OPINION PIECE: “The future of urban ecology is not dark but bright. By embracing urban ecology in the form of green infrastructure and biophilic design, we allow ourselves to work with nature, not against it,” wrote John Lieber (The Relevator, December 2018)
“People often think of urban landscapes as concrete dystopias, but the future may reside in cities that can sustain both people and nature,” wrote John Lieber. “Urban areas have a bad rep when it comes to their relationship the environment. So much so that people generally consider cities to be the opposite of nature. But our perception of urban life is changing. Much has been done to educate and engage the greater public. In turn we’ve been able see cities in a new light.”
LEADING CHANGE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Rainwater design FIRST ….then roads and buildings,” states Professor Daniel Roehr, head of the Greenskins Lab
Founded by Daniel Roehr in 2007, the ‘greenskins lab’ is a research group at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. The lab disseminates information on urban design retrofits and new approaches that improve the ecological functions of public open spaces. “Designers need easy tools when they do their first sketches. Our tool helps at the beginning of the design phase at all scales – region to garden,” stated Daniel Roehr.
DODGING DAY ZERO IN CAPETOWN: “The next step comprises the management of all water within the urban water cycle. A key component of this is rain and stormwater harvesting, which offers great growth opportunities,” stated Deputy Mayor Ian Nelson
“The City has already initiated steps towards the goal of becoming a water-sensitive city by 2040. In the City’s draft water strategy, which will be taken through an inclusive public participation process over the coming months, the use of rain and stormwater is included,” stated Ian Neilson. The first step in being able to use stormwater as a water resource was to move stormwater and river management out of the City’s transport department and into the water department. This has already been done, added Nielson.
OPINION PIECE: “Entrenched beliefs and a reluctance to change 20th century engineering practices have consistently resulted in missed opportunities to ‘get it right’,” wrote Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability (Vancouver Sun, September 2018)
“In the absence of a regulatory requirement, the process to adopt, change or evolve accepted practices is painfully slow. Reinvigoration of the provincial oversight function is essential to help local governments be effective in moving B.C. towards restorative land development,” wrote Kim Stephens. “The good news is that – starting with ‘Living Water Smart, B.C.’s Water Plan’ in 2008 – a provincial policy, program and regulatory framework is in place to achieve this desired outcome.”
NEW REPORT FROM INTACT CENTRE ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION: “Too Small to Fail – How Communities Can Prepare for Bigger Storms”
A featured project is the Across Canada Workshop Series, led by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, to showcase the online Water Balance Model Express. “The Partnership has many online tools for assessing site-specific conditions which are available for free or available through a free trial,” stated Dr. Blair Feltmate. “Whether a project team is interested in setting watershed-specific performance targets or a homeowner would like to learn about water flow on their property, there are tools for various types of projects which may be helpful at different stages of a project.”
SUSTAINABLE WATERSHED SYSTEMS: An understanding of Daniel Pauly’s “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” is a foundation piece for reconnecting hydrology and ecology, and turning the clock back to move towards restorative development
The phrase Shifting Baseline Syndrome describes an incremental eroding of standards that results with each new generation lacking knowledge of the historical, and presumably more natural, condition of the environment. Each generation then defines what is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ according to current conditions and personal experiences. “Every generation will use the images that they got at the beginning of their conscious lives as a standard and will extrapolate forward. And the difference then, they perceive as a loss. But they don’t perceive what happened before as a loss,” stated Daniel Pauly.
Leading Change on Canada’s Prairies: A unique rain garden has been installed along the perimeter of Harvest Townhomes, which the developer says is a first in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
“West Coast style has migrated to the prairies at Harvest Townhomes, designed and constructed by Arbutus Properties in its popular community, The Meadows,” wrote Jeannie Armstrong. “The Harvest Townhomes development has above-ground 3-storey townhomes with colourful exteriors and attached garages, a style more typical of Vancouver than Saskatoon. When fully built out, Harvest Townhomes will comprise over 225 units. A unique rain garden, developed in consultation with the University of Saskatchewan, has also been installed along the perimeter of Harvest Townhomes.”
VIDEO: “Maximum Extent Practicable, or MEP, has become the definitional driver for a lot of what we do,” said Andy Reese, engineer and writer who coined the term Voodoo Hydrology in 2006 to explain the pitfalls inherent in urban drainage practice
“Years ago I was privileged to travel around the US with EPA putting on seminars,” stated Andy Reese in 2011. “Three off-the-cuff words have probably have had the biggest impact in influencing land design of any sort of regulatory program that ever was, and perhaps that ever will be. Those three words were maximum, extent and practicable. Back then, none of those words were capitalized. They were just a made-up term. But MEP is now taking on green infrastructure overtones, sustainability overtones, LID overtones, and on and on.”
Stream daylighting would reconnect community to Mississippi River: Redevelopment of historic Ford car assembly site in Saint Paul, Minnesota offers potential for “A 21st Century Community”
There once was a creek running through the St. Paul land where Henry Ford built his Twin Cities Assembly Plant. The project will reintroduce area residents to the Mississippi River.“We know we have a new neighborhood and how do we allow the existing neighbors and new neighbors to physically connect with the river as a resource?” he asked. “This is so powerful, because it’s also a way to have people reconnect with the urban ecosystem and the downstream river.”
Global runoff volumes are increasing dramatically, according to a new Columbia University study (2018): “Our findings can help provide scientific guidance for infrastructure and ecosystem resilience planning and could help formulate strategies for tackling climate change,” stated Dr. Pierre Gentine
Columbia Engineering researchers have demonstrated that stormwater runoff extremes have been dramatically increasing in response to climate change and other anthropogenic changes to the environment. The researchers also found that storm runoff has a stronger response than precipitation to human-induced changes (climate change, land-use land-cover changes, etc). “Our work helps explain the underlying physical mechanisms related to the intensification of precipitation and runoff extremes,” Pierre Gentine said. “