The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) believes that both green and grey infrastructure projects are needed in Ontario. A blanket approach cannot be used province-wide to plan, sustain or repair municipal assets.
OSPE reiterated this position in a Financial Post Letter to the Editor published on February 5. As a member-based advocacy organization, OSPE allows the engineering community to share research and collectively prepare recommendations for government. As part of this process, OSPE collaborates with other organizations and experts to ensure our data and messaging is sound.
On January 30, OSPE hosted a green infrastructure roundtable with professional engineers and representatives from the insurance industry, environmental groups and conservation authorities. This event provided OSPE’s Infrastructure Task Force, represented by its Chair, Mehemed Delibasic, P.Eng., with the opportunity to hear from other engineers and organizations working in the field. These discussions will help inform OSPE’s activities going forward, which will continue to stimulate public discussion and help government make informed decisions.
Speakers and panelists included:
- Deborah Martin-Downs, Chair of Green Infrastructure Ontario
- Sameer Dhalla, P.Eng., Associate Director, Engineering Services, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
- Claudia Verno, Director, Policy, Natural Catastrophe and Climate Change and Craig Stewart, VP Federal Affairs, Insurance Bureau of Canada
- Robert Muir, P.Eng., Manager, Stormwater, Environmental Services Department, City of Markham
- Ron Scheckenberger, P.Eng., Principal, Wood
- Fabian Papa, P.Eng., Consulting Engineer, Hydratek & Associates
- Matt Wilson, P.Eng., Water Resources Engineer, Stormwater Utility, Engineering Services Division, City of Kitchener
- Steve Auger, P.Eng., Coordinator, Stormwater Management, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
- Bill Trenouth, EIT, Program Manager, Integrated Water Management Division, Credit Valley Conservation
- Michelle Molnar, Technical Director, Municipal Natural Assets Initiative
- Kevin Rich, Head of Industry and Government Relations-Ontario, Ducks Unlimited Canada
- Clara Blakelock, Manager of Water Programs, Green Communities Canada
- Tim Van Seters, Senior Manager, Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
Some of the key themes discussed included:
Cost and Benefit Analysis
- More reliable data that adequately considers the costs and benefits of green infrastructure is needed.
- A comprehensive assessment of the financial, environmental and social costs and benefits of both grey and green infrastructure is required to properly conduct a full cost-benefit analysis.
- It is important to understand and take into account both positive and negative externalities when assessing the impact of both grey and green infrastructure.
- Green infrastructure is less predictable than grey infrastructure, and in many ways harder to quantify because some benefits are more intangible. Not all land “performs” equally, and therefore the long-term benefits of green infrastructure may vary.
Grey vs. Green?
- Most experts and engineers present at the roundtable recognized the fact that the current rhetoric of grey vs. green infrastructure is not constructive.
- Green and grey infrastructure are complimentary and can enhance each other.
- A project by project analysis is important to determine what type of infrastructure is required given a specific set of variables.
- Low Impact Development (LID) can be used to increase capacity and offset the pressures on existing infrastructure.
- “Natural” or green infrastructure should be considered alongside grey infrastructure solutions at all levels of government as a way of limiting flood risk across jurisdictions.
- Green infrastructure can help to offset other risks and consequences of climate events, including declining biodiversity, increasing temperatures, forest fires, ice storms, wind storms, etc.
- Green Infrastructure adapts better to changes in climate, while grey infrastructure is very susceptible and can be negatively impacted by these events.
Throughout OSPE’s roundtable, there was a clear consensus that more frequent and severe flooding is stressing Ontario’s existing infrastructure, and therefore there is a need to better mitigate and adapt. Some steps that need to be taken include:
- Municipalities must understand the need to adapt to changing weather patterns and consider innovative solutions, taking into account solutions that could be delivered by both grey and green infrastructure.
- There is a need to better educate the general public about the opportunity and possibility green infrastructure has in addressing weather-related events. This means that there must be a cultural shift that provides the public with a better understanding of how natural features can provide essential services.
- Provincial and municipal governments need to understand that grey infrastructure cannot be placed everywhere, and that investment has to be sustainable.
- Elected officials must also understand that there is risk in not acting, and that the current infrastructural state in the province is not suited to deal with intense weather patterns.
As a member-based advocacy organization, OSPE allows the engineering community to share research and collectively prepare recommendations for government. As part of this process, OSPE collaborates with other organizations and experts to ensure our data and messaging is sound.
Active discussions amongst our members and other stakeholders through roundtables such as this will continue to be an important forum to hear from experts and drive our evidence-based policy recommendations. OSPE is planning to host more advocacy roundtables in 2019, where experts can come together to share their research and views on a number of issues facing Ontario.
Our next roundtable will be in April in Toronto, hosted by our Research and Innovation Task Force. More details to come.
Do you work in green infrastructure? What solutions should be implemented to help municipalities cope with population growth, development and changing weather patterns?