Environmental Works is pleased to announce that their Puyallup Tribal Longhouse project has been awarded an international SEED Award for Excellence in Public Interest Design. SEED Awards recognize excellence in social, economic and environmental design, and represent the collaborations needed to create truly sustainable projects and change in the world. Six projects were selected out of sixty-five submitted from 21 countries worldwide.
SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design®) is the only design standard to use a “triple bottom line” approach to public interest design, going beyond “green design” to address all issues that challenge communities globally. The SEED Awards are organized by the Social Economic Environmental Design Network and Design Corps, a Raleigh-based non-profit design organization. www.seednetwork.org
For project details, images and team members, see www.designcorps.org/awards/winners.
We are more than pleased to announce that our very own Rachel Minnery has received the 2012 Young Architect Award from AIA Seattle!
Each year, AIA Seattle recognizes leadership and achievement in design and the built environment through its honors program. Honors acknowledge excellence, inspire by example, and strengthen ties between architects and the many other professions that partner with them to make a difference through design.
“Good design makes a difference, but the architectural community can’t do it alone.” said Lisa Richmond, Executive Director of AIA Seattle. “We honor not only our own outstanding members, but those visionary leaders with whom we partner to achieve our shared goals.”
Rachel Minnery, recipient of the 2012 Young Architect Award
According to AIA Seattle’s press release, “Rachel Minnery is an architect, LEED accredited professional and community activist with Environmental Works, a non-profit community design center. Her passion is creating, enhancing and sustaining vibrant communities for all. Rachel has designed and managed housing, education and healthcare projects in the public and private sectors. Rachel supports communities in crisis, providing disaster response and recovery services while preparing other architects to do the same. As chair of the national American Institute of Architect’s Disaster Assistance Committee and cofounder of Architects Without Borders Seattle, she advocates for and organizes architects to contribute volunteer design services to communities in great need. She has led groups of volunteer architects to disaster stricken places close to home and as far away as Mississippi and Haiti, responding to floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. In 2006, AIA Seattle honored her with the Community Service Award. Rachel is the recipient of the Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) award from Ball State University and College of Architecture’s Award of Outstanding Achievement.”
Environmental Works is extremely proud of Rachel and all the work she does to support communities in need, both within our office and with her numerous volunteer activities. We extend our warmest congratulations on the receipt of this honor!
My husband and I moved into our Loyal Heights home about 4 years ago and much to our dismay quickly learned the joys of homeownership. When we bought our home we fell in love with the way the home sat back from the street and created a large front yard. We had many hopes and dreams for ways to improve the visual qualities of the yard but somehow, three years later discovered nothing had been accomplished.
In early Spring of 2011 I started receiving pamphlets and flyers in the mail from contractors and landscape designers wanting to help me install a rain garden and take advantage of the Ballard Rain Wise program. I was intrigued to say the least. I thought it would be a great opportunity to install some much needed landscaping and visual interest to our growingly neglected front yard, while at the same time helping the environment.
None of the pamphlets and flyers caught my eye quite like the one I received from Seattle Rain Garden. The letter I received from this company promised me a rain garden at no cost! I was surprised and a little skeptical.
After doing a bit more research, I contacted Stephan Appleyard of Seattle Rain Garden to discuss our possibilities. Stephan was extremely enthusiastic and wanted to get started on the project as soon as possible. I gave him my address so he could look at the site and provide us with some idea of what was possible.
A few days later we had our first meeting and Stephan already had an idea of the size and best location for the rain garden. Stephan discussed with us how he calculated the size of the rain garden which is based on the roof line of our house. He explained that due to the size of our roof we would need to provide two separate rain gardens. The RainWise program outlines that no more than half of the property’s runoff or up to 1,000 sqft filter to a single rain garden. In Seattle, the bottom area of the rain garden should be about 15% of the contributing roof area.
Stephan discussed with us that the best location of the rain garden would be close to the street as the design guidelines require a 10’ setback from the house, in addition a route to street drains is needed for overflow in case of a big storm. These parameters made us all agree that the best location might be the northwest corner of the front yard along our existing rockery. We decided that this location would be best visually also as it can tie into the existing rockery and landscaping. We discussed that although there would be two separate rain gardens we would prefer to have them blend together visually as much as possible.
The next step was the fun part! Stephan came over a few days later to layout the general shape of the rain garden. He brought a garden hose and we used it to shape the garden. We tried a few different general shapes, he ended up leaving the hose for my husband and I to manipulate as we thought it looked best. Over the next few days, we adjusted the hose slightly here and there and settled on a final shape.
A preconstruction inspection was performed and approved by the RainWise inspectors. This process was managed entirely by Seattle Rain Garden.
After the shape was determined, the Seattle Rain Garden crew came to my house while I was at work and pulled up the grass where the garden was going to be. I am not going to lie, when I first got home from work and saw, what seemed to be a large chunk of my yard, now dirt; I began to wonder what I was getting myself into! Luckily, I received a call from Stephan shortly after returning home and he assured me that the initial shock was all part of the process. He agreed to put a bit more grass back into the yard to blend the rain garden so to not overwhelm the feel of the yard.
Over the next few weeks the rain garden began to gradually take shape, and the contractors dug the required holes. Installed the piping from the downspouts to the rain garden, and laid the special soil.
For plant selections we decided on a simple modern look with a lot of color and texture in all seasons. We choose the Cornus Alba Elegentissima (Red Twig Dogwood) which has this great shimmering varigated foliage when leafed out & in the winter has this spectacular bright red stem. The cornus is backed up by Salix purpurea “Nana” or Dwarf Arctic willow with a mass planting of Carex Testecea along the borders.
As the process was taking place our neighbors loved stopping by to observe the progress. Many of them were complementary of the outcome and wanted to learn more about the program. It was nice to be able to share with them and feel like we were benefiting our neighborhood environment.
After the project was complete the RainWise inspector came out again and confirmed the project He placed a sign in the yard confirming “I am RainWise”! It made me proud.
As far as the rebate process was concerned, it was surprisingly easy. Stephan at Seattle Rain Garden took care of most of the process, and I received the rebate in a timely manner. Stephan made good on his promise to deliver a rain garden at the cost of the rebate, so the project cost my husband and I nothing! I am very happy with the outcome and would recommend the RainWise rebate program to everyone!
Environmental WORKS and our team at Barker Landscape Architects and Springline Design have created a Green Stormwater Infrastructure case study which built upon a current housing design project in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood at 12th and Jefferson to explore the feasibility, challenges and opportunities of incorporating natural drainage strategies in the right-of-way at 12th Avenue to inform future retrofits and development in the area of study and to serve as an informative exploration for similar conditions.
Goals: Reduce amount of polluted runoff and combined sewer overflow, restore vegetative environment, enhance pedestrian environment.
Objectives: Improve water quality, provide up to 100% storm water infiltration on-site (need specific soils analysis to determine)
Outcomes: Create recommendations that add value to Design Guidelines for 12th Avenue. Create design concepts with input from community and city as available. Identify synergies and potential application to future 12th Ave projects: Leverage opportunity to expand scope of construction project to also include ROW retrofits.
And what timing! Look at what else is going on in Capitol Hill:
- Seattle University’s 12th Ave and James Court Park and Woonerf
- 12th Ave Pedestrian Safety Study (Dept of Neighborhoods grant)
- Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
- Yesler Terrace Redevelopment
Case Study Project Areas –
- Alder Street crossing: 12th ave slopes down to the south making water catchment a challenge. There are no traffic lights, stop signs or pedestrian crossings between Jefferson and Yesler. A retrofit of one or more intersections with crosswalk provides an opportunity for safe crossing, natural drainage, and flow reduction: Opportunity to incorporate mid-block curb bulb, curb bulbs, and porous sidewalk.
12th Ave Green Street Alternative Concept at Alder Street crossing
2. Olive Intersection through Howell Intersection: These two intersections are heavily traveled and include Seattle Central College students, however there are no designated crossings: Opportunity to incorporate curb bulbs and bioretention planters.
12th Ave Green Street Alternative Concept at Olive to Howell Intersections
Other (future funding) project opportunities:
Fir Street to Yesler: The Yesler Terrace project includes one block of 12th. Scope of this work could be expanded. Residents in this area have commented about basement flooding and street flooding during heavy rains.
These concepts combine a few different community goals and concerns we’ve heard from the 12th Ave Stewards Committee: pedestrian safety, aesthetics, stormwater control, and sustainability.
More explorations to come!
Opportunities for Seattle Home and Business Owners: Rebates and Incentives
Together with habitat restoration, source reduction of toxins, and development density and location, stormwater control is one of four primary strategies with the power to decrease pollution in the Sound. As citizens and design professionals we look to do what is in our power to affect positive change.
In our continuation of posts on re-greening Seattle’s Green Streets to improve the water quality of the Puget Sound, we’ve found a number of case studies and programs. Just a few of these are briefly described below.
Seattle Pilot Projects
While stormwater codes affect new development, what do we do about the other 98% of the city that is already developed? Reasonable and effective retrofits are the solution to stormwater’s impact on the Puget Sound. Seattle has a variety of pilot projects that address development at all scales.
Seattle RainWise program - Ballard
This program incentivizes homeowner retrofits, incorporating cisterns and rain barrels used to control stormwater from their property for impervious spaces such as the roof and driveway. Homeowners are reimbursed for the majority of the cost. The program started in Ballard and has just been expanded to Windermere, Delridge and North Union Bay to other CSO basin areas in the near future. https://rainwise.seattle.gov/city/seattle/overview
Stormwater Facility Credit Program:
Seattle Public Utilities offers an annual credit of up to 50% on drainage bills for private stormwater systems that reduce stormwater flow and/or provide water quality treatment. Maintained by the owner, systems such as raingardens, permeable pavement, infiltration systems, and vaults qualify for credit when they are built to code.
2nd Avenue Street Edge Alternative (SEA) Street, a FEMA full mitigation best practice story
A 660-foot block area of Seattle was retrofitted to reduce stormwater runoff and enhance the pedestrian environment. Conventional curbs and gutters were replaced with bioswales in the right-of-way and street widths were reduced from 25 to 14 feet. Completed in 2007, the project cost Seattle $651,548 and has proven successful through record rainfall storms.
Swale on Yale
Diagram of biofiltration swale
In a blink of an eye, the South Lake Union and Cascade Neighborhood have sprouted new offices, restaurants, and apartments, and in the world of stormwater that means a large load to the city’s infrastructure. To accommodate the new impervious space, in the stormwater system, approximately 190 million gallons of stormwater will be treated annually in four biofiltration swales at Yale Ave North and Pontius Avenue North. The biofiltration swales are 270 feet long by 10’-6” to 16’-6”. Stormwater flows in storm pipe below the surface from Capitol Hill to the Cascade Neighborhood where it is collected in a vault and then diverted into the swales. 2,000 feet of new storm pipe will be built to convey the stormwater to the diversion vault, through the swales and then the remaining treated stormwater will be discharged into Lake Union.
As the WA Department of Ecology has just closed the comment period on updates to the stormwater code, under consideration has been whether GSI should be required or incentivized. One goal is to simply utilize opportunities where work is already being performed in the right of way to enhance the vegetated space in the planting strip, by adding the benefit of decreasing stormwater runoff and increasing water quality with a bioswale.
When Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) is voluntary or difficult to enforce, Developers interests need to be addressed:
- Construction cost
- Property sales
Likewise, successful GSI programs will address the concerns of Property Owners:
- Utility fees
- Property taxes
- Operation and Maintenance
Non-Profits and Academic Institutions raise awareness and advocacy:
The 12,000 Rain Gardens Campaign, spearheaded by Washington State University and the nonprofit Stewardship Partners, hopes to see 12,000 green stormwater facilities installed in the Puget Sound region by 2016.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative
An interdisciplinary group from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden came together to create The Sustainable Sites Initiative to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. http://www.sustainablesites.org/
Cost/benefit analysis of GSI:
Green stormwater infrastructure is new to many people who are used to seeing convential curbs, tree lawn and sidewalk. Not only do risks need to be minimized, but the benefit should outweigh the cost. Most people assume “cost” to be strictly financial, but others might embrace the “triple bottom line approach” and include the cost to people (quality of life) and the environment. Awareness of potential benefits builds earned support from the public, but even that comes at a price. Pilot design/construction projects in the city of Seattle and elsewhere have included additional costs to educate the public with community outreach to raise the public’s awareness and interest in the new design. General cost data is available for reference including calculators and case studies for GSI design strategies so to establish expectations and clarity in decision-making. GreenValues Stormwater Toolbox provides info on green infrastructure, their costs and benefits and other resources. www.Greenvalues.cnt.org
This past Friday was a milestone for Washington’s Puget Sound water quality. The Department of Ecology is proposing new development rules to mitigate and control polluted runoff, so that stormwater from roads and roofs can be treated naturally rather than burdening, often inadequate,stormwater infrastructure. December 31, 2016 marks the last day 110 local governments in Washington have to update their development codes to reflect the Department of Ecology’s standards for low-impact development. Over the next four years, municipalities will test the feasibility of various low impact development strategies before implementing their new stormwater management code so to avoid unintended consequences: unneccesary ponding, basement flooding and potential landslides that may occur when stormwater does not drain. Robert McClure reports on the proposal with thoughts to debate from both developers and environmentalists in his article “Developers to Legislature: Save us from runoff rules” on February 1, 2012.
As a counter-initiative to the proposed stormwater code changes from the Department of Ecology, on the table in Olympia is HB 2641, a bill designed to eliminate the requirement for low-impact development and replace it with voluntary initiatives that incentivize cities and developers.
Seattle has been a leader in the state and the country for low impact development and as all responsible organizations do, is once again revisting and revising its stormwater code which currently requires Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to “the maximum extent feasible”. A term that many find elusive and confusing with far-reaching effects and does not allow authorities to clearly enforce any GSI and natural drainage strategies.
According to the city of Seattle, “natural drainage systems limit the negative impacts of stormwater runoff by redesigning residential streets to take advantage of plants, trees, and soils to clean runoff and manage stormwater flows. Vegetated swales, stormwater cascades, and small wetland ponds allow soils to absorb water, slowing flows and filtering out many contaminants.” Bioswales and Rain gardens have been shown to reduce the number of homes experiencing basement flooding during heavy rain events. Green roofs can be an effective way to treat roof rainwater, though are typically more expensive than other alternatives.
Here’s a brief summary of City of Seattle natural drainage case studies:
Seattle’s Natural Drainage Alternative Programs:
Street Edge Alternatives: Seattle completed a pilot project in 2001 that reduced impervious surfaces 11% from a typical street and added 100 evergreen trees and 1,100 shrubs. As a result, the street runoff has been reduced 99%.
Ballard Roadside Raingarden:
Ballard is an area of interest because of two uncontrolled CSO basins. There are approximately 15 overflow events in this basin per year, exceeding the EPA’s allowance of just one overflow per site per year. As a less costly and natural alternative to expanding and retrofitting existing sewer infrastructure, the Ballard Roadside Raingarden project is an example of stormwater retrofits in the right of way. While the project has had successes, it has received much criticism for its troubles. At some of the installed raingardens, soil inadequately drains and ground water just below the surface contributes to the excessive ponding. Seattle Public Utilities has been maintaining all the raingardens in the right of way for the natural drainage projects.
Ballard Roadside Raingarden - photo by Dan Bennett
Ballard Green Alleys:
25 alleys are being retrofitted with porous concrete. Approximately 100,000 gallons of stormwater will infiltrate directly on site.
Ballard Green Alley Retrofit - photo by Dan Bennett
Porous Paving in Action! photo by Dan Bennett
In our next blog post, we will explore the opportunities and challenges for you the home or business owner.
Second in a series of posts on our Sustaining Affordable Communities grant, courtesy of The Russell Family Foundation: Improving Puget Sound Water Quality through “Green Street” Natural Drainage Design Alternatives
Restoration. Who wouldn’t like to see a little more green and a lot less concrete? With a grant from The Russell Family Foundation, our team is exploring opportunities in our Seattle neighborhood to enhance both the social and physical environment of the connective streetscape:
- Pedestrian Safety
- Bicycle Accommodation
- Traffic Calming
- Polluted Runoff Reduction
- Stormwater Quality
I’m reminded again of the importance of stormwater management when after the recent snow and ice storm, Seattleites were asked to check their catch basins and storm drains to be sure they were clear to avoid urban flooding. With the rules of “economies of scale”, it makes sense to manage rain and stormwater and treat it in one location. What happens when you’ve maximized that system? Well, Seattle is just one of many cities across the country facing that very question, so we avoid discharging our combined (sanitary and storm) sewer water into our lakes and the Sound. How we approach stormwater management in urban, high-traffic/high-pedestrian areas where land and space is a premium, is quite an interesting challenge. Here are just a few examples of cities across the country are doing to create “Green Streets” or “Complete Streets”
educational signage - sustainable stormwater management
SW 12th Avenue Green Street Project, Sustainable Stormwater Management Program, Portland, OR
As part of the City of Portland’s commitment to promote a more natural approach to urban stormwater management, this green street project converts the landscaped area between the sidewalk and the street curb along a commercial street into a series of stormwater planters designed to capture, slow, cleanse and infiltrate street runoff. With these newly constructed stormwater planters, nearly all of the annual runoff from 12th Avenue is managed by this landscape system – meaning runoff typically does not usually enter the stormwater system. The challenge of this type of system is finding sufficient space for the planters while minimizing conflicts with other pedestrian elements. The program has details, photos and suggested installations that address this challenge. http://www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?c=44407
Boston Complete Streets, Boston, MA
Boston’s Complete Streets program incorporates street trees, rain gardens, bio-swales, paving materials and permeable surfaces in a comprehensive study addressing all needs of the public right-of-way. Great stuff! http://bostoncompletestreets.org/
But wait there’s more! Ripe for retrofit are Seattle’s alleyways and Chicago has a great program as a model. Chicago’s “Green Alleys” incorporate strips or full-width pervious paving and “open-bottom” catch basins. Read about here: http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/Green_Alley_Handbook_2010.pdf
In our next post we’ll share some of the great things that Seattle is doing…
Top 5 Reasons to have a “No Smoking Policy”housing and healthcare go hand in hand
EW board member Karen Brawley advocates for healthy environments for those we serve in her position with the King County Tobacco Prevention Program. Click on the link above to see a summary of Karen’s recent presentation to the Housing Development Consortium’s recent member meeting. Our clients and design team put much care into creating supportive, delightful spaces, and Karen’s work speaks to the many benefits of a non-smoking/non-tobacco policy to promote their health and safety. Here are a few highlights:
- 70% of residents (smokers and non-smokers) prefer smoke-free housing
- Smoking is the 3rd leading cause of preventable apartment fires
- Secondhand smoke is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in King County!
First in a series of posts on our Sustaining Affordable Communities grant, courtesy of The Russell Family Foundation: Improving Puget Sound Water Quality through “Green Street” Natural Drainage Design Alternatives
In a time when science and communications allow us to understand how far reaching the impacts of our choices and actions are to our local and global communities, we must continue to look at designing for our environment in new ways. In 2009, the EPA ordered that some 800 cities exceeding EPA’s standards for water quality, must clean up their act.
Studies have shown that stormwater may be the leading cause of water quality and habitat problems in urban waterways. The pollution washed away from the city in the form of polluted runoff injures aquatic organisms, their habitat, and harms human health.
One of the greatest threats to water quality is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) which collects sewage from homes and buildings and stormwater from rooftops and streets in one combined sewer.
During heavy rains, stormwater accounting for 90% of the system’s load and sewage (10%) exceed the capacity of the system, causing a combined sewer overflow into the nearest waterway. There are 90 permitted CSO outfalls into Seattle’s waterways. In 2010 there were 339 CSO events, more than 3 times what is allowable. These events poured 190 million gallons from the combined sewer into waterways like Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Shilshole Bay.
With continued population growth, the number of cars, people and impervious area has been increasing, adding more and more pollutants to our city and waterways. Yet, there is something we can do about it! Stay tuned! For more information on Seattle’s Long Term Plan for Combined Sewer Overflow Reduction, refer to this link:
“No one has the right to use America’s rivers and America’s waterways, that belong to all the people, as a sewer. The banks of a river may belong to one man or industry or one state, but the waters which flow between the banks should belong to all the people“ — President Lyndon B. Johnson