How do you move living green infrastructure forward? In Ontario, one way is through design charrettes targeting specific cities. On the invitation list for a series of one-day design charrettes that bust through disciplinary silos: engineers, landscape architects, conservationists, developers, politicians, environmental activists, horticulture industry and others. Not only did they show up, but they paid $50 to participate. The events, funded by the Metcalfe Association, were conducted in cooperation of the Ontario Parks Association, Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition, Horticultural Trades Association Landscape Ontario and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.
Paul Ronan, Executive Director, Ontario Parks Association, told the Green Cities Conference that members of the audience in each charrette location was divided into multi-disciplinary teams to tackle specific projects within the community. In several cases, the project was already on the drawing board, ready to implement and teams examined plans through a green infrastructure lens. How could living green infrastructure transform the community? What would it cost? What is the return on investment? How does it happen with limited resources?
Charrette teams used metrics that enabled them to incorporate green infrastructure benefits, such as biodiversity/wildlife habitat, stormwater management, CO2 sequestration, energy savings, job growth, tax revenue, urban food production and others, with capital cost and annual maintenance as important parameters. The goal: by the end of the day the team had to have a detailed plan for the project. The process helped everyone involved understand costs and benefits of green infrastructure and how it could be incorporated into the community. Charrettes were conducted in Vaughan, Oshawa, London, Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton.
In one city, teams inspired a developer that was present to change his plans once he saw what the project “could look like.”
Paul inspired the audience telling them how the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition (GIOC) lobbied to get the Province of Ontario to include green infrastructure in its Provincial Policy Statement in 2014. As a result, today 18 of 103 official plans in Ontario include green infrastructure (all were developed since then). Paul said the city of Ottawa mentions green infrastructure once and Toronto twice in their official plans. The Niagara Region mentions green infrastructure several times as the business, residential and political communities recognize the importance of tourists visiting gardens to the local economy. The GIOC continues to press the Province on including vegetation/living green infrastructure in its green infrastructure strategies that are being developed for climate change adaptation and stormwater LID. Ultimately, GIOC would like to tap into Ontario’s $130 billion (Canadian) in infrastructure funding.
Green Infrastructure Design Charrette: Making the Business Case for Green Infrastructure Investment in Your Community – Final Report.
NewTerrain April 16, 2016.