July 15, 2013
Architects, planners, health professionals and  developers, along with landscape architects and designers, gathered at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto on May 21-22 for the first-ever Grey to Green Conference.

Organized by Steven Peck, of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the conference focused on the economics of green infrastructure. More specifically, practical solutions to the challenges of stormwater and air pollution management, the urban heat island effect and increasing urban biodiversity were addressed.

Keynote speakers John Campbell of Waterfront Toronto and Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, brought powerful messages to the podium. Campbell discussed Toronto’s business model for revitalizing its waterfront, and shared the plans to upgrade minimum green building requirements and increase public parks and spaces for many people to enjoy, while improving storm water management and flood control for nearby waterways.

As Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Miller fully recognizes and supports green infrastructure for its many benefits. He discussed the policy wars his office has been involved in while looking to have green infrastructure incorporated into planning policies. Six Ontario ministries have denied the request, saying Ontario’s current planning policies are adequate.  

Miller noted we need to change the thinking of the provincial ministries and encourage innovation in design. Green infrastructure often saves energy and water, reduces waste and lowers operating and maintenance costs. Miller suggested that planners and designers piggyback on Ontario’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan, as many of the points outlined in the plan mirror green infrastructure initiatives. Ontario’s climate change adaptation strategy has been created by government and all ministries are now on board.

After lunch, which was served on the trade show floor, attendees could choose from one of six breakout sessions on the economic opportunities of green infrastructure, urban agriculture and vertical farming, calculating the benefits of green infrastructure through storm water management and energy savings as well as other presentations from developers, green roof planners and architects.