Green Infrastructure in the City

February 26, 2020
The vision, goals and objectives of the Vancouver’s Rain City Strategy
A rain garden built by the North Shore Rain Garden Project

Written by Teghan Acres

Nick Mead-Fox began his career studying to be an engineer at McGill University. His passion for making a positive impact on the planet led him to concentrate on civil and environmental engineering. After his undergrad program, he worked as a water resources engineering consultant with a focus on green infrastructure (GI) design and implementation. As a consultant, Mead-Fox found that many municipalities are unfamiliar with GI and have existing policies that inhibit its implementation.  To help municipalities remove these barriers, he decided to build his skill set. So, he moved to British Columbia to pursue his Master’s Degree in Resource Environment Management and work with the Pacific Water Research Centre (PWRC) to create change through public policy.  

Mead-Fox has been with the PWRC since September 2019 and has been balancing his studies with working for the City of Vancouver in their GI implementation branch. Vancouver is progressive in their approach to GI with leading standards that push the municipality towards immediate implementation. The City defines GI as “an approach to water management that mimics the natural water cycle by reducing and treating rainwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits.” The current system of highly paved urban spaces puts high pressure on stormwater systems during heavy rainfall events. The impermeable paved infrastructure forces precipitation to flow into drains and can overwhelm the system. GI has the ability to reduce this stress by absorbing and filtering water through natural systems of plants and soils. This approach is an important part of future plans as climate change is projected to increase the yearly precipitation that Vancouver experiences.

Mead-Fox is passionate about GI and wants to help municipalities realize the many potential benefits of GI systems that can contribute to enhanced water security and urban well-being, such as rainwater management, improved mental health, habitat restoration, improved air quality, shoreline resiliency, and a reduction of the urban heat island effect.

A key part of the City’s rainwater management and GI planning is adaptive management, which brings flexibility and adaptability. Mead-Fox is leading his research with this principle and is currently studying cases of adaptive GI implementation around the world to inform the City of best practices and key learnings. This work will help create a policy recommendation for application of adaptive management to improve the performance of GI systems and increase the adoption of innovative technologies. His research will result in direct benefits to engineers implementing GI in the private and public sector. Greener cities will not only build climate resilience, but create more beautiful spaces for us to live, work and play in.   

Are you interested in learning more and getting involved with green infrastructure in your community? You can adopt a catch basin through the City of Vancouver to protect against flooding in your community.  You can also volunteer for the Green Streets program by tending to a garden at traffic circles and street corners. You can also browse through the City of Vancouver’s Rain City Strategy and Rainwater Management Bulletin documents.  

The Pacific Water Research Center is leading a GI community initiative called the North Shore Rain Garden Project. Rain gardens filter rainwater through natural systems to ease pressure on municipal stormwater systems and improve water quality. They can also protect creeks and increase climate resilience. The goal of this project is to empower communities to address the impacts of flooding on ecosystems, property and stormwater systems. Learn more here.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will introduce the research that the PWRC is conducting and the leading researcher. Follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more and stay up to date with our activities.   

We respectfully acknowledge that the PWRC operates on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.