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Posts Tagged ‘stormwater’

BY HANIYA RAE

Technology helps shape what hardscapes can be.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Courtney Goode was working on a project in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. Buffalo Bayou, one of the slow-moving rivers that Houston relies upon to hold stormwater, flooded, and the waters would end up spilling out over the city’s aging infrastructure and impermeable surfaces, exacerbating the problem.

“My heart was in my throat,” Goode says. “We had been working on these super-detailed axonometric drawings of all angles of the city—we knew the city like the back of our eyelids. It was a total shock to see the bayous obliterated and murky, debris-filled water covering the walkways, roads, and even ground floors of the buildings near the bayou. The flood just engulfed everything we had been designing.”

For Goode, a landscape designer in Sasaki’s Urban Studio and a Fabrication Studio coordinator, the disaster afforded her a very real account of how the city managed stormwater and led her to think more about how low-impact development can divert stormwater from streets during flooding. She describes a scenario in which a city like Houston could divert some of the excess water by excavating 40-foot-deep gravel dry wells (the size of a typical four-story parking garage) topped off with permeable pavers that could hold excess rainwater until it’s able to seep back into the ground. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Gray infrastructure has given way to green to prevent sewer overflows into Washington, D.C.’s waters.

FROM “THE RIVER BENEATH THE RIVER,” IN THE NOVEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Green infrastructure is now an important part of the Clean Rivers Project. The colossal Anacostia River tunnel remains a fixture in the effort on the east side of the city to hold and carry stormwater to DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. But to the west, the introduction of green infrastructure is allowing the elimination of one smaller tunnel for a combined sewer network above Rock Creek, which drains into the Potomac River, and the scaling back of another large tunnel along the Potomac itself.

The notion of complementing gray infrastructure with green was a priority of George Hawkins when he became general manager of DC Water in 2009. It was not an easy sell. Clean-water advocates were skeptical of green infrastructure’s performance capability and also feared delays in achieving the goals of the Clean Rivers Project—to end 96 percent of the District of Columbia’s combined sewer overflows. Hawkins was able to make a case for the efficacy of green infrastructure and also to show that significant improvements to water quality would occur well before the tunnels’ projected completion.

The Clean Rivers program is deploying a mix of bioretention, porous pavements, rain barrels, and downspout disconnection from combined sewers. In the Rock Creek sewershed, enough green infrastructure is planned to manage (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The West Bottoms Flats site is bisected by a narrow street, scaled as an intimate alley with landscaping. Image courtesy BNIM.

In Kansas City, the private sector is helping pick up the tab for green infrastructure in a new residential development.

 

Since 2010, Kansas City, Missouri, has been subject to a federal consent decree, to begin properly capturing sewage and stormwater before it flows into rivers and streams. It’s a consequence of the city’s overwhelmed combined sewer system, which covers 58 square miles. From 2002 to 2010, the system produced 1,300 illegal overflows, putting approximately 6.4 billion gallons of untreated sewage into waterways annually.

Notably, this is the first time a municipal water federal consent decree has allowed the use of green infrastructure, according to Andy Shively, a special assistant to the City Manager Troy Schulte, who works on issues relating to the consent decree. And the developer-driven West Bottoms Flats mixed-use residential complex designed by Kansas City-based BNIM is shaping up to be an influential test case for ways the private sector can grapple with public sector failure toward water quality goals.

Landscape architects at BNIM have designed the flats’ green infrastructure capacity to absorb excess stormwater as a series of placemaking amenities “in order to prevent it from being [value-engineered] from the project,” says Cheryl Lough, the director of BNIM’s landscape architecture studio. (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Courtesy Tyler Swingle

From “Shapes of Water” in the October 2018 issue by Lesley Perez, Associate ASLA. MIT research is helping to make the design of stormwater-retaining wetlands more accessible for municipalities and public works departments.

“Wire-frame wetlands.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

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Sandra Albro’s Vacant to Vibrant initiative (detailed in “Lots of Opportunity”) converts vacant lots in struggling Great Lakes cities into rain gardens and bioswales. At an average cost of $18,000 each, they’re a fine-grained and tactical solution for reversing blight and helping beleaguered combined sewer systems from polluting the Great Lakes. As Albro, of Holden Forests & Gardens, observes, these neighborhoods were gradually disinvested from and abandoned, and have limited access to comprehensive public infrastructure improvements. As such, an equally piecemeal and gradual approach allows them to stabilize properties with desirable urban green spaces that can be wrapped into broader redevelopment efforts. An alternative to massive, centralized sewer upgrades that cost billions, this dispersed model of stormwater filtration turns an economic drain into an ecological engine.

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

In Miami Beach, elevating streets is not without growing pains.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Faced with rising sea levels, the City of Miami Beach is lifting itself out of the water’s way—one street at a time. Beginning with the neighborhoods lowest in elevation, the city has raised dozens of streets in the past few years, some by as much as two feet. The $500 million project, which also includes new stormwater pumps, is a coordinated effort to prevent flooding in the long term. In the short term, however, the rapid elevation of the public right-of-way is presenting the city with novel challenges.

Some of those challenges, such as pumps that can fail during power outages, are mechanical. Others are legal. When one restaurant flooded, its insurance company initially refused to cover damages after classifying the restaurant’s dining area as a “basement” since it was now lower than the surrounding grade. (The city installed generators to solve the first problem and advocated on behalf of the restaurant owner, whose claim was eventually approved, to solve the second.) Other challenges involve the design of the public realm. (more…)

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BY LISA OWENS VIANI

In Great Lakes cities, derelict parcels sponge up stormwater.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Eight years ago, Sandra Albro, a research associate in applied urban ecology at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (now Holden Forests & Gardens) began to think about opportunities lurking in the city’s vacant lots—in particular how to help cities with their water quality problems. During heavy rains, raw sewage from old, leaky, combined sewer-stormwater systems is often flushed into the Great Lakes, resulting in beach closures not fun for tourists. At the same time, in Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Gary, Indiana—where populations have declined by as much as 40 to 50 percent since the 1950s—derelict houses and vacant lots have increased: 30,000 in Cleveland, 7,000 in Gary, and more than 6,000 in Buffalo.

Cleveland, Buffalo, and Gary are among 158 communities with permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge treated wastewater into the Great Lakes. The agency has also charged them with implementing Long Term Control Plans under the Clean Water Act to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from their combined system overflows. “It’s a funny thing,” says David Rankin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a private nonprofit corporation that funds projects to build the health of the lakes. “Most of the time these systems do a great job of managing stormwater—they actually treat it. It was state-of-the-art Victorian engineering that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. But in heavy rains, some waste gets flushed out, too—and when you’re looking at more than 100 dischargers, it starts to add up.” According to the EPA, in 2014 the toll was an estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater discharged into the lakes.

Rankin says Great Lakes cities need to think differently about the problem—many are trying to find funding to build massive pipes. But with their populations declining, he suggests these cities should think about solutions that don’t involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. So when Albro came to him with her idea for using vacant lots to capture stormwater, the fund awarded her a small grant to develop a plan. She contacted 11 Great Lakes cities, (more…)

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