic plan (2006) to manage the stream corridor as an ecological system and as part of the municipal drainage system.

    “Eleven years later the results of this collaborative effort in the lower reaches of the channel system are substantial and impressive. The Town and its watershed partners have made approximately equal and substantial investments annually. This commitment secures park amenities and helps streamkeepers and conservation organizations reach their goals.”

    Cowichan Valley EAP Demonstration Application

    Sh-hwuykweslu, or Busy Place Creek, is the Cowichan Valley demonstration application. It is situated within the Cowichan Valley Regional District near Duncan.

    “The stakeholders have expressed concerns about a number of risks as well desires to realize various opportunities connected to the creekshed’s ecological systems supported by the hydrology,” reported Tim Pringle.

    “The Water Balance Methodology analysis confirms that restoration of three wetland areas to provide upland rainfall retention will strongly address these issues including flow duration, fish habitat, flourishing riparian zones, natural amenities for planned expansion of trails, and attenuation of flooding in the lowland portion of the creekshed. As a collaboration of stakeholders, this could be an affordable process.”

    Work by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in proving out the Ecological Accounting Process is laying the groundwork for getting to Step Three.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  3. The Economist explains: Why are Chinese cities flooding?

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    Note to Reader:

    In 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he proclaimed that cities should “act like sponges” and launched China’s Sponge City program.

    Why China Wants to Build Something Called ‘Sponge Cities’

    “You may have read recently about China’s ‘sponge cities’.” wrote Janice Kasperson in her Editor’s Blog for Stormwater Magazine.

    “They’re 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. China has spent $12 billion so far—with federal and local governments and private developers all contributing—in about 30 different cities to install measures such as permeable pavements, bioswales, green roofs, and wetlands.”

    Record-breaking rain caused major flooding in parts of Guangdong Province

    The Economist explains: Why are Chinese cities flooding?

    “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.

    “All this is exacerbated by China’s often impetuous approach to urban planning,” the article continues. “When the planners in charge of Beijing designed its roads a few decades ago, for example, sunken underpasses were chosen over elevated interchanges for the reason that they seemed more appealing visually, as well as being cheaper to build.

    They have also, as it turns out, become a particular source of sodden misery. Beijing has 149 such underpasses in its urban districts. With inadequate drains and pumps, even a single heavy rain can turn them into swimming pools, bringing traffic to a halt in the process.”

    Flooded area in Liuzhou, Guangxi province, China, July 2, 2017. Picture taken July 2, 2017.

    Contrasting Approaches to Green Infrastructure

    “There are some differences between the way that China and the US are putting green infrastructure in place,” continued Janice Kasperson.

    “For one, some of China’s sponge cities—Lingang near Shanghai, for example—are planned cities, and the various measures such as permeable road surfaces and green roofs are being put in pretty much all at once, rather than in piecemeal retrofit projects.

    “For another, it seems China has an ambitious goal not just to remove runoff but also to put it to use.”

    “By 2020, China hopes that 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater,” this article states, although it’s not clear exactly how the water will be stored for further use or for what purposes—such as irrigation, cooling, or toilet flushing—it might be used.

    “It’s an impressive effort for a country that has so recently been criticized for water-related projects like the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced more than one million people and had serious environmental repercussions.

    “Changgou Masterplan”, a 3.8 sq km project located in Beijing’s Fangshan district.

    To Learn More:

    Download a copy of Why are Chinese cities flooding? to read the complete story published in the Economist in November 2017.

    Read more about sponge cities here, including the funding challenges and prospects for public-private partnerships to make them feasible.

    Download a copy of Sponge Cities: An Answer To Floods, written by Yuanchao Xu in May 2016.

     

     

  4. China is building 30 ‘sponge cities’ that aim to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster

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    Note to Reader:

    Recent water-centric developments in China and Berlin have caught the attention of the world

    Consider that, in 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he proclaimed that cities should “act like sponges” and 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.

    Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua, eastern China

    Mimic Nature, Restore the Water Balance, Adapt to a Changing Climate

    “Like many places around the world, Chinese cities are considering ways to combat flooding in the face of climate change,” wrote Leanna Garfield, an innovation reporter at Tech Insider, covering stories about the future of food and cities.

    “The Chinese government is now pursuing an idea that could alleviate the problem: sponge cities.”

    “Many of the projects incorporate green space, like wetlands and bioswales, which naturally help absorb water. The efforts seek to reduce the amount of rainwater runoff.

    The Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua (eastern China) serves as a model for the type of flood-resilient, green infrastructure the country wants to continue building.

    To Learn More:

    To read the complete article as published in Business Insider UK, download a pdf copy of China is building 30 ‘sponge cities’ that aim to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster

     

  5. 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

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    NOTE TO READER:

    In October 2010, the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and the BC Water and Waste Association co-hosted a 2-day workshop titled ‘From Rain to Resource: Stormwater Management in a Changing Climate‘. Day 1 was geared toward technical operational and planning staff . The focus was on site-level best practices and tools to deal with various situationsOne of the case studies was the Home Depot development in the City of Courtenay.

    Capture Rain Where It Falls

    “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, Director of Operational Services. He told the Home Depot story at the Okanagan From Rain to Resource Workshop.

    2Kevin_120p“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.”

    “How did the developer meet this requirement of replacing a forest with impervious areas and has the solution been successful? Learn about the challenges encountered and the innovative solution used.”

    “Home Depot established a BC precedent when it implemented a deep deep-well system for injecting rainwater runoff and recharging the underlying groundwater aquifer.”

    To Learn More:

    Download a PDF copy of Home Depot Development: Innovative On-Site Rainwater/Stormwater Measures at a Commercial Site, the PowerPoint presentation by Kevin Lagan.

    Click on Innovation in the Comox Valley: First Wal-Mart, Then Home Depot, posted on the Water Bucket in October 2007 — The Wal-Mart development in the City of Courtenay precipitated the beginning of a major change in how the City administers the zoning/development/approval process, collaborates with other agencies and also manages the rainwater resource.

    CourtenayHomeDepot_location map aerial

    An Early Application of the Water Balance Model

    “The Home Depot project was one of the earliest applications of the Water Balance Model when we created this web-based tool in 2003. Significantly, Home Depot is situated on high ground that drains onto prime agriculture land. Because the City of Courtenay was a charter member of the Inter-Governmental Partnership, the Agricultural Land Commission linked its approval to use of the Water Balance 2005_Ted-van-der-Gulik_120pModel,” recalls Ted van der Gulik, Chair.

    “Subsequently, the City co-hosted one of our first Water Balance Model training workshops at North Island College in May 2004. The target audience was the streamkeeper commmunity. Our purpose was to demonstrate how this decision support tool can be used by a range of stakeholders.”

    To Learn More:

    Click on 2004 decision by Agricultural Land Commission was conditional upon use of Water Balance Model to download the January 2004 news release.

    Click on Thinking Outside the Pipe in the Comox Valley to read a newspaper report about the training workshop co-hosted by the City of Courtenay and the Millard/Piercy Watershed Stewards.