Eco Effective Solutions
Rainwater harvesting, or catchment, is an effective means to capture, store and convey rainwater - an essentially unrestricted natural resource. Historically, rainwater catchment can be traced as far back as the third millennium, B.C. and over the last decade has become resurgent due to a decrease in quantity and quality of surface and ground water and an increase in efficient harvesting methods and technology. Systems can range from simple residential rain barrels to larger scale systems with above ground or under ground storage options. Captured rainwater can be used for irrigation, toilet flushing, fire suppression systems, chiller make-up, vehicle washing and laundry systems.
We advocate rainwater harvesting as a means to reduce stormwater volumes that would otherwise cause soil erosion, sewer overflows and non-point source pollution flowing into our streams, rivers and groundwater supplies. The added benefits to the property owner are keeping the water at the site, readily available for use onsite, and of course, the valuable environmental and financial impacts realized in healthier landscapes and reduced water utility bills.
Specific considerations in planning a rainwater catchment system:
- Average rainfall to determine storage type and capacity
- Storage tank preference – above ground or underground
- Siting considerations of selected storage container
- Filtering requirements based on intended use(s) of captured water
- Distribution method and technology matched to intended use(s)
Significant benefits of a rainwater catchment system:
- Availability of water not subject to local utility use restrictions
- ROI quickly realized in locations where water rates are rising and landscapes can be preserved in locations where utility water restrictions are enforced
- Captured rainwater is not subject to municipal supplied pipeline interruption
- Water immediately available for fire suppression
- Captured rainwater quality is controlled by consumer and is low in sodium, free of chemicals found in treated domestic water supplies
- Captured rainwater is softer and free of hardening trace minerals
- Can reduce mosquito breeding activities onsite
- Reduces runoff erosion and pollutant loads
- Can be used for domestic water needs or non-potable needs depending on filtering
BlueGreen Synergy works with established, experienced and reputable rainwater harvesting system manufacturers and installers.
Condensate water from HVAC in non-residential buildings is redirected out of buildings and typically into the site’s sewer system. Given that the amount of condensate water generated can be upwards of 10 gallons per day per every 1,000 square feet of air conditioned space, it makes sense to capture and make available for alternate non-potable water uses on the site.
Condensate water has a low mineral content and is generally free of sanitizing chemicals. The water can be used for landscape irrigation and cooling tower makeup water, both in lieu of potable water. Other uses include water feature and pond make-up, laundry operations, vehicle and equipment washing and industrial processes not requiring potable water.
Downspout disconnection, or impervious disconnection is a means to keep stormwater onsite as opposed to entering the sewer system. When impervious areas are connected, collecting contaminates before entering a sewer drainage system. Often, sewer systems are over burdened resulting in sewer overflows and backups, sending polluted water directly into creeks and streams. When impervious areas are disconnected or directed into a vegetated strip, rain garden or constructed wetland, ultimately allowing infiltration and groundwater recharge. The plant material and soil layers act as filters for decontaminating the runoff. Minimizing sewer overflows provides a healthier environment for our creeks and streams.
Disconnection can be small scale or large scale, depending on the available area on the property’s site. Small-scale applications can also include directing the water to rain gardens, urban planters, green roofs, dry wells, French drains, or rainwater harvesting tanks. In large-scale applications, water is diverted into vegetated filter strips, stream buffers, conserved open space, or constructed stormwater wetlands.
Numerous municipalities across the United States have implemented downspout disconnection programs with much success. Los Angeles, Boston, Portland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, to name a few, have eliminated billions of gallons of runoff from combined sewer overflows, assisting with flood control, replenishing groundwater and reducing potable water use.
Constructed stormwater wetlands provide onsite water quality treatment and prevent otherwise contaminated runoff from entering sewer systems. Constructed wetlands differ from natural wetlands in that they are not directly connected to the watershed and groundwater; because they are manmade, remain constant in size; are capable of handling larger volumes of sediment; and, can quickly produce a diverse bio-community of beneficial plants and microorganisms. Similar to natural wetlands, they mimic natural processes, are aesthetically pleasing and provide habitat for wildlife.
Our primary focus is treating stormwater runoff, yet constructed wetlands are also utilized as a less expensive, environmentally sound approach for treating domestic wastewater, agricultural wastewater, and some industrial wastewater.
There are two types of constructed wetlands – free water surface flow and subsurface flow. The free water surface flow is above surface, exposing the water in the wetland to atmospheric conditions and support wildlife habitat. Water in the subsurface flow wetland is below a surface of gravel or alternative media and is suitable when less land area is available.
The water cleansing processes taking place in the wetland include:
- Nutrient uptake through plants and microorganisms
- Pollutant breakdown through plants and microorganisms
- Filtration and chemical precipitation through substrate
- Settling of suspended particulates
- Absorption and ion exchange on plant, sediment and litter surfaces
- Pathogen predation and natural expiration
Constructed wetlands require limited but necessary occasional maintenance. Monitoring for changes in quality or functionality is required. Typical maintenance activities include sediment removal and invasive plant species removal. Observing for insufficient growth of desired plant species is also recommended.
USEPA Guiding Principles for Constructed Treatment Wetlands: Providing Water Quality and Wildlife Habitat
Rain gardens are vegetated areas that perform as small bioretention cells, cleaning stormwater and reducing runoff volume. At first glance a rain garden may appear as a normal planting bed; however, they are designed to withstand weather extremes of flooding and drought and high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, two of the most common nutrients carried in stormwater runoff.
Rain gardens mimic naturally occurring hydrologic processes. Depending on the size of the site, drainage needs and vertical distance to the water table, the rain garden can be either self-contained or can include an under-drain system. To perform its intended function the garden is comprised of engineered soil media and deep fibrous root plants appropriate for the region.
Multiple rain gardens work well space is limited, such as in parking lots and between sidewalks and streets.
Similar in function to rain gardens, bioswales are applicable for larger sites to accommodate greater stormwater volumes. Runoff water directed to bioswales is decelerated by the vegetation, and then filtered through an engineered subsoil layer, allowing eventual infiltration into core soils. Bioswales provide:
- Pollutant uptake
- Peak volume runoff reduction
- Groundwater infiltration
- Cost effective approach to stormwater management
To function properly, bioswales need adequate space and work well along roadsides, parking lot perimeters, and property boundaries. Bioswales are designed to drain within a specific time period to avoid odor and mosquito breeding. Specific but infrequent maintenance practices are necessary for the success of bioswales.
Vegetated roof tops, or Green Roofs are widely accepted in Europe, and gaining respect in the United States. Green roofs are a contained space of plant material growing on top of a structure as opposed to in the ground. The benefits of green roofs include:
- Rainwater capture, storage and return to the atmosphere via transpiration and evaporation.
- Filtering of excessive stormwater that is not absorbed and becomes runoff.
- Reduction in peak volume stormwater
- Heat mitigation and energy savings through rooftop cooling effects
- Smog and dust particle reduction from ability of roof to trap pollutants
- Aesthetic and social benefits of usable green space
- Noise reduction
- Fire retardant
There are three types of green roofs, extensive, semi-intensive and intensive. Intensive green roofs have heavier load requirements, expanded plant palette and are an accessible amenity for human interaction. Semi-intensive green roofs have a moderate load requirement and plant palette, and accommodate limited human interaction. Extensive green roofs have a more shallow soil layer, limited plant palette and are not suitable for human interaction. All types extend the life of the building’s roof membrane, reduce heating and cooling costs and reduce atmospheric and water pollution.
Permeable & Porus Paving
Impervious paving is the nemesis to integrated stormwater management. In response to environmental needs, the paving industry has brought forth a sustainable alternative to concrete and asphalt - permeable and porous paving solutions. This approach allows water infiltration for groundwater recharge, reduces runoff and enhances the ability for onsite stormwater management.
Permeable paving systems consist of turf and gravel grid systems that accommodate vehicles – even fire trucks. Interlocking permeable paver systems allow infiltration to occur through the void space between units.
Porous paving surfaces have voids and a gravel reservoir beneath the surface temporarily storing runoff water until it is infiltrated into subsoil. These surfaces look similar to traditional concrete and asphalt.
Fire lanes, parking lots, overflow parking lots, and plazas are appropriate surfaces for permeable and porous paving applications.
Site Analysis & Design
In our approach to eco-effective, sustainable solutions, we evaluate a site’s
- Hydrological functions and opportunities
- Soil and plant health and reclamation opportunities
- Vegetation as a tool for water & air pollution mitigation
- Energy & water consumption reduction
- Reuse and regeneration of sustainable materials and resources
- Human health and well being
- Financial feasibility
After the site analysis, our eco-driven project team member devise a results oriented feasibility report and concept plan based on experience and methodologies from:
- Green Infrastructure
- Integrated Water Management
- Low Impact Development
- Sustainable Sites InitiativeTM
Innovative design options (some or all, depending on viability) that may be incorporated into a site’s project include:
- Rain water and condensate collection system
- Downspout disconnection
- Constructed wetlands
- Vegetated strips and rain gardens
- Green Roofs
- Regionally adaptive and or native plant materials
- Pervious/permeable paving
After finalization of the design phase, BlueGreen Synergy provides construction administration to ensure quality control and design adherence. This service includes assistance with all aspects of implementation:
- Pre-Construction Contractor bidding process
- Materials bidding process
- Product substitution reviews and approvals
- Installation field observation, communication & reporting
- Inspection & testing coordination
- Construction team conference attendance
- Supplemental documents
- Change order review
- Project schedule monitoring
- Project close-out
- Post Construction start up
- As-built record drawings coordination
- Maintenance & Operations coordination
- Warranty review
Choosing installation contractors and suppliers of non-propriety products can be a time consuming and overwhelming process for the client. Choosing the optimal construction contractor and premium products can be risky. Because project success and client satisfaction are of foremost concern, we work with a select group of preferred providers – both suppliers and construction contract companies. When geographically and economically feasible, we encourage our clients to utilize the products and construction services of this group of preferred vendors.
Upon completion of installation, BlueGreen Synergy stays with the project through engagement in our Performance Monitoring Program.
"Now what?" you may ask. Your property has been through the design and implementation phases and is ready to perform as a sustainable site. Wait - not so fast. The key to sustainable sites is adherence to and continuation of appropriate maintenance. The GOOD NEWS is that with our eco-effective, site-specific programs, LESS IS ACTUALLY MORE.
Time and time again property owners and facility managers trade war stories of grounds maintenance nightmares. Abused and neglected landscapes. irrigation systems in disrepair. Plants are dying. Brown spots, insect, weeds. Too wet. Too dry. Too expensive. Sound familiar? READ ON….
We are keenly aware of the outdated maintenance practices and cost cutting maneuvers associated with the groundskeeping industry. However, overcoming these issues requires a departure from current practices, a movement towards eco-effectiveness. That’s where BlueGreen SiteCare comes in.
Our SiteCare maintenance programs are prescriptive and customized to each individual site. Once your property is retrofitted for integrated water management, BlueGreen Synergy works with your landscape contractor to educate their staff and to execute your custom BlueGreen SiteCare program. As a property owner and or facilities manager, you’ll reap the benefits of a healthier, easy-to-care-for working landscape.
PROGRAM ENROLLMENT BENEFITS
- Reduces demand on property management
- Increases water management efficiency
- Reduces demand on potable water supply
- Improves onsite water quality
- Reduction in wasted landscape maintenance dollars
- Enhances value of landscape improvement capital
- Improves property visual appearance and longevity
- Develops resource efficient property
SITE ANALYSIS & INVENTORY
A thorough examination of your property’s use, amenities, existing stormwater controls, irrigation system, pest, weed and fertilization management, soils, trees, plants and turf is performed.
A plan to insure effective communication between BlueGreen Synergy consultant and all parties involved in or responsible for the site is created and implemented.
After completion of analysis, a prescriptive grounds maintenance program is written and provided to owner and all parties involved in care of the property. The program is detailed and specific to the site elements and geographical location and includes industry average pricing for program services. We also provide an educational session to groundskeeping staff to insure understanding of new eco-effective methods. To promote adherence to the program, SiteCare also includes bi-annual site visits and meetings with groundskeeping staff, with a follow-up report to owner and/or facilities manager.
- SITECARE is also offered to new construction landscapes that were designed within the guidelines of LID, GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE and/or SITES™.
- SITECARE may qualify your property for LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M Certification.
BLUEGREEN TEK – Backed by science. Driven by performance.
BlueGreen Tek is a strategic partnering relationship between BlueGreen Synergy and select, third party comprehensive irrigation water management providers. This service is a necessary component of our Performance Monitoring services, delivering sustainable, science based solutions for water management in urban landscapes and agriculture. Through these providers’ proprietary, patented software and systems, BlueGreen Tek integrates state-of-the art technology with ecology resulting in extraordinary and measurable water savings.
- Remote systems monitoring in Real Time
- Superior Range-based soil moisture technology
- Enhanced System Performance
- Industry proven Best Management Practices
- Detailed system audits and utility bill audits
- 24/7 trained Agronomists on staff
- Rain event management
- Performance based guaranteed results.
This comprehensive approach to commercial and agricultural irrigation water management results in extensive water savings, averaging a 62% consumption reduction in irrigation alone.
Green Building Project Certification
With an emphasis on points in Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency categories, BlueGreen Synergy offers project certification services for the following third party green building rating systems:
USGBC LEED (U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
- LEED v3 for New Construction
- LEED v3 for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance
- LEED v3 for Schools
- LEED for Retail
- LEED for Healthcare
- LEED for Neighborhood Development
SITES™ (The Sustainable Sites Initiative™)
Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009
Education & Outreach
Because we are on a quest to change cultural beliefs and practices in stormwater management and landscape preservation, both education and outreach are vital to the success of our commitment to sustainability.
We educate our clients on the virtues of green infrastructure and sustainable sites to ensure client satisfaction and continued engagement with our services and programs. Understanding the operational aspects of integrated water management allows the owner and staff to stay informed of the performance of their working landscapes. Awareness of the long-term benefits reassures the client of the value of their investment and provides a marketing edge to attract tenants.
Because our customized maintenance specifications are a major departure from traditional landscape maintenance, we make every effort to educate the property’s groundskeeping staff, to teach the merits of eco-friendly site maintenance and to ensure adherence to our program. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we believe that changing cultural practices in landscape maintenance can be accomplished, one groundskeeper at a time.
Concern for the environment is no longer limited to a few, and recognition of the need to protect and conserve our limited water resources is gaining attention. We want to spread the word of the importance of green infrastructure and landscape preservation and can think of no better way than engaging the public. Watch for upcoming Webinars and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to help make our water and earth clean and safe for all of its inhabitants.
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