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.
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)
“Asset management is a process for sustainable service delivery. The BC Framework is designed as a wheel as there is a beginning but no end to the process. The role of natural assets in our communities is not well understood. As the Primer shows, significant work has been done on the integration of natural assets into the overall asset management program,” states Wally Wells. The Primer builds on the foundations established by EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, and the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative.
COLLABORATE / IMPROVE WHERE LIVE: ‘Sustainable Service Delivery’ refocuses business processes on how constructed and natural assets are used to deliver services, and support outcomes that reduce life-cycle costs and address risks (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2019)
Motivated by a shared vision for restoration of the aquatic environment in Burrard Inlet, three engineers with distinguished careers have been passionate and relentless in convincing Metro Vancouver to rethink the treatment process strategy for the new Lions Gate Treatment Plant. “Recent studies have shown harmful chemicals and pharmaceuticals present in local waters and in juvenile salmon. How stupid would it be to build a $778 million plant and have it out of date before it even opened,” stated Ken Ashley.
THE POTENTIAL FOR GLOBAL FOREST COVER: “Our study provides a benchmark for a global action plan, showing where new forests can be restored around the globe,” reports Jean-Francois Bastin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)
“We mapped the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4 billion hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate,” wrote Jean-Francois Bastin. “Excluding existing trees and agricultural and urban areas, we found that there is room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover, which could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon in areas that would naturally support woodlands and forests. This highlights global tree restoration as our most effective climate change solution to date.”
ARTICLE: Sustainable Service Delivery in a Changing Climate – “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of natural assets,” states Tim Pringle (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Fall 2019)
“Traditionally land development is implemented under criteria set out in local government bylaws and other legislation. So-called proven practices of development follow a usual sequence: the community plan, zoning, institutional uses, parks and public spaces, and infrastructure including roads and drainage. This traditional approach does not appreciate hydrology and the streams it supports as systems. EAP addresses this specific deficiency,” explains Tim Pringle.
COLOUR COORDINATING: “It’s time to design smarter 21st century systems that restore and maintain green infrastructure as a critical component of urban resilience and vitality,” says Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (September 2019)
“How can we move from viewing green infrastructure in terms of “nice to have” extras, to putting green infrastructure at the center of how we value and invest in the infrastructure we need for vibrant, resilient cities? A number of innovations can move us in this direction,” states Jan Cassin. “Cities and their utilities should embrace natural asset management. In the same way that well-managed utilities strategically assess their gray assets, we can evaluate our green infrastructure base.”
FLASHBACK TO 1969: “The Cuyahoga River caught fire 50 years ago. It inspired a movement,” wrote Tim Folger in a National Geographic retrospective
“On June 22, 1969, there hadn’t been any fish—or any other living things—in its waters for decades. On that day the river was burning,” wrote Tim Folger. “It would turn out to be a cleansing fire, one that became a potent symbol for the nascent environmental movement. Within a few years the U.S. had enacted laws that would have a dramatic impact on the environment, including the Cuyahoga and other rivers. The fire started around noon, when a spark from a train crossing a bridge fell into the toxic stew of industrial waste on the river’s surface.”
URBAN TREE CANOPY INTERCEPTS RAINWATER: What does a community named Tree City USA for 25 years running, brimming with 13,000 trees need?
“Walla Walla City Council has agreed to tap into the city’s stormwater utility fund — following a trend set by a number of Pacific Northwest communities — to pay for upkeep of street trees and other ‘green infrastructure,.” wrote Dian Ver Valen. “The ordinance makes the city’s urban forest and green infrastructure, including dozens of green basins and swales that work as bio-filters for stormwater throughout the city, an official part of the stormwater system.”
URBAN DESIGN & THE PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: “The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he met with Comox Town Council to present the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series (September 2019)
“For the past decade, elected representatives and staff in the Town of Comox have quietly and without much fanfare been on a journey,” states Kim Stephens. “The Town’s journey is ongoing, and involves building blocks. This Watershed Case Profile takes stock of milestone moments along the way, with a focus on lessons that can be replicated. The Partnership has identified the Town of Comox as a ‘beacon of hope’ because of the precedents it has established when implementing the twin pillars of the whole-system, water balance approach to land development.”
DESIGN WITH NATURE: “We lost sight on how to work with nature. Using natural systems, however, it is possible to help cities adapt to climate change,” says Dr. Laura Wendling, an urban scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
“We know nature-based solutions are really good at helping cities. But) we don’t have a really good handle on how to best place nature-based solutions to get the greatest benefit,” said Laura Wendling. “Ultimately we need to have cities that are more liveable, more resilient to environment and social perturbations and nature-based solutions provide us that buffering capacity (to cope),” Dr. Wendling is the technical coordinator of UNaLab, a project looking to get the information needed to convince more cities to greenlight nature-based solutions.
BLUE AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: Vietnam has been selected as the study location for assessing effectiveness of eco-friendly flood schemes because its low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change
“In the last few decades approaches to dealing with flood risk in urban areas have typically preferred the adoption of hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts locally and further downstream,” stated Dr. Lee Bosher. “Loughborough University is supporting the work of the University of Stirling in assessing the role of natural capital and ascertaining the added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”