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Green Infrastructure

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.”

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PRIMER ON ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “The EAP methodology yields an asset value for the stream corridor. This value can then be used for budget purposes related to asset management,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC released the 7th in the Beyond the Guidebook Primer Series (January 2019)


“The concept of natural capital and natural assets can be a challenge to integrate effectively into asset management practices. EAP deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors? The EAP demonstration application process has been a fruitful journey for the project team and collaborators. Along the way, our collective thinking evolved. We broke new ground with EAP. Insights and understanding that we gained are shared in the Primer on the Ecological Accounting Process,” stated Tim Pringle.

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LIFE AFTER CARBON: “Cities are finding that nature, in the form of climate change and its risks, is altering how they can shape the future,” wrote Peter Pastrik and John Cleveland in their book about cities that are reinventing themselves to combat climate change (published in 2018)


“For centuries, architects, builders, landscapers, and city planners have tapped nature’s capabilities to absorb and channel water and to cool the air. But green infrastructure has gained significant momentum in local government planning and policy worldwide as a favored way to respond to climate change and to increase cities’ sustainability and appeal,” wrote Peter Pastrik. “As cities recognize the increased reliability, cost-effectiveness, and co-benefits of green infrastructure, they have expanded the practice from one-off projects to city-scale approaches.”

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THE CITY WITHIN A GARDEN: “Human beings need contact with nature and the natural environment. They need it to be healthy, happy, and productive and to lead meaningful lives. Nature is not optional, but an absolutely essential quality of modern urban life.” – Tim Beatley, Biophilic Cities Network


Tim Beatley is an internationally recognized sustainable city researcher and author. His writings have focused on creative strategies cities can use to reduce their ecological footprints and become more livable and equitable places. He coined the term green urbanism. “Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature,” states Tim Beatley.

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REPORT ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION & LIABILITY: How can green industry professionals such as landscape architects and designers be subject to legal liability because they fail to account for and adapt to climate impacts?


Co-authored by Deanna Moran, a report by the US-based Conservation and Law Foundation identifies three factors that contribute to climate liability risk for design professionals. “The more we talk about risks publicly, the greater the foreseeability of climate impacts, increasing potential exposure to liability,” stated Deanna Moran. “The failure of previous litigation against major greenhouse gas emitters could lead to a shift in focus on the design community as defendants when talking about the realm of climate change litigation. Standard of care is a key concept in negligence litigation.”

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