Friday, May 22, 2015

Genius Design. Creating Smart Stormwater and Landscape Ecology.

Land is usually expensive in the urban core and that is why it is so important for the site designer to try and maximize buildable space while incorporating green space, stormwater and parking.
Genius design - combining stormwater and landscape (& using native plants!)
Historically the trend has been to specify the square or rectangular stormwater pond and the linear, parallel strips of landscape separately.

Really, the only reason I can think this practice was started was because many civil designers grew up playing with square Legos.

Or maybe neatly compartmentalized site design components on the blueprints were easier to get approved by the planning department.

People get into a mindset.  Most do not like change.  So once the square stormwater pond and parallel strips of landscape islands and no trees and lots of black asphalt became the norm, well... who were civil designers to rock the boat with natural complicated curves?  After all, most schools teach - square stormwater pond plus parallel strips of landscape islands plus sprawl equals quick governmental approval for the project.

But occasionally I see a really successful genius design where the smart engineer foregoes the separate stormwater and landscape components.  Instead they maximize space and create urban ecology by using natural curves and native plants integrated together into a sustainable and cost efficient functioning part of the site layout.
The above photo is an example of how to perfectly combine landscape buffer requirements with stormwater obligations and create a wonderful native fern living wall too!

Native wetland trees, cypress, Taxodium spp., were planted in a depression and act as visual barriers to the adjacent highway while also serving as stormwater siphons, transpiring several hundred gallons of water each day into the atmosphere - assisting in water attenuation and flood control.

Instead of a gaping, unsightly, litter filled stormwater pond that requires extra real estate, this designer has created vital urban ecology all the while satisfying stormwater and landscape requirements with the jurisdictional permitting agency.

I can hear the square designers howling now.  Yes, I know that there are many factors in creating adequate stormwater facilities.  But it just makes sense to maximize site density with respect to the environment, the community and the economy.

Think outside the box (square)!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Urban Sustainability Requires Pedestrian Legitimacy

Urban sustainability must be centered around adequate pedestrian infrastructure.
Sidewalks need maintenance just as roads require upkeep.  Many times with pedestrian infrastructure the prevailing attitude is 'out of sight, out of mind'.

Building sidewalks and leaving them to become unusable through neglect and lack of landscape maintenance does nothing to perpetuate the legitimacy of sustainability.

Our cities must become pedestrian friendly.  Our public works department must take pedestrian life seriously with respect to budgets and upkeep.

Here in America we have such a long way to go to recognize the legitimacy of pedestrian life.  WE are too embedded in our seat belts.

Urban Landscape and Stormwater Integration

I always recommend integrating landscape and stormwater.  
Small SWMF feature incorporated into a landscape buffer.

Never could I understand why a developer or engineer would design a site with separate landscape and stormwater facilities, especially with the dire lack of urban vacant land.  

Such a waste.  

However some designers have their thinking caps on correctly and come up with some really awesome stormwater-landscape designs!  

Here is a photo of a small attenuation and treatment stormwater facility designed into the landscape buffer! 

The concept is quite simple and straightforward:
  • select a wetland tree or shrubs
  • build a berm around a small perimeter to receive rooftop of parking lot runoff
  • incorporate into the landscape design
  • achieve stormwater credit and landscape credit in the same amount of space.
Love to see more of this type design.