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  1. Abstract

    The idea of green infrastructure (GI) has generated great interest and creativity in addressing a range of challenging and expensive environmental problems, from coastal resilience to control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The appeal of GI stems from its cost savings compared to traditional “gray” infrastructure and the multiple benefits it provides, including biodiversity, aesthetics, and carbon sequestration. For example, a “green” approach to controlling CSOs in New York City saved $1.5 billion compared to a “gray” approach. Despite these advantages, GI still does not have detailed design and reliability specifications as compared to engineered gray infrastructure, potentially hindering its adoption. In this paper, we review some of the potential applications of GI in modern environmental science and discuss how reliability and associated (un)certainty in net benefits need to be addressed to realize the potential of this new approach.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. null (Ed.)
    Infrastructure crises are not only technical problems for engineers to solve—they also present social, ecological, financial, and political challenges. Addressing infrastructure problems thus requires a robust planning process that includes examination of the social and ecological systems supporting infrastructure, alongside technical systems. An integrative Social, Ecological, and Technological Systems (SETS) analysis of infrastructure solutions can complement the planning process by revealing potential trade-offs that are often overlooked in standard procedures. We explore the interconnected SETS of the infrastructure problem in the US through comparative case studies of green infrastructure (GI) development in Portland and Baltimore. Currently a popular infrastructure solution to a wide variety of urban ills, GI is the use and mimicry of ecological components (e.g., plants) to perform municipal services (e.g., stormwater management). We develop the ecological-technological spectrum—or ‘eco-techno spectrum’—as a framing tool to bridge all three SETS dimensions. The eco-techno spectrum becomes a platform to explore the institutional knowledge system dynamics of GI development where social dimensions are organized across ecological and technological aspects of GI, exposing how governance differs across specific forms of ecological and technological hybridity. In this study, we highlight the knowledge system challenges of urban planning institutions as a key consideration in the realization of innovative infrastructure crisis ‘fixes.’ Disconnected definition and measurement of GI emerge as two distinct challenges across the knowledge systems examined. By revealing and discussing these challenges, we can begin to recognize—and better plan for—gaps in municipal planning knowledge systems, promoting decisions that address the roots of infrastructure crises rather than treating only their symptoms. 
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