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.
TREES, HEALTH AND WELLBEING: “The urban forest needs to be designed as a first principle, part of the critical infrastructure of the whole city, not just as a cosmetic afterthought,” wrote Professor Alan Simpson, Leeds Beckett University
“The scale and speed of urbanisation has created significant environmental and health problems for urban dwellers. These problems are often made worse by a lack of contact with the natural world,” stated Alan Simpson. “The creation of urban forests will make cities worth living in, able to function and support their populations: Treetopias. Our urban forest can give us the spaces and places to help manage our mental health and improve our physical health.”
EARTH DAY #50 AND GREENER BUILDINGS: “The ones who caught on the fastest to what we were doing were the business leaders – the CEOs, the CFOs and the building owners,” stated Mary Tod Winchester, retired Vice-President for Administration, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, when reflecting on the value green building has delivered for people and the planet
“CEOs, CFOs and building owners were obviously looking at the bottom line and not necessarily what it would cost them, but what the operating costs were going to be. They talked with staff and quickly realized it was a place people wanted to work and loved to work. They really picked up on so many pieces of the puzzle. They would go on and incorporate what they saw into their own office buildings or new builds. And when you have businesses doing that you move markets.” reflected Mary Tod Winchester.
FLASHBACK TO 2011: “We are challenging those in local government: What do you want this place to look like in 50 years? To get there, you will have to start now. Actions ripple through time,” stated Kim Stephens at the FCM Sustainable Communities Conference held in Victoria, BC
Eight innovators from across Canada shared their breakthrough examples of municipal sustainability in a range of sectors. The format was interactive, which allowed participants to share and learn from each other. “Kim Stephens provided a water perspective, with an emphasis on designing with nature. His takeaway message was that water sustainability will be achieved through green infrastructure policies and practices. There was a great deal of excitement and energy in the room and delegates were very engaged during the roundtable discussion,” stated Azzah Jeena.
INFRASTRUCTURE ASSET MANAGEMENT IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Glen Brown has provided leadership at a provincial scale to transform the phrase ‘sustainable service delivery’ into an actionable vision for local government,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability
The 20/80 Rule refers to the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure being about 20% of the ultimate total cost, with the other 80% being an unfunded liability. This is a driver for doing business differently. “Tackling the unfunded infrastructure liability involves a life-cycle way of thinking about infrastructure needs and how to pay for those needs over time. This holistic approach is described as Sustainable Service Delivery. The link between infrastructure asset management and the protection of a community’s natural resources is an important piece in Sustainable Service Delivery,” stated Glen Brown.
THE FIRST DECADE OF PHILADELPHIA’S GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATERS PROGRAM: “Communities across the country are watching, trying to learn how to do this. When you try to change the character of a neighborhood, it’s very difficult,” stated Nancy Stoner, President of Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Philadlphia’s program involves creating ‘greened acres’ — expanses of impervious land that are transformed either to absorb the first 1½ inches of rainfall or send it into rain gardens or other local green infrastructure systems. The City has created more than 1,500 of a projected 10,000 greened acres. From planning through construction and ongoing maintenance, the installations have required coordination among city agencies and with schools, businesses, nonprofit entities, politicians, residents, developers and landowners.
REPORT ON: “Application of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, to Shelly Creek for Financial Valuation of Ecological Services and Worth” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released April 2020)
“We arrived at an important insight about ecological assets; that is, an ecological commons is a land use. Regulations define stream functions and setback requirements. Whether it is a pond, wetland or riparian zone, it can be measured. The assessed values of adjacent parcels can be used to provide a value for the natural commons. The inference is that the area of the natural commons would be zoned residential or whatever if the stream was not there,” stated Tim Pringle.
DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Shelly Creek in the City of Parksville and Regional District of Nanaimo, completed February 2020
“The members of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society have devoted over 10 years of time and energy towards restoring the health of Shelly Creek for salmon and trout. Our volunteers have contributed over $90,000 to the ‘maintenance’ of the creek and its’ fish populations. Our members are impressed with the scope of the analysis brought forward with this EAP application. We can now see how our ongoing investments, as stream stewards, not only can improve the worth of a creekshed’s biophysical functions, but also improve riparian land values as well,” stated Peter Law.
GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “The core document for asset management for BC local governments is ‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’,” stated Glen Brown, Chair, Asset Management BC
“The framework provides the basis for the entire asset management process for local governments to follow. Funding agencies, as part of funding applications, request communities to identify where they are within the asset management process using the framework. While there is much attention on the Asset Management plan, there is much more to the process than just the plan. The implementation strategy and long-term financial plan are more important documents than the asset management plan itself,” stated Glen Brown.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “In 2019, we updated the ‘Framework’ and added new supporting content in the form of four Primers that will support local governments in moving toward service, asset and financial sustainability,” stated Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC
“Asset Management is an integrated process, bringing together skills, expertise, and activities of People; with Information about a community’s physical Assets; and Finances; so that informed decisions can be made, supporting Sustainable Service Delivery. Communities build and maintain infrastructure to provide services. Failure to care for our infrastructure, manage our natural resources and protect the benefits provided by nature risks degrading, or even losing, the services communities enjoy, and that future generations may rely on,” stated Wally Wells.
GUIDANCE DOCUMENT: “Primer on Integrating Natural Assets into Asset Management” builds on foundations established by two initiatives – EAP, Ecological Accounting Process; and MNAI, Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (released by Asset Management BC, September 2019)
“The Primer on Integrating Natural Assets with Asset Management builds on the foundations established by two BC-based programs: EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process; and the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative. EAP and MNAI represent two points along a ‘green infrastructure continuum’. They are recent evolutions in an ongoing process in BC which dates back three decades. EAP and MNAI share the philosophy that communities can do a much better job of understanding, using and protecting the ecological services available to them in the local landscape,” stated Kim Stephens.