One of the most compelling sessions at the Low Impact Development Conference in Portland, Maine, in late August was the “What’s the Next Step in the Green Revolution?” It was compelling because of the all-star cast featured on the panel that included Tom Ballestero, University of New Hampshire; Marcus Quigley, OptiRTC; Leith Lichten, San Francisco Bay Regional WQ Control Board; Bill Hunt, North Carolina State University; Robert Roseen, Waterstone Engineering; and Robert Traver, Villanova University. Here are the most important points I noted with no attribution to the specific speaker.
- New construction is just one piece of green development. How can we leverage and improve the assets already in place by taking what we have and improving it with LID principles?
- We can harness the power of redevelopment. Cities continually redevelop. With good regulations on the books, you could transform the city over 60 to 200 years. New technology is constantly evolving and it’s informing sustainable reconstruction of cities.
- There’s elegance in simple measures and accounting for them – things like downspout disconnection. Disconnecting downspouts puts 75% of rooftop water in the ground at very low cost.
- Maintenance is the key to success and the people who conduct maintenance must be part of design. Can we get O&M into the BMP database?
- Fee-based funding isn’t an option in all jurisdictions – what long-term funding mechanisms are there? Like connecting green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) to transportation, such as Complete Streets and other programs.
- We have to make practical arguments on why we need green infrastructure—protecting public health, welfare and safety. How can we integrate green infrastructure into health programs?
- Co-benefits of GSI must be accounted for: Boosting local water supply, providing green streets where people walk more and improve their health, sequestering carbon and others.
- How do we re-create ecosystems services lost in our urban landscapes in our designs for the future?
- Green infrastructure broadly, and especially green stormwater infrastructure, has a big role to play in flood mitigation.
- Compared to spending a comparable amount of money on below-ground stormwater infrastructure like pipes, communities see GSI and it can play a role in garnering community support for green initiatives.
- GSI is the cheapest alternative development once all the benefits are accounted for.
- Green investment is wasted when no one knows if it’s working. Do regulated entities see neighborhood or regional changes in receiving waters based on GSI? Will funding be available to begin to understand the cumulative effects of distributed stormwater management? What’s the maximum performance we can expect over time?
- Monitoring to ensure performance is absolutely critical to ensure the approach is sticky for the long term. “If we don’t get this right, the entire approach will be undermined based on performance and they’ll put in pipes.”
As interesting as the panel was, I missed specific mention of plant material in a positive way. Many of the additional benefits of GSI in terms of public acceptance, recreational amenities, human health benefits, pollinator benefit, temperature reduction, particulate matter reduction, etc. are due to plant material. More plant expertise would be a welcome addition to expand the interdisciplinary discussion.
The LID Conference is held by the American Society of Civil Engineers once every two years. In the next issues, you’ll be seeing writeups from a number of very interesting sessions I attended.
NewTerrain September 15, 2016.