Posts tagged "green infrastructure"
The Atlantic Cities:
"Why Is There So Little Innovation in Water Infrastructure?
Henry Grabar. Sept 13, 2013
On its 2013 report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. water infrastructure a D. Even the nation’s best water systems are ancient — we have over 240,000 water main breaks each year — and unprepared for a mix of current challenges that includes climate change, tightening budgets, growing urban populations, and pharmaceutical contaminants. This spring, after record-setting rains, Detroit had no choice but to pour several hundred million gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes. 
What’s the problem with American water infrastructure? In part, it’s the same old story: federal infrastructure spending in the U.S. continues to fall and cash-strapped cities, choked by the sequester and the economic crisis, can’t afford to fill in the gaps.
But water infrastructure may be harder to change than most. That’s the argument put forth in a recent paper by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (handily abbreviated ReNUWIt). In “The Innovation Deficit in Urban Water” [PDF], the authors argue that water infrastructure is systemically resistant to innovation — and put forth some ideas for what we can do about it.”
Photo:  Flickr user Mircea2011

The Atlantic Cities:

"Why Is There So Little Innovation in Water Infrastructure?

Henry Grabar. Sept 13, 2013

On its 2013 report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. water infrastructure a D. Even the nation’s best water systems are ancient — we have over 240,000 water main breaks each year — and unprepared for a mix of current challenges that includes climate change, tightening budgets, growing urban populations, and pharmaceutical contaminants. This spring, after record-setting rains, Detroit had no choice but to pour several hundred million gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes. 

What’s the problem with American water infrastructure? In part, it’s the same old story: federal infrastructure spending in the U.S. continues to fall and cash-strapped cities, choked by the sequester and the economic crisis, can’t afford to fill in the gaps.

But water infrastructure may be harder to change than most. That’s the argument put forth in a recent paper by researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (handily abbreviated ReNUWIt). In “The Innovation Deficit in Urban Water” [PDF], the authors argue that water infrastructure is systemically resistant to innovation — and put forth some ideas for what we can do about it.”

Photo:  Flickr user Mircea2011

The Atlantic Cities: 

"Hoboken Could Be a Model for Dealing With Urban Flooding

SARAH GOODYEAR FEB 13, 2013

Hoboken is a charming, compact little city on the banks of the Hudson River, with a walkable downtown and excellent public transit connections to New York City, as well as other communities in New Jersey. Its streets are lined with trees and brownstones, and it has transformed over the last 20 years from a fading industrial backwater to a flourishing residential community, gaining nearly 30 percent in population between 2000 and 2010.
Gentrification and the rising cost of living were, in fact, one of the more troublesome issues facing this city of 50,000 — until Superstorm Sandy hit. Then the rising waters suddenly became everyone’s primary concern. Flooding filled the city “like a bathtub,” mayor Dawn Zimmer said in the midst of the crisis. Tens of thousands were left stranded without power in the storm’s aftermath, and the streets were filled with contaminated water. It took weeks, in some cases even months, for transit connections to be restored.
Hoboken’s geographic position made it unusually vulnerable to Sandy’s effects. The land occupied by the city was once an island in the tidal waters where the Hudson opens up to what is now New York Harbor. Much of its two-square-mile area lies at or below sea level. Water came at the city from several directions, and there was nowhere for it to go once it had poured in.”
Photo: Reuters

The Atlantic Cities: 

"Hoboken Could Be a Model for Dealing With Urban Flooding

SARAH GOODYEAR FEB 13, 2013

Hoboken is a charming, compact little city on the banks of the Hudson River, with a walkable downtown and excellent public transit connections to New York City, as well as other communities in New Jersey. Its streets are lined with trees and brownstones, and it has transformed over the last 20 years from a fading industrial backwater to a flourishing residential community, gaining nearly 30 percent in population between 2000 and 2010.

Gentrification and the rising cost of living were, in fact, one of the more troublesome issues facing this city of 50,000 — until Superstorm Sandy hit. Then the rising waters suddenly became everyone’s primary concern. Flooding filled the city “like a bathtub,” mayor Dawn Zimmer said in the midst of the crisis. Tens of thousands were left stranded without power in the storm’s aftermath, and the streets were filled with contaminated water. It took weeks, in some cases even months, for transit connections to be restored.

Hoboken’s geographic position made it unusually vulnerable to Sandy’s effects. The land occupied by the city was once an island in the tidal waters where the Hudson opens up to what is now New York Harbor. Much of its two-square-mile area lies at or below sea level. Water came at the city from several directions, and there was nowhere for it to go once it had poured in.”

Photo: Reuters

Switchboard: 
Greening America’s capital cities
Kaid Benfield. Jan 30, 2013
"The federal Environmental Protection Agency sponsors an innovative planning program designed to help bring more green infrastructure and green building practices to our country’s state capitals, making them simultaneously more environmentally resilient and more beautiful.  Implemented with EPA’s cohorts in the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities - the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development - Greening America’s Capitals launched in 2010 and thus far has been selecting five capitals each year for design assistance.  The program is not very well known but deserves to be. 
The idea is that these particularly prominent communities are inevitably ambassadors of a sort for their respective states and for other cities.  Indeed, elected representatives and their staffs – leaders, by definition – from all across their states work at least part-time every year in the capital cities.  What they experience there, good or bad, imparts observations and lessons that can be taken back to the representatives’ home districts or even incorporated into statewide policy.  There are also many visitors to state capitals for business or pleasure, each forming and taking away impressions.”
Photo: Jimmy Emerson, Creative Commons license
 

Switchboard

Greening America’s capital cities

Kaid Benfield. Jan 30, 2013

"The federal Environmental Protection Agency sponsors an innovative planning program designed to help bring more green infrastructure and green building practices to our country’s state capitals, making them simultaneously more environmentally resilient and more beautiful.  Implemented with EPA’s cohorts in the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities - the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development - Greening America’s Capitals launched in 2010 and thus far has been selecting five capitals each year for design assistance.  The program is not very well known but deserves to be. 

The idea is that these particularly prominent communities are inevitably ambassadors of a sort for their respective states and for other cities.  Indeed, elected representatives and their staffs – leaders, by definition – from all across their states work at least part-time every year in the capital cities.  What they experience there, good or bad, imparts observations and lessons that can be taken back to the representatives’ home districts or even incorporated into statewide policy.  There are also many visitors to state capitals for business or pleasure, each forming and taking away impressions.”

Photo: Jimmy Emerson, Creative Commons license

 

“Seattle, Washington’s Rain Wise Program: Making Managing On-Site Stormwater Easy
Akua Nyame-Mensah. June 25, 2012
Cities across the United States are turning to property owners to help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff making its way into sewers and stormwater drains. In Seattle, Washington, the Residential RainWise Program aims to reduce the impact of stormwater running off of private impervious surfaces in the city by providing homeowners with resources and incentives to implement low-cost green infrastructure techniques to mitigate stormwater.
By appealing to property owners, the city hopes RainWise property interventions will “reduce flooding, protect property and restore … waters for people and wildlife.” The program aims to encourage property owners to capture rainwater, reduce impervious surface, and “help the rain soak into the soil, just like it does in … native forests.”  The RainWise Program website makes it easy for residents to find the footprint of their property and select the appropriate RainWise intervention for their property from a list of recommendations.  The city has also developed a database of licensed contractors, engineers, and landscape architects to help residents with installing interventions, such as rain gardens and cisterns that require a permit.

Currently there is a rebate program for residents based on the amount of square feet of roof runoff that is controlled by cisterns and rain gardens in select areas of the city that have combined sewer overflow issues. The city hopes to increase the area of the city that is eligible for these rebates.
As the cost of installing and maintaining traditional stormwater infrastructure, such as storm drains, continues to increase, cities like Seattle, Washington will continue to look for ways to encourage property owners to sustainably manage rainwater onsite.” 
Via: Global Site Plans
Image: 

Seattle, Washington’s Rain Wise Program: Making Managing On-Site Stormwater Easy

Akua Nyame-Mensah. June 25, 2012

Cities across the United States are turning to property owners to help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff making its way into sewers and stormwater drains. In Seattle, Washington, the Residential RainWise Program aims to reduce the impact of stormwater running off of private impervious surfaces in the city by providing homeowners with resources and incentives to implement low-cost green infrastructure techniques to mitigate stormwater.

By appealing to property owners, the city hopes RainWise property interventions will “reduce flooding, protect property and restore … waters for people and wildlife.” The program aims to encourage property owners to capture rainwater, reduce impervious surface, and “help the rain soak into the soil, just like it does in … native forests.”  The RainWise Program website makes it easy for residents to find the footprint of their property and select the appropriate RainWise intervention for their property from a list of recommendations.  The city has also developed a database of licensed contractors, engineers, and landscape architects to help residents with installing interventions, such as rain gardens and cisterns that require a permit.

Currently there is a rebate program for residents based on the amount of square feet of roof runoff that is controlled by cisterns and rain gardens in select areas of the city that have combined sewer overflow issues. The city hopes to increase the area of the city that is eligible for these rebates.

As the cost of installing and maintaining traditional stormwater infrastructure, such as storm drains, continues to increase, cities like Seattle, Washington will continue to look for ways to encourage property owners to sustainably manage rainwater onsite.” 

Via: Global Site Plans

Image: 

“The East River Blueway Plan
Urban Omnibus
As New York City’s waterfronts have deindustrialized over the past forty years, residential and recreational redevelopment has transformed the edges of Manhattan’s West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and the East River’s eastern banks in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City. Its western banks, however, confront a much harsher set of edge conditions, especially in the southern half of Manhattan. The FDR Drive, disused piers, superblocks of towers-in-the-park housing, and large institutions like hospitals and power stations all conspire to limit public access to the waterfront and, moreover, to the water itself. And while the aim of all the recent attention paid to riverside public spaces (such as the renovation of East River Park) is to create high quality spaces near the water, these efforts don’t necessarily prioritize access to the waterway itself, a fast-moving tidal strait long considered unsafe, unclean and otherwise unfit for a wide range of uses, including waterborne recreation, transportation, and ecological education and restoration.
Providing New Yorkers exactly those opportunities has led the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Assemblymember Brian Kavanaugh to support the efforts of local community-based organizations, community boards, City and State agencies to make it easier for New Yorkers to get into the water.* WXY Architecture + Urban Design is the firm charged with planning a network of sites, listening to community stakeholders, recommending access strategies and identifying opportunities for capital projects along the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge up to East 38th Street. So we sat down with Adam Lubinsky, a managing principal at WXY, to discuss the process behind the East River Blueway Plan. The potential of New York City’s waterways extends beyond riverfront open space or residential real estate with river views. But to get past the water’s edge, as Lubinsky tells us in the interview below, requires a multivalent strategy of community engagement, urban planning and design.”
Via: Urban Omnibus
Image: WXY Architecture + Urban Design

The East River Blueway Plan

Urban Omnibus

As New York City’s waterfronts have deindustrialized over the past forty years, residential and recreational redevelopment has transformed the edges of Manhattan’s West Side, Brooklyn Heights, and the East River’s eastern banks in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City. Its western banks, however, confront a much harsher set of edge conditions, especially in the southern half of Manhattan. The FDR Drive, disused piers, superblocks of towers-in-the-park housing, and large institutions like hospitals and power stations all conspire to limit public access to the waterfront and, moreover, to the water itself. And while the aim of all the recent attention paid to riverside public spaces (such as the renovation of East River Park) is to create high quality spaces near the water, these efforts don’t necessarily prioritize access to the waterway itself, a fast-moving tidal strait long considered unsafe, unclean and otherwise unfit for a wide range of uses, including waterborne recreation, transportation, and ecological education and restoration.

Providing New Yorkers exactly those opportunities has led the Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and State Assemblymember Brian Kavanaugh to support the efforts of local community-based organizations, community boards, City and State agencies to make it easier for New Yorkers to get into the water.* WXY Architecture + Urban Design is the firm charged with planning a network of sites, listening to community stakeholders, recommending access strategies and identifying opportunities for capital projects along the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge up to East 38th Street. So we sat down with Adam Lubinsky, a managing principal at WXY, to discuss the process behind the East River Blueway Plan. The potential of New York City’s waterways extends beyond riverfront open space or residential real estate with river views. But to get past the water’s edge, as Lubinsky tells us in the interview below, requires a multivalent strategy of community engagement, urban planning and design.”

Via: Urban Omnibus

Image: WXY Architecture + Urban Design

“Green Infrastructure Could Save Cities Billions
Nate Berg. April 24, 2012
Compared to canvas grocery bags or CFL light bulbs or even solar panels, larger “green infrastructure” projects such as roof gardens or permeable streets can be hugely expensive. It turns out, however, that they’re actually not that expensive when compared to the costs of building more traditional infrastructure, and can even save money. According to a new study, governments are wasting billions of dollars a year by not going green.
Looking at 479 case studies of green infrastructure projects around the U.S., the report finds that the majority of projects turned out to be just as affordable or even more so than traditional “grey” infrastructure. About a quarter of projects raised costs, 31 percent, kept costs the same and more than 44 percent actually brought costs down.
"The lesson learned so far by early adopter communities who have already implemented green infrastructure in a significant fashion is that a wide-ranging commitment to including green infrastructure stormwater approaches, on public as well as private properties, can result in long-term fiscal savings for local governments as well as provide numerous, tangible economic and community benefits through related ecosystem services," notes the study, co-authored by the American Society of Landscape Architects, American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation, and ECONorthwest.
The costs of traditional infrastructure are especially pronounced in cities and regions with combined sewer systems that collect both sewage and stormwater. During heavy rainfall, these systems are often overwhelmed, pouring sewage-laden water into drinking water sources and greatly increasing water treatment costs.
Technologies like permeable pavements and rain gardens can capture, naturally treat and filter stormwater back into the ground, preventing overflows and reducing reliance on treatment centers. Chicago’s existing green infrastructure, including its green alleys, diverted about 70 million gallons of stormwater from treatment facilities in 2009, according to the report.
These projects can create significant costs savings. New York City plans to build green infrastructure to cut down discharges into its combined sewer system – a project expected to save about $1.5 billion in treatment and infrastructure costs over 20 years. Replacing streets in Seattle with permeable pavement and other green infrastructure has cut paving costs nearly in half.
And by allowing natural processes to take over the work we’ve been building infrastructure to handle, operations and maintenance costs also fall. The report concedes that some maintenance on green infrastructure will still be required, but that it is significantly less than what’s required by traditional infrastructure.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Photo: Shutterstock

Green Infrastructure Could Save Cities Billions

Nate Berg. April 24, 2012

Compared to canvas grocery bags or CFL light bulbs or even solar panels, larger “green infrastructure” projects such as roof gardens or permeable streets can be hugely expensive. It turns out, however, that they’re actually not that expensive when compared to the costs of building more traditional infrastructure, and can even save money. According to a new study, governments are wasting billions of dollars a year by not going green.

Looking at 479 case studies of green infrastructure projects around the U.S., the report finds that the majority of projects turned out to be just as affordable or even more so than traditional “grey” infrastructure. About a quarter of projects raised costs, 31 percent, kept costs the same and more than 44 percent actually brought costs down.

"The lesson learned so far by early adopter communities who have already implemented green infrastructure in a significant fashion is that a wide-ranging commitment to including green infrastructure stormwater approaches, on public as well as private properties, can result in long-term fiscal savings for local governments as well as provide numerous, tangible economic and community benefits through related ecosystem services," notes the study, co-authored by the American Society of Landscape Architects, American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation, and ECONorthwest.

The costs of traditional infrastructure are especially pronounced in cities and regions with combined sewer systems that collect both sewage and stormwater. During heavy rainfall, these systems are often overwhelmed, pouring sewage-laden water into drinking water sources and greatly increasing water treatment costs.

Technologies like permeable pavements and rain gardens can capture, naturally treat and filter stormwater back into the ground, preventing overflows and reducing reliance on treatment centers. Chicago’s existing green infrastructure, including its green alleys, diverted about 70 million gallons of stormwater from treatment facilities in 2009, according to the report.

These projects can create significant costs savings. New York City plans to build green infrastructure to cut down discharges into its combined sewer system – a project expected to save about $1.5 billion in treatment and infrastructure costs over 20 years. Replacing streets in Seattle with permeable pavement and other green infrastructure has cut paving costs nearly in half.

And by allowing natural processes to take over the work we’ve been building infrastructure to handle, operations and maintenance costs also fall. The report concedes that some maintenance on green infrastructure will still be required, but that it is significantly less than what’s required by traditional infrastructure.”

Via: The Atlantic Cities

Photo: Shutterstock


“Urbanizing the Suburban Street
Kaid Benfield. Dec 20, 2011
We’ve made such a mess of the suburbs we constructed in the last fifty or so years that one wonders whether they can ever be made into something more sustainable. Strip malls, traffic jams, cookie-cutter subdivisions, diminished nature, almost no sense of outdoor community. We all know the drill: there are nice places to be in America’s recently built suburbs, but we have to know where they are and drive to them through a visual and environmental mess to get there.
One of the most challenging aspects of suburbs, and of the prescriptions for improving them, is the character of their roadways. Most of us take the poor design of our streets – the most visible part of most suburban communities, if you think about it – so much for granted that it never occurs to us that they actually could be made better for the community and for the environment.
Consider, for example, main “arterial” streets so wide that pedestrians can’t cross them, even if there is a reason to; little if any greenery to absorb water, heat, or provide a calming influence; or residential streets with no sidewalks.
This is where Montgomery County’s new street-scape initiative comes in. Just northwest of Washington, D.C., Montgomery has had its ups and downs accommodating and managing tremendous growth. But there is no question that it has done some things right, including thepreservation of much of its farmland – in part by channeling growth into the central districts of Bethesda and Silver Spring, both served by D.C.’s rail transit system, and more recently by encouraging walkable redevelopment along the notoriously sprawled-out Rockville Pike corridor.
As a result, Montgomery has actually been in the business of “retrofitting” or “repairing” the suburbs (very gradually, to be sure) since before planners began to call it that. Now, it has undertaken a pilot study on two stretches of roadway in the county to evaluate the use of green infrastructure – strategically placed vegetation and other methods that reduce polluted runoff by using or mimicking natural hydrology – along with measures to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. One is an arterial road that goes through residential areas, the other a wide commercial street. Both showed there was much potential, and Montgomery is now planning to integrate more environmental features into its streets.”
Via: The Atlantic
Image: 5vR Design

Urbanizing the Suburban Street

Kaid Benfield. Dec 20, 2011

We’ve made such a mess of the suburbs we constructed in the last fifty or so years that one wonders whether they can ever be made into something more sustainable. Strip malls, traffic jams, cookie-cutter subdivisions, diminished nature, almost no sense of outdoor community. We all know the drill: there are nice places to be in America’s recently built suburbs, but we have to know where they are and drive to them through a visual and environmental mess to get there.

One of the most challenging aspects of suburbs, and of the prescriptions for improving them, is the character of their roadways. Most of us take the poor design of our streets – the most visible part of most suburban communities, if you think about it – so much for granted that it never occurs to us that they actually could be made better for the community and for the environment.

Consider, for example, main “arterial” streets so wide that pedestrians can’t cross them, even if there is a reason to; little if any greenery to absorb water, heat, or provide a calming influence; or residential streets with no sidewalks.

This is where Montgomery County’s new street-scape initiative comes in. Just northwest of Washington, D.C., Montgomery has had its ups and downs accommodating and managing tremendous growth. But there is no question that it has done some things right, including thepreservation of much of its farmland – in part by channeling growth into the central districts of Bethesda and Silver Spring, both served by D.C.’s rail transit system, and more recently by encouraging walkable redevelopment along the notoriously sprawled-out Rockville Pike corridor.

As a result, Montgomery has actually been in the business of “retrofitting” or “repairing” the suburbs (very gradually, to be sure) since before planners began to call it that. Now, it has undertaken a pilot study on two stretches of roadway in the county to evaluate the use of green infrastructure – strategically placed vegetation and other methods that reduce polluted runoff by using or mimicking natural hydrology – along with measures to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. One is an arterial road that goes through residential areas, the other a wide commercial street. Both showed there was much potential, and Montgomery is now planning to integrate more environmental features into its streets.”

Via: The Atlantic

Image: 5vR Design

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