September 13, 2021

Vancouver’s Richards Street: First Large-Scale “Blue-Green” System Implemented


The City of Vancouver has been working on “Blue-Green” systems innovations, building upon the work previously done under the Greenways plan. Blue-green systems are defined as managing water and space in a way that is similar to the natural functions of soil and rain in replenishing and distributing water. Using rain gardens, wetlands and other water infrastructure in the face of sustainability and significant climate change events provides new ways to integrate rainwater infrastructure and water management.

There are already examples of this “blue-green” infrastructure at Hinge Park at Olympic Village and the  63rd Avenue  and Yukon Street Bio-swale.

The latest is the  Richards Street Blue-Green system and Stormwater Tree Trench which has just been planted with one hundred new street trees. Eight blocks of Richards Street now has a green infrastructure that will meet lofty goals: cleaning fifteen million litres of polluted rainwater run-off annually and  diverting  eleven  million litres from the normal sewer system. 

The planting of the one hundred streets have the capability to sequester 51,000 kilograms of carbon over their lifetime and be able to capture and recycle rainwater.

It’s also a fabulous place to bike, with a separated bikeway and will provide shade on the street as the street trees mature.

The very well regarded Assistant Director of Sustainability Melina Scholefield has just left the city but stewarded this remarkable work .

The project was unusual in that it  engaged city construction crews directly to look at developing best practices for building and maintaining the blue-green systems. Take a look at the video below that looks at Richards Street and includes thoughtful comments from Project Manager Cherie Xiao  and  Mauro Ceolin, the Construction Foreman on the project.


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  1. Exceptional work COV! I want to implement something similar in other cities but their engineering departments have rigid rules and are generally risk averse. Connected soil and water cells are an awesome idea for storm water management, urban reforestation and managing urban heat island.

  2. The ‘headwaters’ of Hinge Park are located at West First Avenue and Columbia Street. The storm water drainage system under the roadways supplies the ‘headwaters’. The wetland was designed to settle / filter and clean street run-off storm water before discharge into False Creek. Shortly after completion of the project a beaver was seen investigating the restored environment. Today this constructed wetland is home to water creatures, water fowl, song birds and small mammals, and frequented by many inquisitive children and adults. At the outflow to False Creek, a new island habitat was established thus increasing the intertidal zone. The project was strongly supported by the community stewardship group of the day.

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