A PLAN FOR RAINY DAYS: “An exacting attention to natural patterns was a core innovation of the Fused Grid and Water Balance approaches,” stated Fanis Grammenos, former Senior Researcher with the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation, and an urban sustainability thinker

Note to Reader:

1987 is the year that the Brundtland Commission released its report with the modern definition of sustainable development. The ripple effects continue to this day. In the 1990s, it turned out, Fanis Grammenos and Kim Stephens were working on parallel paths to figure out what sustainability could look like in the built environment. In the early 2000s, their paths intersected. An outcome of our collaboration, A Plan for Rainy Days – Water Runoff and Site Planningwas published as part of the CMHC Research Highlight series.

Two neighbourhoods of the Stratford Secondary Plan laid out following the Fused Grid model.


CMHC Research Highlight describes Water Balance Model application to Stratford Case Study

In 2004, the City of Stratford (population 30,000) in Ontario approved a secondary plan for a future city expansion area of 155 ha, based on an evaluation of three plans, one of which was derived from the CMHC (Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation) planning model, the Fused Grid.

Since all three plans protected site watercourses and included stormwater management ponds as a requirement, the evaluation criteria did not include rainwater runoff impacts. In 2006, CMHC initiated a supplementary case study to assess the potential for reducing or eliminating rainwater runoff from the development area.

The case study involved application of the Water Balance Model for Canada, with the goal of enabling planners, developers and municipal officials to make informed choices about the most effective ways to retain more water and reduce or prevent runoff, which promotes groundwater infiltration and regeneration of the water supply.

A Plan for Rainy Days

“In the early 2000s, entirely new priorities, along with old ones, were being staked at every corner of the planning universe. City planners, traffic engineers, environmental advocates, community leaders, interest groups, future residents and, importantly, developers plied their own imperatives, singular among them rainwater management,” recalled Fanis Grammenos in an interview in 2021.

“A tangled web of interacting variables emerged from these demands; a truly formidable, complex puzzle: How to lay out a large subdivision that optimizes outcomes for each proponent’s priorities. Enter the Water Balance and the Fused Grid models. An exacting attention to natural patterns was a core innovation of both our approaches.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of A Plan for Rainy Days – Water Runoff and Site Planning. The article was a collaborative effort of CMHC’s Fanis Grammenos and Kim Stephens, Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

Nine distinct 16 hectare neighbourhoods with diverse networks (left) and a perspective view  of one down the park axis. All have connected cul-de-sacs or loops.


The Agony and Ecstasy of Innovation

“During the 1990s, being tasked to understand, define and communicate the essential attributes of a sustainable neighbourhood, and by extension a town or city, I drove unknowingly down separate conceptual cul-de-sacs of perfection – and merciless division, as I found out,” stated Fanis Grammenos when providing background on the genesis of the Fused Grid.

“In each altar of rectitude there were objects of unquestionable adoration, pristine beauty, goodness and benefaction. One was the rectilinear Grid, resting on ancient texts. The grid sparkled as altogether good because it is simple, repeatable and ‘legible’ – anyone could draw or navigate a grid; ‘no prior planning experience required’.”

“The sacred image in another altar was nature, not the abstract subject of a botanist, but the presence and experience of it. Neighbourhood plans that excluded nature either by intent or default failed the preference grade and sold at factory outlet discounts or, in cases, as boutique products.”

“Plans that included substantial areas of natural features, were swiftly disparaged as ‘picturesque’, ‘bucolic’; highly irregular, confusing aberrations, enemies of the city, drawn by villains seeking profit at the expense of the ‘common good’. ‘Wasteful use of land’ was the main indictment.”

“Since these plans normally featured cul-de-sacs, these became the face and presumed instrument of destruction, and consequently, the object of vilification. Why such a lowly element in the scheme of things bore such overwhelming burden? Because, the argument went, they were not connected! The light went on one more and final time: WELL THEN, CONNECT THEM!  – and connect them we did (in 1998).”

“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. The break came faster than anticipated. First, Stratford, Ontario approved a Secondary Plan for newly annexed lands and then, in quick succession, Calgary approved the Saddlestone Development Plan.”

To Learn More:

For background on the Fused Grid, visit: https://waterbucket.ca/gi/category/design_with_nature/fused-grid/

For more Fused Grid images, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22392855@N08/albums/72157612393017935

Saddleton Community, Calgary