A British Columbia Perspective: Distinguishing Natural from Engineered Green Infrastructure
Design with Nature
“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,” explains Kim Stephens, a founding member of the Green Infrastructure Partnership steering committee. He is the Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.
“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.”
Let the Landscape Inform Development
The Green Infrastructure Partnership has embraced ‘design with nature’ as a guiding philosophy for community planning and design.
“When we refer to designing with nature, we are borrowing from Ian McHarg and the title of his 1969 book,” stated Ray Fung, GIP Chair, when he made an opening statement in 2007 at Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Township of Langley.
The Green Infrastructure Partnership has gone beyond McHarg in terms of synthesizing Smart Growth principles with an infrastructure way-of-thinking.
“We are consistent with what McHarg intended in terms of ecological planning and letting the landscape inform development. In practical terms, what designing with nature means is essentially a restatement of Smart Growth principles,” continued Ray Fung.
“What we have found is that the term Smart Growth is sometimes highly charged and political. People often get their backs up because they associate ‘smart growth’ as being all about imposing higher density development. We find that people intuitively understand what designing with nature means. It is non-threatening.”
Climate Change Adaptation
The design with nature paradigm also captures the essence of climate change adaptation.
Adaptation is about responding to the changes that will inevitably occur. Adaptation is at the community level and is therefore about collaboration. If communities can show how to get the water part right, then other parts are more likely to follow.
Posted December 2009