The Benefits and Challenges of Going Green

June 1, 2015

Sustainability… Green Infrastructure… Low Impact Development…

All of these terms express a common goal: infrastructure that is environmentally-friendly, cost-effective, and integrates with the longterm quality of life goals of the community.

Water utilities have a number of green techniques at their disposal: resource-efficient equipment; certified “sustainable” construction products; trenchless construction and rehabilitation methods; bioretention; permeable pavements; water reuse; and more. When implemented properly, sustainable practices can have a number of benefits, from stormwater management to improved air and water quality; from reduced life cycle costs to community beautification and buy-in.

Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development

Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development (LID) help mitigate development impacts and maintain predevelopment stormwater runoff conditions. By implementing these techniques in our watersheds, we encourage infiltration and groundwater recharge, reduce pollutant loading in our drinking water, limit sedimentation of our reservoirs, and facilitate water conservation and reuse practices. However, adoption of Green Infrastructure is not without its challenges. At Halff, we believe that Green Infrastructure can be effective if we recognize the challenges and overcome them through continued collaboration and innovation.
—— Collaboration: Green Infrastructure is not just a water utilities issue or public works issue or site design issue. It is all of the above. Collaboration among different engineering disciplines and different municipal departments is critical to the long-term success of a project.
—— Appropriate Design Criteria: The lack of comprehensively accepted sustainability criteria can be problematic. Effective application depends on the development of design criteria that are measurable, achievable, and appropriate for the project at hand.
—— Maintenance: One of the most common challenges faced by owners regarding Green Infrastructure is maintenance. More specifically, how can we ensure that the facilities will function as promised? Application requires careful consideration of the ongoing maintenance needs and costs of Green Infrastructure.

At Halff, we are helping a number of communities throughout Texas implement Green Infrastructure and LID techniques through watershed master plans, flood protection planning, and drainage criteria and ordinance updates.

Envision™: LEED for Civil Engineering
In 2012, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure launched Envision™, a sustainability framework and rating system for all types of civil infrastructure in North America. It has been described as “LEED for civil engineering,” a nod to the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program that has been so instrumental in improving sustainability within the building and development industry. Envision™ provides for the incorporation of many already established green techniques such as LID. The program continues to evolve, but some of the projects thus far awarded certification illustrate its applicability to the field of water utilities:
—— A creek environmental restoration in California
—— A raw water pipeline in Texas
—— A watershed management program in California
—— A wastewater treatment facility in Ontario, Canada

The Take-Away
Halff has a multi-disciplined team of engineers, modelers, planners, and landscape architects with experience in Green Infrastructure techniques and sustainable design in Texas. We recently won the Texas Land/Water Sustainability Forum, Central Texas Chapter’s LID Design Competition in the category of “Urban Redevelopment for Cedars West in Dallas, Texas.” We have professionals credentialed in the use of the Envision™ rating system. Many challenges still exist in the application of Green Infrastructure, but by addressing these challenges head-on, our goal is to continually
improve the sustainability of the infrastructure in our communities.

If Halff Associates can assist your team, please call Executive Vice President Jessica Baker, PE, CFM, PMP, at (214) 217-6692.