Green Infrastructure: Looking back to understand the origin of the term


A Defining Moment 

While green infrastructure is a fairly new term, the concept dates back over a hundred years to Frederick Law Olmstead, the 19th century founder of American landscape architecture, who believed connected systems of parks and greenways were more beneficial than isolated green spaces.

Coined by Edward T. McMahon, former vice-president of The Conservation Fund and now a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, the phrase was trumpeted in a May 1999 report of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, Towards a Sustainable America: Advancing Prosperity, Opportunity, and a Healthy Environment for the 21st Century.

In the report, the council defined green infrastructure as “. . . an interconnected network of protected land and water that supports native species, maintains natural ecological processes, sustains air and water resources, and contributes to the health and quality of life for America’s communities and people.”

In 2006, McMahon and The Conservation Fund’s Mark Benedict co-authored, Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities, which outlines green infrastructure principles and practices. In it, green infrastructure is defined as “an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystems values and functions and provides assorted benefits to human populations.”

To read the complete story, click on Coming to Terms with Green Infrastructure, published by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 


A British Columbia Perspective

In British Columbia, green Infrastructure is defined in terms of 'Design with Nature', with the goal of creating liveable communities and protecting stream health. To learn more, click on A British Columbia Perspective: Distinguishing Natural from Engineered Green Infrastructure.


Posted December 2009