Green infrastructure offers promising potential for increasing the sustainability of our existing infrastructure in the Niagara Region.
Even if you haven’t heard of the term green infrastructure before, perhaps you have seen examples of it on a building around you. Ever noticed that a neighbour or local business has replaced traditional roofing with grass or living vegetation? That is just one of many great examples of green infrastructure at work.
Green infrastructure combines innovative green technology with natural vegetative systems, resulting in a wide array of social, economic and environmental benefits for the community. It includes both natural and engineered system solutions that promote healthy and rich ecosystems. Management practices that use a range of cost-effective measures to mimic the natural water cycle, manage stormwater and reduce flooding are examples of green infrastructure. Other examples include bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting and urban tree canopy.
More affordable and reliable energy systems, energy savings through efficient fixtures and renovations, reduced flooding (by increasing ground permeability), more efficient stormwater management, lower runoff, improved water quality and quantity (replenished water tables) and lower soil erosion (with increased stability from planted vegetation) are but a few examples of the benefits green infrastructure provides. It also improves local biodiversity and reduces air temperature by providing shade, and, most importantly, leads to better community health, wellbeing and local aesthetics. By restoring natural flood defence systems, more resilient and reliable energy systems, reducing heat island in urban areas and implementing natural water retention mechanisms, green infrastructure serves as an effective climate change adaptation mechanism.
Green infrastructure also creates jobs in many economic sectors including landscaping, engineering, plumbing, and design. Additionally, it lends support to various jobs associated with the manufacturing of materials such as roof membranes, rainwater harvesting systems, and permeable pavements. The Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition also reports that green infrastructure systems are 5 to 30 per cent cheaper to construct and about 25 per cent cheaper over its lifespan than conventional infrastructure of comparable performance.
In 2018, the Governments of Canada and Ontario entered into an agreement to invest more than $2.2 billion in green infrastructure projects across Ontario over the next ten years. A similar trend is also being followed in other countries such as Germany, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. It will be interesting to see the role investments in green infrastructure will play in Niagara’s transition into a more climate resilient economy.
Be sure to read our article next week, where we will focus on the various certifications and standards that specify and measure the sustainability of our buildings.
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org