Green Infrastructure

Green communities – ‘today’s expectations are tomorrow’s standards’ is a provincial government mantra in British Columbia. Since the built and natural environments are connected, design with nature to protect watershed function. The Green Communities Initiative provides a policy, regulatory and program framework for enabling local governments to create more compact, more sustainable and greener communities. Lead by example. Showcase innovation. Celebrate successes.

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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.”

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“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.

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Michigan’s Struggles to Fund Stormwater Infrastructure: “Paying more for infrastructure and utilities is the new reality,” said engineer Greg Kacvinsky

“The pipes that we put in the ground 50 years ago were designed under a different set of criteria. And so when rainfall changes, and when climate changes, the system doesn’t provide the same level of service that it used to. Where communities used to be able to rely on money coming down, or raining down, from the federal government, now the federal government is there to say, we’ll give you money…but you’re gonna pay us back,” Greg Kacvinsky said.

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“IBC fully stands by our insured loss numbers and their attribution to escalating severe weather events driven by climate change,” wrote Craig Stewart, Insurance Bureau of Canada, in an Op-Ed published in the Financial Post newspaper

“The IBC-sponsored report, Combating Canada’s Rising Floods Costs: Natural infrastructure is an underutilized option, provides a framework for making decisions about the return on investment of green infrastructure deployed as a climate-adaptation measure,” wrote Craig Stewart. “Fundamentally, we as a nation need to prepare for the impacts of severe weather. By focusing on adapting to climate change we can work together constructively to keep Canadians out of harm’s way.”

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IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: “Land development often interferes with water balance by reducing forest cover and increasing imperviousness, without preserving the natural pathways water follows to reach creeks,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle, Town of Gibsons

“One of the primary challenges local governments face is that there are often multiple organizational bodies operating across a single watershed, each with their own, misaligned, policies. So, even though these organizations may firmly believe in the science behind a whole-systems, water balance approach, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve the integrated, continuity of practice required to put that approach into place on the ground,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle.

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WUHAN IS CHINA’S LEADING ‘SPONGE CITY’: Under this nation-wide program, Wuhan and the other participating areas must ensure that 20% of their urban land includes sponge features by 2020, with a target of being able to retain 70% of storm water

“Street names are often the only reminder of the lakes and pools that been filled in and built over, but in 2016, after a week of torrential downpours, they filled with water again,” wrote Li Jing. “The authorities blamed poor drainage and said Wuhan’s low-lying geography made it hard for storm water to be discharged into the Yangtze when water levels in the river were high. Many locals blamed the loss of the city’s lakes. With the latest UN figures projecting Wuhan’s population will exceed 10 million by 2035, the situation remains critical.”

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PRIMER ON ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “The EAP methodology yields an asset value for the stream corridor. This value can then be used for budget purposes related to asset management,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC released the 7th in the Beyond the Guidebook Primer Series (January 2019)

“The concept of natural capital and natural assets can be a challenge to integrate effectively into asset management practices. EAP deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors? The EAP demonstration application process has been a fruitful journey for the project team and collaborators. Along the way, our collective thinking evolved. We broke new ground with EAP. Insights and understanding that we gained are shared in the Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process,” stated Tim Pringle.

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LIFE AFTER CARBON: “Cities are finding that nature, in the form of climate change and its risks, is altering how they can shape the future,” wrote Peter Pastrik and John Cleveland in their book about cities that are reinventing themselves to combat climate change (published in 2018)

“For centuries, architects, builders, landscapers, and city planners have tapped nature’s capabilities to absorb and channel water and to cool the air. But green infrastructure has gained significant momentum in local government planning and policy worldwide as a favored way to respond to climate change and to increase cities’ sustainability and appeal,” wrote Peter Pastrik. “As cities recognize the increased reliability, cost-effectiveness, and co-benefits of green infrastructure, they have expanded the practice from one-off projects to city-scale approaches.”

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THE CITY WITHIN A GARDEN: “Human beings need contact with nature and the natural environment. They need it to be healthy, happy, and productive and to lead meaningful lives. Nature is not optional, but an absolutely essential quality of modern urban life.” – Tim Beatley, Biophilic Cities Network

Tim Beatley is an internationally recognized sustainable city researcher and author. His writings have focused on creative strategies cities can use to reduce their ecological footprints and become more livable and equitable places. He coined the term green urbanism. “Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature,” states Tim Beatley.

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REPORT ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION & LIABILITY: How can green industry professionals such as landscape architects and designers be subject to legal liability because they fail to account for and adapt to climate impacts?

Co-authored by Deanna Moran, a report by the US-based Conservation and Law Foundation identifies three factors that contribute to climate liability risk for design professionals. “The more we talk about risks publicly, the greater the foreseeability of climate impacts, increasing potential exposure to liability,” stated Deanna Moran. “The failure of previous litigation against major greenhouse gas emitters could lead to a shift in focus on the design community as defendants when talking about the realm of climate change litigation. Standard of care is a key concept in negligence litigation.”

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TREECONOMICS: “We can now calculate the exact value of a tree, from shade to beauty. Doing so could be the best way to protect them – and plan the forests of the future,” wrote Simon Usborne in the NewScientist

“Scientists have long known that trees have far more to offer us than pleasant feelings. Around the turn of the century, organisations like the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme pushed for a rigorous valuation of the merits not just of trees, but of rocks, rivers, soils and sediments too. The result was the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, which put a price on the services humans gain from nature,” wrote Simon Usborne.

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THE ECONOMY REALLY NEEDS MORE TREES BECAUSE: “There’s growing recognition of the crucial role of urban green spaces in helping reduce chronic, non-communicable physical and mental health problems,” wrote Ross Gittins, Economics Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald

“Academics at the universities of Melbourne and Tasmania examined 2.2 million messages on Twitter and found that tweets made from parks contained more positive content – and less negativity – than tweets coming from built-up areas,” wrote Ross Gittins. “Why are people in parks likely to be happier? Because parks help them to recover from the stress and mental strain of living in cities, and provide a place to exercise, meet other people or attend special events.”

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