“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,” wrote Janice Kaspersen. “Sponge cities are 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.”
Implementation of Green Projects in British Columbia and Beyond
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.
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.
FLASHBACK TO 2006: “The urban environments that we can build using LID will be healthier, more sustainable and use less natural resources then the ones we grew up in,” stated Bert van Duin at the Cochrane Innovations in Urban Development Conference
“LID is a practical and cost-effective approach to reducing and/or better managing the impacts of urbanization on our landscape in order to leave a better place for our children and grandchildren,” stated Bert van Duin. This is an exciting turning point in how we can reduce the impacts of urban development on watersheds.”
FLASHBACK TO 2007: Township of Langley Showcased Green Infrastructure Innovation in Three New Neighbourhoods
The goal in showcasing innovation and celebrating successes was to promote networking, build regional capacity, and move ‘from awareness to action’ – through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned. “After many years of what you would call research, we are now in the developmental phase,” stated Ramin Seifi in 2007 at the Langley event. “We will be monitoring and measuring what matters. This will enable residents and Council to maintain their focus over time.”
City as Platform is more than a tour, and more than just a conference session—it is a hands-on, collaborative learning experience in the field. First debuted at CNU 24 in Detroit, it made an encore appearance at CNU 25 in Seattle and featured the Belltown neighbourhood. It is an ideal laboratory, said Isabelle Giasson, for expanding GSI (Green Stormwater Infrastructure) to meet multiple community outcomes.
Bigger Pipes or Greener Communities: “Projected changes in land use and climate have nearly equivalent effects on flooding,” says Chris Jensen
“The effects that climate change may have on flood hazard is a concern for many local governments and citizens in British Columbia. Planning for future changes in precipitation is important, but it should not overshadow the significance that day-to-day development has on stream flows,” stated Chris Jensen. “Local governments may not be able to change future storm events, but they can affect how land is developed and redeveloped.”
The Green Infrastructure Guide is an invaluable reference document for those who embrace a ‘design with nature’ philosophy. “The Guide’s purpose is to encourage successful designs, by reporting on what the legal and policy strategies are, what some of the implementation hurdles (and solutions) have been, and how they have been effective in achieving sustainability goals,” wrote Susan Rutherford.
FLASHBACK TO 2004: “Judge progress by the distance traveled, not the distance remaining,” stated Kim Stephens at Consultation Workshop that was the launch event for the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership
“We have come a long way in just four years. Our experience in bringing the vision to fruition for the UniverCity Sustainable Community on Burnaby Mountain provides relevant context. It was not that long ago that the project was hanging by a thread. We have been successful in overcoming fear and doubt,” stated Kim Stephens. “In 2000, translating high expectations for UniverCity into practical design guidelines meant revisiting accepted drainage engineering practice.”
LEADING CHANGE IN AUSTRALIA: Can Money Really Grow On Trees? Increased Tree Canopy Boosts Sydney Property Values
The value a city derives from its urban trees is difficult to measure due to the disconnect between the beneficiaries and the direct costs borne by the councils, utilities and road authorities who manage them. “Our report found that without sufficient ‘green infrastructure’ Sydney would be hotter, more polluted and could be worth $50 billion less,” stated James Rosenwax, report co-author.