Aggregating assets into comprehensive portfolios is paramount to wise investing. It’s necessary in order to maximize returns and effectively distribute risk. It’s also necessary to attract the level of investment needed to get green infrastructure adoption to scale. We must shift away from a system of one-off green projects and begin developing comprehensive, large-scale, programs that effectively integrate green and grey solutions to deliver the maximum benefits to communities and investors.
• Acknowledge that green is not going to replace grey. Yes, it is a multi-purpose approach to service delivery, but green infrastructure is not always the right option. Come to a shared agreement that it is the best solution in some cases, not in others. While it is the best-performing and most cost-effective way to meet a variety of service-delivery goals, and it comes with a suite of added benefits, it is not a fix all, and in some cases traditional infrastructure is the better option. The goal is to optimize implementation of grey and green assets as part of a comprehensive portfolio, and to use the additional benefits of green assets to sway individual project decisions toward green when the two are seemingly equally good or closely comparable.
• Define ownership. Maintenance is consistently cited as one – if not the – primary barrier to adoption and implementation. The popular narrative asserts that maintaining green infrastructure is more difficult and costlier than maintaining grey assets. However, our research (our own economic analyses and stakeholder accounts) indicates that this is not necessarily true, and that the central question is really more about ownership. An asset that benefits the bottom line of many is difficult to assign ownership (i.e. responsibility) to. This must be clearly defined and documented at the outset, so that maintenance can be incorporated into some entity’s daily operations, just as it is for other assets.
• Enlist experts and stakeholders to conduct a regulatory review. Even the best program design can be stopped in its tracks by outdated policy and hundred-year-old codes. The codes and standards that regulate development need to be updated to better fit current and future urban realities. The goal is to identify – from a variety of perspectives - what’s preventing implementation and what could make the process smoother. Some fixes will be simpler than others, but it’s critical to include a comprehensive group of stakeholders to understand how rules and regulations contribute to the big picture rather than just one department or agency. Outside experts can facilitate and draw on diverse experiences with other municipalities, and developers and contractors need a seat at the table.
• Augment code with incentives. Code change is a long, arduous process of compromises, and there will inevitably still be gaps when it is over. Fill those gaps with incentives. A combination of carrots and sticks is key to behavior change, and we can’t get to scale without behavior change, especially on private property.
• Review accounting standards with financial and legal teams. Integrated infrastructure programs will inevitably be faced with transactional and accounting barriers. Include your financial and legal teams in the process early on and continue to solicit their input throughout. There will be rules and standards that require changing along with some that can already be leveraged creatively.
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