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Implementation of Green Projects in British Columbia and Beyond

MANAGING THE IMPACTS OF URBANIZATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE: “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,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Simon Fraser University


“Simon Fraser University has been advancing the implementation of green infrastructure at the municipal level through an interdisciplinary approach combining community-engaged teaching, research and outreach. Building on what we have collectively learned, in 2021 we launched a new 12-week online course. We designed the course to have appeal and applicability for professionals from diverse disciplines, especially those seeking to understand green infrastructure’s potential for managing the impacts of urbanization and climate change,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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HOW VANCOUVER IS PROTECTING ITSELF FROM FLOODING: “In the old days, it was ‘scoop the water up and send it down these pipes.’ Now, with climate change, we have to restore these old systems,” said Melina Scholefield, the City of Vancouver’s manager of green infrastructure implementation


Vancouver’s narrative over the past two decades has often hinged on densification — how to manage the rise of dull grey towers framed by distant green mountains. But with every megaton of carbon dioxide belched into the atmosphere, the risk of rising seas and increasingly heavy rainfall has pushed the region toward letting more of that forest creep back into the city. Known as “green infrastructure,” the idea is to simulate a natural water cycle wiped out from decades of city building. “We know how to design it,” said Scholefield. “What we’re aimed at now is making it mainstream.”

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CREATE SAFE CITIES FOR SALMON: “Inadequate statutory foundations and enforcement of current regulations have only hindered the implementation of nature-based solutions to protect salmon in cities. There must also be increased clarity and communication from the top to ensure these regulatory requirements are understood and effectively implemented,” stated Andrea McDonald, author of the joint research study by the Pacific Water Research Centre and the Salmon-Safe BC team (May 2021)


“Protection of salmon and their habitat from the adverse impacts of urban development is a challenging task that requires an all-of-government response. Findings from this research highlight the variable involvement and guidance provided from the higher levels of government in Canada. As one expert noted, the province must provide more clarity on direct regulatory obligations which have compliance initiatives in place to enforce them,” stated Andrea McDonald. “Providing opportunities for the public to be more engaged and educated on the subject can offer that bottom-up pressure necessary for more rapid-paced change in local governments.”

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INTER-GENERATIONAL COLLABORATION: “In a representative democracy, politicians can only lead where people are prepared to follow,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former Speaker of the BC Legislative Assembly and Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks during the period 1991 through 2001


“Voters often send mixed messages. While it is perfectly legitimate to hold politicians’ “feet to the fire”, there is some justification to do the reverse as well! It is sometimes too convenient to blame politicians for the short term thinking hole that we are in. If we truly want our governments to shift from short-term to longer term thinking, as voters we must then be prepared to support – and re-elect – those politicians who bring in such policies and legislation, even if those initiatives negatively impact us personally today ” stated Joan Sawicki.

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CLIMATE ADAPTATION: “NYC, Vancouver, Sydney, Auckland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam present differing narratives toward pluvial flooding. Vancouver has embraced an image of environmental friendliness and constructs a narrative of rainfall management full of ‘green’ improvements,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD candidate, University of Venice (January 2021)


“As a geographer researching urban environments, I really enjoy focusing on where scientific environmental research meets urban policy. In developed cities, decades and centuries of urban growth have led to a jigsaw puzzle of urban infrastructure. Storm drainage systems are ageing, built at different times to different standards, and often follow political boundaries not drainage basins. With climate change stressing these systems, it is all the more urgent to understand how to design with nature to prevent rapid runoff,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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EARTH DAY #50 AND GREENER BUILDINGS: “The ones who caught on the fastest to what we were doing were the business leaders – the CEOs, the CFOs and the building owners,” stated Mary Tod Winchester, retired Vice-President for Administration, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, when reflecting on the value green building has delivered for people and the planet


“CEOs, CFOs and building owners were obviously looking at the bottom line and not necessarily what it would cost them, but what the operating costs were going to be. They talked with staff and quickly realized it was a place people wanted to work and loved to work. They really picked up on so many pieces of the puzzle. They would go on and incorporate what they saw into their own office buildings or new builds. And when you have businesses doing that you move markets.” reflected Mary Tod Winchester.

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THE FIRST DECADE OF PHILADELPHIA’S GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATERS PROGRAM: “Communities across the country are watching, trying to learn how to do this. When you try to change the character of a neighborhood, it’s very difficult,” stated Nancy Stoner, President of Potomac Riverkeeper Network


Philadelphia’s program involves creating ‘greened acres’ — expanses of impervious land that are transformed either to absorb the first 1½ inches of rainfall or send it into rain gardens or other local green infrastructure systems. The City has created more than 1,500 of a projected 10,000 greened acres. From planning through construction and ongoing maintenance, the installations have required coordination among city agencies and with schools, businesses, nonprofit entities, politicians, residents, developers and landowners.

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Reinventing the Traditional Vegetated Roof for Detention – an application of whole-system thinking


“Green infrastructure focuses on cost-effective, living, upstream solutions. And there is no-where farther up stream than the roof! Green infrastructure is so powerful because it harnesses the simple solutions of nature to provide primary and secondary benefits,” states Charlie Miller, one of the key people behind friction-detention technology. “By virtue of their huge surface area and their large lateral extent, green roofs change the hydrologic response of the roof surfaces that they cover.”

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HOW A VEGETATED GREEN ROOF CAN ACHIEVE MORE DETENTION: “A new technology involves replacing the traditional fast-draining drainage layer with a ‘friction’ or ‘detention’ layer to ensure that during large storms, runoff rates are lower than rainfall,” stated Sasha Aguilera (November 2019)


“Imagine a traditional vegetated roof of customary design. The vegetated roof acts like a sponge. However, when the sponge is wet, the entire system is designed to drain rapidly,” wrote Sasha Aguilera. “Though it is possible to achieve detention via increased distance to drain and reduction of the slope, those two changes are often impractical or impermissible. However, the introduction of friction to a vegetated roof system is possible; thus causing a temporary accumulation of water within the vegetated roof.”

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A NEW KIND OF CARE IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: “To ensure green infrastructure has a long future, experts are tackling the maintenance needs of the installations as they arise — often as surprises — and are working to formalize project care as an official job,” wrote Lisa Nemo


“While green infrastructure promises such benefits, administrators, engineers, maintenance crews and more are still learning how to ensure the installations deliver. Everyone knows what to do, who is responsible. But experimentation with some green infrastructure only began in the 1990s. Some versions are living systems that need specific care that people’s formal training as architects, engineers or landscapers likely didn’t prepare them for,” wrote Lisa Nemo.

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