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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

COMMUNICATING WITH PLAIN LANGUAGE IS A GUIDING PRINCIPLE: “What I am trying to discover in my thesis is what are the existing trends in urban stormwater policy within developed cities. One area I am particularly interested in is communication, or the lack thereof,” stated Charles Axelesson, PhD candidate, University of Venice


“A lot of fantastic studies are misinterpreted outside of scientific circles because the language, style and meaning of science writing is very different to non-specialists. With climate change studies, this can lead to a serious disconnect between climate change policy and the supporting research. With other stakeholders also invested in management, good policy is reliant on strong communication of everyone’s interests. I am trying to take these competing voices and understand how these groups’ visions of future stormwater management differ from each other,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: Could ‘Sponge Cities’ Help Us Prepare For Our Flooded Future?


“Extreme weather, a changing climate, and impervious streets and roads have combined to create an urban disaster. All of this has seen cities begin to re-imagine their relationship with water. Rather than just designing systems that allow the water to drain away slowly and stably, they want to harvest and reuse it. This approach to urban design – where water is held in place to be called-upon when needed – is known as the ‘sponge city’, and it is rapidly growing in popularity,” stated Laurie Winkless.

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GENERATIONAL AMNESIA: “Every generation is handed a world that has been shaped by their predecessors – and then seemingly forgets that fact,” wrote Richard Fisher, BBC Senior Journalist and member of the BBC Future team of writers (June 2021)


“Can a generation be forgetful? It’s certainly true that older generations can fail to remember what it was to be young. However, that’s not the only kind of forgetfulness that happens as the generations pass. There’s another type that is less obvious, called ‘generational amnesia’, which has profound effects on the way that we see the world. As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Generational amnesia has profound effects on the way that we see the world,” stated Richard Fisher.

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“Deepening children’s interaction with nature addresses the issue of environmental generational amnesia. The solution we are putting forward is, in effect, ‘one small interaction with nature at a time’,” stated Thea Weiss, University of Washington


“Nature Language is a term introduced by the researchers as a means of speaking about deep and meaningful patterns of human interaction with nature. Ideas related to ‘big nature’ and ‘nature language’ can help mitigate the problem of environmental generational amnesia. Since lack of interaction with nature has partly caused the problem, deepening children’s interaction with nature is proposed as a way to help solve it. Children’s educational environments –and entire cities — can be designed with this goal in mind,” stated Thea Weiss.

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URBAN GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE STARTS WITH A RAIN GARDEN: “To scale up our response to climate change requires a concerted, connected and collaborative approach to finding a way to work together towards identifying solutions and taking action. This perspective provides the context for an ecosystem of teaching, interdisciplinary professional practice and research that informs the new Green Infrastructure course,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Simon Fraser University


“Every significant innovation results from a magical combination of timing, preparation and luck. So true for the creation of a new online course on Green Infrastructure, or GI, at Simon Fraser University. After several years of promoting the use of rain gardens in communities, including offering workshops, my colleagues and I were delighted when the Adaptation Learning Network, awarded funding for us to develop an online course,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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SEASONAL USE OF WATER IN BALANCE WITH A CHANGING WATER CYCLE: “The City sees the BC Landscape Water Calculator helping us manage our peak demand. I like that the calculator will be able to show people just how much they can reduce their water use,” stated Amy Peters, coordinator of the City of Abbotsford water conservation program


“Many homeowners are now familiar with how much they are using because the number is on their utility bill. It really is important that they be able to see how much outdoor water use contributes to their total water demand. The BC Landscape Water Calculator does this. We are encouraging people to transform their front yards by replacing grass with water efficient plants. We are promoting both water efficient and native plants. The BC Landscape Water Calculator provides them with choices for both,” stated Amy Peters.

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DOCKSIDE GREEN, WORLD’S GREENEST NEIGHBOURHOOD: “Do we have the intelligence and will to impel change? Can convention be busted open again to develop sustainably? This book encourages sustainable change agents to make fundamental, systemic change. Please go implement. Now,” urges Kim Fowler, author of Dockside Green, the story of the world’s most sustainable development


“At Dockside Green, a ‘sandbox’ development concept was created instead of a ‘straitjacket’ conventional approach. This was achieved by setting the basic requirements for site redevelopment while still providing flexibility to promote innovation and competition in the land sale process. Traditional zoning was deemed to be a ‘straitjacket’ containing far too detailed and prescriptive land use and design. It would have destroyed competition and innovation,” stated Kim Fowler.

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WHY THE FUSED GRID STREET PATTERN? – “In the early 2000s, entirely new priorities, along with old ones, were being staked at every corner of the planning universe. A tangled web of interacting variables emerged from these demands; a truly formidable, complex puzzle,” stated Fanis Grammenos, author of Remaking the City Grid, and an urban sustainability thinker


“The real urgent task was to convince a Municipality or a developer that this combination of known components worked well and that it produced desirable outcomes. Developers listened to the evidence with one ear while holding the other close to their clients – Sold! But they hesitated, being anxious that the City would not approve such plans; Cities, big and small, had just issued policy reports declaring: ‘cul-de-sacs are no longer allowed in this city because they are disconnected’,” stated Fanis Grammenos.

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HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “It was 20 years ago when we realized that soil is the cornerstone for water sustainability. Restoring the ‘balance’ to the ‘water balance’ starts with soil,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)


“To adapt to a changing water cycle, soil depth as an ‘absorbent sponge’ is a primary water management tool, during both dry-weather and wet-weather periods. When the soil sponge has sufficient depth, the water holding capacity means that less water would be needed during dry-weather to irrigate gardens. This contributes to sustainability of water supply. And in wet-weather, an effective sponge would slowly release runoff and contribute to sustainability of aquatic habitat,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: “To do an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan right, one has to start with the desired outcome – which is protect or improve stream health – and then determine what actions in the watershed will green the urban landscape,” stated Kim Stephens, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Management Reference Panel, when reporting out to regional elected representatives


A commitment by Metro Vancouver municipalities to integrate land use and drainage planning was the genesis for Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs). “When the Reference Panel reported back to the Waste Management Committee in July 2008, we identified the ISMP process as a sleeper issue because there are 130 watersheds in the region; and continuation of the old-business-as-usual would potentially result in an aggregate unfunded liability that could easily equal the $1.4 billion cost of sewage treatment,” stated Kim Stephens.

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