Getting green right is the theme behind the CNLA Landscape Standard that debuted in Vancouver. Developed as a collaborative effort with Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, the document includes region specific supplements. The Landscape Standard is meant to serve as “the single authoritative resource on the desk of everyone in the landscape industry in Canada.”
In setting the stage for the launch of the Standard, CNLA member associations discussed obstacles and opportunities for the green industry to be positioned as part of the solution for federal, provincial and municipal government as they deal with tougher and tougher environmental issues at an all-day Landscape Summit.
How can the green industry help to turn the desire from the public for more green and living space into a value proposition for the public? What would it look like for plants and green to be valued by the public? And can that value be institutionalized so that it’s hardwired as part of the construction, and long-term maintenance process of build spaces? Is it possible to give plants and green space primacy in the process? Rather than being an afterthought?
As several pointed out during discussions, the opportunity is to convince politicians that the industry is positive environmentally, that together we have natural solutions for tough problems: That governments don’t have to build big pipes. To do it the group determined more data about the specific ways plants function in the landscape is needed to position vegetated solutions in the minds of engineers and politicians. The constructed landscape can be evaluated over its lifetime for ecosystems services such as how much water it will infiltrate, how much CO2 it will store, etc. If plants can help solve climate change and address other environmental issues for which governments spend money to address, then the industry needs research to prove it, thus quantifying the value of “living” green infrastructure.
Industry firms must also take a look inside their own operations and ask hard questions about sustainability, ensuring they are energy efficient, especially regarding the carbon footprint of the landscape maintenance side of the business.
There’s a realization that while plants may be thought of as good, unless it’s mandated by law or regulation the talk is just that, talk. Plants as living green infrastructure have to become part of the development standard so that the cost becomes a part of doing the project. One member made the comparison to making safety part of the culture of the construction trades. Today safety is second nature. The living green infrastructure goal would be for the entire land development chain—from planners to street maintenance crews and utility workers—to see trees and the living landscape as vital functioning infrastructure.
Climate change may be as one member said, the pony the industry can ride to be part of the solution. Justin Trudeau’s election as Prime Minister and renewed national focus on environmental issues provide a window of opportunity timing for the industry to assert its benefits to decision makers in the managed urban environment.
NewTerrain April 5, 2016.