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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

Go green for healthier, happier, richer cities: “Low-carbon measures can help to achieve a range of development priorities,” states Andy Gouldson, lead author of the University of Leeds research project


“As the evidence mounted up, we were struck by the fact that the cities we want – cleaner, healthier, richer – are made possible through climate action,” said lead author of the study Andy Gouldson, a professor at the University of Leeds. “Whether high-quality public transport or segregated cycling lanes, energy-efficient buildings or better waste management, the dollars, lives and hours saved are impressive.”

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Financing the New Water Infrastructure: “Green and distributed infrastructure options are having their moment, and municipal leaders are taking notice,” wrote Cynthia Koehler, executive director of the WaterNow Alliance


“The challenge for green and distributed water strategies is scale. The power of these systems to provide truly meaningful benefits, and big savings, to cities and towns is in the aggregate. So how do we move from important but scattered success stories to making these options easily available to municipalities facing a range of water issues? Adopting distributed systems at large-scale requires that cities and towns have the option to use municipal bond proceeds to pay for consumer rebates, direct installations and other distributed infrastructure initiatives,” Cynthia Koehler.

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Discovering Nature’s Infrastructure Potential on Vancouver Island: “The long-term vision is to transform a decommissioned sawmill site on the Courtenay River into a valuable eco-asset corridor,” stated Project Watershed’s Jennifer Sutherst


“All the salmon stocks that are returning to spawn in the Tsolum River watershed or the Puntledge River watershed have to migrate past the site,” stated Jennifer Sutherst. “We want to take this community eyesore and turn it into an ecological asset. It’s really important to see that we’re going to be able to turn the site back to a natural functioning condition. Then it’s going to support fish and wildlife and be  a community asset. We’re also going to have the opportunity to build in some flood attenuation capacity.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010 FROM RAIN TO RESOURCE WORKSHOP: “The Water Balance Model is a response to the need to quickly test alternative green infrastructure techniques prior to implementation,” stated Jim Dumont


“The WBM allows the user to quickly establish the existing, or the predevelopment, base line that will become the standard used to measure the performance of future development scenarios during the planning and design of a project. This allows the user to test various methods to establish the easiest and best ways to achieve the most desirable vision of the future for the Site, the Development, or the Watershed,” stated Jim Dumont.

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A CALL TO ACTION: “Without integrated and proactive green resilience strategies, cities risk wasting time and money on adaptation projects,” warns Steve Winkelman in a report released by the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University (Nov 2017)


“Strategically packaging projects for multiple funders and investors can attract more money and accelerate implementation based on policy and investor priorities, such as – critical infrastructure resilience, business continuity, reduced operating and capital costs, disaster prevention, affordable housing, health, and habitat protection,” stated Steve Winkelman.

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