What SHOULD be green about our city’s infrastructure?

19 10 2009


Green. These days that one word has many different meanings. Growing up, I could count on “green” being one of the eight colors in a Crayola package, but today, this one word has many more connotations. Being landscape architects, we plan to use this blog as a way to explore “green” in terms of site sustainability issues, with a focus on green infrastructure. So maybe we start with the first question: What SHOULD be green about our city’s infrastructure?

When we think about stormwater infrastructure, it is generally conceived of as the complex system that accepts, stores, manages and treats our stormwater. In the conventional designs of the past several decades, this has been done through drains, pipes, curb and gutter and a whole host of devices to hold or detain the water from our bigger storms. With green infrastructure, we look at the potentials of natural systems to deal with those same issues: more interception of stormwater allowing it to evapo-transpire, infiltrate and be held and used for others purposes (like irrigation or flushing water for toilets). This reduces the load on our aging storm pipe system, allowing it to function longer AND it often allows a more cost-efficient solution for the life of the project.

Specifically here at Green Infrastructure Digest we’ll discuss green infrastructure as it relates to four primary areas:

  • buildings and structures/ green roofs and green walls
  • hardscape / pervious pavements and overflow inlets
  • landscape / bio-swales, raingardens, green streets
  • water capture and reuse / rainwater harvesting, greywater harvesting, passive irrigation
  • related site sustainability issues

Over the past 23 years at our firm, Hawkins Partners, Inc. landscape architects, we have had the opportunity to put this talk into practice having now designed over 500,000 s.f. of green roof, being involved in the first three LEED projects in the State of Tennessee (and many more since then) and incorporating many of these sustainable practices effectively in a number of different projects. We find that our clients like the idea of getting back to natural systems and putting dollars into aesthetically pleasing solutions that also deliver an environmentally sound and cost-conscious solution.



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