Green Matters

Chicago, IL (May 1, 2007)- Reports vary, but the term “low-impact development” was coined in the late 1980s or early ’90s in Prince George’s County, Md., when the county began diverting stormwater into rain gardens, landscaping, and other nature-mimicking spots rather than manmade structures like gutters and stormwater ponds. The term, also known as LID, refers to how stormwater runoff is diverted via best management practices, allowing a city or other jurisdiction to meet regulatory-compliance and resource-protection goals.

Wordy definition aside, the concept is simple. Use Mother Nature’s inherent absorptive capabilities to save one of the planet’s most important natural resources: water.
As logical as this sounds, not every city puts low-impact development at the top of its list of things to fund. Public works managers recognize its intrinsic value, but aren’t using its “warm fuzzy” appeal to convince elected officials that it should be higher on their list of priorities.
Limited budgets for up-front costs, the perceived cost of long-term maintenance (even though studies show that costs are actually lower), and the lack of federal mandates make championing low-impact development tough, but the price of not implementing water-saving practices may be higher in the long run.
On The Radar
While the U.S. Green Building Council doesn’t track low-impact development, it estimates that 5% to 7% of commercial construction is Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)-certified or -registered, meaning that the building is environmentally sustainable or “green.” That translates to about 1 billion square feet of commercial facility space. Departments working to acquire LEED certification can incorporate low-impact development tactics, such as adding a rain garden on the roof, to earn LEED points.
But according to an exclusive survey of PUBLIC WORKS readers, about half of you haven’t considered incorporating low-impact development into projects, primarily because it’s not mandated by local or state government.
Departments that don’t take advantage of low-impact development are missing the boat, says Neil Weinstein, executive director of Low Impact Development Center, Beltsville, Md.
For more information, visit Public Works Magazine.
Other tactics, like environmentally sustainable design, green building, Green Highways, and LEED or Green Globes certification, are equally valuable approaches. That’s why the editors of Public Works Magazine have developed four articles and a resource list that focus on how to make your department more planet-friendly.
* Team Green: introduces you to a water district that decided to build green, and offers tips on how you can do it, too. It also provides a snapshot of how the solid waste department serving Florida’s capital implemented a green demolition of its administration building.
* Auditors Welcome: shows how auditing a department’s facilities can provide a step-by-step plan for using less electricity and water.
* Trickle-Down Effect: A story from Chicago shows how one of the nation’s largest cities reduced storm-water runoff in its alleys by using specially designed pervious pavement.
* Low-Impact Leader: our Q&A with Seattle’s low-impact development program manager will give you ideas on how to incorporate their trail-blazing solutions into your own plans.
Related Resources:
American Institute of Architects
American Public Works Association
Architecture 2030
The Chicago Green Alley Handbook
Green Building Initiative
Green Highways Partnership
Low Impact Development Center
Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association
National Institute of Building Sciences
The Natural Step International Gateway
Oregon Natural Step Network
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Green Building Council
Whole Building Design Guide