HISTORY OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” stated Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership


Note to Reader:

During the period 2003 through 2010, the Green Infrastructure Partnership (also known by the acronym “GIP”) played a prominent role in leading change and assisting with implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, primarily in the Metro Vancouver region.

After incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC as a not-for-profit society in 2010, the responsibilities of the GIP were assumed by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. The last GIP Chair, namely Ray Fung, has carried on as a member of the Partnership’s Leadership Team.

Throughout 2014, the Partnership is celebrating 10 years of successful Water Sustainability Action Plan program delivery. The celebration includes a series of flashback stories featuring those who have played leadership roles in delivering elements of the Action Plan. One of those champions is Paul Ham who was GIP Chair from 2005 through 2008.

The reflections of Paul Ham are introduced below. The Partnership for Water Sustainability has honoured Paul Ham by naming him a Lifetime Member of the Partnership. To read the complete story about the reflections of Paul Ham, and learn more, click on Celebrating a Decade of Success.  


Green Infrastructure is the foundation for Water Sustainability

Paul Ham_2008_120pPaul Ham was with the City of Surrey for over 30 years, where he had a distinguished career and rose to City Engineer. In 2005, he succeeded Chuck Gale as Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership. He served as Chair until 2008 when he retired from the City. He continued as Past-Chair until 2010. Under his leadership, initiatives undertaken by the Green Infrastructure Partnership enhanced the credibility of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

A Ripple Effect that Spurred Innovation

Ray at Eagle Lake_2008_120p“Under Paul Ham’s leadership, the Green Infrastructure Partnership has achieved a great deal since 2005,” stated Ray Fung when he succeeded Paul Ham as Chair in 2008. “The Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series, for example, has helped local government practitioners immeasurably by creating forums for them to share their experiences and lessons learned. This has created a ripple effect that has spurred even more innovation.”

A Milestone in BC’s Environmental History

Chuck Gale_120p“The paradigm-shift that occurred during Paul Ham’s watch far exceeds our original expectation that the partnership would be a catalyst for change,” added Chuck Gale, Founding Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, in a 2008 statement. ”I am so proud of all those committed participants who have been instrumental in making this initiative an unqualified success in BC’s environmental history.”

A Green Infrastructure Pioneer

“With the perspective of time it becomes increasingly apparent the extent to which Paul in his own quiet and unassuming way provided a leadership role in making things happen,” reflects Kim Stephens, Executive Director with the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

Kim Stephens_May2014_120p“Without Paul Ham’s guiding hand in Surrey, where might the City and we be today? We will never know the answer. Actually, the question is somewhat irrelevant. The bottom-line is that Paul Ham changed history by enabling his staff to pioneer implementation of green infrastructure. He set in motion a chain of events. That is his legacy. And we can certainly say that with confidence!”

“At a regional scale, Paul Ham enhanced the credibility of the GIP. This enabled us to build bridges to elected representatives and senior managers in the Metro Vancouver region. A defining moment in GIP evolution was our meeting with the mayors on the Sustainable Region Initiative Task Force in October 2006. Former West Vancouver Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones played a key role in championing the GIP and articulating the importance of partnerships.”

Design with Nature

“The opportunity to present to the Sustainable Region Initiative Committee of the GVRD Board was a huge opportunity,” stated Pamela Goldsmith-Jones in December 2006 at a Sustainability Community Breakfast when the GIP Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones (120p)team  spoke to this theme: Changing the Way We Develop Land: Design with Nature. Pamela Goldsmith-Jones was Mayor of West Vancouver from 2005 through 2011.

“You can trust these people. Their only goal is to turn you on to the practical reality that designing with nature – particularly water – is underway, is working, and holds out hope for communities and cities to function better, to our lasting benefit.”

To Learn More:

Click on Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan

Ian-McHarg_Design-with-Nature_120pIn his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg

At the rollout of “Beyond the Guidebook” in November 2007, Paul Ham explained the strategic importance of the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series as a catalyst for implementing changes in practice that reflect a ‘design with nature’ philosophy.

At the rollout of “Beyond the Guidebook” in November 2007, Paul Ham explained the strategic importance of the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series as a catalyst for implementing changes in practice that reflect a ‘design with nature’ philosophy.

Paul Ham: Reflections on Chairing the Green Infrastructure Partnership

“Shortly after becoming GIP Chair, I met with my peers on the Metro Vancouver Regional Engineers Advisory Committee (REAC), and asked them to support and participate in a Green Infrastructure Consultation Workshop that the City of Surrey would host in May 2005 on behalf of the GIP. This proved to be a transformational event. The majority of Metro Vancouver municipalities participated. The ‘Convening for Action’ initiative was well and truly launched,” recalls Paul Ham.

“Because the way we develop land determines how water is used and how water runs off the land, the desire to mitigate environmental impacts has provided a driver for the ‘green infrastructure’ movement. Infrastructure design in British Columbia is changing because we recognize that instead of incurring costs and losses, we can achieve cumulative benefits through changes in the policies, programs, practices and standards that determine how land is developed and water is used.”

Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series

“Chairing the Partnership made me realize how many new ideas in sustainable servicing were being tried out around the Region and the Province,” adds Paul Ham. “To spread the word on what was happening in the region a number of one day seminar and field demonstration events were held under the banner of the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series.”

“Experience shows that intra-region communication among local government practitioners is the exception rather than the rule. The Showcasing Innovation Series created opportunities to have conversations where learning took place.”

Beyond the Guidebook: Expectations for Rainwater Management & Green Infrastructure

“In the fall of 2007, the GIP collaborated with APEGBC to jointly organize the first Beyond the Guidebook Seminar,” continues Paul Ham. “Because the GIP Steering Committee included the Ministry of Community Services and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the seminar provided a timely opportunity to inform local government and land use practitioners regarding the emerging policy framework and senior government expectations for applying a Beyond the Guidebook approach to land development and watershed management.”

“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.”

The Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC is the “keeper of the GIP legacy”

“The Green Infrastructure Partnership was an original element of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC, released in 2004. Starting with the 2005 REAC Consultation Workshop, the early success of the GIP built awareness and galvanized action on the ground.”

“This success helped to lay a strong foundation for incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC. This entity is now the hub for a ‘convening for action’ network in the local government setting, and the keeper of the GIP legacy,” concludes Paul Ham.

To Learn More:

To read the complete story posted on the Convening for Action community-of-interest, click on Celebrating a Decade of Success: “Green infrastructure practices have moved from pilot project to neighbourhood and watershed scale approaches,” reflects Paul Ham, an early green infrastructure champion.

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