For the past twenty years, the understanding that impervious surface cover as the main causal factor for the ‘flashier’ runoff response of urbanized watersheds, has been the major focus of integrated water-land planning. Such a view however, ignores other processes by which flashy runoff response may be induced through urbanization. Better understanding of specific runoff production processes and broader views of green infrastructure planning are needed.
Often, taking a wider, multidisciplinary perspective on urban problems can lead to criticism of being a so-called “jack of all trades master of none” . We must reject this notion if we truly believe the urban problems are not only multifaceted, but require integrated, multidisciplinary approaches to define. The solutions must not just be combinations of the economist’s solution, the engineer’s solution, and a sociologist’s solution, just as definition of the problem cannot just come from one field. Solutions must be a synthesis, and we must believe that together, these viewpoints are more than the sum of their parts. There are great thinkers who have done this. They have successfully defined hyphenated areas of inquiry.
On Jan 8th, I attended a one-day workshop organized by the nonprofit NJ Future, the NJ DEP and the US EPA in Newark, NJ called “Reinvesting in Urban Water Infrastructure through Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plans.” Contrary to how technical and engineering-heavy as the name of the workshop might seem to imply, the experience highlighted a major trend in infrastructure planning, function, and operation and management: decentralization. Gone are the days of the heroic engineer-city planners, yielding the Promethean control of nature, and as a result, over other people. This workshop was a representative of the parties that need to be involved in the research, reinvestment, and implementation of water infrastructure upgrades all over the United States.
New Jersey is at a very special crossroads with respect to its response to the EPA’s National Combined Sewer Overflow Strategy (1987) and the CSO Control Policy (1994). While larger cities such as New York City and Washington DC are well underway, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection is in the midst of issuing new permits for the 21 communities in NJ with combined sewer overflows. This is an exciting time for NJ, because despite being somewhat behind other cities in the implementation of the CSO Control Policy, it has the opportunity to utilize the lessons learned from other communities’ implementation, and to do so in a proactive, collaborative way.
As I mention in a previous post, there is much appeal to utilizing ecological models and frameworks to understand phenomenon that one might not immediately associate with the field of biological ecology. In this article I outline how the framework of infrastructural ecology can help the analysis and conceptual design for site sustainability and resilience.
“Infrastructure” is a term that is evolving in itself to include more than the pipes, wires, rails and roads that we normally think of when we think of “infrastructure”.
It’s undoubtedly a buzzword of sustainable development, but what does it really refer to? I’ve identified two main “schools” of green infrastructure thought: the city-centric school and the natural resource-centric school. These two schools focus on different, yet complementary aspects of sustainable development. In the former, green infrastructure refers to the action of “greening” existing infrastructure that serves cities. The emphasis is on city resource, material, energy, and even economic flows. In the latter school, green infrastructure refers to the the action of “infrastructuring” greenness, or the systematization and rationalization of natural and working open space planning. Here, the emphasis is on acknowledgment and protection of ecological services and natural resources that support humans from outside urban areas.
A few events– specifically the Legacy and Innovation forum at UPenn back in October, and a session I attended during Greenbuild last week called “Innovative Governance for One–Water: Research and Action Plan”– have been solidifying the idea for me that legacy includes much more than aging physical structures. Perhaps even more challenging are the regulatory and institutional frameworks developed to complement the physical networks.
Here, an interesting question arises. Is the district/neighborhood scale inherently “more sustainable”, or is this scale “more sustainable” simply because it is more likely to be implemented?