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Embracing Green Infrastructure in The Public Sector

By Stephen Brandofino

In the constantly evolving landscape of local governance, there has been significant pressure to embrace eco-friendly solutions to everyday problems. The change from the conventional “gray” infrastructure to the more sustainable “green” option can feel like a daunting task that may be impacted by community needs as well as budget constraints. However, integrating green infrastructure systems and features into your municipalities daily use can be a pragmatic and feasible approach to overcoming many problems faced by today's local governments. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to embrace green infrastructure and improve local sustainability in your community. 

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What is Green Infrastructure? 

Green infrastructure refers to the usage of numerous natural or nature based elements in urban and rural environments. Unlike the typical “gray” infrastructure, where materials like steel and concrete are used to create buildings and streets, green infrastructure uses materials such as vegetation, soil, and natural processes to manage water, air quality, and other environmental aspects. 

Here are some key examples of green infrastructure: 

1. Green Roofs 

Green roofs are partially or completely covered by vegetation and a growing medium such as soil, sand, or peat, planted over a waterproofing membrane. This form of sustainable infrastructure provides insulation, absorbs rainwater, and helps in decreasing temperatures of urban areas they are used in. 

2. Green Streets 

Green streets utilize vegetation, permeable pavements, and other eco-friendly features to manage stormwater runoff, which helps to reduce the strain on drainage systems and improves water quality. 

3. Urban Forests 

Urban forests are areas made up of trees and other vegetation placed in heavily populated areas to help with quality of life in an environmentally safe way. These positive impacts include providing shade, absorbing carbon dioxide, and enhancing air quality. Furthermore these patches of vegetation also help to contribute to biodiversity and provide recreational spaces for urban populations. 

Green Infrastructure plays a vital role in promoting sustainability within a city. It is important for local officials to be educated on the benefits of green infrastructure and how to implement a sustainable environment within their cities.  

Learn more about how you can build a sustainable city here.    

How Can Local Governments Implement Green Infrastructure Into Their Localities

1. Conduct Assessments of Your Environment 

It is important for local governments to conduct comprehensive assessments of their cities in order to identify suitable areas for green infrastructure implementation. Local governments have to consider different factors such as soil quality, drainage patterns, and existing natural features. With the wide variety of possibilities for sustainable infrastructure, it is important for local governments to make the most of implementing these solutions. 

2. Utilize GIS Mapping Technology

Govpilot’s Geographic Information Systems Technology (GIS) shows you a comprehensive view of the environment of your city. It is also a powerful tool that can make the planning, analysis, and implementation of local green infrastructure projects very seamless. There are numerous ways to utilize this technology for the betterment of moving to a green lifestyle. This can include: 

Utilizing spatial data related to soil types, land use, vegetation cover, and existing infrastructure can help in providing a comprehensive view of your localities characteristics, and can help determine where green infrastructure can be implemented. 

  • Flood Risk Assessment

Green infrastructure projects such as swales or detention basins can help in managing stormwater effectively. Utilizing GIS mapping to assess where floods are likely to impact a city can help local governments determine where green infrastructure can be useful. 

Learn more about Government Procedures During A Crisis here. 

  • Visualizing Impact 

GIS software can help in visualizing where Green Infrastructure will be placed, and can give local government officials a better idea of the impacts of implementing these new pieces of infrastructure.

3. Establish Design Standards and Guidelines

Establishing concise design standards and guidelines is essential for local governments to successfully implement green infrastructure. Different local municipalities may govern themselves with certain laws surrounding buildings and infrastructure, so it is important for government officials to be mindful of starting new projects. 

With green infrastructure being a relatively new venture for municipalities, it is important to create groups within local governments that can monitor and regulate green infrastructure groups. 

4. Prioritize Key Green Infrastructure Projects

While there is an innumerable amount of uses for green infrastructure, it is important for local governments to prioritize key projects that can vastly impact their cities in a positive way. It is important to consider things like environmental impact, community needs, budget constraints, and long-term sustainability. 

It is important to identify areas of priority where green infrastructure can have the most significant impact. These areas can include areas that are prone to flooding, pollution hotspots, and neighborhoods with limited access to green spaces. Setting clear goals for the impacts of green infrastructure projects can help local government officials decide which projects are important to initiate. 

5. Secure Funding and Resources

Securing funding and resources for Green Infrastructure is an integral part in the process for local government officials. While the move to green infrastructure is certainly a cost effective one in the long term, it is important to gain the necessary funding to implement these plans.  There are numerous ways that local governments can fund the migration to green infrastructure. Some of these methods include:

  • Grants and Subsidies

Federal, State, and Regional Government agencies have numerous types of grants that can be used to support green project opportunities. These grants can oftentimes provide substantial support for Green Infrastructure without any cost to the municipality. 

Check out GovPilots Grant Module to track federal and state grants here. 

  • Nonprofit Organizations

Cooperation between nonprofit organizations and local government officials can provide a valuable resource in securing funding for green projects. If an organization can see that local governments are starting infrastructure projects that align with their goals and values, they may be willing to provide financial support, and the support of volunteers as well. 

          Learn more about The Benefits Of Volunteerism here.

Attracting private investments from local businesses is another great way to not only gain funding for green infrastructure, but to also gain community wide support for the new projects. Providing tax breaks to these businesses can also help to encourage private investment. 

The Benefits of Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure offers a wide range of benefits for communities, the environment, and economies. Here are some key advantages to implementing green infrastructure: 

  • Environmental Benefits

Green Infrastructure can help to positively impact numerous parts of the environment. The conservation of the environment through biodiversity as well as air quality are two main ways that going green can be an advantage. Furthermore, green infrastructure can also help reduce flooding in high flood risk zones as well as improve the water quality of water entering local water bodies through natural filtration processes.

  • Economic Benefits

The implementation of Green Infrastructure can have many positive impacts on a municipality's economy. The development, maintenance, and management of green-infrastructure can create jobs in many different areas including landscaping, construction, and ecological restoration. Property values within your municipality will also increase thanks to an improvement in the aesthetic appearance of a neighborhood due to going green. These increased property values will help gain tax revenue for your local government.    

Learn everything about Local Government Revenue Generation Sources here. 

  • Public Health Benefits

Public health will improve significantly thanks to green infrastructure projects. Air quality as well as mental health and overall wellbeing of people will improve overall from green spaces. Access to these green spaces will help to promote physical activity and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression for constituents. 

Check out our guide on 9 Ways to Promote Sustainability in Public Healthcare here. 

  • Climate Resilience

With the help of Green Infrastructure, temperatures can be more reliably regulated thanks to cooling effects created by temperature regulation. Trees and vegetation can also help in combating climate change by capturing carbon dioxide. Green infrastructure is also able to adapt to climate change better than gray infrastructure would be able to.  

How to Develop a Green Infrastructure Plan

A comprehensive Green Infrastructure plan is imperative for local governments. It is important to outline specific goals, targets, and strategies for implementing green projects. 

Some possible steps local government officials can take to achieve this include: 

  • Step 1: Identifying Green Goals for your municipality: is essential to taking proper action to go green. A great way to find this out is by speaking with your constituents through local public meetings, or running online polls. 

  • Step 2: Finding areas of concern in some outdated gray infrastructure: can also prove to be beneficial. Rather than continuing to use gray forms of infrastructure, it can be extremely beneficial to replace outdated pieces with more sustainable green infrastructure. 

  • Step 3: Focusing on planning and implementing resources for green projects: is a necessary step in promoting  sustainable and environmentally friendly development. By coupling accommodating zoning policies with constructive resource implementation, communities can create environments that foster and support green projects, which will help contribute to the overall wellbeing of the community.   

  • Step 4: Developing an Implementation Strategy: is crucial to a community looking to go green. A phased approach to implement green infrastructure projects with consideration of resource availability, funding tools, and timelines for projects. 

  • Step 5: Establishing Performance Metrics and Monitoring Protocols: is important in helping define key performance indicators to measure the success of green infrastructure projects after they are implemented. When local governments enact new projects, having ways to measure success and keep on track can prove beneficial to people involved with the project. 

Going Green with Government Software 

With the help of the wide range of tools GovPilot has to offer, the transition from gray to green infrastructure will be a seamless one for your local government. Some of the most useful products offered by GovPilot to facilitate this transition include: 

  • Building and Construction Software

GovPilot offers softwares that will help streamline the application process for certain construction permits including Demolition Permits as well as HVAC Permits, ensuring that code enforcement policies are being followed when moving to Green Infrastructure. 

Learn more about GovPilots different Building and Construction Software here.

  • Planning and Zoning Software

GovPilots Planning and Zoning Software will help in obtaining zoning permits conveniently and quickly. It is important for local governments to begin transforming their cities with Green infrastructure, and the ability to permit these changes in an efficient way will play a role in creating a more sustainable city. Moreover, GIS Mapping Software, also provided by GovPilot, will help in using location-based data to find where Green Infrastructure projects should be planned. 

Check out GovPilot’s Planning and Zoning Software here. 

GovInspect, a mobile app created by GovPilot, allows for onsite inspection as well as real time cloud-based record keeping. This is an extremely useful tool in the process of going green as it allows for quick construction site inspections which can play a key role in easing your local government into Green Infrastructure. 

  • Parks And Rec Software

Parks and Rec Software can also benefit local communities looking to go green. Parks and recreational areas are an integral component of green infrastructure, and with the help of this software, they can be easily monitored and managed by local governments. 

With features such as permit application capabilities, as well as the ability for constituents to rent or reserve fields and facilities, the Parks and Rec Software has many uses, and will help in moving your community to a green lifestyle. 

Follow our resource to check out GovPilot’s Parks & Recreation Department Software

Embrace Green Infrastructure Now 

Government officials should focus their efforts and budgets on Green Infrastructure development that will improve sustainability and create a positive environmental impact in their municipalities.

Book a consultation with GovPilot today to learn everything you need to know! 

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Tags: Government Efficiency, Digital Transformation, GovTech, Health Department, Public Health