Accounting for the Co-Benefits of Green Infrastructure
- Matthew Jones, Sandeep Mehrotra - Hazen and Sawyer
- John McLaughlin - NYCDEP
Green infrastructure is generally recognized as an effective way to manage stormwater runoff while providing additional benefits; however, these additional benefits may not always be immediately obvious nor easily quantified. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a study to comprehensively examine the costs and co-benefits of green infrastructure using a triple bottom line (TBL) approach. A literature review considered the co-benefits offered by stormwater controls as well as urban vegetation. Co-benefits monitoring included temperature analyses, time-lapse cameras, and pollinator surveys across a number of green infrastructure types and locations. The cost analysis of green infrastructure spanned both economic and environmental costs, derived from construction and maintenance details from existing stormwater controls along with SimaPro, an environmental life-cycle analysis database. The results of the analysis were compiled into an online calculator designed to inform planning and outreach efforts. Given basic design characteristics, the calculator provides quantitative results for more than 25 cost and benefit parameters. These costs and benefits can then be compared against community needs, combined with costs and benefits from other green infrastructure controls, or displayed in a comparison with another design. Study results revealed a number of key findings as well as remaining gaps regarding the current understanding of green infrastructure co-benefits. The information presented by this analysis and the associated calculator provide valuable support to planning and public outreach efforts integral to the City’s green infrastructure program, allowing DEP to support both stormwater management and broader sustainability goals.
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