Archive for the ‘Green Building’ Category

Stormwater Management– Have a Plan

A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure

Flooded City

Flooded city street

By Tom Barrett

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!” Do you remember this from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge? In the story, the Mariner is lost at sea with a dead albatross around his neck, and although surrounded by water, he is dying of thirst because the ocean water is undrinkable. At the end of the story, the Mariner awakes the next morning “a sadder and a wiser man.”

Today in America we face a similar situation. There are over 42,000 impaired waterways in the United States. An ‘impaired waterway’ is a lake, river, stream or estuary that is too polluted to meet water quality standards. An ‘impaired waterway’ is the nice way of saying the water is dangerous to wildlife and human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as much as 40% of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and streams are not safe for swimming, fishing, or drinking. Incredibly in some states, over 80% of the waterways are not safe for these activities.

Impaired Waters Listed By State

Alabama color.gif283
Alaska color.gif35
American Samoa color.gif44
Arizona color.gif79
Arkansas color.gif225
California color.gif1,021
Colorado color.gif244
Connecticut color.gif461
Delaware color.gif101
District Of Columbia color.gif36
Florida color.gif2,292
Georgia color.gif215
Guam color.gif47
Hawaii color.gif309
Idaho color.gif916
Illinois color.gif1,057
Indiana color.gif1,836
Iowa color.gif480
Kansas color.gif1,372
Kentucky color.gif1,300
Louisiana color.gif236
Maine color.gif114
Maryland color.gif184
Massachusetts color.gif720
Michigan color.gif2,352
Minnesota color.gif1,144
Mississippi color.gif229
Missouri color.gif257
Montana color.gif584
N. Mariana Islands color.gif24
Nebraska color.gif330
Nevada color.gif215
New Hampshire color.gif1,449
New Jersey color.gif716
New Mexico color.gif209
New York color.gif1,543
North Carolina color.gif1,270
North Dakota color.gif201
Ohio color.gif267
Oklahoma color.gif657
Oregon color.gif1,397
Pennsylvania color.gif6,957
Puerto Rico color.gif165
Rhode Island color.gif120
South Carolina color.gif961
South Dakota color.gif155
Tennessee color.gif1,028
Texas color.gif719
Utah color.gif156
Vermont color.gif104
Virgin Islands color.gif87
Virginia color.gif1,523
Washington color.gif2,420
West Virginia color.gif1,097
Wisconsin color.gif593
Wyoming color.gif107

Total: 42,643 impaired waters

(Source: US EPA –  – Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Result)

Over the last forty-five years we have come a long way in improving water quality. In the 1960’s Johnny Carson joked that he took a walk on the Hudson River. The Hudson River was so polluted you could almost walk on it. In 1968 the Cuyahoga River in Northeast Ohio caught fire for the last time. Since 1868, the Cuyahoga River, made famous by being the “river that caught fire,” actually caught fire 13 times. These two impaired waterways helped propel the environmental movement. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed into law and the task of cleaning up our polluted waterways began. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the quality of our nation’s waters by preventing point and nonpoint source pollution. Overall, we have done a great job of fixing point source pollution, or single identifiable source, problems.

 Nonpoint Source Pollution

Toxic Algae Bloom

Toxic algae bloom from stormwater runoff

If this is the case, why are over 40% of our lakes, rivers, and streams still unsafe for swimming, fishing, or drinking? The main culprit is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the greatest threat to water quality in our nation, i.e. stormwater. When it rains, the stormwater is rapidly collected, piped, and swiftly dumped into the closest waterway. Stormwater, as it travels across the surface of the land, carries with it all the pollutants from the landscape. In agricultural landscapes, excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides are concentrated in the nearest body of water.

In urban areas, in addition to lawn chemicals, all the oils, grease, salts, and heavy metals from our roadways are deposited in our local waterways. In many urban areas, our stormwater systems are combined with our sewerage systems. When a stormwater surge occurs, the sewage system is not large enough to handle the volume of water from the rainfall. Rainwater mixed with sewer water overflows, untreated, into the nearest local waterway. In many cites, a sewage overflow may occur with as little as one-fourth inch of rain. Take for example Indianapolis, Indiana, where the city experiences 50 to 60 overflow events every year.

In the past, civil engineers would say, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” This meaning, if you had enough clean water running through the system, a little bit of pollution would not be noticeable. There is a lot of evidence that this assumption is grossly inaccurate.

We have reached our limit in diluting the pollution we create by dumping our wastewater into our local waterways. Today, the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico almost completely devoid of any life because of a lack of oxygen in the water. The dead zone is a direct result of fertilizer runoff from the rivers and streams upstream from the Gulf. The excessive fertilizer runoff results in algae blooms. When the algae die, the process of decomposition consumes oxygen, creating the oxygen depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. With advancements in green infrastructure, we have an opportunity to clean up our waterways and enhance our environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed extensive research demonstrating that green or more natural solutions to stormwater runoff are less expensive than conventional grey stormwater solutions. Additionally, green stormwater solutions create an array of broader benefits for local economies and the environment. From an environmental standpoint, instead of trying to minimize the impact we have on the environment we can actually enhance our environment through the utilization of living plants when creating green infrastructure. We have an opportunity to make our environment better for our children and their children.

Green infrastructure is a natural approach to stormwater mitigation that brings nature back into the fold. Before urban and agricultural development, in a deciduous hardwood forest or native prairie, less than 1% of rainfall ran off the surface of the land into the local streams. In the natural hydrologic cycle, the continuous movement of water above and below the earth’s surface, 10% to 40% of rainfall would go into the ground and recharge our aquifers, 40% to 50% went back into our atmosphere as evapotranspiration, and 20% to 30% would go into an interflow layer of soil. The interflow layer of the soil, when undisturbed by human development, contains organic matter, microbes, and plant roots that would extend downward twelve to thirty feet or more. The plant roots and organic matter helped to maintain the porosity and permeability of the soil. This is the primary reason only 1% of rain would run off the surface of the native landscape directly into the nearest body of water. This interflow layer or topsoil layer of a native landscape acts like an old-fashioned wastewater treatment plant or a biologically balanced aquarium. As the stormwater drains into the interflow layer, the microbes in the soil clean the water of harmful pollutants. Eventually the interflow water travels downstream into the nearest waterway. The stormwater enters the local waterway cleanly and slowly.

 Stream Bank Erosion

Agricultural Runoff

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff.

Another problem with our current grey infrastructure approach to stormwater management is stream bank erosion. To prevent flooding, we rapidly collect rainwater, pipe it, and deposit it in the nearest body of water. The rapid collection of stormwater increases the velocity and volume of water in our local waterways.

The excessive flow of stormwater into our streams scours the stream banks increasing stream bank erosion. Stream bank erosion increases the sediment that streams carry, resulting in the loss of fertile bottomland, and a decrease in habitat for species on land and in the stream.

If you find yourself in a forest during a rain, you will notice immediately that you hardly get wet. The leaves of the trees slow the rain falling from the sky, slowly dropping the water onto the floor of the forest. When you walk through a native forest, you will also notice the forest floor feels spongy and soft. In an undisturbed native forest or prairie, the plant roots and soil organic matter maintain a soil structure that is loose, friable, and capable of absorbing a lot of rainwater. In contrast, today our urban landscapes runoff over 90% of the rainwater that falls from the sky; suburban landscapes rainfall runoff is over 60%; and even agricultural areas will runoff over 40% of the rainfall.

Over the last twenty years our impermeable surface area has increased by over 40%, mainly because of parking regulations and wider streets. Current site development techniques strip off almost all the topsoil and heavy construction equipment compacts the remaining subsoil to over 90%. When soils are compacted by mechanical forces the soil structured is destroyed. The result is reduced soil porosity that limits water infiltration. A soil that is 90% compacted has the consistency, density, and firmness of a gravel road.

These practices highly reduce rainwater absorption rates, even within intensively landscaped areas. With one-inch of rainfall, a 2,500 square foot roof will generate 1,500 gallons of water. On a one-quarter acre residential property, a one-inch rainfall will deliver almost 7,000 gallons of water. A city block of five acres will experience 135,000 gallons of water, or the equivalent of more than five average-sized swimming pools.

When you consider a watershed, the volume of water from a one-inch rainfall can easily exceed several million gallons of water. Unlike today, in the past most of this rainwater stayed on-site, with very little runoff into the local streams and waterways. As you start to understand the volume of water from stormwater and the impairments that have occurred due to our current land use practices, it becomes clear why the EPA has designated stormwater as the largest source of water pollution in America. In the recently released five-year strategic plan, the EPA designates protecting America’s water as second in priority, only surpassed by addressing climate change and improving air quality.

 Greening Our Grey Infrastructure

Green infrastructure

A bioswale creates a more natural approach to stormwater mitigation.

So where does green infrastructure fit in? The three primary concepts in developing a green infrastructure approach to stormwater are:

  1. Capture rainwater as close to the source as possible;
  2. Slow down rainwater flow rate; and
  3. Filter rainwater through absorption. In natural forest and native prairie areas rain is soaked into the land, filtered through the soil, and applied back into the landscape.

There are many tools used in developing green infrastructure. Rain gardens, bioswales, and infiltration planters use plant material to retain and filter rainwater. Permeable paving materials help to reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater while filtering out heavy metals, grease, and oils. Reconstructed wetlands, like naturally occurring wetlands, act like kidneys of the ecosystem. And planting trees and native grasses along stream banks can be more effective and less expensive than conventional stream armoring techniques of rock riprap and gabion cages.

Green infrastructure works best when it is combined with a comprehensive stormwater management plan based upon the existing watershed. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure is the most cost effective solution to solving our nonpoint source pollution problems. American Rivers published a study three years ago, entitled The Value of Green Infrastructure, that found green infrastructure, when properly deployed, created more jobs for the longest period and for the least amount of money. Public education is crucial to the successful development and implementation of a comprehensive green infrastructure plan.

Rain Garden Construction

Rain garden under construction

Some of the best success stories come out of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia where communities are working together taking a neighborhood approach to stormwater mitigation. The conventional approach to stormwater issues is to fix the problem where the problem occurs, at the point of convergence. We do not pay attention to the source of the problem, usually further upstream. We install a storm drain and connect it to the nearest stormwater or sewage pipe. After fifty years of taking this approach we find ourselves constructing sewage treatment systems and conveyance systems five times larger than needed so the current system can handle the stormwater with our antiqued sewerage treatment plants. Handling stormwater like sewer water is not only wasteful but it is extremely expensive.

If we take a watershed approach utilizing the tools of green infrastructure, stormwater is treated as close to the source as possible. The root problem is addressed on-site without expensive conveyance systems and oversized sewage treatment facilities. Handling stormwater as close to the source as possible requires a green infrastructure design solution as far upstream in the watershed as possible. If done correctly, this method has proven to be the most effective and usually least expensive means of mitigating stormwater.

Green Infrastructure in Practice

Stormwater Flow Map

Stormwater flow map

In a 50-year-old condominium complex, built next to a major creek, a huge stormwater issue was created that eroded the stream banks and threatened the structural foundation of several condominium units. Several years ago, an expensive and conventional gabion basket retaining wall was installed to stabilize the stream banks against further erosion. It was quickly discovered that this grey infrastructure approach only moved the problem further down stream.

After installing a test rain garden to reduce a flooding basement issue, the homeowners association was convinced of the effectiveness of green infrastructure. Subsequently, a green infrastructure plan was developed based upon stormwater received by each of four drainage basins or watersheds on their 78-acre parcel of land. It was discovered that most of the stormwater causing the problem was coming upstream past the property line. Working together with surrounding community neighbors proved to be the most cost effective way to deal with what could be a very expensive stormwater issue.

Stormwater Issue Map

Stormwater issue map

The completed green infrastructure plan developed for this condominium complex clearly identified how much stormwater volume needed to be handled. The perimeter of the property will be phase one of a ten-year plan. Subsequent phases of the plan, which are downstream from the initial phases, will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the green infrastructure solutions implemented in previous years. What was discovered during the development of this plan was that the further upstream we go to develop a stormwater solution the less expensive the solution is and the more effective it is to handle the larger volumes that converge downstream.

Planning Our Consequences

Ideally, the long-term goal of any green infrastructure plan is that no piece of property within a watershed or stormwater basin has any stormwater runoff. If zero stormwater runoff can be achieved, land use planning becomes a dynamic tool that addresses the largest source of pollution in America today. Developing a watershed plan utilizing green infrastructure design takes a completely unconventional approach to stormwater mitigation.

We are learning that green infrastructure mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure develops better filtration, filtration that we do not have in our conventional approach. Moreover, green infrastructure is often significantly less expensive than conventional grey infrastructure.

Natural Water Cycle Image

Natural water cycle

Grey infrastructure, although expensive, does an excellent job at reducing flooding. However, grey infrastructure fails miserably in reducing stormwater runoff and reducing pollution. Grey infrastructure works well for the 100-year rainfall events but does little for the frequent one-inch rainfall events. This is where green infrastructure shines. For the one- to three-inch rainfall events, green infrastructure works best. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure utilizes the best of new technology with conventional technology, creating a system that is not only more effective by also more economical. This is the next step in an evolutionary approach to better understanding our environment and the future.

This new paradigm of understanding nature applies to stormwater mitigation, and many other environmental issues we currently face. As these new concepts are considered it is important to remember: in nature there is no good, there is no bad, there are only consequences.

Stormwater – A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructure

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

Stormwater Mitigation Presentation at the Chicago Center for Green Technology

I had the pleasure of presenting “A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructute” at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT) on Thursday, May 22nd. The audience realized that stormwater is everyone’s problem and, over the years we have polluted our waterways beyond what most of us realize.

Our current development techniques disrupt the natural hydrologic cycle. Filtration is the key to cleaning our stormwater.  Keeping rainfall on-site is the least expensive and most effective method to improving our environment

The highlight of the presentation was when Bryan Glosik, of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, led a tour of the sophisticated and natural stormwater management system at CCGT. Bryan did an excellent job of explaining the effectiveness of the rain gardens in mitigating the local stormwater problem.

Here is a copy of the presentation:

Bryan Glosik Portrait

Bryan Glosik, Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, Illinois


Here are comments and feedback about the presentation:

Filtration is key. Water run off disrupt the water cycle. Keeping water in your yard is important.
– Stephen Meyer
The video was great.
The outside tour was my favorite part.
I like the combination of field trip, short video, lecture and case study.
– Armando Median Jr.
What can a small homeowner do?
– David Lindstrom
There are small things that I can do that will make a difference.
– Maureen McCabe

Sustainable Site Development – A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure Presentation In Chicago May 22, 2014

New Tools for Sustainable Site Development

A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure

Presentation by Tom Barrett


Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


The Chicago Center for Green Technology

445 N. Sacramento Blvd
(between Chicago Ave. and Lake St.)

Chicago, Illinois


AIS Continuing Eduction Units: 2

Register Here Button

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!” is the opening to this dynamic presentation focusing on solutions to Chicago’s stormwater problem.

“Stormwater is the leading cause of water pollution in America,” continues Tom Barrett, the presenter and owner of Green Water Infrastructure. This presentation focuses on developing sustainable solutions to water quality issues in the Chicago area. Mr Barrett’s approach utilizes a watershed and drainage basin study to stormwater mitigation.

Developing a comprehensive stormwater plan, when correctly prioritized, combines existing grey infrastructure with new technologies developed in green infrastructure, creating cost effective solutions to our water quality issues.

After an introduction about the problems stormwater creates, attendees will be given a walking tour of the grounds of the Center for Green Technology, and shown actual functional rain gardens and other sustainable solutions specifically mentioned in the presentation. Guided by Mr. Barrett himself, attendees are encouraged to ask questions and recognize first-hand the visible results of sustainable solution planning, execution, and growth.


“. . . best class at CCGT so far, rainwater data, new ideas, charts and stats, all the different ways I can use the rainwater for my home.”
” . . . great speaker, the positive outlook, no blame game, examples (drip system), knowledgeable, class got to participate.

Speaker’s Biography – Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth and change agent with over thirty years of industry experience. Tom’s leadership experience, holding executive level positions, drives corporate revenue growth through change and innovation for business start-ups, corporate expansions, and divisional turnarounds.

Tom Barrett has been delivering energetic, dynamic presentations and training for over twenty years. These presentations empower people to become masters of change rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformational thinking.

Event Registration

Register Here Button

“Tom’s been a leader with smart water technologies, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and other emerging technologies well before they became buzzwords at water conferences. It’s impressive to work with Tom because he knows his stuff from the ground up.”

Jeff Carowitz, Strategic Force Marketing

What is Sustainable Development? Click Here to Read More

Green Infrastructure in Lenexa, Kansas for Stormwater

Rainwater to Recreation

Lenexa Kansas LogoThe city of Lenexa, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, has a grand vision for a more sustainable and livable community. Part of this vision has been to embark on a green infrastructure project to address stormwater runoff in Central Green, a new 10-acre park within City Center North that offers an abundance of open green space, cascading ponds with stepping stones, and a well connected trail system. The green infrastructure project, called Rain to Recreation, has revitalized the surrounding natural habitat by transforming area rainwater from a disposal problem into an appealing recreational amenity.

The cascading ponds, otherwise called step pools, are designed to increase oxygen levels and reduce the flow rate of stormwater. The series of step pools lead to a constructed wetland with native plantings for naturally treating and absorbing the water. This innovative adaptation turned Lenexa’s stormwater liability into an asset.

Lenexa KansasThe four key goals of the Rain to Recreation program:

  1. Flood prevention – flood prevention involves investigating complaints of existing flooding as well as modeling streams for potential flooding. If homes are threatened, Rain to Recreation works to initiate a capital improvement project to solve the problem.
  2. Water protection – Rain to Recreation protects restored streams and other natural areas with best management practices to also prevent and reduce pollution. Native plantings, stream buffers, sediment bays, wetlands and bioretention cells are just a few of the ways Rain to Recreation works to keep water clean.
  3. Habitat restoration – Rain to Recreation aims to improve surrounding habitat by leaving the bottom of restored channels natural, and providing riffle and pool structures in all restored streams, as well as native corridors adjacent to the streams. Striving also to protect a habitat zone around lakes for future preservation; provide fish structures, such as brush piles and sand beds in lakes, and nesting boxes for a variety of birds.
  4. Education and recreation – A vital part of every project is educating the community, whether it’s generating buy-in from the beginning, outlining recreational amenities like trails and playgrounds, or setting outlines for how to protect areas after construction. Rain to Recreation works to engage local citizens, businesses, and other area stakeholders to increase communication and satisfy needs.

Central Green Park – A Constructed Wetland

The main feature of Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green park is the stream way. The Central Green stream way drains 65 acres of rainwater runoff that is guided through seven constructed step pools to slow the flow and oxygenate the rainwater as it pours over rock prior to ending up in the constructed wetland. The wetland area is planted with native plants to support filtration of the rainwater. The roots of these native plants penetrate deep within the soil turning the soil into a big sponge that can easily soak up the rainwater. Through this bio-remediation process, stormwater quality is dramatically improved and easily absorbed on the property. This innovative stormwater management approach transforms stormwater from a cost to a benefit, not only for the natural environment, but also for social and recreational enjoyment for the community.

Take a virtual tour of Lenexa’s green infrastructure.

Lenexa One of America’s Most Livable Cities

As a result of the city of Lenexa’s vision, Lenexa was named one of the best places to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine in 2011. Also Lenexa has become a role model for other communities interested in reaping the benefits that green infrastructure design can bring to a community – showcasing their design process and outcomes so other communities can easily model and build upon their own stormwater management programs. Lenexa’s dedication to their vision shows the value of innovative stormwater management, watershed protection techniques, use of native plant species, along with recreational amenities and environmental education for community members – making Lenexa a better place for today and for the future.

EPA Supports Green Stormwater Management in Lenexa, Kansas

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, contributed funding toward Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green. EPA’s stormwater website Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure – summarizes common green infrastructure approaches and key resources for research, funding and partnerships. The EPA recognizes the need for resilient and affordable solutions to the many frail infrastructures in need of replacement or repair. Green infrastructure is one solution. You can join GreenStream, and EPA listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training and funding opportunities by sending an email to this link.

Join EPA Green Stream List

Following is the EPA video clip detailing the Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green:

 Click Here to Learn More About Green Infrastructure

Sustainability – How Universities and Colleges are Going Green [INFOGRAPHIC]

Environmentally friendly design and sustainability is important in all aspects. The editors at Master of Education Degree Guide, created an excellent infographic on how many colleges and universities across the United States are making a commitment to environmentally friendly design.

Read the facts after the graphics for the complete story. It is a great story on sustainability.

How Universities are Going Green
Image source:


The editors at Master of Education Degree Guide decided to research the topic of

How Universities are Going Green

As the global population increases and more countries become industrialized, resource consumption has skyrocketed. Natural resources by their very nature are finite and this exponential development has made it necessary for the most advanced nations to research methods to conserve resources and develop a less wasteful future. As the centers of research and thought in the country, universities are taking charge and standing as examples of how to conserve resources – take a look at the sustainable practices of some of these standout institutions.

Going Green With Green Buildings

– LEED Certification: The premier indicator of efficiency and sustainability
– 100: Total number of possible LEEDs points distributed across five major categories:
– Sustainable Sites
– Water Efficiency
– Energy and Atmosphere
– Materials and Resources
– Indoor Environmental Quality
– An additional 6 points are awarded for Innovation in Design
– An additional 4 points are awarded for Regional Priority
– Certified: 40-49 points
– Silver: 50-59 points
– Gold: 60-79 points
– Platinum: 80 points and above
– Bringing school buildings to LEED certification standards helps create a sustainable future
– Examples:
– Colorado State
– 8 LEED gold buildings
– 1 LEED silver building
– Brown University Commitments
– Existing Buildings
– 42%: Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to from 2007
– 4%: Initial goal for annual reduction of emissions through 2020
– New Constructions
– All new facilities to produce 25% – 50% less emissions than required by state code
– LEED Savings
– 50%: Average savings of gold and platinum LEED certified buildings
– Average building performance of LEED structures are 25-30% more energy efficient than the national average

Saving Energy Cutting Costs With Solar Power

– Colorado State University’s solar farm
– 30-acres
– 23,000 solar panels
– 8,500,000 kWh: Expected annual output of the 5.3 MW array
– That can power 33% of the Foothills Campus!

Student Initiatives For A Greener Tomorrow

– Smart printing: Printing on both sides of paper takes minimal effort and can cut paper usage in half
– 10,000: Average sheets of paper each students uses annually
– 19.1 million: Number of U.S. college students
– That equals 191 billion sheets of paper!
– 95.5 billion: Reduction in paper use if students were to use double sided printing
– 8,333: Number of sheets of paper produced from 1 tree
– Double sided printing could save up to 11.5 million trees each year!
– Water bottles: Cut down on waste and cost
– Bottled water costs 4,000 – 10,000 X more than tap water
– Without any health difference!
– $1 billion of plastic water bottles are thrown away each year
– It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to disintegrate
– 2.5 million tons: Annual amount of CO2 produced by water bottle manufacturing

Redouble Your Recycling!

– 4.5 lbs.: Amount of trash the average person generates each day
– That’s 1.5 tons each year!
– The EPA estimates that 75% of this is recyclable
– But only 30% is recycled!
– 21.5 million tons: Amount of food wasted each year
– Composting this waste instead of throwing it away would would reduce as much CO2 emissions as taking 2 million cars off the road!
– Successful businesses have reduced food discards by 50 to 100%
– 50 million: Number of homes that could be powered for 20 years by the wood and paper wasted each year

Five Universities Committed To Long Term Sustainability

– American University: “The American Dream is Green”
– More than 25 buildings on campus are participating in a LEED Volume Existing Building certification project
– Arizona State University: Pursuing complete carbon neutrality
– Generates over 15 megawatts of photovoltaic power
– California Institute of Technology: Home of the 2nd largest U.S. rooftop solar installation
– 8.3 million kilowatt hours: Annual energy savings, reducing greenhouse emissions by 6,000 metric tons
– California State University-Chico: Committed to LEED certification
– Early adopter of the AASHE’s STARS Program
– Self-reporting framework for universities to report and track sustainable development
– Catawba College: Building a sustainable future
– Developed the Environmental Services Department and Center for the Environment
– Plans, implements, and maintains sustainability, waste reduction, and recycling programs

Even Gas Stations Can Go ‘Green’

Green ConstructionKum & Go Logo

Green construction is one of America’s fastest growing trends. The United States Green Building Council(USGBC) reports that green construction accounts for nearly one-third of all new construction. Over the next five years green construction will grow to more than one-half of all construction. By 2013, green buildings will support nearly 8 million workers across the U.S. Many businesses are trying to capitalize on this trend. Many companies are promoting products and services with an environmentally friendly sales pitch. We do not often think of gas stations and convenience stores as models of sustainability but Iowa based Kum & Go is making a commitment in a big way.

 Kum & Go – The ONLY Convenience Store in America Going ‘Green’

Kum & Go, a privately owned Iowa-base company, is the only convenience store chain in America participating in the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. All new concept stores for Kum & Go are being submitted for LEED Certification. In 2012 Kum & Go is anticipating investing over $2 million in ‘green’ improvements. Look at the features at the Kum & Go in Fairfield, Iowa: House with Grass Covering

Single-Stream Recycling

The store pays for single-stream recycling, keeping valuable resources from ending up in landfills.

LED Lighting

Kum & Go uses highly-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) fixtures inside the coolers, about the gas pumps, around the parking lot, and in interior applications. LEDs use less electricity, give off less heat, and the light is more focused.

Water-Saving Fixtures

Low-flow sink, toilet, and urinal fixtures are used in the store. These fixtures use at least 20% less water then conventional fixtures.

Renewable Fuels

Whenever available, each of Kum & Go’s new stores sells premium, no-lead and ethanol-blended fuels, including E10 and E85. The Kum & Go in Fairfield is one of the few convenience stores offering bio-diesel.

Sustainable Materials

The majority of the construction materials used to build the store were manufactured regionally, containing raw materials sourced from within 500 miles. Over 50% of all wood materials are FSC certified. Additionally, the steel and concrete contain high percentages of recycled content.

Reflective Concrete

The store’s parking lot is treated with a high-reflective white coating that reflects the sun’s heat. This reduces the “heat-island effect” by reducing the parking lot temperatures. Normally, pavement, dark-colored roofs, and similar surfaces absorb more sunlight, trap heat, and increase local temperatures. The reduction of the temperature helps save energy used to cool the building and reduces surface level ozone.

Bike Rack & Changing Rooms

Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station behind the Kum & Go, Fairfield, Iowa

The store design provides bicycle racks for associates and customers, as well as locking restroom facilities for changing. Alternative forms of transportation reduce traffic congestion.

High Efficiency Heating and Air Conditioning

The heating and air conditioning systems at this store have a high efficiency rating. The store has an optimized direct digital control (DDC) and a high-level filtration system that maintains excellent indoor air quality for customers and associates. Additionally, most refrigeration equipment used inside the store is Energy Star certified.

Day Lighting (Prismatic Skylights)

Honeycomb-shaped prisms in the roof, called Solatubes, reduce glare and refract daylight into the building. Natural lighting enhances colors and saves electricity.

Reflective Roof

The roof of the store is covered with a white rubber finish that reflects the sun’s heat. Similar to the reflective concrete used on the parking lot, This decreases heat transfer to the store interior, reducing the amount of energy needed to cool the building.

Electric Car Charging Station

Electric Vehicle (EV) charging station is behind the store and looks like an air station. This device supplies electricity for recharging plug-in electric vehicles, including all-electric cars, neighborhood electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Rain Gardens & Bioswales

Rain Garden at a Kum & Go Gas Station, Fairfield, Iowa

Rain Garden at a Kum & Go Gas Station, Fairfield, Iowa

There are three interconnected bioswales on this site. These bioswales effectively filter and detain all of the rainwater produced by the impermeable surfaces on the site. Specifically, Kum & Go wanted to protect the headwaters of the Indian Creek watershed from hydrocarbon runoff. The bioswales prevent any hydrocarbon runoff while reducing the water velocity that is destructive to local streams.

Scott Timm said, “We are very happy  and fortunate to work with Kum & Go  to protect the headwaters of Indian Creek.” Scott Timm is the Iowa State University Extension program specialist who is helping move Fairfield’s Go Green strategic plan from concept to reality. Scott said the Fairfield, Iowa Kum & Go went well above and beyond what they typically do. “We are very very pleased with the team effort.”

Click here to read more about Fairfield, Iowa’s Go Green Strategic Plan

The new Kum & Go in Fairfield, Iowa is an outstanding example of how green construction not only benefits patrons, business owners, and employee but also benefits an entire community – especially our water quality.

Rain Gardens in a Fairfield, Iowa Gas Station

“Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Aging and outdated infrastructure is threatening the way we live.

The American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card on America’s Infrastructure grades America’s water infrastructure a “D-,” the lowest grade in any infrastructure category. The next lowest grade, “F” failure, is simply unacceptable.

Rain Garden at a Kum & Go Gas Station, Fairfield, Iowa

Rain Garden at a Kum & Go Gas Station, Fairfield, Iowa

In many communities our storm water system is combined with our sewer system. Rainwater is treated like sewer water. However, when as little as a quarter of an inch of rainfalls, our storm water system is overwhelmed and untreated sewer water is dumped into our local waterways. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers urban water runoff the greatest threat to our nation’s waters

The largest source of storm water comes from rooftops and parking lots. As human development occurs we interrupt the natural water cycle. In a natural environment, ninety-eight percent of the storm water that falls in an area stays on the area. The leaves of the trees that cover the property as the rain falls, slows the rain down. The soil, which is not compacted, captures the majority of the rainfall. Only two to three percent of the rain that falls on an area runs off. The speed of the water runoff is significantly slower because of the plants covering the area.

Rain Gardens are vegetated areas, lower in elevation than the surrounding area. The soil is engineered so that it allows rainwater to be percolated through a series of soil and gravel layers. Rain gardens serve two purposes. First, the rain garden captures and detains storm water. Second, the rain garden filters the storm water, thus reducing storm water runoff and pollution.

Rain gardens are located in an area as close as possible to the rooftops and parking lots that produce the storm water runoff. Native plants are usually used for vegetation because native plants are more adaptable to the local climate and do not require as much maintenance as turf or other plant materials. The plants in a rain garden maintain the soil’s permeability and assists in filtering the storm water.

The good news is that this natural, simple, common sense approach is less expensive to implement than conventional solutions. Green infrastructure uses natural processes to mimic nature for managing storm water. In technical terms, biomimicry, or copying nature, utilizes the same processes and systems found in a natural environment, before land development.

In the past we tried to conquer nature. Today we are trying to live with nature but the future is in learning to be a part of nature.

Note: This article originally appeared in The Fairfield Weekly Reader

Green Water Infrastructure Founder to Serve on the Indy Rezone Steering Committee


Editorial Contact:
Tom Barrett, CEO
Green Water Infrastructure, Inc.
P.O. Box 124
Westfield, IN 46074
317-674-3GWI (3494)
Tom Barrett, owner and founder of Green Water Infrastructure, Inc., has been selected to serve on the steering committee for Indy Rezone.
Indy Rezone is an Indianapolis based government agency that plans to update the ordinances, regulations and design practices to be more sustainable and to improve Indianapolis residents’ quality of life by providing the foundation for redevelopment into vibrant communities. Recommended by Jesse Kharbanda, the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s largest environmental policy organization, Tom has agreed to represent the HEC  and the people of Indianapolis in this position.
“I’m honored to be recommended for this position,” Tom said in a recent interview. “Indianapolis has a tremendous potential to be a pioneer in green infrastructure done right.  What we need now is two-fold: to get the government and the people of Indianapolis on the same page with what works and what doesn’t work, then we need to combine efforts to make that happen in a safe, efficient, and responsible way.”
Mr. Barrett began Green Water Infrastructure, Inc. in 2009 in response to what he saw as a great need to marry green and gray infrastructure, creating more efficient and sustainable solutions to an ever growing problem.
With over thirty years of successful landscape industry experience, Tom Barrett has held leadership positions at industry leading companies that include: Rain Bird, Kenney Machinery, Ewing, Netafim, and MacAllister Machinery. Some of Tom’s projects can be seen at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, the Gates residence in Seattle, and Aqualand — the largest inclined green roof in the country. He has won awards in quality and process improvement, and is a frequent contributor of articles for numerous publications.

Drip Irrigation

Water Your Garden Easily and Efficiently

Water Only Where You Need It

Drip Irrigation Garden ImageDrip Irrigation is the most efficient method of watering your garden available. Conventional irrigation systems may only be 50% efficient.  A properly installed drip irrigation system is over 90% efficient. Drip irrigation applies water directly to the soil, only where you need it. The water is immediately available to the plant roots. Water is not wasted through evaporation, wind, or surface run off.

Better than Soaker Hoses

Additionally, the technology used in today’s drip emitters dramatically improves the efficiency over soaker hoses. Today’s drip systems use pressure compensating emitters. With a soaker hose, more water is applied  where the soaker hose connects to the hose bib than at the end of the soaker hose. With pressure compensation, water is distributed evenly throughout the entire drip irrigation system.

Click here to watch a video.

 Stop Sending Money Down the Drain

A properly installed drip irrigation will save you time and money. It is less expensive than you think. Systems start at $100 installed. We can use your hose bib or rain barrel.

Drip is the perfect solution to watering your vegetable garden, flower garden or newly planted trees.

Your garden will thank you for it! 

Contact us today at (641) 209-1891

Click here to email us.

What is Green Infrastructure?

What is Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure uses natural processes to mimic nature for managing storm water. In technical terms, biomimicry, or copying nature, utilizes the same processes and systems found in a natural environment, before land development. These systems and processes are employed to solve stormwater issues.
Simply put, as buildings and structures were developed and constructed, the naturally occurring systems to handle stormwater were disturbed. These disturbances led to an increase in stormwater runoff. Roads were built, homes were built, and the soil was compacted by construction equipment. These disturbances led to a significant increase in impermeable surfaces or, in other words, surfaces that did not allow water to percolate through to the soil. The result – both the volume and the peak flow of storm water increased. The increase in stormwater runoff is significant. While this method of construction and stormwater management was conventional forty years ago, we are now seeing some of the pitfalls of this approach.
In a natural environment, prior to development, ninety-eight percent of the stormwater that fell on any given property stayed on the property. The leaves of the trees that covered the property as the rain fell, initially slowed the rain down. The soil, which was permeable and not compacted, captured the majority of the rainfall. Only two to three percent of the rain that fell on a certain area ran off across the surface area. The velocity of the water runoff was significantly slower because of the vegetation covering that area.
Natural Water Cycle Image
The problems created by the increasing velocity and flow of storm water has resulted in a significant number of problems. Stream banks are eroding and threatening to undermine building foundations. In some cases expensive shoring has been installed to prevent the loss of property. In many areas, subterranean HVAC ductwork on some properties is collecting water resulting in mold and mildew. Subsurface water is surfacing on roadways resulting in flooding. In freezing conditions, icy roads and walkways create safety issues.
Why Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is the latest and most effective development in land use planning. Many businesses and communities would like to utilize the best stormwater management practices available. Green infrastructure was developed in the United States in the mid 1990’s as a means to address a growing concern about the increasingly severe problems associated with stormwater issues. Stormwater, or non-point source water, is the largest source of water pollution in America. The conventional technology used fifty years ago to handle stormwater was to rapidly collect it and pipe it away via engineered collection systems. As noted earlier, the conventional technology of fifty years ago has created serious issues and is no longer an effective means to stormwater solutions. Traditional infrastructure has been refined. Green infrastructure employs the most advanced methods and techniques for managing stormwater.
Rain Running Off a RoofWhat are the Elements of Green Infrastructure?
The elements of green infrastructure utilize soil and plants, or vegetation, to manage stormwater. Additionally, in developing a green infrastructure approach we examine the stormwater production as far upstream, as close to the source of the stormwater production, as possible.
There are two recommended primary elements:
  1. Downspout Disconnections or Extensions
  2. Rain Gardens and Bioswales
Downspout Disconnections or Extensions
The largest source of stormwater runoff occurs from rain falling on rooftops. Many rooftops currently have a stormwater collection system installed complete with gutters and downspouts. However, in some cases the downspouts drain into pipes that surface on a downgrade and the stormwater flows onto adjoining condominium areas. In other cases, the downspout outflows are not piped anywhere. They simply drain out onto the surface of the property. Finally, some downspout outflows are directed onto roadways and driveways.
[Insert roof runoff here
Downspout disconnections and extensions require directing the stormwater from the downspouts into a permeable area, such as a rain garden or bioswale, as close to the source as possible. The storm water is not directed onto another impermeable surface like a roadway or driveway, as is the situation often seen today.
Downspout disconnections and extensions are the simplest and least expensive way to mitigate the stormwater issues quickly. Additionally, this benefits the environment because it helps to restore the natural water cycle.
Rain Gardens and Bioswales
Rain Gardens and bioswales are vegetated areas, lower in elevation than the surrounding area, with engineered soil that allows rainwater to be percolated through a series of soil and gravel layers. The purpose of a rain garden or bioswale is two fold. First, the rain garden or bioswale captures and detains storm water. Second, the rain garden or bioswale filters the storm water, thus reducing stormwater runoff and pollution.
Rain gardens and bioswales are located in an area as close as possible near the structure that produce the stormwater runoff. Native plants are usually used for vegetation because native plants are more adaptable to the local climate and do not require as much maintenance as turf or other plant materials. The vegetation in a rain garden or bioswale maintains the soil’s permeability and assists in filtering the storm water.
Rain garden and bioswales  should be designed and engineered to capture one hundred percent of a one-inch rainfall. Ideally, the one-inch rainfall event will be retained for at least eighteen hours but not more than seventy-two hours.
Embarking on a multi-year project that aims to reduce and eliminate many of the stormwater issues experienced since development  while restoring the natural water cycle is one that takes informative, collaborative effort. This kind of forward thinking, integrated, and long-range planning approach will combine the existing traditional infrastructure with newer techniques in green infrastructure. The result will be a sustainable approach to stormwater mitigation that will be effective, resilient and less expensive in the long-term, than conventional stormwater management. Additionally, green infrastructure is more than just mitigating stormwater. The solutions recommended will have a positive, long lasting impact on the environment.
Rain Garden