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.
ACCOUNTANTS DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ACCOUNT FOR NATURAL ASSETS: “The risk with the accounting profession is that they would include natural assets in local government financial statements in a way that is neither meaningful nor helpful,” believes Wally Wells, well-known to BC local governments as an Asset Management Master, Mentor and Coach
“People look at asset management as a function, but it is not a function. It is a process, and the process for getting you to Sustainable Service Delivery is asset management. You cannot legislate a process. For this reason, I am really, really, really nervous about the way the accounting profession will try to treat natural assets in a financial statement. Accountants do not know how to deal with the subject of natural asset management. If accountants cannot explain it properly, then inclusion of natural assets in PSAB 3150 is either going to be dismissed in practice and/or done poorly. In my view, that is the bottom-line,” stated Wally Wells.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “Asset management isn’t a ‘core part’ of city government, it is city government,” wrote Duane Nicol, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Selkirk, Manitoba (Winter 2022 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)
“We are much more emotional and habitual than we are prepared to admit. What we do shapes what we think, just as much as what we think informs our actions. What researchers studying behaviour tell us is that at the very least, the link between thinking and doing is iterative. This single idea makes the daunting notion of remaking municipal operations via asset management, not just possible, but manageable. To change the paradigm, given enough time, all you need to do, is change what you do and shape how people internalize the new behaviour,” stated Duane Nicol.
HOW GREEN IS THE METRO VANCOUVER REGION, REALLY: “By improving overall mental and physical health, urban greening also improves people’s resilience against extreme heat and wildfire smoke caused by climate change,” stated Melissa Lem, a family physician and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (August 2022)
A view from space shows how green Metro’s cities really are, and how much green space has been lost to development this century. Vegetation fell most in areas that experienced significant growth and development since 2000. “Research shows that just sitting in nature for 15 minutes can significantly drop cortisol, the primary stress hormone, while sitting on a city street doesn’t improve it at all,” stated Dr. Melissa Lem. “Easy access to trees and green spaces improves a large number of health conditions across the lifespan, including increased physical activity, longer life expectancies and improved pregnancy outcomes.”
FLASHBACK TO 2006 / MAYORS & CHAIRS FOCUS GROUP FOR GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: “Viewed through the lens of what needs to be done to build a vision and create a legacy, both the findings and key messages from the 2006 interviews are standing the test of time,” stated Kim Stephens, author and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia (September 2022)
“At the turn of the 21st century, British Columbia was in the midst of a development boom. This followed the ‘lost decade’ of the 1980s when economic activity in the province virtually ground to a halt. Population growth and climate change were issues in the 2005 local government elections. Afterwards, the Partnership interviewed an inter-regional group representing the Okanagan, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Everyone had thought about how to achieve environmental, economic and social objectives through a community’s infrastructure choices,” stated Kim Stephens.
FLASHBACK TO 2009: “A provincial policy framework is now in place that enables municipalities to ‘do business differently’ in order to design their communities to live in harmony with water,” stated the Ministry of Environment’s Lynn Kriwoken at a forum co-organized by the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership
“A key message in Living Water Smart is that green development makes sense. New thinking about development leads to new benefits. These include more green spaces, more water and fish in the streams, improved community vitality, reduced demand for water, and reduced expenditure on infrastructure. By living water smart, communities will be more prepared for climate change and their quality of life will be enhanced,” stated Lynn Kriwoken. Her description reflected the theme, “Living Water Smart & Making Green Choices”, for the 2009 forum held in Surrey for Metro Vancouver municipalities.
NEWS FROM ASSET MANAGEMENT BC: Wally Wells hands the baton to David Allen to continue the “sustainable service delivery” mission and build on the foundation that is in place for encouraging fully integrated asset management in British Columbia (July 2022)
“Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework” redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained in British Columbia. It raises questions about how communities would service urbanizing and redeveloping areas in future. The BC Framework points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are viewed as a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We know that having good succession plans in place is paramount to keeping the knowledge moving through the organization as key people leave. This is just one piece of the much greater puzzle,” stated Khalie Genereaux, Deputy Director of Finance with the City of Terrace, in an article written for the Asset Management BC Newsletter (July 2022)
“Small municipalities, such as Terrace, have limited resources to be able to take on something like Asset Management wholeheartedly and with focus. For most of us it is a corner of the desk project that we get to when we have time. We are now trying to change that, bit by bit. Although our level of human capital has not changed, our lens of how to view Asset Management has. The more we learn within the process and the results, it is no longer a matter of getting to it when we have time, but rather making the time to do it. Put simply, we cannot afford NOT to make this a priority,” stated Khalie Genereaux.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE DRAINAGE SERVICE DELIVERY: “An elephant in the room is the hollowing out of government capacity at all levels and the reliance on outside service providers,” stated Kim Stephens in an article published in the Summer 2022 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter
“The question is, how does one create a situation where the environmental perspective is on an equal footing with the engineering and accounting perspectives? Only then can there be a balanced and productive conversation about annual budgets for maintenance and management (M&M) of assets, whether those are constructed assets or the natural component of the Drainage Service. The growing cost due to neglect of the Drainage Service, combined with the urgency of the drainage liability issue, is the driver for linking municipal infrastructure asset management and stream health as cause-and-effect,” stated Kim Stephens.
BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022 / FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: “Green infrastructure state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where the BC state-of-the-art was in 2005” – based on an interview with Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski, lead researcher for the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, this is the key takeaway from the first systematic review of the use and definition of the green infrastructure concept in local government plans in the United States
“There are a lot of ‘greening’ and sustainability initiatives, but they are not conceptually unified. They are neither thought about in terms of interdependencies nor systemically. We had this moment of realization about the diversity of plans when it clicked in our minds about analyzing all the plans in terms of three big buckets: something that is very stormwater-focused, something that is very land-focused, and something that is trying to integrate the two. In the process, we started to uncover this grain of systems thinking within green infrastructure planning,” stated Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski.
ARTICLE: “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, considers the entirety of the stream corridor system—a ‘natural commons’—and seeks to ensure that streams survive in an urban or urbanizing setting, without suffering from degradation of stream channels and streamside riparian setback zones” (Water Canada magazine, May-June 2022)
“I reached out to Kim Stephens of the Partnership for Water Sustainability BC with an invitation to share more about the people, policy, and projects in BC, through penning an article for Water Canada magazine and sharing of relevant information. I am very keen on showcasing real world water projects, and the people whose lives they impact, with our national audience. The Ecological Accounting Process is a topic the Water Canada audience would really benefit from and that is why we featured it in the May-June 2022 issue,” stated Jen Smith, magazine editor.