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Urban Systems Industry Presentation

March 9, 2020
UBC MEL URSY Industry Seminar

On February 25, MEL in Urban Systems students attended an Industry Seminar by Cathy Pasion, a Professional Engineer and Urban Planner, who provided insight on the current Urban Systems industry in the City of Vancouver.

Cathy has policy and project development expertise in climate mitigation, adaptation, and the building of sustainable, vibrant cities. Previously she has worked in New York City in the Office of Long Term Planning as the Senior Energy Policy Advisor and, in Vancouver, she has worked on the Stadium Road Neighborhood Plan for UBC Campus and Community Planning. Currently, Cathy is the Senior Engineer in the Clean Waters Planning branch at the City of Vancouver, and she will soon be presenting on the city’s ONE Water approach to water management.

The presentation began with insights into the history of Vancouver’s wastewater management leading up to the current day. Cathy shared with students the ways that Vancouver manages flooding and wastewater management and how the approaches have changed over the years due to considerations of ecosystem health. Further, she commented on the challenges the city will have to face as climate change causes heavier rainfall. By 2050, the City of Vancouver must separate the current combined sewer network of storm and sanitary runoff, due to pressure to manage infrastructure and meeting water policy.

Cathy introduced the ONE Water Approach that arose out of the climate emergency and the need for resilient infrastructure. The City of Vancouver designed this program to rethink water management due to challenges of population growth, densification, and ageing infrastructure. Rain surface water, drinking water, wastewater, and groundwater, which had previously been held in silos, will be transitioning to the ONE Water Approach. Further, transportation planning, public space planning, park planning, land use planning, water sewer and draining planning will be integrating into the ONE Water Approach, as well.

Next, Cathy gave an overview of Vancouver’s Rain City Strategy, a 30-year plan implemented in 2019 that aims to manage rainwater through green water infrastructure. This plan was fueled by the city’s desire to become a “water-sensitive city” and foster biodiversity. The city is excited to begin the necessary paradigm shift to bring planning and design together with nature.

Cathy works as part of a three-person team on the City-Wide Action Plan for sewage and rainwater management. The goal of this plan is to develop a city-wide action and investment plan to guide policy, regulation, advocacy, and long-range investments in sewer and rainwater management.

Within her role, Cathy conducts scenario planning, using structured decision making. She explained how the City of Vancouver, even when hiring for technical civil engineering jobs, needs individuals capable of conducting policy planning that requires skills in facilitation and structured decision making. She goes further to emphasize how professionals in her field must be interdisciplinary.

Cathy encourages students to “work across professions and speak [shared technical] language across professions.”

URSY students had the opportunity to gain insight into the current goals of the City of Vancouver as it faces the challenges of the future. Moreover, they were given professional advice from an industry leader on how to succeed through interdisciplinary approaches to innovation.

Are you hoping to design the green cities of the future? Explore more about the Master of Engineering Leadership in Urban Systems.