Tennessee Ranks in the bottom ten…again

2 12 2009

In the list of healthiest and least healthiest states releases from Forbes this month the southern region of the country is once again lagging behind. All in all eight of the bottom 10 were states from the south, including Tennessee which ranked number 44 overall and number 49 in obesity.

Why does this relate to green infrastructure you might ask? There are in fact many ways to relate green infrastructure to our health. (Check out the numbers from the earlier post ‘Triple Bottom Line of Green Infrastructure) Some are the obvious reasons such as cleaner streams and rivers, cleaner air, etc, that often create a more desirable environment to become engaged in and interact both physically and socially. But take a step back and consider green infrastructure planning; in brief planning amongst, preserving and restoring our natural infrastructure systems, such as river corridors, woodland networks and open spaces. This type of planning allows us to integrate greenway trails, bikeways and neighborhood trails into our built environment in a responsible way. The more access communities have to resources such as these allows them more opportunities to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day, increasing the overall heath of the community. There is a strong link between lack of physical activity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Other more indirect regional health benefits stem from increasing the amount of land for natural storm water retention which in turns allows communities to become more resistant to natural disasters. Green infrastructure also can reduce the erosion of precious top soil, which aids local farms. The entire region benefits when a collection of local farms can provide healthy food. Working farms—and forests—also have a significant impact on local economies by providing jobs, aiding tourism and supporting local manufacturing.

So in the end, green infrastructure benefits extend beyond immediate storm water benefits and reducing our carbon footprint. By integrating the green infrastructure planning principles we can also provide opportunities to make our communities healthier, reduce overall healthcare costs and hopefully move Tennessee up in the ranks of healthiest states.

-Sara Putney

Shelby Bottoms Greenway in the Cumberland River Corridor





Portland’s Green Streets

25 11 2009

Streetsblog San Francisco had a great post last week that reported on a recent tour of Portland’s Green Streets taken during the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Project for Transportation Reform Conference. The post includes a number of wonderful green street examples. The quality of the installations are impressive. A representative of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) was quoted as saying the green streets were necessitated as a result of the City’s need to comply with a Clean Water Act lawsuit. The cost of conventional stormwater infrastructure topped nearly $150 million. This cost encouraged the city to explore alternatives like green streets for reducing water volumes. David Elkin,the BES representative quoted in the post, estimates the solution saved the City $60 million dollars in stormwater pipe replacement. The post is worth checking out.

-Brian Phelps





Hill Center Green Hills receives Middle Tennessee ASLA Honor Award

20 11 2009

Streetscape

Underground Rainwater Harvesting Tanks

No Curbs with Filter Strips

The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture recently presented Hawkins Partners, Inc. a 2009 Honor Award in the environmental/urban design category for its work on the Hill Center in Green Hills.

Hollie Cummings, executive director of ASLA Tennessee Chapter, was quoted in an article in the Tennessean (Hill Center wins architecture award for urban design) saying, “The jury appreciated the use of details that served to unify the development and resulted in a cohesive design solution.”

HPI was involved in the planning, design, and construction of this infill redevelopment project located in Green Hills. The 220,000 s.f. mixed-use development consists of retail, restaurant, and office space. Site design elements include a pedestrian activated streetscape, which consists of wide sidewalks for shoppers, places for people to sit and relax or visit with friends, and outdoor dining along a tree-lined boulevard.

Sustainability played a big role in the design process. HPI collaborated with the design team to provide 100% improvement in the stormwater treatment over the previous site conditions. The site captures rainwater in a 25,000 gallon underground tank for use in irrigating the landscape (comprised primarily of native plants), and also utilizes new bioretention areas, which slow and reduce runoff – ultimately helping lower the temperature of runoff into the nearby Sugartree Creek. Some other items include a white roof on the Whole Foods store, over 60% of the parking is provided by covered structures and all the site lighting utilizes cut-off luminaires to reduce light pollution.

This project also won the Excellence in Development Award presented by Urban Land Institute (ULI).

– Kelly Copeland





The Sustainable by Design Challenge

16 11 2009

A recent article by Ajay Garde has been published in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association). The article describes a study and analysis of projects that applied for 2007 LEED-ND pilot program certification. LEED-ND is a rating system written collaboratively by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to promote sustainable development patterns and practices. The following is an excerpt from a JAPA press release:

According to author Ajay Garde, the LEED-ND committee has taken “the technical credentials of LEED and the criteria of New Urbanism for neighborhood design and created LEED-ND.” This approach may undermine the use of green criteria, as developers may focus on New Urbanist criteria instead. These drawbacks mean that LEED-ND is suitable as a supplement to, but not as a replacement for, local planning for sustainability that considers projects on a case-by-case basis within the local context.

My interpretation of Mr. Garde’s article is that LEED-ND is a great start, but it may not be the only answer to ensuring the absolute best development practices. Likewise, typical Best Management Practices (BMPs) for stormwater quality alone within a sprawl setting do not necessarily equal the best solution for a sustainable future…but they too are a good start.

One of the conclusions in the study suggests that LEED-ND certification is weighted more heavily for projects based on their location, layout and density with less emphasis on green infrastructure and technology. Mr. Garde suggests “that more points should be awarded for criteria such as solar orientation, onsite renewable energy sources, and other criteria from the green construction and technology category that contribute to energy and water efficiency.” I agree. Couldn’t we have well designed projects in appropriate locations that incorporate green infrastructure and technology?

Often in the real estate business, developers will look for the proverbial low-hanging fruit. If a developer can attain LEED-ND certification by Smart Location & Linkage and Neighborhood Pattern & Design with minimal emphasis on Green Infrastructure & Building, it’s probably safe to assume many will choose that route. Development costs vs. value and profit (short term vs. long term) are considered. Government regulations and entitlements are also a part of the equation.

LEED-ND is a voluntary and market-driven rating system. If a developer has a choice of developing in an urban area with more regulations but the incentive (faster approval times, increased density, etc.) of attaining LEED-ND certification or higher vs. developing in a suburban area with less regulation, which will they choose? This will continue to play out as the economy recovers.

How do government officials and agencies, planners and non-profits create either market-driven incentives, government regulations or a combination of both to ensure future development is as sustainable as possible in terms of social aspects, economics, and the balance between natural and man-made environments?

These are the questions and this is the challenge moving forward, but it’s comforting to know that progress is being made every day.

-Brian Hudson





Opportunities

9 11 2009

Are words necessary?

curb and gutter

green street





Sustainable Site Strategies: Rosemary Beach, Florida

2 11 2009

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Rosemary Beach-099

I recently returned from a relaxing week long family vacation in Rosemary Beach, Florida, located on the panhandle just west of Panama City Beach. For those of you not familiar, this is a traditional neighborhood development established in 1995 complete with a Town Center that includes a post office, retail and restaurant space, a hotel, neighborhood parks and more. Many people choose to spend their vacation here for obvious reasons: sun, sand, surf and swimming pools but let’s review what visitors may not notice during their stay.

The following is from the RB website…

“Natural foliage creeps into the pervious pavement streets to slow what little motorized traffic finds its way into town, and keeps drivers alert – a conscious effort to create a safe environment for foot and bicycle traffic. Go green and get pampered at Rosemary Beach!”…

As stated, the streets are constructed of pervious concrete, which allows stormwater from frequent rain showers to penetrate through the pavement and directly into the sandy soil base rather than sheet drain to the typical/conventional system of numerous curb and gutters, inlets and concrete pipes. This isn’t to say there aren’t any storm sewer pipes as part of the infrastructure, just less because of an alternative stormwater solution. The average person visiting Rosemary may only notice that the driving surface is not asphalt and is more ‘bumpy’ that typical concrete.

In addition to pervious concrete, the use of native vegetation is another sustainable site strategy. Using native vegetation requires less water and maintenance while supporting bio-diversity of local wildlife species. Sidewalks, neighborhood boardwalk paths and parks are lined with plants that seem to have been there prior to development and give the impression that the buildings were somehow built around them. Live Oaks create a dramatic tunnel effect over the sidewalks while providing habitat for wildlife such as birds and squirrels. Lizards appear to love hanging out under the low growing palm shrubs and other native plant material. The careful planning of plant material size, location and scale of streetscape planting also aids in the slowing of motorist traffic by psychological affect.

These are only two simple sustainable site strategies/design elements that may go unnoticed by the typical visitor but could serve as an example of how to develop in the future. By the way, I did have fun and relax with my family and didn’t spend they whole week analyzing better ways to develop.

Brian Hudson





Deaderick Street’s Transformation

28 10 2009

The Tennessee Urban Forestry conference was in town recently and asked Hawkins Partners to give a guided tour of the Nashville Public Square and Deaderick Street. This marked our first “official” tour of Deaderick Street to discuss all of the exciting new aspects of the green street.

Deaderick_Street_3

The recent transformation of Deaderick Street recalls the historic importance of the street and enhance the corridor’s prominence as an important civic axis. Prior to the renovations, the street had become most widely known as the central transfer point for the Metro bus system. In the Fall of 2008 the bus system’s hub was relocated one block over to the ambitious Music City Central, presenting an opportunity to re-envision the street itself

Deaderick_Street_4

The renovations to the street primarily focused on addressing stormwater issues and urban trees. The existing streetscape was home to an assortment of unhealthy trees ranging in sizes from 2” caliper up to 24”+. Each and every one of them were shoehorned into a 4’x4’ planting zone and struggling to adapt to urban conditions. The renovations included removing those trees and providing larger and deeper planting areas that would not only give a larger volume of soil for the tree roots, but also provide many areas in which the stormwater could travel to, thus reducing the loads into the storm system. Bioretention zones were implemented in pedestrian bulbs at the intersections and in relation to the existing catch basins. These planting areas were also excavated to a depth that would accept enough engineered soils to allow infiltration and planted with plants that can adapt to the extremes of wet and dry conditions. Pervious area within the corridor was increased by over 700%.

Deaderick_Street_1

Many other elements of sustainability were included, such as:

  • Crushed and recycled concrete used for the pavement subbase,
  • Fly ash utilized in the concrete mix,
  • Porous concrete,
  • LED light fixtures,
  • Native and drought tolerant plant materials,
  • Solar powered parking meters,
  • Water efficient irrigation system,
  • Many local vendors and fabricators,
  • The addition of bike racks to help encourage a healthier way to travel, and
  • The addition of recycling receptacles along the street.

We’re hoping that in the near future, permanent retail kiosks that were proposed in the master plan will be added to the street, further enlivening the corridor. Those kiosks are proposed to have an extensive greenroof on each. In addition, the master plan identified areas for future free standing retail buildings and liner buildings that could be added on the blank facades.

– Laura Schroeder





St. Louis Roadtrip: Citygarden’s Green Street

23 10 2009

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citygarden_green_street_2

A couple of us at the office decided to make a roadtrip to St. Louis to see the new Citygarden, a three-acre sculpture park designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz that opened mid-summer. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the street cutting through the two blocks comprising the garden is a green street. The pedestrian bulbs on the south end have openings in the stone curbs to allow water to enter. Small strips of asphalt were also added at each opening along the curb to help divert additional water. The rain gardens are further expanded by incorporating small steel boardwalks along the sidewalk that allow water to move from the pedestrian bulbs to a larger landscape area on the opposite side of the walkway. The boardwalks draw attention to the rain garden as you pass over it. This green street was just one of the many exciting elements found in Citygarden. The park is an impressive addition to the city.





Nashville’s First Green Street Opens

21 10 2009

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Jim Snyder, Metro Public Works and Kim Hawkins, Hawkins Partners
present graphic panel to Mayor Karl Dean.

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View of Streetscape During Event

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View from Public Square to Legislative Plaza

On October 8th, Nashville’s first green street opened with great fanfare. Mayor Karl Dean, Kathleen O’Brien (President and CEO of the Tennessee Peforming Arts Center), and Billy Lynch, the Director of Nashville Public Works Department, spoke at the street’s eastern terminus in Public Square. The celebration also included music by Decca Records and SONY/ATV artists One Flew South, featuring Grammy Award-winning composer Marcus Hummon, and Transit, a band formed by Nashville MTA employees. A recording of the event has been posted on Metro Nashville’s website. (Link)