UR+ BC Panelist: Tamsin Lyle

Engineer Tamsin Lyle founded Ebbwater Consulting, a Vancouver-based company, to focus on flood management solutions. Today Tamsin is a well-known thought leader on flood management and issues in Canada, working across the country to help develop effective flood policy and help communities take action to mitigate their risk from hazardous floods.

Tamsin will be a panelist in the kick-off plenary session at the UR+BC symposium on April 16th in Victoria

1. How can thoughtful flood management help communities reduce their risk from future flood events?

Floods matter; they matter a lot. People whose homes are inundated will remember for the rest of their lives; landscapes are changed forever; regional and national economies suffer. Floods are consistently Canada's most costly natural disaster culminating in 2013 with the Southern Alberta floods that resulted in approximately $6.1Bn of direct damages, in addition to enormous long-term impacts to the environment and to people. Best practice for flood planning and risk reduction requires a paradigm shift in thinking away from the dominant historic approach to "fight nature". What we need is a more thoughtful approach where we learn to 'live with nature'. This more thoughtful approach has many dimensions:

  • Plan for Risk not Hazard: International best practice in the form of the UN-ISDR Sendai Framework provides some guidance on how to mitigate risks and increasing costs associated with natural disasters. A major tenet of this framework is a risk-based approach to disaster management, where hazard, vulnerability, likelihood and consequence all play a role. This is a shift away from how floods have historically been managed in Canada, where design standards – based on a single hazard, often the 0.5% AEP (or 200-year) event – are the norm. Common-sense clearly dictates that an understanding of what is at stake (exposure and consequence) should play a role in any flood planning. 
  • Stop fighting nature, and enable resilience: The approach to dealing with floods has evolved with time. During the International Decade of Natural Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN expressed the view that the approach to disaster management was too compartmentalized and that flood protection in isolation was no longer appropriate[1]. Complete protection from floods through the construction of dikes and dams, for example, is often too expensive and an inefficient use of resources. A more integrated resilience approach is increasingly being adopted[2]. Resilience refers to the resistance to a particular shock and the speed of recovery. Focusing on appropriate and cost-effective resistance to flooding combined with increased speed of recovery should be the focus. Peak flows and storms will continue to happen and flooding can't be completely prevented, however, we can become more resilient to these events.
  • Embrace uncertainty: Climate is changing – this fact is known. However, the rate and pace of change in the region is not clear. This is best managed by acknowledging the uncertainty, and then explicitly designing for it. For example, structural responses should be designed to change over time (for example by purchasing larger rights-of-way for dikes so that they can be raised and widened in future). And all responses should be designed with the idea of 'safe-failure' and multiple benefits – so that even if the infrastructure doesn't function for its initial purpose it continues to provide value to the community.
  • Listen to stakeholders and consider local values: Communities don't want elaborate flood control infrastructure, they want safe and prosperous places to live; this should be at the heart of any flood mitigation plan. One strategy to reduce natural hazard risk while delivering additional value to the community is designing multifunctional spaces. This could be in the form of a park which is a recreation space when it's dry and a retention area during heavy rainfall or peak flows. In areas where dikes have been constructed sometimes, they also incorporate trails or bike paths for recreation. What form this should take all depends on what the community wants and how this can be integrated with project needs and the available budget. This plan should be developed in collaboration with the community and industry to balance local needs.
  • Make good decisions based on more than dollars and cents: Risk reduction measures need to be cost-effective, but making sound decisions needs to be based on more than just the price tag. Flood infrastructure should also provide benefits and minimise impact to social, environmental and cultural assets – if only direct losses to structures are considered in a benefit-cost assessment – then the result is generally the construction of dikes or seawalls. However, when ecological, recreational and cultural values are considered meaningfully – then the preferred mitigation option is rarely a piece of hard infrastructure that impacts the environment, blocks views and requires long-term maintenance. A thoughtful decision process is imperative to create a resilient community.

2. Can you share a particular example that stands out for you of where 'thoughtful flood management' has saved lives and/or property?

To turn this question on its head – we have numerous examples around the world where traditional approaches to flood management (dikes and more and higher dikes) don't work. We have seen catastrophic engineering failures of flood protection structures in the news – for example in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina or along the Japanese coast during the 2011 Great Earthquake and Tsunami. Closer to home – we have seen riparian areas be degraded over time with the construction of dikes and associated hardening of the river's edge with rip-rap. The structures we have built – work for a singular purpose – until they fail, and while they exist – they degrade our environment and social and cultural attachment to natural river corridors. Around the world, we are seeing a movement away from a purely engineered approach to managing flood waters – to a values-based approach where 'living with water' becomes a goal. This is being practiced across Europe – and closer to home through the Floodplains by Design program in Washington State – where floodplains are being reconnected to rivers, fish and farms are thriving, and local communities remain resilient.

3. What kind of advice do you have for the construction sector when considering building to mitigate flood risk?

Given a move towards resiliency and quick recovery from floodwaters rather than an assumption that we can stop the water – there is a strong need for the building and construction community to innovate. We need homes that can get wet – but be useable post-flood. Flood-resilient building design is taking off around the world – especially in areas where population density has meant that floodplains cannot be sterilized. We need to bring some of these ideas to Canada – from floating homes and elevated homes to different types of flooring and plastering materials in the Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience, to new building codes requiring tanking or elevation of electrics.


UR+ BC Panelist: Jessica Shoubridge

Get Understanding Risk BC tickets here

View the UR+ BC program






2020 Annual Report Cover Image.png
September 21, 2020

BCCA Releases it's 2020 Annual Report

On Friday, September 18th, The BCCA held it's Annual General Meeting and shared it's latest Annual Report which covers the fiscal period between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.
Read More
BCCA Builders Code Champion Awards Finalists.jpg
November 29, 2019

Inaugural Builders Code Champion Awards Celebrate Construction Sector Leadership

Nine months after unveiling the resources to help the industrial, commercial, and institutional construction sector set a standard code of conduct on worksites in B.C., the Builders Code has honoured six companies for their leadership at the inaugural Builders Code Champion Awards. Hosted by the BCCA and Minerva BC at the Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria yesterday, the awards recognized companies with advanced policies and practices that seek to ensure all employees can reach their full potential in the skilled trades.
Read More
November 26, 2019

BCCA Celebrates National Construction Day with New Worksite Behavior Training App

As part of its ongoing efforts to address bullying, hazing, and harassment on B.C. construction worksites, the BC Construction Association (BCCA) is marking National Construction Day with the beta launch of a new Builders Code Crew Training App that uses animation and humour to help construction workers recognize the difference between “Cool or Tool” behavior on the worksite.
Read More
August 23, 2019

BCCA Welcomes Trans Mountain Announcement Resuming Work on Pipeline Expansion Project

The BC Construction Association welcomes Wednesday’s (Aug. 21) announcement by Trans Mountain Corporation President and CEO Ian Anderson that construction work on the project will resume in communities along the route, including an immediate return to work at B.C.’s Burnaby Terminal and Westridge Marine Terminal. According to Trans Mountain, this will see 4,200 contract workers working along the route in B.C. and Alberta in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Read More
August 20, 2019

Builders Code Ramps Up Services Across Northern Region

New Builders Code training for site supervisors, forepersons and union business managers on how best to deal with the perpetrators and targets of worksite bullying and harassment was announced today in Prince George, along with a new local Employer Advisor for the northern region. The training, which supports the construction personnel that work most closely with tradespeople on construction sites, was announced by Northern Regional Construction Association (NRCA) CEO Scott Bone.
Read More
July 04, 2019

Aligning the Construction and Technology Sectors

Construction is changing. With a skilled labour shortage and other pressures affecting our industry, it is more important than ever to innovate and become a future-forward construction company. New technologies that help us become more productive and efficient are critical to moving the construction industry forward, but can also feel overwhelming at times.
Read More
June 27, 2019

Multibillion Dollar BC Construction Sector Untapped by Tech

In the midst of a sector-wide drive for greater innovation and productivity in the face of a booming industry and a looming skills shortage, a recent State of Construction Technology survey conducted by the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) shows B.C.’s construction employers are underserved by a tech sector that is largely unaware of the huge potential market they represent.
Read More
March 19, 2019

Builders Code Expansion: First Advisor Now Available to Vancouver Island Construction Employers

Industry Seeks to Improve Retention of Skilled Tradeswomen by Addressing Worksite Behaviour. Construction employers who want to address diversity or harassment issues on their worksites but lack the human resources personnel or expertise to do so will now have access to confidential advisors with experience in HR management, mediation and conflict resolution as part of the Builders Code recently launched by the BC Construction Association and project partners.
Read More
March 08, 2019

BC Construction Industry Introduces Worksite Conduct Standards to Improve Worker Retention

The Province of B.C. and the BC Construction Association (BCCA) marked International Women’s Day today with the launch of the Builders Code, a comprehensive program that aims to address B.C.’s skilled labour shortage by reducing harassment, bullying and hazing on construction worksites. The Builders Code defines an Acceptable Worksite and provides employers with tools, training and resources to improve and promote safe and productive worksite behavior.
Read More
February 25, 2019

Risk Alerts Issued for Two Provincial Construction Projects

The BC Construction Association (BCCA) has today issued two Contractor’s Alerts warning BC contractors of “Onerous Bidding Conditions” on two Prince George construction projects being procured by BC Housing. The projects are a building envelope remediation on Westwood Court and renovation work on the Hart Haven Group Home at Dagg Road, both in Prince George. Total value of both projects is $9.5M - $5M on Westwood Court and $4.5M on the Hart Haven project.
Read More
February 07, 2019

Supporting BC's Skilled Workforce

LNG Canada and the BC Construction Association (BCCA) today announced that Marissa McTavish, an electrical apprentice from Prince George, has become the 1,000th participant in LNG Canada’s Trades Training Fund (TTF) and her employer, Primus Electric, the 500th employer to sponsor an employee with the Fund.
Read More
January 22, 2019

British Columbia Construction Association Selected to Provide Pre-Arrival Services

Pre-arrival settlement services are a key element of Canada’s immigration program. They provide newcomers, including refugees, with the information and settlement support they need to make informed decisions about their new life in Canada before they arrive, such as how to prepare for finding a job. To help deliver these important services, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will be providing funding of $3.4 million to the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA).
Read More
September 17, 2018

BCCA Integrated Membership Update 2017

There are a record-breaking number of significant issues applying pressure to BC’s construction industry this year, and BCCA is working at the provincial level to make sure industry’s concerns and recommendations are heard loud and clear.
Read More
August 30, 2018

Response to Federal Court of Appeal's Trans Mountain Pipeline Decision

BCCA is extremely disappointed by the Federal Court of Appeal's Trans Mountain expansion project decision today which undermines Canada’s economy and role on the global stage. This blow to investor confidence comes at a time when BC is already under pressure from new tariffs, taxation, and policy directives.
Read More
August 24, 2018

New BC Building and Plumbing Code 2018

The new BC Building and Plumbing Code will be effective December 10, 2018 and will apply to building permits applied for on or after that date. The BC Fire Code is anticipated to be adopted in the fall of 2018 and effective December 10, 2018. Buildings with permits in place under the previous 2012 BC Building Code will generally not be affected by the adoption of the new code.
Read More
August 02, 2018

Industry Voices - Industry Must Come Together

Premier Horgan's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is the most dangerous and disruptive policy to be introduced by any government into our industry in recent memory. Whether you are a union or an open-shop employer, your basic rights and freedoms as Canadians are being blatantly disregarded, as is government's obligation for fair, open and transparent procurement practises.
Read More
July 27, 2018

Pattullo Procurement Strategy Takes BC Construction a Bridge Too Far

The new Pattullo Bridge Community Benefits Agreement patently illustrates what is unfair with our current government’s policy decision to mandate the nature and extent of procurement requirements in major public construction projects. For BCCA, an association that hinges its principles on fair, open and transparent procurement practices, this agreement is taking public policy in construction tendering a bridge too far.
Read More
July 18, 2018

Response to the Province’s Community Benefits Agreement Announcement

BCCA is working with our counterparts at the local, provincial and national levels to inform government on the risks of Community Benefit Agreements, and to educate public owners on the use of fair, open, and transparent procurement processes which are an obligation and responsibility of government to taxpayers.
Read More
June 21, 2018

Tackling the Late Payment Epidemic: What Will It Take?

"Prompt payment” is a familiar issue in the construction industry. Of course there’s nothing prompt about it. It’s the LACK of prompt payment that makes it an issue, handicapping our industry, squeezing the small contractors, and pushing risk down into the supply chain onto those who can least afford to carry it.
Read More
May 30, 2018

Understanding Risk British Columbia (UR+ BC) Video #URBC

The Understanding Risk British Columbia (UR+ BC) symposium, hosted April 16 & 17, 2018 in Victoria BC, marked the first time the construction industry played a leadership role in bringing together builders, designers, engineers, scientists, and policymakers to tackle the challenges of hazard mitigation and increased resilience in the industrial, commercial, and institutional built environment.
Read More
May 29, 2018

BCCA Response to Federal Purchase of Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 Billion

Official Statement - The BC Construction Association has long been a strong public supporter of BC’s oil and gas strategy and of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in particular, recognizing the significance of the project for the economic prosperity of British Columbia and the rest of Canada provided that all environmental safety stipulations are met.
Read More
April 17, 2018

Construction Leadership Award Winners 2018

#ConstructionMonthBC wouldn't be complete without a Construction Leadership Dinner. We honoured Amy Carr, Mary-Anne Bowcott, Karen Anderson, Becky Lupton, Max Ignatiuk, Jerry Pasitney & Tracey MacKinnon for their industry leadership roles.
Read More
April 12, 2018

UR+ BC Panelist: Jessica Shoubridge

Principal, Thrive Consulting, Director, EERI-BC, and UR+ BC Organizer, Jessica Shoubridge, has worked across all orders of government, academia, non-profits and the private sector to help bridge gaps between science, policy, and action for risk reduction and resilience building.
Read More
March 19, 2018

A Conversation with Dr. Lucy Jones

We're with Lucy Jones, an expert in earthquake research and earthquake risk reduction from LA. Lucy is the 2018 distinguished lecturer for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, BC Branch. She's in Victoria to talk about creating resilience in our communities, particularly about creating building codes that reflect the realities of earthquake loses.
Read More