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Conferences Highlight Low Impact Development

SEATTLE, Washington, November 17, 2008 (ENS) – The 2008 International Low Impact Development Conference opened Sunday at the Westin Seattle, sponsored by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE.

In his inaugural address, the new ASCE president D. Wayne Klotz, called on fellow professionals to take more credit for the clean water work they do, Klotz said, “Today, I declare this to be the Year of the Civilization Engineer! To do anything else would diminish our contribution to society.”

“Clean water is essential to sustain life,” said Klotz, thanking the members of his profession. “Civil engineers deliver clean water. We find it, clean it, disinfect it, and deliver it into people’s homes, businesses, industries. When the public finishes with it, we civil engineers pick it up, clean it up, and put it back where we found it. No community of any size would exist without clean water, nor can any strong economy. To those civil engineers who are in the water resources business, you are the sole reason that people can live in a community and maintain their health.”

Low impact development draws its stormwater solutions from the natural world. “LID is a more sustainable land development technique that includes a site design approach to preserve natural resources, terrain, and hydrology, combined with a natural approach to stormwater best management practices that store, infiltrate, evaporate, and detain runoff,” according to the Environmental Business Council of New England, which offers a web page listing LID information resources at: http://www.ebcne.org/index.php?id=266

LID technologies preserve open space, protect conservation vales on-site, ensure adequate groundwater recharge, and reduce runoff pollution. In cities, LID practices can reduce heat island impact, smog, and energy use, and lessen the cost of new and repair of existing combined sewage overflow stormwater systems.

In the never-ending quest for clean water at low cost, the use of low impact development practices such as pervious pavements, rain gardens, and green roofs is gaining in popularity.
Pervious pavement allows stormwater to soak into the soil. (Photo courtesy USACE)

The new acceptance of these techniques is due to the fact that they can save developers substantial amounts of money while helping protect rivers, lakes and drinking water resources.

Savings are generally due to reduced costs for site grading and preparation, stormwater infrastructure, site paving, and landscaping. Total capital cost savings ranged from 15 to 80 percent when LID methods were used, with a few exceptions in which LID project costs were higher than conventional stormwater management costs, according to a study by the U.S. EPA released in November 2007.

One objective of this conference, which continues through Wednesday, is to inform stormwater managers how to anticipate and address obstacles to implementation of these techniques.

Another goal is to accelerate change in the practice of stormwater management, including an information exchange to refine design processes, review procedures and construction standards related to LID technologies, conference organizers say.

A number of national and regional LID conferences have been held in the United States, and another is coming up December 3 and 4 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, New Hampshire. Unlike most professional conferences, this one is open to the public.

National experts will convene in Concord to present the latest methods for developing land in ways that allow stormwater to be retained, infiltrated, or reused on site.

Workshops on low impact development design and case studies of successful low impact development projects in northern New England will be presented.

“EPA has looked carefully at low impact development, and it’s remarkable that the vast majority of projects are able to save between 15 and 80 percent – while making choices that were better for the environment,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of the New England office of the EPA, which is a co-sponsor of the Concord conference.

“Low impact development is a way for developers and builders to achieve a competitive edge in the current market, while helping the environment at the same time” said Glynn Rountree, an environmental policy analyst with the National Home Builders Association who will be speaking at the conference.

One such money-saver is pervious pavement that allows stormwater to percolate through the pavement into a filter layer below.

Some developers and engineers in northern New England have been hesitant to use such techniques for fear they may not work well in cold climates. This topic is one that will be given significant attention at the conference.

Attendees will hear how this low impact development technique has been used successfully at a number of sites in New England, including at hospitals in New London, New Hampshire and York, Maine, a shopping center in Amherst, New Hampshire, and at a new park ‘n ride lot in Randolph, Vermont.

The University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center has been evaluating the effectiveness of a variety of stormwater practices at a specially designed field site in Durham for the last five years.

“Our findings are indicating that developers and engineers are missing a real opportunity here,” said Dr. Robert Roseen, director of the Stormwater Center. “We are finding that many of the low impact development practices are actually out-performing the conventional systems on a consistent basis, even in the middle of the winter.”

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