Environmental update

January 2010 » Exclusive
Issues explored and resources identified
Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.
Both the CWP and IECA promote the work of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, which presents exemplary sustainable projects on its website, among other resources and initiatives. For example, Seattle’s High Point project uses a natural drainage system to provide clean water for 8 percent of the salmon-bearing Longfellow Creek Watershed, a mile-long urban creek system running through the heart of West Seattle. Overflow during extraordinary storm events is piped to an attractive detention pond (top). A vegetated median strip (inset) collects and absorbs rainwater from the street, keeping it out of city storm sewers.

With a vast number of professional associations related to the civil engineering industry, it is difficult to keep up with what services and resources each offer. Below, two leading environmentally geared associations provide updates on their efforts and need-to-know information regarding water quality improvement initiatives.

Center for Watershed Protection, Inc., www.cwp.org

1) What is the chief civil engineering-related environmental issue of concern to your organization? What are you doing to impact improvements?

Since its inception as a non-profit organization in 1992, the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) has been a leader in the advancement of stormwater management as a practice to alleviate the impacts of urbanization to our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes. The CWP is known for distilling stormwater research, developing state and regional stormwater design manuals, and helping communities build post-construction stormwater programs. The CWP has worked directly with local and state agencies to provide effective stormwater solutions in geographically diverse settings. Stormwater services we provide commonly include development of stormwater design manuals, design of stormwater treatment practices, technical assistance with building stormwater programs, and conducting stormwater retrofit inventories.

2) Please describe any code, regulation, or zoning change(s) in the past year that is having a positive impact on the environment.

Virginia is currently undergoing major stormwater regulation changes to meet federal and regional nonpoint source goals. The CWP, in concert with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, developed the Runoff Reduction Method (RRM) as a compliance tool for meeting the state’s proposed new urban pollution limits; the Virginia General Assembly is anticipated to approve the new regulations in January 2010.

The RRM provides runoff reduction and pollutant load accounting for a wide variety of traditional and low-impact design (LID) practices. By using the latest available data on runoff reduction, as well as nitrogen and phosphorous removal rates of various practices, the method allows users to calculate the net benefit of both traditional practices (such as ponds and stormwater wetlands), along with innovative practices (such as rainwater harvesting, impervious disconnection, and permeable pavement). In addition, the RRM incorporates built-in incentives for environmental site design, such as minimizing the impact to native soils and vegetation and preserving forest and open space areas, by crediting the capability of these areas to absorb and reduce runoff volume.

The RRM relies on a three-step compliance procedure: 1) reduce stormwater runoff by design through better site planning and design techniques during the early phases of site layout; 2) reduce volume of post-construction stormwater runoff through a combination of small-scale, distributed and conventional practices; and 3) capture and treat remaining stormwater runoff by applying pollutant reduction values to runoff reduction practices. If compliance cannot be achieved on the first try, designers can return to prior steps to explore alternative combinations of site planning, site design, runoff reduction practices, and pollutant removal practices.

These projects in Virginia have groundbreaking implications for how stormwater is managed and how states direct their efforts toward achieving Clean Water Act goals. Many states, when working to achieve stormwater management goals, still consider the most effective and innovative stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) as an extra calculation outside of traditional BMPs. The new methodology integrates the most recent data on innovative practices into the calculations of overall runoff reduction capabilities. This, in turn, ensures that the best practices are utilized to meet runoff reduction goals and developers then have the needed incentive to incorporate these practices.

Read the RRM technical memorandum (April 2008) and other support materials on the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s website at www.dcr.virginia.gov/lr2f.shtml

3) What specific resources do you have available to help civil engineers design and specify projects that will be more environmentally friendly?

The CWP regularly develops publications, such as guidance manuals, checklists, and design specifications for stormwater management. Described below are several tools that CWP has developed in recent years that are of special interest to civil engineers.

Urban Stormwater Retrofit: This 262-page handbook discusses the basics of stormwater retrofitting, helps the reader identify 13 types of potential locations for storing and treating runoff on the urbanized landscape, and describes typical retrofit applications of eight types of stormwater BMPs. This manual is available for free download on CWP’s publications page at www.cwp.org

Virginia’s New Non-Proprietary BMP Design Specifications: As part of its assistance in developing compliance tools for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, CWP teamed with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network to help develop 15 updated post-construction stormwater BMP design specifications for the new Virginia BMP Clearinghouse website. This set of standards expands the options of BMPs available for use in the state by creating design guidelines for stormwater features that are traditionally considered LID practices. The new Virginia BMP design specifications can be viewed at www.vwrrc.vt.edu/swc/NonProprietaryBMPs.html

Managing Stormwater in Your Community: This guide provides stormwater professionals with practical guidance, insights, and tools to build effective post-construction stormwater programs. This manual and its eight accompanying tools are available for free download on CWP’s publications page at www.cwp.org

4) In regards to your organization’s area of focus, provide ideas and resources for civil engineers to achieve green design goals.

The CWP looks closely at site-level characteristics of our built environment, promoting the minimization of impervious cover in new development, protection of native vegetation and stream corridors, and preservation of natural hydrologic patterns. The CWP has developed a framework, Better Site Design, for creating local codes and ordinances that promote these characteristics in development. Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community covers everything from basic engineering principles to actual-versus-perceived barriers to implementing better site designs. The handbook outlines 22 guidelines for better developments and provides detailed rationale for each principle.

For more ideas for green design at the site-level, civil engineers may also be interested in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an effort to create “voluntary guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction, and maintenance practices (www.sustainablesites.org).” Until Feb. 15, 2010, the initiative is accepting applications for site and landscape projects as pilot projects for the Sustainable Sites Initiative Rating System. (See CE News’ December 2009 issue, page 10 for more information.)

International Erosion Control Association, www.ieca.org

1) What is the chief civil engineering-related environmental issue of concern to your organization? What are you doing to impact improvements?

The chief issue of concern to the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) is the proper evaluation of and response to erosion, sediment, and stormwater impacts on construction sites.

The IECA is attempting to broaden and deepen its educational offerings to provide the best information it can on the range of solutions to these problems. This includes basic construction site education materials, as well as in-depth courses in prediction models for erosion and sediment control.

2) Please describe any code, regulation, or zoning change(s) in the past year that is having a positive impact on the environment.

Each state updates their construction general permit on a five-year cycle, so as these revisions are enacted, each state gets better at what they do in the regulatory environment. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the updates needed in the regulations surrounding the Clean Water Act, the updates address the needed changes as experience, research, and case studies indicate. Many states and municipalities have enacted stormwater utility regulations to provide funding sources and personnel to properly evaluate and enforce regulations and permit regulations. All of these contribute to a more positive impact on the environment, as the industry sees a higher degree of compliance.

3) What specific resources do you have available to help civil engineers design and specify projects that will be more environmentally friendly?

Many resources are available for free on the IECA website; however, most of the best resources are available to members through the website, conferences, live presentations, regional chapter meetings, and publications such as conference proceedings and member research findings. The quarterly publication, Environmental Connection, has peer-reviewed articles that present current research and case studies for applications.

4) In regards to your organization’s area of focus, provide ideas and resources for civil engineers to achieve green design goals.

The IECA feels that what it’s been doing for the past 37 years contributes greatly to the greening of all construction and post-construction activities. The LEED program has been weak in the site-specific arena, and the IECA’s participation in evaluations and input in the Sustainable Sites Initiative has helped further this important work in sustainable site design standards. These standards will be incorporated into the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) process, and the IECA hopes that the USGBC gives more credit for green site initiatives.

Our classes and educational offerings have been addressing LID, vegetative solutions, and sustainable initiatives for many years while not specifically being marketed as a green solution. When you can keep the soil and water on a site, allow it to recharge the groundwater resources, or provide fertility to plants, the site becomes more self-sufficient and sustainable with lower outside input required.

APWA Center for Sustainability addresses environment, social, and economic issues in public works management

The central mission of public works professionals historically has been to provide and maintain a high quality of community life through designing, building, and maintaining public works infrastructure for private, public, and industrial facility owners. New challenges, such as shrinking local budgets, increased costs of materials, more engaged and better informed public and stakeholders, and new regulatory mandates, are increasingly confronting today’s public works professional. To identify and advance initiatives to support the industry, the American Public Works Association (APWA) initiated an important “go-to resource,” the APWA Center for Sustainability, which serves as the foundation for action, discussion, evaluation, education, coordination of programs, and endorsement of ideas and recommendations in sustainable public works management.

“The Center for Sustainability will work to identify and advance initiatives that integrate core sustainability principles into public works management and create champions of sustainability who have the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to create vibrant, healthy communities,” said APWA Director of Sustainability Julia Anastasio.

APWA will be addressing sustainability more fully at the Sustainability Conference in Minneapolis from June 8-10, 2010. The conference is designed to explore and promote the evolving role of public works professionals in the creation of sustainable communities. For more information, e-mail Anastasio at janastasio@apwa.net.


Upcoming Events

See All Upcoming Events