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.
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN AUSTRALIA: “We should spend less on freeways – and more on our waterways,” wrote Bruce Lindsay, Environmental Justice Australia
“Contemporary urban planning bolts waterway protections onto new suburbs or the refitting of older ones. Water-sensitive development provides for nice water features in local landscapes. Overwhelmingly, however, waterways remain incidental in the urban landscape, if not simply drains then as local ‘amenity’. Waterways are not viewed at the core of development models. They could provide the base for recovery of biodiversity, or a project of rewilding places – and people. This is what we need,” wrote Bruce Lindsay.
WHAT IS NEEDED TO THRIVE IN THE 21st CENTURY: When nature is used as a classroom, it has a positive effect on learning among children in at least eight different ways, according to a new survey of 100s of research studies
“It is time to take nature seriously as a resource for learning. In fact, the trend of increasing indoor instruction in hopes of maximizing standardized test performance may be doing more harm than good,” states Professor Frances ‘Ming’ Kuo. “We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment, and engagement. And all of these have been shown to improve learning.”
TIME IN NATURE LOWERS STRESS: “Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” stated Professor MaryCarolHunter, research lead at University of Michigan
“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says MaryCarolHunter. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature. It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels.”
NATURE’S ASSETS: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that these resources can be harnessed as critical infrastructure and leveraged to manage the risks associated with climate change,” said Charles Brindamour, Intact Financial Corporation’s CEO (April 2019)
“Climate change is having an enormous human and economic impact. Canadians – especially government and business leaders – can lead the way in addressing and managing the associated risks. By making our country one of the most climate resilient in the world, we can protect our nature, our economy and our people,” stated Charles Brindamour. “As the Summit has made clear, nature and natural resources are, and have always been, among Canada’s greatest assets.”
STRIVING FOR A SMALLER HYDROLOGIC FOOTPRINT: “I wanted to come up with answers to two questions: How much green infrastructure do we need, and where should it be located?” stated Moira Zellner, University of Illinois
“We built a computational cellular model of integrating land cover with hydrology, and when we built this model, we tried to answer those two questions with it,” stated Moira Zellner.”For small storms, we need about 10 percent coverage of green infrastructure to prevent runoff from going downstream. The locations [of green infrastructure] which are more scattered but also follow roads are particularly good. Roads are built to convey water, and if we put [these green infrastructures] around the roads, then what it does is it enhances a function of the road as a way to store and convey and drain water toward the sewers.”
ENGINEERED NATURE: “The world is round, but Detroit is extremely flat,” said Palencia Mobley, chief engineer, when explaining the approach to Green Stormwater Infrastructure
In Detroit, simply making a park where there was once a building is often not enough to prevent flooding due to its topography and geology: “We don’t have a lot of elevation to move water. Another problem is that Detroit is full of clay soil which doesn’t readily absorb water,” said Palencia Mobley. So many Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects in Detroit excavate the clay and mix it with sand or gravel so water can move underground faster.
FLASHBACK TO 2007: “The Capital Regional District Headquarters Building is the first LEEDs Gold Certified building in the Capital Region,” reported Jody Watson
“The CRD has installed a new weather station that is part of the performance monitoring program for the green roof project,” stated Jody Watson. “The extensive green roof and the living wall are being monitored, in partnership with the BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology – Collaborations in Green Roofs and Living Walls to provide real-time regional data on the environmental and economic benefits of these innovative technologies. Monitoring includes a measure of rainwater retention and runoff reduction and temperature and energy statistics.”
Historic Passing of the Climate Mobilization Act in New York City – Green Roofs Required on New Buildings (April 2019)
The Climate Mobilization Act is the largest single act to cut climate pollution of any city. In a densely packed metropolitan of over seven million residents, commercial and residential buildings are the largest source of emissions and sit at the center of the policy change. “My legislation will require green roofs to be installed on new residential and commercial buildings, making New York the largest city in the nation to pass such a law,” stated Rafael Espinal. “We’ve already seen the revolutionary benefits of green roofs in action thanks to places around the city.”
JUST RELEASED (March 2019): “Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure” – joint report by World Bank and World Resources Institute states that the next generation of infrastructure can help drive economies and strengthen communities and the environment
“21st century challenges require innovative solutions and utilizing all the tools at our disposal. And integrating ‘green’ natural systems like forests, wetlands and flood plains into ‘gray’ infrastructure system shows how nature can lie at the heart of sustainable development. ‘Integrating Green & Gray – Creating Next-Generation Infrastructure’ provides guidance on how to do just that,” stated Greg Browder, World Bank Global Lead for Water Security & Lead Author.
CREATING NEXT GENERATION INFRASTRUCTURE: “By harnessing the power of nature, infrastructure services can be provided at a lower cost while delivering greater impact,” wrote Andrew Steer in the foreword to a landmark report on integrating green and gray infrastructure (March 2019)
“Green infrastructure can be cheaper and more resilient than gray infrastructure alone—and it can produce substantial benefits beyond what the balance sheets measure,” states Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “These nature-based solutions can help us meet the infrastructure investment gap in a cost-effective manner, while lifting up local communities with benefits in their backyards. We’re at a climate inflection point, and in the midst of an infrastructure crisis. Now more than ever, the world must tap into nature’s wealth.”