Role of building inspectors in green infrastructure: “To get to the big picture, it starts with the smallest pieces”

Note to Reader:

The precedent-setting Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series was part of the implementation program for  Beyond the Guidebook: The New Business As Usual, This provincial initiative built on the foundation provided bStormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, published in 2002. In 2008, participating Vancouver Island local governments represented some 250,000 people.

The Learning Lunch Seminar Series promoted a consistent provincial approach to rainwater management and green infrastructure. It also added depth to Living Water Smart, the Province’s plan for doing business differently….by encouraging water and land managers and users to make green choices that create liveable communities and protect stream health.

2008 Comox Valley Seminar Series

“The City of Courtenay decided to host the Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series because we saw it as an exciting opportunity to further advance a regional team approach,” reported Kevin Lagan, Director of Operational Services. “Also, the June 2008 release of Living Water Smart by the Province provided a timely provincial frame-of-reference for the Learning Lunch Series.

“The City collaborated with the CAVI team to explore a bottom-up approach that would inform implementation of Living Water Smart. Our goal was to demonstrate how we can all do business differently and thereby make green choices that create liveable communities and protect stream health.”

East Courtenay Walkabout

The first seminar in the series was built around a walkabout in east Courtenay. “We incorporated the walkabout so that participants would have a picture in their minds of the on-the-ground applications that would be explored in subsequent seminars,” explained Derek Richmond, Manager of Engineering for the City.

The last stop on the walkabout was the Brookmere subdivision. This provided Kevin Lagan and Derek Richmond with the opportunity to illustrate the approach that the City is taking to implement changes in practice at the site scale.

To Learn More:

For the complete story of the walkabout, click on the Story of East Courtenay over the past two decades: from fields and forest to urban community.

Inter-Departmental Alignment

The series was the first step in building a team approach, both inter-departmentally and inter-governmentally. “The seminars provide a forum for bringing together representatives of planning, engineering, operations, building services, environment and parks departments so that there will be a consistent understanding of issues and solutions,” reported Kim Stephens.

“We quickly realized that a litmus test for achieving long-term success would be early buy-in from building inspectors.” Kim Stephens was the seminar team leader in his role as Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

Redefining the Role of the Building Inspector

Brookmere is one of the latest subdivisions to be developed in Courtenay. “We are working with the developer to ensure that what is designed is built on the ground,” stated Kevin Lagan when he provided context for alignment of roles and responsibilities.

Comox valley - brookmere streetscape (200p)“Where we have a gap is….what tools do we have and how can we apply them,” added Derek Richmond. “We’re still in the process of developing the tools.”

“Yes, we have a gap,” continued Kevin Lagan. “Between the time the design and construction of the subdivision is finished …. and when the builder wants to build,”

To get to the big picture

“We are looking at our building inspectors doing more than just inspecting plumbing and buildings. We want them to be more involved at the front-end of the process, not the back-end when the building is being built,” elaborated Kevin Lagan.

“We want them involved at the subdivision stage so that they understand what we want to achieve,” explained Kevin Lagan. He then provided two examples to illustrate his point: “If they come out and see the builder burying the topsoil – STOP. Or, if they see the builder taking material away – STOP.”

“In other words, it is more than just a building going up,” concluded Kevin Lagan. “The building permit is for the site. The site needs to be managed. Right now that is the big gap in our process; and that is what we are fixing.”

Comox valley - photo collage at brookmere subdivision

Link to YouTube Video:

At the Brookmere Subdivision, the City of Courtenay engineering team explained how the City is implementing changes in the way land is developed. The change in approach starts with the role of the building inspector.

To see and hear what Kevin Lagan and Derek Richmond had to say at the Brookmere location, click on the link to the video clip posted on YouTube: