Case Study

St George Rainway Project, Vancouver, Canada

Sector: Transport
Highlights: Community wellbeing, community engagement, inclusivity, biodiversity, property protection
Project owner: The City of Vancouver
Project timeline: ​2020 – ongoing
Location: Vancouver, Canada ​
Community impacted: Urban
Hazards mitigated: ​ Flooding, Heat stress
Number of people made more resilient: ​ 7,533*
Case study provided by:  The City of Vancouver

*Calculated using Faith Wilson 2021 Cencus data

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The St. George Rainway Project in Vancouver is an initiative driven by the needs of the community aimed at reimagining urban spaces and enhancing climate resilience through nature-based solutions. This project involves the revitalisation of St. George Street, using green rainwater infrastructure (GRI) to manage rainwater runoff, create vibrant public spaces, promote active transportation, and honour the historical waterway that once flowed there. The Rainway integrates elements of nature, community engagement, education, and accessibility, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and inclusivity.   

About the Project

The St. George Rainway was first envisioned by a group of community volunteers who wanted to add urban nature back into the streetscape while creating opportunities for artistic expression, educational activities, and community gatherings. In 2020, City of Vancouver began public consultation to make this project a reality.

The project repurposes St. George Street in Vancouver’s Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood into a multi-block series of green rainwater infrastructure (GRI) features known as a ‘Rainway’. The primary objective of this project is to harness rainwater runoff from surrounding areas, such as streets, sidewalks, and laneways to create a sustainable and resilient urban environment. By doing so, the project seeks to address multiple climate-related hazards simultaneously, including flooding and water pollution, while also addressing other challenges such as urban heat mitigation.

GRI uses nature and engineering to help capture, convey and clean polluted urban rainwater runoff. GRI components, including rain gardens, bioswales, and infiltration trenches will be strategically placed along the east side of St. George Street, reducing flooding and enhancing water quality. The Rainway will use native plants and soils in a series of rain gardens to help manage polluted rainwater. This newly added green corridor will provide important food sources and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including pollinators, birds, small mammals, and insects.

The project places a strong emphasis on community involvement, with four guiding principles arising from consultation with the local community: nature, mobility, community, and the integration of formal and informal learning. Public art is also integrated throughout the Rainway, adding aesthetic and cultural value to the project. Feature walls, retaining walls, and gathering spaces showcase patterns inspired by coastal plants and mosses, while nurse logs provide ecological niches for various species.

The Rainway also improves safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists through converting sections of St. George Street to one-way southbound or car-free zones, introducing curb bulges for pedestrian safety, and creating a two-way local bikeway suitable for All Ages and Abilities (AAA). Accessibility is prioritised throughout the project, with wider pavements, smooth surfaces, detectable walking edges, and rest areas designed for those using mobility assist devices. Accessibility principles are aligned with recommendations from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, ensuring inclusivity.

Intended Outcomes

Social

The Rainway creates a positive social impact on the community by creating vibrant public spaces, fostering a sense of community and providing opportunities for artistic expression, education, and outdoor activities. By incorporating educational elements, a deeper connection is fostered between the community and its natural environment. The project also promotes inclusive mobility for people of all ages and abilities by prioritising active transport in the allocation of road space.

Environmental

The Rainway project advances the resilience of natural ecosystems by emulating the functions of natural water systems. GRI features such as rain gardens and bioswales mimic natural water cycles, capturing and cleaning rainwater before returning it to the ecosystem. Native and adaptive plant selections support local biodiversity, and the project’s commitment to sustainability ensures the long-term health of the natural environment. The project significantly enhances climate resilience by reducing flooding, treating pollutants, and mitigating the urban heat island effect.

Economic
The project will also deliver economic benefits by potentially reducing the maintenance costs associated with traditional stormwater infrastructure, and by reducing damage to properties resulting from flooding.

How has carbon mitigation been integrated?

The planting of native vegetation and increased tree canopy help absorb carbon dioxide, and the project’s focus on active transportation reduces carbon emissions by encouraging walking and cycling. The project also used locally sourced and recycled materials including recycled boulders; logs that washed up on Vancouver’s beaches, and trees that fell on Vancouver’s streets after storms were reused.


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