Module 9: Adaptive Management and GI

Learning Objective

  • Discuss adaptive regulatory guidelines and GI implementation.

The design and performance of traditional infrastructure has been established based on centuries of precedent. Establishing the same level of certainty for green infrastructure systems will require decades of testing, but the need for implementation is pressing and immediate. Adaptive regulatory guidelines will allow municipalities to determine more detailed performance characteristics over time and incorporate new evidence into established best practices as it becomes available. This module will explore strategies for adaptive management of GI and its potential to reduce the time it takes for proven best practices to become engineering standards and to encourage innovation without sacrificing infrastructure quality or durability.

Municipalities traditionally meet their infrastructure servicing goals through static engineering design manuals which provide specific guidance related to every aspect of municipal design and are based on decades or centuries of precedent. However the impacts of climate change are upending these precedents and making existing infrastructure obsolete. Municipalities must now design infrastructure in an environment of increasing uncertainty, requiring more adaptable regulatory frameworks. Adaptable regulatory frameworks represent a significant deviation from traditional infrastructure standards but may be well-suited to opportunistically implementing GI on public and private lands to supplement traditional infrastructure systems as needed. The uncertainty associated with green infrastructure requires municipalities to more efficiently adopt and reject designs, principles, and technologies while minimizing the risk exposure inherent to experimental public service provision. In addition to promoting climate change resilience, adaptive regulatory guidelines are essential for ensuring that GI designs are continuously updated to align with the evolving best practice of GI implementation. The Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Planning and Design Guide wiki is an excellent example of a tool that can be used to rapidly disseminate GI best practices and design guidance.

The living components of green infrastructure require a living document to regulate them. There is inherent variability in the functioning of living infrastructure and an overwhelming variety of living components to incorporate. The complexity of evaluating all the goals associated with GI is one of the greatest hurdles to its implementation. It is important that municipalities pursue training and capacity development along with design tools and guidance for internal engineering staff and private developers.

Adaptive regulatory guidelines will allow municipalities to determine these characteristics over time and incorporate new evidence and performance metrics into their established best practices. Adaptive GI allows a City to meet its performance goals while minimizing the risks of under-performing infrastructure systems and future re-development costs. Success of the adaptive management strategy is dependent on the municipalities ability to adopt and implement new guidelines in response to emerging evidence and best practices.


Learning Activities

Discussion Questions

  • What are the enabling policies and programs that support successful GI implementation? Based on your readings so far, what city is a model for working with such approaches?



Readings & Resources


Additional Resources and Citations


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Green Infrastructure in Urban Centres: Policy, Design and Practice Copyright © by Joanna Ashworth and Nick Mead-Fox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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