Rainwater Management at BCIT: Collaboration with Local Governments Introduces Engineering Students to 'Designing with Nature'



Note to Reader:

The Department of Civil Engineering at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) is tapping into the rainwater management experience and wisdom of leading practitioners in Metro Vancouver local governments.

Richard Boase, P.Geo. from the District of North Vancouver, and David Desrochers, P.Eng. from the City of Vancouver, have both had an impact through their guest lectures in the 4th Year Stormwater Management Course. The guest lecture by Richard Boase in 2010 was the source of inspiration for a group project in 2011 to develop a Rainwater Management Plan for the BCIT campus, reports Dr. Colleen Chan, lecturer in BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment.

BCIT recently joined 26 other programs across Canada in offering nationally accredited civil engineering degrees. 


BCIT burnaby campus (590p) - satellite view


The New Mainstream

“With the realization that the traditional approach to stormwater management has the potential to cause substantial environmental damage, we are currently witnessing an Colleen chan (120p) - faculty, bcitevolution in drainage practices related to stormwater/rainwater,” states Colleen Chan.

“British Columbia is leading a paradigm shift from the traditional management of ‘storm-based’ conveyance of stormwater, to a focus on a multidisciplinary approach of rainwater management to mitigate the impacts of impervious land developments.”


Paradigm-Shift Starts in the Classroom

“The Stormwater Management course (for 4th year engineering students) in the Department of Civil Engineering at BCIT examines this paradigm shift and introduces the emergence of new concepts and technologies related to rainwater management that is becoming the mainstream practice amongst many local governments, drainage engineers, landscape architects and developers.”

“The course consists of two main components. The first component includes hydrological runoff modeling and the design of conveyance systems for the transport of the runoff during storm events. The second component of the course includes the introduction of rainwater management plans, with an emphasis on the concept of rainwater as a resource as opposed to a waste stream.”

“This year the students in the course have been given a project to develop a rainwater management plan for the BCIT Burnaby campus, with the goal of reducing the volume of runoff generated from the campus, and to utilize rainwater as a resource that can be beneficial to the campus community.”


BCIT - student class photo


Learn From the Leaders

“Richard Boase of North Vancouver District discussed the impacts of redevelopment on watershed health when careful rainwater management practices are not applied, Richard boase (120p)and provided examples of mitigating the negative impacts through the implementation of low impact development practices. In addition, Richard led the class on a field trip to several rainwater management sites in North Vancouver, and showed the class the impacts of high-volume runoff on stream health.”

David desrochers (120p)“David Desrochers from the City of Vancouver showcased Vancouver’s Country Lanes and Vancouver’s first environmentally sustainable street, Crown Street. David also emphasized the need for creative solutions in the current exciting multidisciplinary field of rainwater management.”

“Both speakers were highly enthusiastic and engaging in their presentations and discussions with the students which were immensely beneficial for the students. The interaction between the guest speakers and the students provide an important transfer of knowledge from current professional practitioner to the next generation of practitioners,” concludes Collen Chan.


Green streets in vancouver


Apply What We Have Learned

“When Colleen told me that the guest lectures that David Desrochers and I delivered last year gave her the idea for a class project this year, it gave me a little more confidence to believe that the region is innovating and adapting for greener and more water-efficient change.”

Rich boase leads bcit students on field trip (200p) - feb 2010“The class project, which is to develop a Rainwater Management Plan for the BCIT Campus, is another great example of immediate adaptation and action resulting from knowledge-transfer. Inform, educate and influence,” states Richard Boase.

“It is exciting to be told that what we are doing in the District of North Vancouver is inspiring a class of future professional engineers to view the built environment differently; and that these engineers-in-the-making are embracing a ‘design with nature’ philosophy.”

“With leadership and adaptability, BCIT has now joined universities across Canada in awarding accredited civil engineering degrees. In a nutshell: leadership and innovation is needed to achieve your goals. To become accredited, BCIT had to overcome significant challenges and barriers. Given this history, it is not surprising to me that BCIT has quickly embraced the paradigm-shift to rainwater management, and is adapting its program to reflect real-world experience,” concludes Richard Boase.

“I have been keeping track of what is happening in the region. Richard and his colleagues in the Water Balance Model Partnership are using science blended with innovative thinking and effective communications to affect a change over time with our emerging professionals,” observes Colleen Chan.

“BCIT is still producing engineers with strong backgrounds and capabilities in the traditional civil engineering disciplines. We are simply complementing these skills with knowledge and information from other ‘non-traditional’ sources.” 


Design With Nature

“The field trip with the BCIT students really brought to light the benefits of a design with nature philosophy,” emphasizes Richard Boase.  “When we design using nature’s tools, starting as close to the source as possible we are in a much better position to see the subtle changes over time, visualize how we may make things better and act.”

“We can act quickly and efficiently because the tools we are working with are right there before our eyes as opposed to underground or behind a chain link fence.”


To Learn More:

Click on Water Balance Model in the classroom: Richard Boase elaborates on new directions in urban watershed planning — British Columbia Institute of Technology was the venue for a sharing session with faculty members and 4th year students.

Click on A crucially important message in Beyond the Guidebook 2010: “We now have the tools and experience to design with nature” — So many in local government are searching for the magical ‘silver bullet’to resolve watershed issues and challenges. Yet soil, vegetation and trees can do more for our watersheds than decades of planning, consulting and complicated engineering design will ever achieve.

Click on Four largest cities in Alberta and British Columbia are “Water Balance Model Partners” — The cities of Surrey, Calgary and Vancouver welcome the City of Edmonton to the partnership.


Rich boase leads bcit students on field trip - feb 2010

Posted February 2011