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.
IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, Tim Ennis elaborates on precedent-setting nature of “Kus-kus-sum Restoration on the Courtenay River – Transforming a Decommissioned Sawmill Site into a Valuable Habitat Corridor”
“The economic return to the community through this project will far outweigh the costs. For example, the restored site will have tremendous potential to absorb floodwaters and provide resiliency to buffer the effects of climate change from more frequent and severe rain storms, sea-level rise, and storm surge events. This will mitigate the flooding-related costs to Courtenay, which have been in the ballpark of $500,000 per event,” stated Tim Ennis.
WATER STEWARDSHIP IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: “The essential ingredients for restorative development encompass: vision, strategy to deliver the vision, and commitment to implement an ongoing program,” says John Finnie, Chair of the Parksville 2019 Symposium Organizing Committee (Asset Management BC Newsletter, February 2019)
“Guided by a whole-system, water balance approach, restorative land development would reconnect hydrology and ecology, and this would: reduce stream erosion, flooding and the associated infrastructure liability; increase the dry weather baseflow in streams; and stem the loss of aquatic habitat and fish. Connecting dots, then, a key message is that restorative land development results in sustainable stream restoration,” says John Finnie.
GREENING ROCK CREEK DRAINAGE AREA IN WASHINGTON, DC: Re-engineering the city to reverse the damage done by engineers of generations past, using modern technology to imitate how nature handles rainwater and stormwater runoff
“I was just reading an article recently by a Washington Post reporter back in the 1930s, saying it was a ‘lusty stream,’” Steve Dryden says. “Development in the early 20th century just paved all of this over.” Before most of Piney Branch disappeared under pavement, the “lusty” creek drained storm water from more than 2,000 acres of forests and fields. The land naturally absorbed much of the rain. Now, all that water is instead funneled into underground pipes. “This is the foundational mistake that was made in developing cities and suburbs.”
Bringing Nature Back to the Urban Core – a photo feature on three US cities that are seeking to restore their connection to nature by reclaiming land for green space
Frederick Law Olmsted understood nature’s ability to rejuvenate the mind and body. One of the principal designers of Central Park in New York, he took pains to replicate the gentle beauty he saw in European parks that blended trees and shrubs, streams and bridges. “The park throughout is a single work of art,” he wrote. The relationship between humans and nature improves mental health and promotes prosocial behavior. But as cities grow, green space is squeezed out. Community leaders are finding ways to restore some of the balance.
“There’s no widely accepted method to calculate the more ephemeral value that trees provide, such as joy in their beauty, as resting places for birds, or the coolness of their shade,” says Bonnie Keeler – her area of expertise at the University of Minnesota is natural capital and the value of ecosystems
Bonnie Keeler reviewed 1,200 scientific studies on increasingly popular green infrastructures such as urban forests, parks, rain gardens, and wetlands and found in a recent paper that it’s unclear how well any of them stack up against “gray” solutions like concrete storm sewers and air conditioning. “There is a huge interest in expanding funding for green infrastructures,” she said. “But we don’t have a tool to understand their value.”
INSPIRED BY STEFANO BOERI’S VISION FOR “FOREST CITIES”: Toronto’s Newest Skyscaper Will Be Completely Covered In Trees
Toronto’s urban canopy is already home to over 10 million trees, which currently envelops 26% of the city’s surface area. Mayor John Tory, however, has bigger plans for Ontario’s capital; he wants to transform Toronto into a waking ecological metropolis. A local architecture firm is helping Tory achieve his goal, in a very cool, but unconventional manner. Toronto’s version of the vertical forest may be standing as early as late 2020, proving that green space is not confined to the ground.
Michigan’s Struggles to Fund Stormwater Infrastructure: “Paying more for infrastructure and utilities is the new reality,” said engineer Greg Kacvinsky
“The pipes that we put in the ground 50 years ago were designed under a different set of criteria. And so when rainfall changes, and when climate changes, the system doesn’t provide the same level of service that it used to. Where communities used to be able to rely on money coming down, or raining down, from the federal government, now the federal government is there to say, we’ll give you money…but you’re gonna pay us back,” Greg Kacvinsky said.
“IBC fully stands by our insured loss numbers and their attribution to escalating severe weather events driven by climate change,” wrote Craig Stewart, Insurance Bureau of Canada, in an Op-Ed published in the Financial Post newspaper
“The IBC-sponsored report, Combating Canada’s Rising Floods Costs: Natural infrastructure is an underutilized option, provides a framework for making decisions about the return on investment of green infrastructure deployed as a climate-adaptation measure,” wrote Craig Stewart. “Fundamentally, we as a nation need to prepare for the impacts of severe weather. By focusing on adapting to climate change we can work together constructively to keep Canadians out of harm’s way.”
IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: “Land development often interferes with water balance by reducing forest cover and increasing imperviousness, without preserving the natural pathways water follows to reach creeks,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle, Town of Gibsons
“One of the primary challenges local governments face is that there are often multiple organizational bodies operating across a single watershed, each with their own, misaligned, policies. So, even though these organizations may firmly believe in the science behind a whole-systems, water balance approach, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve the integrated, continuity of practice required to put that approach into place on the ground,” wrote Elizabeth Quayle.
WUHAN IS CHINA’S LEADING ‘SPONGE CITY’: Under this nation-wide program, Wuhan and the other participating areas must ensure that 20% of their urban land includes sponge features by 2020, with a target of being able to retain 70% of storm water
“Street names are often the only reminder of the lakes and pools that been filled in and built over, but in 2016, after a week of torrential downpours, they filled with water again,” wrote Li Jing. “The authorities blamed poor drainage and said Wuhan’s low-lying geography made it hard for storm water to be discharged into the Yangtze when water levels in the river were high. Many locals blamed the loss of the city’s lakes. With the latest UN figures projecting Wuhan’s population will exceed 10 million by 2035, the situation remains critical.”