Report: Dutch Canadian Trade Mission
Resilient cities and buildings
The challenges around climate change are evident. There is a need to built resilient, sustainable and above all healthy cities and buildings in order to cope with the effects of climate change. But where do you start and most important how do you convince people that it is necessary to act now rather than later? Hence, the consequences of climate change manifest themselves very slowly and are only felt when it affects people directly. For instance the flooding of your own home or being without power for hours. After all the scientific papers and figures published about the effects and costs of climate change, it is time to take action and make our cities and buildings more adaptable to climate change. Therefore, it helps to remember that climate change also has a more “human” side to it. Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, emphasizes during his speech at the Canadian – Netherlands Resilient Cities Summit that in the end, it is not about politics, a sustainability policy or the professionals who come up with smart solutions for water management and climate adaptation, but about the society and the people who are part of it. That leaves us with the question of how to reach that society and enable them to collaborate together on addressing climate change. Part of the answer is by changing the culture and the storyline from “doing less harm to do doing more good”, as said by Professor Raymond Cole who works at the University of British Columbia and who spoke at the Canadian Green Building Conference in Vancouver. Both conferences were part of the Dutch trade mission to Toronto and Vancouver led by the Dutch Minster Ploumen on 26th of May until the 4th of June 2015. In conjunction with the trade mission there was also a state visit to Canada by the Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in honor of 70 years of liberation by the Canadians.
The lessons learned:
- Provide a comprehensive regional climate adaptation strategy in which all the different actors and various disciplines are involved to reach viable adaptation solutions at regional, but also at local level. Connecting other objectives to the strategy helps to create more value in addressing climate adaptation. An example is the revitalization of the Toronto waterfront, wherein the recovery of the water storage capacity is combined with spatial developments.
- Do not try to fight or control flooding in the urban design, but try adaptation strategies. For example make room to store (rain) water in case of a flood by designing a park that is able to hold on to rain water, purify it and use the grey water for other functions in the spatial development surrounding the park.
- Change the storyline from green to regenerative. Green building strategies, performance goals and assessment methods currently emphasize the ways you should reduce the degenerative consequences of human activity on the health and integrity of ecological systems. The notion of regenerative sustainability is focusing more on positive, complementary and engaging ways to move forward.
The trade mission in Toronto was mainly focused on water and flood management. The city suffers from heavy rainfall, flooding of the Don River and severe droughts in the summer. All these climate related incidents affect the livability of the city, the wellbeing of its inhabitants and not to mention all the physical damage it causes. The city of Toronto is searching for new and innovative ways to prevent or minimize these climate related incidents. Examples are the public parks Corktown Common and Sherbourne Common in which water design solutions are combined with a park and recreation opportunities.
Vancouver is dedicated to becoming the greenest city by 2020. Therefore the trade mission in Vancouver emphasized on sustainable neighborhood development and sustainable ‘green’ buildings. During the Canadian Green Building Conference delegates had the opportunity to explore new innovative design solutions, learn more about green building certificates such as LEED and the Living Building Challenge, the process of retrofits, and regenerative neighborhood design. During the trade mission the Canadian Green Building Council and the Dutch Green Building Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which they agree to cooperate more closely and share more knowledge and expertise about sustainable urban development.
In addition, due to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadians, the Dutch government and businesses made seventy scholarships available for Canadian students to study in The Netherlands. As a sign of gratitude by the Canadians, there are also ten scholarships available for Dutch students to study in Canada.