Moving Towards a Bat-friendly Wind Turbine

BBC News reported on a new study that shows insects are attracted to white or grey colored wind turbines. If turbines are swarming with insects, they in turn attract bats (and birds), which are then killed by the revolving blades. Interestingly, the researchers found the color insects like least is purple so some researchers are now considering the question: should large wind farms be painted purple?

Chloe Long a PhD student at Loughborough University in the UK told BBC News that no one understood the connection between turbines and insects well. “It had been speculated that insects may be attracted to turbine structures for some reason and this then could attract insectivorous species, such as birds and bats, to forage in the vicinity.” So Long and her colleagues decided to conduct research to determine why insects were attracted to turbines and whether versions with lower environmental impact could be designed.  

According to their research, in Europe one turbine kills some 20 to 40 bats each year, most often in summer evenings when insects are migrating. “Now scientists have ascertained that 90 percent of bat mortality occurs in northern Europe between late July and early October. A similar pattern occurs in North America.”

The researchers decided to measure how many insects were attracted to different colored turbines by using colored cards set in a “random sequence next to a 13m-high three-blade wind turbine situated in a meadow.”  The colors tested included a range of colors: pure white, light and dark grey, blue, red, and purple. BBC News says the “insects attracted included small flies (body size less than 5mm); large flies (body size equal to or greater than 5mm); greenfly; moths and butterflies; thrips; beetles and crane flies.”

Research showed that turbine paint color has a significant impact both during the day and at night. Yellow, pure white or light grey turbines attracted the most number of insects, while purple attracted the least. However, they argue this doesn’t necessarily mean wind turbines should be painted purple. “The researchers found that the ultraviolet and infrared components of paint colour, which humans cannot see but insects can, also had a significant impact, with higher levels of both attracting more insects.” Paints can be combined with other ultraviolet or infrared glazes to alter the wavelengths that attract insects.  

Also, paint color may not be the only factor — insects may also be attracted to the heat created by the blades. Long told BBC News: “If the solution were as simple as painting turbine structures in a different colour this could provide a cost-effective mitigation strategy.”

Still, more research should be undertaken to give bats a boost — their colonies are collapsing in many places. See an earlier post which discusses “White Nose Syndrome” and its effects on the U.S. bat population. While feared by many as carriers of disease, bats actually provide valuable ecosystem services.

Read the article and check out the researchers’ study

Also, see more resources: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services recently issued a comprehensive set of recommendations to the U.S. Interior Secretary, which covers how to mitigate the impacts of turbines on wildlife. Also, the U.S. Geological Survey offers studies on bat fatalities and wind turbines.

Image credit: Bat Swarm, Australia. LJMcK / Flickr

Ecology and Transportation Conference Call for Papers

The theme of the 2011 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) is “Sustainability in Motion.” According to the organizers, ICOET is a  “multi-disciplinary, inter-agency event conducted biennially to identify and share quality research applications and best management practices that address wildlife, habitat, and ecosystem issues related to surface transportation systems.” ICOET’s lead sponsors this year include the Federal Highway Administration and the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at North Carolina State University.

There’s a call for conference abstracts, which can focus on “current project or planning activities, research findings, emerging issues, or best practices related to the interface between ecology and surface transportation systems” and cover a range of topics: 

• Aquatic and Marine Ecosystems 
• Coordination and Regulatory Compliance
• Ecology and Transportation in Urban Contexts
• Economics of Ecology and Transportation
• Emerging Issues and New Directions in Ecology and Transportation
• Integrating Transportation and Conservation Planning
• Invasive Species
• Rail, Ports and Intermodal Facilities  
• Transportation Construction, Operations and Maintenance
• Wildlife and Terrestrial Ecosystems
• Vegetation and Transportation Facilities

In addition, this year there’s also a call for proposals for “facilitated sessions” focusing on the “intersection of ecology, transportation and sustainability.” Each session will include presented materials, a panel discussion, and Q&A.

The 2011 meeting will be held August 21-25, 2011 in Seattle. Abstracts and proposals will be accepted until January 31, 2011.  Learn more.

Also, check out the finalists from the ARC: International Wildlife Crossing Design Competition. More than 35 entries were received from nine countries and narrowed down to five finalists led by the following teams: Balmori Studio, the Olin Studio, Janet Rosenberg & Associates, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and HNTB Engineering, and Zwarts & Jantsma Architects. The winner will be announced in January 2011. See an article on the finalists in The Denver Post and an earlier post on the details of the competition. 

Image credit: Wild (X)ing, Submission to the ARC international design competition / The Olin Studio (Philadelphia) with Explorations Architecture (Paris), Buro Haphold (London) and Applied Ecological Services.

Interview with Caroline Fraser, Author of “Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution”

Caroline Fraser is the author of “Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution.” Fraser has also written for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Outside magazine, and other publications. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In your book, “Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution,” you said rewilding, which involves applying conservation and ecological restoration work to a “scale previously unimagined,” is now the primary method for designing, protecting and restoring protected areas. You mentioned the important role of cores, carnivores and corridors in this work. Why these?

It was actually a biologist who came up with this definition. The biologist who was working on the definition, Michael Soulé, someone I talk about in my book, was trying to think of ways to make these concepts friendly to a general audience, who are not biologists. He was inventive in latching onto terms like “rewilding.” With this three-part formula for rewilding– cores, corridors and carnivores– he was trying to create a catchy phrase that people would remember, but it’s based on science.

In the last 25-30 years, biologists have figured out that a lot of the parks that we have created since the nineteenth century are just not big enough to protect the wildlife that’s within them. For a lot of reasons, we need to start enlarging those protected areas — that is basically the definition of “cores.” We need big, core areas– big protected areas– and we need corridors to try and connect those areas.

If you look at a map of North America, and the only things on that map are the protected areas, parks like Yellowstone, Glacier and so forth, you can see how very small they are in relation to the land mass and the wider landscape. You can also see how far apart they are from each other. Small “islands” of land and their isolation from each other are bad for biodiversity and sustaining species over time.

The third element is the carnivores, and they’ve added another category to that which they call “keystone species.” The keystone species, which include animals like beavers, which act essentially like landscape architects, are very important in the ecosystem. Over the last 20-30 years, scientists have learned that if you take those out of the ecosystem, the whole system can start collapsing and some bizarre things will happen. Basically their goal is to try and revivify our protected areas by making them bigger, connecting those protected areas, and teaching people how to live with carnivores and keystone species in a way that is more sustainable. In fact, most species and endangered species live in areas that are outside of parks and protected areas. So we have to make some changes in our lifestyles, our way of living, in order to sustain the ecosystems that we rely on.

Large European beaver dam, Sweden. Image credit: Lars Falkdalen Lindahl / GNU – Wikipedia 

Protected areas have grown from 3 percent of the world’s surface in the 1960s to over 12 percent today. This seems like a huge achievement, but you say many are just paper parks, particularly the transnational ones. How can you tell a successful park from a paper one?

I’ve been to a number of parks in Africa and in Asia, and one good way to tell a paper park is when you drive up to a park or a protected area, and there’s nobody there. There’s nobody there working for the park, there’s nobody there to collect a fee to enter the park, there’s nobody there guarding it. You can also tell from looking at the resources that are allocated to the park.  Many developing countries don’t have money to spend on their parks, so many have been virtually emptied of wildlife. Such countries may have a system of parks, but they have no way of protecting them. This is particularly true of marine protected areas, and I just saw the other day that the Philippines now have some 400 marine protected areas, but only 10 percent of those are achieving the goals they have set for conservation. You can can imagine how difficult and expensive it is to effectively patrol a marine protected area. It’s also very difficult in some cases, in the very large parks in Africa, to hire enough people to patrol and manage them. A lot of these parks have no real management structure.  They don’t have people who are working to figure out what are the best ways to handle the wildlife, to protect the wildlife, and that’s a huge problem. We’ve done a lot of good over the past 40 years in setting aside land on paper, but now we have to figure out how to protect those protected areas.

You said the first major rewilding project was the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), which aims to create a single wildlife corridor that connects isolated parks, national forests, and large, roadless areas, creating space for wolves, grizzlies and other species in the process. The project also led to investments in wildlife bridges and underpasses to enable migration and reduce roadkill. Why has this project been so revolutionary? What have been the successes and failures with this project so far?

Y2Y was one of the first projects to get off the ground, and some of the people who were instrumental in creating the definition of rewilding worked on it at the very beginning. The major success Y2Y has had does involve these wildlife bridges and underpasses, which were not an original idea. They’ve been used in other places in the world for decades. In Europe, many of the highways and railroads that were designed in the mountainous areas of the Alps utilize these kind of structures. But what was revolutionary about Y2Y is that they brought that to North America, particularly to Canada and the U.S., in a way that was looking at the entire landscape for the first time, and that was revolutionary.

Before, everybody had just been focused on their own little patch– their own little park or protected area, or their own community.  But in this project, people stepped back and took a very large view of the entire Rocky Mountain corridor, beginning way up in Canada and coming all the way down through the United States. They began looking at important questions: What do we need to do to keep these areas open for wildlife to migrate and disperse? That was revolutionary for conservationists, to think on that scale, on a landscape scale.  That has been hugely influential in North America in terms of conservation planning.

Where I think that the project has been less successful is in tackling some of the issues of reaching the public with these ideas. I don’t think anybody in particular is to blame for that. It’s partially a function of the political climate that we find ourselves in. Environmentalism, for good or ill, has been branded as a liberal topic in this country, and people have a hard time getting past that. For instance, in Spokane, Washington, they voted on whether they would accept the Y2Y plan, and embrace it as a community and use it as part of their landscape planning. They voted against that. There was a lot of anger and hostility expressed toward the project in that community. So there are real hurdles in getting the message out.

Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative (Y2Y). Image credit: Y2Y

A number of major wildlife parks exist across or in between countries. Transnational and peace parks have grown over the years, reaching almost 200 in 2005. Peace parks, which have received support from the international community, are set up as a buffer between states in conflict. In another case, the lack of peace actually created a rich and varied interstate ecosystem between North and South Korea. In this case, minefields helped ensure the rich ecosystem was preserved. What are the opportunities and challenges in conserving and even rewilding when working across or in between borders?

This is an issue that goes to some of the problems that I was talking about in the previous question, which is that a lot of conservation right now is being handled or implemented by groups like Y2Y, which are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), essentially nonprofit, charitable groups. This is fine, but the problem with it is that there just isn’t enough funding, and the funding is coming from private parties and not from the government. You were asking before about the growth in the percent of protected areas but that not enough of them are actually protected. That’s a huge issue for governments to tackle, and I think that we need to start shifting our priorities to have governments being involved in the planning, implementing, and funding of these projects.  If you don’t, the money is spread too thin on the ground, and there also isn’t coordinated planning at the level that there needs to be.

This is a huge issue with transnational and peace parks, because these are being planned at the government level, and yet again, we don’t have enough funding to make these things happen in a lot of cases. Some of the really big projects that I talk about in southern Africa, for instance, are just getting off the ground, but developing countries are growing very impatient with the lack of funding from countries in the developed world, because they very much need that in order to get these things off the ground in any meaningful way. Peace parks and trans-boundary parks are going to be hugely useful in terms of planning for things like watersheds and fresh water protection and production, because this affects almost every country on most continents. Rivers cross borders. Wetlands cross borders.

Given the facts of climate change, given that the climate is changing and the supply of fresh water is being affected, neighboring countries are going to have to work together. So countries like Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Angola, who are some of the partners in these trans-boundary parks, are really going to need to get together and start looking at how the watersheds are managed, how they can be protected from too much water being drawn off or from pollution being introduced into the system. Water sources are dwindling, and if governments get together and negotiate those things now, they may be able to avoid the hot conflicts that they’ve just managed to solve in the region.  They’re just coming out a period of devastating civil war, and they certainly don’t want to go back to that. But water issues have the potential to cause conflict unless they are dealt with. Trans-boundary parks offer an opportunity for countries to work together to preserve their water resources.

A community river project on the Tana River in Kenya failed because, as one local biologist noted, “conservation is about managing people. It’s not about managing wildlife.” You argue that big, bureaucratic, top-down conservation projects often fail because they don’t empower local communities. What approaches work for getting communities to take a lead in rewilding efforts?  What are the sustainable economic models that can help maintain rewilding over the long-term?

The gentleman also said conservation projects are very, very tricky and that’s an understatement. In the early 1990’s, a lot of the projects that were rapidly being put into place by the World Bank and the U.N. and some conservation organizations were often crudely designed, and they didn’t involve local people in a meaningful way. Sometimes they just handed out large sums of money to people who weren’t set up to deal with that. So money was distributed in an inequitable way that caused problems in the community. Now, I think they’re getting the hang of figuring out how to design projects in such a way that the local people can take charge of them. That’s a big factor in the success or failure of these projects.

A lot of this involves what in U.N. speak is called”capacity building.” You have to have people in the community who are trained and educated in how to design and run these projects. One case that is phenomenally interesting and successful is Namibia, where they wrote conservation into the constitution, one of the only examples of that in the world. Namibia has very successfully developed conservancy programs in which the villages or the communities themselves are running the programs and benefiting from them. This means people are completely invested in the projects. It’s not just a situation where an outside organization or people from other countries are coming in and telling them what to do; they’re actually designing these things and running them themselves. So they are able to benefit from the wildlife by selling hunting licenses, or by building and running ecotourism lodges. The conservancies that offer significant ownership of the project to communities seem to work the best. There are also examples of private organizations, private landowners, that develop something like this. In Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy — which is quite famous, and justly so, for running a private rhino reserve — has offered services and support to their neighbors. They have invited neighboring Masai and Samburu people to create their own conservancies and ecotourism businesses in a collaborative program called the Northern Rangelands Trust. The NRT has greatly expanded the area under effective conservation management in that region. That’s another very sucessful model.

Northern Rangelands Trust, an enlarged protected area created by local communities of Maasai and Samburu north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. The people in the photo, from left to right, are Dr. Sam Andanje (a Kenyan biologist), Keward (Sammy) Lekalkuli (the headman of one of the NRT conservancies, and Dr. William Ogara (a Kenyan biologist). They’re conferring about problems caused in these areas by predators (lion, leopard, hyena) and discussing ways to improve fencing and protection of livestock. Image credit: Caroline Fraser

You ask a few really good questions that landscape architects are now struggling with: “What does it mean to restore a landscape or an ecosystem?  Restore it to what?” Also, once something is restored, “how do you keep it that way?” You point to Freshkills Park as one project that successfully navigated the potential pitfalls. What are the potential negative outcomes? How has Freshkills avoided those?

The Freshkills example is interesting, although I think it’s probably too soon to say whether they’ve navigated all the potential pitfalls, because that project, as I understand it, is one that’s going to be under development for many years, indeed, decades to come. Freshkills is also kind of an extreme example, and I chose it for that, because it is, of course, the restoration of a landfill. What will be interesting to watch with Freshkills is how well they work with other organizations focused on the larger ecosystem, the Hudson River itself, and some of the areas around it. There is, of course, a larger project underway to clean up the pollution in the Hudson and restore some of the fish populations there. But the larger question of how you figure out what you’re working toward is a tremendously knotty or difficult one for landscape architects and ecological restoration.

Freshkills Park, New York City. Image credit: James Corner Field Operations

Clearly, you don’t want to set a goal that is far too ambitious. I talk a little bit about some biologists who are interested in the Pleistocene rewilding idea in North America. They’re discussiong the notion of replacing species that were lost ten thousand years ago when people first came over the land bridge from Siberia and wiped out a lot of the native species here, like the mammoth. There are very exotic plans to bring in elephants, cheetahs, or lions from Africa to replace the species that were wiped out, and restore the American prairie ecosystem. I think many people are pretty uncomfortable, if not downright enraged by those kinds of ideas. Restorationists are much more practical than that in looking at exactly what they’re facing in terms of what has been the damage to the landscape and figuring out, “Okay, what exactly was here before? What can we work toward?” 

A good example of that is the project in Wisconsin that Aldo Leopold was involved with: the Curtis Prairie site. That’s a project that illustrates all the difficulty that restorationists face with invasive species. They also face the problem of keeping restoration intact once it has been  partially restored. Some of the examples I give from Washington State are important in this regard. It’s really key to think about how a restoration project fits into a larger ecosystem and how many resources will be available to work with over time. You have to think about how the project connects to the larger whole, and if you don’t think about those things, then you can find yourself, as they did in Washington State, in Seattle, with the restoration of Lake Washington, moving some of those problems down the line and adding to other environmental problems. You really have to think big and long-term when you’re doing these projects.

Curtis Prairie. Image credit: Madison Guy / Flickr 

Lastly, you conclude the world needs “smarter, more efficient rewilding.” Worldwide total conservation spending is now around 10 billion, “mostly in the developed world where it’s least needed.” Instead you call for better leadership at the global and local levels.  What role can landscape architects and planning who are ready to partner with policymakers, landowners, and scientists play in restoring ecosystems and help rewild the world?

I just got back recently from Nagoya, Japan, where the negotiations on the Convention on Biological Diversity were taking place. That was enormously instructive in terms of how global leadership functions when it comes to conservation. This is the only treaty in the world that is designed to protect biodiversity, and so it is a global planning tool, if you will. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) sets targets for conservation. In fact, one of their stated goals was to increase the percentage of protected areas to 12 percent, which you mentioned earlier. That came out of the treaty. One of their big efforts now is to try to “mainstream” conservation into countries’ budgets and governance, which will move conservation to the forefront of governments’ priorities.  Because right now, it’s just not there.

One of the things they’ve been working on over the past few years is the economic valuation of ecosystems and trying to encourage countries to do a detailed analysis of the economic value of their natural resources and ecosystem services. Most countries have never done this before. If they can put a value on that, they can start writing it into their budgets, and they can start planning around it, so that there aren’t so many projects– like dams, for instance– that interfere with or damage ecosystem services. On the one hand, such projects might produce hydropower, but on the other hand, governments may lose a significant dollar value in terms of fresh water quality and other resources. You might gain on one side of the column because flooding might be better controlled, but on the other side of the column, biodiversity and agricultural soil quality may suffer. So it’s crucial for countries to completely reorganize the way that they value conservation and the environment.

We are seeing some leadership at the global level, but now I think that people who actually do the work on the ground, like landscape architects and planners, are going to need to start looking at these qualities and values when they work with policymakers. They’re going to need to look at: What are the effects of putting a road in this place? What are the effects of building a development or a golf course or park in this area? I wish there had been more of this thinking when it came to approving Donald Trump’s golf course, planned for a very sensitive sand dune area in Scotland. Local officials were certainly aware that this could be damaging to the environment, but did not act on that awareness. These are the types of things that must be taken into consideration at the government level, whether it’s city government or county government.  People need to start realizing that there’s a significant economic cost to development.

Interview conducted by Jared Green.

HUD Secretary Donovan on Fighting Sprawl

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan outlined the state of the economy and housing market, explained HUD’s green programs, announced a new mortgage product aimed at making energy efficiency retrofits easier, and promoted the Obama administration’s efforts to fight sprawl and encourage sustainable communities at the 2010 GreenBuild.

“The built environment helped create the economic crisis,” said Donovan. Sprawl created unaffordable, unsustainable housing. Now, “we are just coming out of the second great depression, where we were losing 750,000 jobs per month. We had 30 straight months of housing price decline.” While low interest rates have helped restore consumer demand, “they don’t provide housing benefits unless there are mortgages available at that level.”

To remedy this, HUD has been working with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stimulate new mortgage growth and restructuring mortgages to create better terms for those facing foreclosure. Since the start of the Obama administration, Donovan said the “overall housing stock value has increased by one trillion. We have also created 10 million new private sector jobs, but unemployment is still too high.” To accelerate job growth, the U.S. must focus on green jobs, and supporting the designers that “are creators of green communities.”

Donovan said “energy, climate, and the economy are linked.” The U.S. can reduce dependence on foreign oil by investing in local clean energy sources like wind and solar energy and efficiency programs like green buildings while creating green jobs in the process. On green buildings alone, Donovan said “the green construction industry has created two million jobs with $100 billion in wages. This has the potential to reach eight million jobs and a half trillion market in the next 20 years.”

HUD’s Green Works

About one-fourth of all new Recovery Act jobs created are in clean energy or energy efficiency, claimed Donovan. The Act created 3.2 million new jobs, and a “foundation for long-term growth.” With the recovery funds, 18 million smart energy meters were installed and eight million homes were weatherized, leading to average savings of $400 per year per household. An additional 250,000 public housing units were greened by HUD and 35,000 “received deep retrofits,” with energy savings of 40 percent.

Donovan added that HUD will soon be expanding the use of the “green physical condition assessment” for all government-owned public housing to guide energy audits, efficiency, and other green improvements. “Even if we have just saved five percent in energy efficiency savings, this would translate into $1.5 billion.” 

Creating a Mortgage Market for Energy Efficiency

While markets are needed to transform the building sector, government can play a catalytic role. “Recovery through retrofits needs to be scaled up. We need green labels on residential homes and buildings like we have on refrigerators.” To spur the home retrofit market, Donovan announced a new pilot project created with FHA called Power Savers, “a mainstream mortgage product that enables you to retrofit your home.” Part of the “Recovery through Retrofit” program, Power Savers is aimed at helping middle class families. 

Also, in the works is something called “Green ReFinance Plus,” another new product created by FHA and Fannie Mae.

Solving the Real Problem: Sprawl

To stop sprawl, Donovan said “we need to connect the location of homes with those for jobs.” Currently, 52 cents of every dollar is spent on housing and transportation, an amount far too high. Congestion across the country has worsened by five times over 20 years. However, he said the “world is changing.” In Texas, for example, the new Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system has spurred $5.6 billion in community investment and created an alternative form of transportation in an area heavily car-dependent.  

In the U.S. government bureaucracy, HUD has created an office of sustainable communities and housing, the HUD arm of the three-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities formed with the E.P.A. and Department of Transportation (DOT) (see earlier post). Together with its partners, HUD released $170 million in planning grants (see earlier post), which is the “single biggest invesment in planning in a generation.” In addition, HUD has been using LEED-ND to judge the “location efficiency” of the prospective grantees (see earlier post). The new grants will help “increase place-based investment.” 

Another major project aimed at fighting sprawl is a new affordability index (see earlier post), which will be created and rolled-out with DOT. “If we can get lenders to use this index, we can drive billions of dollars into more sustainable places.”

Donovan concluded that the federal government now “speaks with one voice” against sprawl. “This is nothing short of a revolution.”

Chicago Mayor Daley: “Cities Must Feel Alive at All Times”

Serving as inspiration for the U.S. Green Building Council’s new “Richard Daley Legacy Award for Global Leadership in Creating Sustainable Cities” and also receiving the first award himself, Mayor Daley argued that mega-cities like Chicago must become environmentally-sustainable, but not “lose their identity in the process. The city must feel alive at all times.”

During the closing session of the 2010 GreenBuild, Daley said the initial debate over greening cities, which put those who argued it will cost too much against those who argued change needs to happen at any cost, is effectively over. “Through government, non-profit, and private efforts, we have educated the public” about the need to invest in making the city sustainable.

The mayor said his vision was to “always lead by example” and use city programs to show how work could be done. Early on, the city set up the Center for Green Technology, which not only showed how to reuse an old industrial building, but was the “first municipal LEED Platinum building in the U.S.”  The center was set-up to “educate architects, contractors, engineers about how to make green buildings in the city.”

Other initiatives Daley cited as key parts of his legacy of environmental action: a new “expedited permit system” that enables green buildings to go up faster; a revamped building code designed to be flexible enough to adapt to the latest environmental technologies; new green street and alley design standards and 90 miles of green street medians; and 1,300 new acres of open space, including the vibrant Millennium Park. Mayor Daley also pointed to the city’s efforts to preserve its water, including new underground cisterns that catch rainwater coming off the massive McCormack Place convention center. Even though Chicago has ample freshwater, “we must conserve for future generations. Water is an asset, we can’t just discard.”

Still, this forward-thinking mayor doesn’t seem fully satisfied with what has been accomplished. While the number of green buildings are constantly growing, they still constitute less than one percent of the city’s building stock. The city’s green roofs cover more square feet than all other U.S. cities combined, but also represent a similarly tiny share of all roofs. See more on this in a GreenSource article from The Chicago Tribune‘s Blair Kamin.

In his future plans for the city, reused materials will be central. “We can reuse materials and create jobs for ex-offenders, who can be trained to pull down buildings and separate out the reusable elements.” Also, looking ahead, Daley wants Chicago to be the first U.S. city with a vertical farm. “I really want Chicago to build a vertical farm. This could help our local food industries.”

Reinventing Water Reuse with Ecological Systems

In one session at the 2010 GreenBuild, Greg Sparks, Port of Portland, Will Kirksey, Worrell Water Technologies, and Doug Sams, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects outlined how the new Portland port headquarters building applied a cutting-edge “Living Machine” to treat wastewater on site and reuse for toilets and building cooling systems. Jon Gray, who works for the Oregon Sustainability Center, which will soon move into the first large-scale net-zero “Living Building” in the U.S., then described another iteration of the Living Machine.

The Port of Portland is a public agency that views itself as a key driver of economic activity in the city. Also, its environmental programs have made it very progressive on this front — the port is a founding member of the climate registry, top 50 purchaser of green energy in the U.S., and part of the EPA’s climate leadership program.

On water conservation, the port aims to conserve, sustainably reclaim and reuse water, limit its potable water use, and store stormwater. To conserve water, it uses dual-flush toilets, irrigation controls, and the Living Machine. To mitigate its own development the port constructed a new wetland.

New Headquarters Building’s Living Machine

The new headquarters, which brings all employees into one large building with three floors of offices and seven floors of parking space, was designed to help create “one port.” The building’s Living Machine is an “ecosystem approach for treating wastewater,” said Kirksey, a civil and environmental engineer. “With next-generation technology, we can actually return to nature.” The system is made possible by combining “ecology, information technologies, and engineering.”

The port building captures water from faucets, showers, and toilets, which is then funneled into the system. “There’s a screen that captures large particulates, then the Living Machine does its work.” Influent blackwater or greywater is sent to a primary tank, then the “tidal wetland cells” which contain a gravel medium that harnesses micro-ecosystems (micorganisms, snails, and other critters) and cleans the water. “The cells fill with water and remain wet for 45 minutes, then drain.” The water drains out into “a set of polishing cells” that trickle down into the reuse systems. Treated water is sent to toilets and AV cooling systems, improving overall building water efficiency by 70 percent, said Sams.

Kirksey said the system was also more energy efficient than aerated wetlands, which require higher-maintenance. Another plus: the portland facility was built on-site with local labor. “This is not a factory-built system, so it creates local green jobs.”

The Living Machine and Building Systems

The machine was selected because the port needed to meet its own stringent environmental requirements. (The building eventually went on to certify as LEED Gold). For example, water use couldn’t exceed annual rainfall on site. Local native plants needed to be used. Surrounding air quality needs to be high. Energy use needed to equal on-site solar capacity. Also, the site could only incorporate non-toxic, recycled, reused or renewable materials.

The average rainfall in the area is 36 inches, which means the site needed to capture 12 million gallons each year. The architects explored a variety of options, including capturing water on site and creating a distribution network that can drive water to the rental car washing facilities (which use 14 million gallons per year), the CUP systems (which use 8 million gallons per year), as well as the building (estimated at 1.45 million gallons per year). Sams said “we couldn’t afford to do this. We would need a huge storage tank and there was no place to bury this on site.”

Instead the architects decided to add a set of green roofs that store the annual rainfall on site (but don’t transfer the water to those water use systems), and 1,500 square feet of the Living Machine system, 700 square feet of which is in the indoor lobby and the rest at the front of the building.

To deal with odors from the machine, the team had to install odor cleansers. “We couldn’t have strong odors entering the lobby.” Also, there were some challenges in finding plants that could be used given the port has a “restrictive list.”

Adding the Living Machine to a Living Building

Grey said the Oregon Sustainability Center will be the largest net-zero “Living Building” in the U.S. when its completed (see earlier post). The seven-story building will house public, private, and non-profit organizations focused on “growing the green economy” in Portland. The building will produce 100 percent of its energy on site and use the Living Machine integrated water re-use system to capture, cleanse and create potable water on site.

The rooftop Living Machine will be 1,600 square feet. Translucent solar panels will cover parts of the system, creating addtional efficiencies.

“Some 20 percent of the effluent needs to be removed from the Living Machine or it will poison the plants,” said Grey. So, the idea is to move this mineral effluent to bioswales along the front of the building, which can then return cleansed water to the acquifer. “Also, I can’t discharge any water on site, so the bioswales will also deal with excess rainwater.”

The total rain collection area in the building’s green roofs and swales is expected to be 22-27,000 square feet, which will capture more than 300,000 gallons of water. While the green roofs and swales will catch much of the rainfall, Portland has variable weather so a new approach to stormwater management is needed. Some seasons, the city gets a lot of rainfall and during others, the city is very dry. So, underneath the building, there will  be a 250,000 gallon stormwater catchement cistern.”We had to create a storage tank sized using the five driest years in the past 50.” 

In all, the new building is expected to achieve 100 percent water efficiency gains through the Living Machine, new fixtures, and other greywater reuse. Grey said the big plus of doing this innovative water reuse project in Portland was that the “regulator wanted to cooperate. We also consulted with the local health department and they want to make this work. In how many places can you say that is true?”

A New Way to Plant Urban Trees

At the 2010 GreenBuild, Peter MacDonagh, the Kestrel Design Group, James Urban, FASLA, Urban Trees + Soils, and Peter Schaudt, FASLA, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, argued that without new tree planting techniques that use healthy loam soils, major “one million” urban tree planting campaigns will fail, wasting lots of money in the process. MacDonagh said “urban forestry is broken. We need to remake with a different approach.”

Finding out What Works for Urban Trees

Urban trees are now understood to be a central part of green infrastructure systems and provide a range of benefits. They reduce the urban heat island effect, manage stormwater, and provide shade that lengthens the life of materials. In the summer, shadier streets also means lower neighborhood temperatures, which can reduce air pollution that increase asthma rates. “All of these benefits are great, but they won’t happen if we keep planting like we have. It will be a mirage,” argued MacDonagh.

MacDonagh said larger, older trees are far more valuable than youger ones, so work needs to be done to preserve these and use new techniques to enable younger trees to stay in place longer. Citing data, he argued that a 30-inch diameter breast height (DBH) tree provides 70 times the ecological benefits of a 3-inch DBH tree. For example, a large tree intercepts 79 percent of rain hitting the ground, providing the “best green infrastructure you can find.”

The key to preserving larger older trees and keeping younger ones in place up to 50 years or more is to use large amounts of loam or bioretention soils that are 65 percent sand, 20 percent compost and 15 clay silt. These soils are not only the best growing mix for trees, but also filter out heavy metals, phosphorous, and nitrogen most efficiently. Nitrogen runoff can cause algae blooms and kill other life if it’s allowed to get to the watershed in large amounts.

The rule needs to be two cubic feet of loam for one square feet of tree canopy. So, for a tree that provides a 700 square foot canopy a designer needs to use 1,400 cubic feet of high-quality soil. These soils can be combined with “silva cells” that prevent soil compaction to enable the growth of tall, healthy trees. To prove this, MacDonagh showed the work of Bartlett Tree Lab’s Urban Plaza study, which demonstrated that loam soil grew trees had 300 times more leaves and were 1.7 times taller than those grown in compacted soils. “This is important because the average street tree only lasts 13 years.”

To sum up, MacDonough said “codify minimum loam soil volumes, diversify tree species to prevent devastating blights, set minimum canopy targets, and plant small trees properly.” Otherwise, “those million tree campaigns will be exercises in futility.” 

Overcoming Obstacles in the Built Environment and Dealing with Increased CO2 Emissions  

James Urban, FASLA, said structural soils, which combine broken up rock and soil, have issues so urban tree planters came up with a new idea: suspended pavements. In a new project, Queens Quay, along the Toronto waterfront, these suspended pavements use 48-inch deep silva cells, which kind of look like rubber packing crates, and 1,680 cubic feet of loam per tree. Within the combined loam and silva cells are irrigation systems that move water to the trees. Given the Toronto government was concerned that this system wouldn’t work, Urban says they first tested in a small strip and demonstrated that the approach works.  

Here Urban complained about one major obstacle: low tree quality. He argued the “American nursery business isn’t doing its job” and one firm tried to deliver trees with “girdling roots, a fatal flaw that would have killed the tree in five years.” He added that the current nursery “stock of trees is horrible.” If we are going to do million tree campaigns, he asked, “How can we check each one?”

In another project, The Bosque on the new Lincoln Center roof in New York City, Urban worked with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro on planting 30 trees on a roof deck. “There were lots of obstacles — everything is going on in the built urban environment.” Urban navigated the shallow roof, elaborate lighting systems, and thin paving on top of the deck. He ended up adding in “geogrids” and gravel that helped ensure the new platform could provide a safe growing environment for trees and also bear the weight of a light pick-up truck or ambulance.

Urban added that in addition to the CO2 emissions created from hauling in those soils, there were also tons of emissions released from the trailers and cranes that were used to install the huge trees. “Are urban trees really sustainable? Our carbon footprint was so large that these trees will never be able to sequester the amount we just put into the atmosphere.” He argued landscape architects must stop pretending urban trees sequester carbon when they are actually net-producers of carbon if you factor in transportation and installation. Also, landscape architects may be specifying other unsustainable materials (see earlier post).

Still, many progressive city governments including New York City see massive tree planting campaigns as a core part of their climate adaptation plans (see earlier post). Perhaps the questions are: Is there a way to mitigate uban trees’ installation and transportation-related emissions in the short-term with a greener installation technique? If not, does improved long-term resiliency to climate change somehow make up for increased short-term CO2 emissions?

Urban Trees Are Key to Successful Public Spaces

Peter Schaudt outlined his firm’s well-regarded Uptown Normal traffic circle (see earlier post) in Normal, Illinois, which was funded by federal, state, and local governments, “so you can imagine the number of meetings.” Schaudt decided to create a “people space in the center of a roundabout,” which some government officials didn’t think would be safe.

Schaudt thinks the new space, which features a set of urban trees, outer lawn, bog water infiltration system, and circular stream filled with cleansed water, represents the “park of the future.” Instead of seeming dangerous, the circle interior offers a safe space in large part due to the trees, which separate the cars from the social space. Trees in the traffic circle and nearby streets were also supported by silva cells, loam and drip irrigation, using Urban’s approach but on a smaller scale.

The circle’s trees were set-up to live a long time – Schaudt says he plans for the “4th dimension — time,” and likes to show clients what the site will look like in 25 years.

Lastly, MacDonagh added that well-planted trees are not only more cost-efficient, they also provide more ecosystem benefits. To demonstrate cost-efficiency, he pointed to research conduced by Minneapolis’ government, which found that they could either spend $3.5 million on new stormwater conveyance pipes to deal with runoff or spend $1.5 million on silva cell systems. On ecosystem service benefits, another study showed that 13-year old trees planted in standard structured soils had a net cost of $3,000, while a 50-year old tree planted in bioretention soils and silva cells offered $9,000 in benefits over its total lifecycle.

Quantifying the Benefits of the Sustainable Sites Initiative

Barbara Deutsch, Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and Jose Alminana, FASLA, and Tom Amoroso, Affiliate ASLA, of Andropogon Associates discussed how to quantify the ecosystem services provided by sustainable landscapes using the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) prerequisites and credits and other tools and calculators (see earlier post) in a session at the 2010 GreenBuild.

SITES and LAF’s Landscape Performance Series

According to Barbara Deutsch, LAF’s Landscape Performance Series aims to make “landscape performance as well understood as building performance” among design professionals and also complement SITES. To quantify all the benefits of SITES projects, landscape architects must use a “collaborative, integrated, systems-based approach,” design for natural processes and use natural resources, collect performance data, and continually measure benefits over time. (see earlier post)

She implied the usual landscape architecture project brief, which often just lists a “set of features,” is pretty useless. “We actually need solutions so we need to communicate the benefits of these features.” For landscape architects, Deutsch said it’s important to just start “defining and quantifying benefits now. If we are going to start investing in sustainability, we need to show value, a return on investment.”

Quantifying Benefits in the Design and Development Phase of a SITES Pilot Project

Jose Alminana and Tom Amoroso of Andropogon, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm, discussed a case study that demonstrate how to both apply SITES prerequisites and credits to projects in the design and development phase, and quantify the value of ecosystem services. Alminana said “any landscape can provide ecosystem services. It’s about putting a price tag on the value nature provides.”

Shoemaker Green, a 3.5-acre open space used often used for athletic events on the campus of University of Pennsylvania, was highlighted as an example of how to start quantifying benefits early in the design and development phase. The project, a SITES pilot project, is a hub for urban redevelopment and part of new UPenn leadership’s plans for preserving its network of open space and redeveloping underperforming areas.

Andropogon’s design is also expected to earn the project some 80 percent of SITES credits, said Alminana. SITES prerequisites 1.5 and 1.6, which relate to sustainably siting, were easily met because the project designers are redeveloping a brownfield site that already serves an existing community. “The site is next to existing transportation networks and amenities. This project is in a dense area with links to pedestrian paths and open spaces,” said Amoroso. 

To meet prerequisite 2.1, which asks project designers to “complete a pre-design site assessment,” Andropogon did in-depth studies of the site’s existing soils, vegetation, hydrology, and materials. On soils, Amoroso found that the existing site soils were “urban fill soils,” but the reference soils were “alluvial, common to floodplain areas.” Other studies were done by testing “soil borings, percolation rates, and levels of organic matter.” Soils are important for vegetation and water.

To determine water management capabilities on site, the team studied the hydrology and modeled the “aspect” in 3-D to determine the slope and path of water and the sun across the site, which will help determine which plants can be used. An inventory of existing materials was also conducted to determine how unearthed materials can be reused in the site to ensure the site has “zero-waste.”

In the “pre-design assessment,” the team said they would win credits for 2.3, “engaging users and other stakeholders in site design” because the team has set up regular meetings with user groups, a project steering committee, and clients. “We brought in a general contractor for pre-construction support,” to help streamline the design review process.

Moving into the actual design, the project team is expecting to earn credits by preserving open space networks, reducing potable water use by 75 percent (credit 3.2), and addressing stormwater management on site (credit 3.5). To store stormwater on site, Andropogon used a system of “silva cells” and tree trenches, porous pavers, and raingardens to deal with the first inch of rainwater and a cistern as a water storage depot. Finally, for major flood events, there is infrastrucuture to direct water to the combined sewer system.

Alminana said the site “can deal with runoff from adjacent buildings and store up to 87,000 gallons per year,” which translates into real economic value for the university given Philadelphia now has high stormwater run-off fees calculated based on impervious surface areas. Amoroso added that “previously, 70 percent of the site was impervious. We will flip this to 70 percent pervious.”

The project can accrue credits for its soil management plan (credit 4.3), preservation and restoration of moved trees (credit 4.6), and use of recycled materials (credit 5.5). The team plans to mimize excavation, but where it’s inevitable, reuse broken up asphalt in the site structure and achieve zero-waste. This means lots of avoided expense taking materials to landfill, as well as avoided CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, because urban soils don’t work with a lot of the sustainable vegetation and water systems, new soils will need to be trucked in though, perhaps adding to the project’s carbon footprint. While sustainable soils, water, and plants are crucial to any restorative landscape, project estimates for C02 emissions should be included in the mix of what’s tracked.

Calculating Gains in Construction Efficiency and Learning from Monitoring and Evaluation Results

The Salvation Army community center in central Philadelphia was used to explain how SITES construction credits work. The 11-acre site was redeveloped on a brownfield and now includes an integrated water management system. “For 2-year storm events, we calculated we reduced run-off by 99 percent, and for 100-year storm events, reduced run-off by 79 percent.”

The project would win all the credits for using recycled content (5.5) because reused concrete was integrated into the site. To achieve zero-waste, Alminana said you first need to create a plan for dealing with the materials in the beginning. “We focused on material sorting, upcycling and material placement in the site, and then backfill and grading and planting soil mixes.”

He said this approach worked, but it was “hard to quantify this benefit.” They eventually calculated they saved $300,000 in truck hauling fees. However, avoided CO2 emissions from material transportation wasn’t calculated.

Lastly, Alminana discussed Thomas Jefferson University’s Luebert Plaza, which is “basically a green roof over a parking lot,” in the context of SITES credit 9.1, which calls for “monitoring performance of sustainable design practices.” In this case, they found the soils weren’t working as planned. The plaza had to be watered twice a day to keep the grasses alive.

“We had to use soils that dry quickly so they don’t soak up too much water and put strain on the green roof structure. As a result, the root systems didn’t need to grow all the way down and the soil wasn’t balanced.” Tests showed that the there was too much bacteria and not enough fungi. The project team came up with a “customized organic composting tea” that “favors this species,” which helped reduce irrigation by 40 percent, eliminate chemical fertilizers, increase root growth, and limit compaction. Soils are key to the functioning of the site. “This demonstrates that beauty isn’t skin deep, but, in fact, you need to dig below the surface.”

Learn more at the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

Green Buildings Take off in China

Lin Borong, Tsinghua University, Angela Li, EMSI, and Xu Xiaowei, Shenzhen Institute of Building Research, discussed how green buildings are taking off in China at the 2010 GreenBuild. Noting that “one of out of every two new houses built is in China,” the speakers argued that the growth of energy-efficient buildings on the mainland is not only important for China, but also for the world.

China’s Olympics and Shanghai EXPO

According to Lin Borong, the 2008 Olympics and 2010 EXPO were two “important milestones” in the green building movement in China. The Olympic Village, which Lin helped design, was the first LEED-ND project in China, and featured a number of LEED Platinum buildings. Shanghai, through pavilions designed by China and other countries, demonstrated that “passive heating and cooling technologies” can work in China.

The 2008 Olympic Games were supposed to be “green and high-tech.” In this regard, facilities hit the mark: buildings featured an integrated ground heat pump system, solar collectors, advanced envelopes, daylighting systems, natural ventilation, and green lights. The ground-based greywater heat pump system reduced natural gas energy usage by 30 percent, which translates into hundreds of thousands of cubic meters saved.

The Shanghai EXPO demonstrated that passive design approaches can also save energy. “Integrated shading and building shape designs” (which look kind of like an inverted pyramid) enabled the designers to reduce direct solar radiation by 70 percent, saving 60MW of energy per square meter per year. Other Chinese pavilions featured green roofs and walls and renewable energy systems.

The Evolution of China’s Green Building Standards

Over ten years, China has gone through a series of steps towards a green building standard, culminating in the comprehensive 3-star rating system, which is similar to LEED.

In 2002, there was an eco-housing rating system. In 2003, the green olympics building assessment system (GOBAS), which was based on the Japanese CASBEE green building rating system, was created to help plan for the many new Olympic buildings.

Beginning in 2004, Beijing issued new green building codes, and two years later, national standards followed. In 2008, China got its version of LEED: the 3-star system, along with green building design labels.

LEED vs 3-star

Angela Li at EMSI, a group of the Kieran Corporation, said there are now 300-400 LEED projects in China, but 3-star is catching up fast. “LEED has a larger share of the market because they’ve been in practice here longer.” This built-in lead helps makes China the second largest LEED market in the world.

Li herself has worked on some 50 LEED projects in China, and outlined a few cases, including Taige apartments, a monster complex in Shenzhen, as well as commercial and industrial sites. One by Zaha Hadid is coming in 2014.

While the first LEED buildings were driven by foreign multinational corporations and local developers in major cities on the eastern coast, “second tier cities like Chongqing and Wuhan are now catching up.” Green buildings are “expanding geographically and there are more and more local customers.”

While the two systems are similar in many ways, 3-star accomodates some local issues better. “Land conservation is a bigger issue here than in the U.S. because we have a much larger population. As a result, we have landscape per capita guidelines, including 90 square meters for a residential unit.” 3-star may also encourage the use of recycled materials more than LEED does.

On LEED vs. 3-star, Li said “the two standards shouldn’t fight with each other. We should give room to client to compare and select.” There’s clearly room for both.

Applying the Sustainable Sites Initiative

At GreenBuild 2010, David Yocca, FASLA, Principal of Conservation Design Forum, explained how the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES®) is moving to the next step in its path towards becoming a functioning rating system: “receiving feedback from real projects.”

SITES, as Yocca explained, is an “interdisciplinary effort to create a voluntary national guideline and rating system that can encourage integrated, systems-based approaches to sustainable landscape” design and development. SITES will work at all landscape scales, with or without structures. “The goal is renew and restore places and move from just conservation to regeneration through performative landscapes.” Yocca also argued that SITES can be used to “restore degraded ecosystem services” found in brownfields and greyfields, creating new economic value in the process.

Sustainable landscapes can provide a range of ecosystem services:

  • Climate regulation
  • Clean air, soil, water
  • Water supply regulation
  • Soil erosion / sediment control
  • Habitat and pollination
  • Decomposed waste integration
  • Human health and wellbeing
  • Food and organic products
  • Culltural, educational, and aesthetic value
  • Flood impact mitigation, among others.

Status of the SITES Guidelines and Rating System

SITES will be in its pilot phase over the next two years. In November 2009, the guidelines and performance benchmarks were released, which include a set of 15 prerequisites and 51 credits. The documents released include “credit intent, requirements, submittal documentation, potential technologies or strategies, and links to other credits.”

The rating system is on a 250 point scale, with four certification levels from one star to four star. “The certification levels are based in performance criteria. We are asking people to demonstrate actual performance.” The 250 possible points that can be accrued are broken down into a few categories:

  • Site selection (21 points)
  • Pre-design assessment and planning (4 points)
  • Site Design: Water (44 points)
  • Site Design: Soils and Vegetation (51 points)
  • Site Design: Material Selection (36 points)
  • Site Design: Human Health and Wellbeing (32 points)
  • Construction (21 points)
  • Operations & Maintenance (23 points) “This is important for ensuring the site provides ecosystem services over the long-term.”
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (18 points).

Landscape projects can use SITES in three ways: They can certify with SITES, just use the guidelines without certification, or by 2012, certify their projects using LEED, which will integrate SITES.

SITES’ Pilot Projects

Some 163 projects were selected as pilots. “These will inform the development of the reference guide and also guide credit refinement.” Pilots are found in 34 U.S. states and Iceland, Spain, and Canada. Projects include mixed-use, commercial, residential, institutional / educational, industrial, government, transportation corridors, and open space parks and gardens. The parks category covers 25 percent of projects.

Some 65 percent of projects are greyfields, while 20 percent are greenfields and 15 percent are brownfields. Project scales range from less than one acre to more than 500 acres. There are also lots of project budgets: 59 percent are more than one million, but 15 percent cost less than $100,000.

Illustrating the Prerequisites and Credits Using Case Studies

A number of Conservation Design Forum projects are SITES pilots. The Tuthill Corporation Headquarters and Training Facility in Burr Ridge, Illinois, is “integrated sustainable site design in practice.”

Prerequisite 2.1, which asks projects to “conduct a pre-design site assessment,” was met. The project team found through an initial investigation that the Illinois site was a “high-quality remnant prarie.” To preserve the prarie as much as possible, the site designers convinced the client to move the planned parking lots under the building, which “also provides weather protection in the winter.”

Prerequisite 2.2, which asks project teams to “use an integrated site design process,” was also met and Yocca found that it helped forge a “close connection between the interior and exterior spaces.” In addition, this prerequisite “creates tangible efficiencies” in the form of streamlined schedules, costs and approval processes.

Another prerequisite, 3.3, which asks projects to “protect and restore riparian, wetland and shoreline ecosystems” where applicable, was achieved but took some finagling. Yocca said he “engaged in a dialogue” with local environmental regulatory bodies to convince them to “invest in systems health instead of just putting a ring around degraded areas.” Part of this involved ripping out invasive species so that native plants could take over. In another example, he also persuaded local officials to allow for controlled burnings, which help achieve 4.8, a credit that calls for “preserving and plant and soil communities native to the eco-region.”

One project mentioned is the well-known Kresge Foundation Headquarters in Troy, Michigan. Kresge, which reduces potable water use by 75 percent (earning SITES credit 3.2) and manages stormwater on site (credit 3.5) through green infrastructure systems, started with “a simple grass matrix but additional species were added in over time, resulting in increased biodiversity.” Michigan state government definitely agrees: it gave the project the highest rating in the Michigan Floristic Quality Index, which means the site has “exceptional biodiversity value.” (see a case study). The foundation staff also use the site to teach the public about sustainability, which earns more credits.

Lastly, in another pilot project, Shay’s Folly, in a Western Springs, Illinois housing community, Kevin Graham, ASLA, is using the SITES credits to create a “landscape retrofit,” which features a system of green infrastructure pavers and swales that diverts and captures low-quality water run-off from roofs and streets, and a central water retention basin that captures clean rainwater. This integrated approach only works because the green infrastructure restores the landscape’s natural water managment function: “This system would have failed if you had oil-slick run-off going into the detention basin.” This project is also focused on restoring soils, adding native plants, and integrated compost into the landscape.

Learn more at the Sustainable Sites Initiative Web site.