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Apr 29

Green Infrastructure – What is Green Infrastructure?

Green Infrastructure What is a Green Infrastructure?

Green Infrastructure What is a Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure – What is green infrastructure you ask? It is the interconnected network of open spaces and natural areas, such as greenways, wetlands, parks, forest preserves and native plant vegetation, that manages stormwater, reduces flooding risk and improves water quality naturally. This infrastructure usually costs less to install and maintain when compared to traditional forms of unnatural infrastructure. These natural infrastructure projects also can engage community cohesiveness by encouraging all community residents to get involved in the planning, planting and maintenance of the sites.

Green infrastructure (GI) is an approach that communities can choose to maintain healthy waters, provide multiple environmental benefits and support more sustainable communities. Unlike our current model of single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure, which utilizes a network of pipes and drains to dispose of rainwater, a GI uses natural and native vegetation and soil to manage the rainwater right where it falls. By weaving natural processes into the built environment, green infrastructure provides not only stormwater management, but also flood mitigation, air quality management, and many more potential benefits.

Currently our infrastructure has reached it’s useful limits, and is reaching the end of it’s structural lifetime which leaves us currently facing the issues of much of our major infrastructure is in need of replacement or repair. With the plunge of the economy in 2008-09, it left most major communities in poor financial condition, not to mention a steep decline in revenues, leaving them strapped for cash and looking for ways to cut spending, meaning they can’t afford the bills to repair or replace the current infrastructure woes. At this time it makes not only financial sense, but long term sense to find more resilient and affordable solutions that meet many objectives all at once, and in this case, green infrastructure is one viable, long term solution that fits the bill here.

What is Green Infrastructure

Elements of a green infrastructure

Elements of a green infrastructure

Green infrastructure consists of strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, working landscapes and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functionality and provide the associated benefits of natural and native ecosystems to human populations.

The foundation of GI networks are just as any other ecosystem, their natural elements – woodlands, wetlands, rivers, grasslands – that work together as a whole to sustain ecological values and functions, just as in any ecosystem. A healthy, fully functioning natural or restored ecological system is essential to ensure the availability of the network’s ecological services.

Additional elements and functions can then be added to the network, depending on the desires and needs of it’s designers, such as working lands, trails along with other recreational features, including cultural and historic sites. These can all be incorporated into working green infrastructure networks that contribute to the health and quality of life for not only America’s communities, but to the wildlife that also benefits from these systems. This is not limited to America however, as this is a global development strategy that can, and should be implemented worldwide.

roadside swale

roadside swale

gi-stormwater_bioswale

GI stormwater bioswale

epa-managing-wet-weather-with-green-infrastructure

EPA managing wet weather naturally with a green infrastructure

Oakland County GI Planning

Oakland County GI Planning

A Strategic Approach to Land Conservation

As we developed our lands back in the day, most developers and planners did not consider the environment or it’s importance and completely disregarded it, if not just plowed over it. Just as we must address this form of irresponsible, haphazard development, we must also address haphazard conservation efforts, or conservation activities that are reactive, site-specific, narrowly focused, or not integrated with other ecofriendly efforts to restore ecosystems. We must now implement a smart growth strategy to strategically direct and influence the patterns of land development, just as we need “smart conservation” to strategically direct our nation’s and the worlds conservation practices. Green infrastructure can provide a viable solution that not only ensures environmental protection and a higher quality of life within communities, but also can serve as a regulatory platform for landowners and investors.

Green Infrastructure at Multiple Scales

While GI planning typically occurs on a broad ‘landscape scale,’ elements of the over-arching network can be found at all scales, from state-wide, to the county, city, and parcel/site scale. Critical elements of the implementation strategy, such as low-impact development practices (LID), conservation developments, green/grey interface, etc., are all necessary key components in the implementation of any successful GI plan, and are frequently found at the site/parcel scale.

GI Planning

GI Planning

GI Planning Diagram

GI Planning Diagram

NYC GI Plan

NYC GI Plan

GI Managing Water

GI Managing Water

  • Green Roofs:
    • Depending on rain intensity and greenroof soil depths, anywhere’s from 15 to 90 percent of runoff can be absorbed, which considerably reduces runoff and potential pollutants from traditional impervious roofing surfaces like shingles and tiles or wood shake.
      • Overall building energy costs can be reduced due to the greenroofs’ natural thermal insulation properties which in turn leads to structures that are cooler in the warm summer months and warmer in the cold winter months.

    Green Roofs

    Green Roofs

    Green Roofs Terraces

    Green Roofs Vancouver Terraces

    • Greenways:
      • Greenways are either public or private corridors of open space which often follow natural land or water features and which are primarily managed to protect and enhance existing natural resources and ecosystems.
      • Streambanks along trails & greenways provide more surface area for natural absorption to lessen necessary sewer capacity.
      • Trees slow down and clean water before it enters a stream or sewer systems.
      • Additional benefits of Greenways: Increased tourism and opportunities for physical activity as well as increased property values.

    New Los Angeles Greenways

    New Los Angeles Greenways

    Greenways

    Greenways

    Green Ft. Lauderdale Greenways and Trails

    Green Ft. Lauderdale Greenways and Trails

    Raleigh NC Greenways East of Atlantic Ave

    Raleigh NC Greenways East of Atlantic Ave

    • Native Landscaping:
      • Native landscaping attracts a variety of birds, butterflies and other animals, supporting biodiversity.
      • Native landscaping, just like the name implies, is native to the area, thus greatly reducing, if not eliminating maintenance costs. It also garners more native wildlife to the area, giving it that extra potential for tourist attractions or even just local attractions.
      • Once established, native plants and landscapes do not need fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or watering, thus benefiting the environment and reducing maintenance costs.

    Native Landscaping

    Native Landscaping

    Texas Home Native Landscaping

    Texas Home Native Landscaping

    • Porous Pavement:
      • Reduces impervious areas
      • Aids in recharging the groundwater
      • Improves local water quality
      • Can help to reduce stormwater drainage and demand on sewage systems
      • Eliminates the need for detention basins

    Porous Pavement in Background, Non porous foreground

    Porous Pavement in Background, Non porous foreground

    Porous Pavement Concrete Diagram

    Porous Pavement Concrete Diagram

    • Raingardens:
      • A rain garden is a man-made depression in the ground that is used as a landscape tool to improve water quality and reduce local flooding. The rain garden forms a natural “bioretention area” by collecting water runoff and storing it, permitting it be filtered and slowly absorbed by the soil.
        • Rain gardens recharge groundwater sources, meaning that fewer pipes need to be installed to move water around the region.
        • They help protect communities from flooding and drainage overflow and provide valuable wildlife habitat.
        • Additional benefit: Less maintenance costs than traditional forms of landscaping.

    Rain Garden

    Rain Garden

    Raingarden Diagram

    Raingarden Diagram

    Raingardens Poster

    Raingardens Poster

    Yard Raingardens Diagram

    Yard Raingardens Diagram

    Yard Raingardens

    Yard Raingardens

    • Swales:
      • Swales typically have several advantages over conventional storm water management practice, such as storm sewer systems.
        • The reduction of peak flows
        • The removal of pollutants
        • The promotion of runoff infiltration
        • Lower capital costs

    Seattle Streetside Swale

    Seattle Streetside Swale

    swale

    swale

    swale-diagram-color

    Swale Diagram Color

    Swale Diagram

    Swale Diagram

    • Trees:
      • Tree windbreaks reduce residential heating and cooling costs by an estimated 10 to as much as 50 percent.
      • Trees help to reduce air pollution and CO² and there also is increasing evidence that they play a role in reducing crime, however this is not proven at this point, so we will stick with reducing air pollution.
      • Unlike sewers and the aging, existing infrastructure, trees will appreciate in value and require less maintenance as they age, and when they die, they can be recycled in numerous ways, including mulch, adding to the overall benefit to the environment.

    Bright Green Trees

    Bright Green Trees

    Trees

    Trees

    GI Trees 2

    GI Trees 2

    Trees GI

    Trees GI

    • Wetlands Restoration:
      • Wetlands are areas where the water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
        • Unlike our right wing friends who would lead us to believe we are a bunch of eco-terrorists regarding wetlands, not only do they capture and slow running water and improving overall water quality, wetlands also provide an invaluable wildlife habitat and give us great recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, increased protections from storms (reduced natural wetlands that once acted as barriers could have decreased hurricane Katrina’s overall damage), just to mention a few.

    Great Egret Everglades, One of the largest wetlands in the world, if not the largest

    Great Egret Everglades, One of the largest wetlands in the world, if not the largest

    Coastal Wetlands like these could have spared New Orleans some devastation from hurricane Katrina

    Coastal Wetlands like these could have spared New Orleans some devastation from hurricane Katrina

    GI Wetlands Values

    GI Wetlands Values

    Green Infrastructure Wetlands

    Green Infrastructure Wetlands

    Resources:

    We hope we have answered your question of what is green infrastructure and given you a better understanding of a green infrastructure, as it will be important as we move forward. If we utilize gi, we can achieve a better, more ecofriendly infrastructure that will incorporate local ecosystems into our world and vice-verse, making our relationship with nature stronger and giving us more benefits as we save money, energy, and time, not to mention a good place to enjoy nature right in our own neighborhoods! Peace my friends!

1 comment

  1. pimnunihus cenname
    this is what the emerlads finest is all about, as well as organic produces, representing the indigineous population worldwide.

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