Adapting Green Infrastructure Tracking, Design, and Maintenance Methods for a Diversity of Programs

Last Modified: Jul 20, 2018


  • Alysondria Eason - Hazen and Sawyer

Green infrastructure programs continue to advance throughout the country, addressing a variety of issues, including combined sewer overflows (CSOs), water quality, and drainage improvements, in communities large and small. Across these variable drivers and program scales, there are common strategies for opportunity tracking, design, and maintenance that can be adapted to meet variable program needs and objectives. While some of these programmatic elements are necessities in large-scale urban programs, they also offer distinct benefits when adapted to smaller-scale green infrastructure implementation efforts.

Green infrastructure feasibility assessments and opportunity tracking are common elements of large-scale urban programs, especially when driven by consent orders or stringent regulatory criteria. In these instances, tracking opportunities and constraints is key to demonstrating progress towards program milestones, where it is often necessary to maximize implementation throughout an area. Such tracking efforts also support the characterization and quantification of constraints affecting implementation, allowing for the development of design alternatives at a programmatic scale. For smaller-scale programs, an area-wide approach is not generally necessary to maximize implementation, but can provide value by identifying the most cost-effective opportunities and supporting project prioritization. In this instance, the overall tracking framework may be similar, but utilize a phased approach, identifying the world of implementation options, but only advancing investigations for sites deemed cost-effective and necessary in the near term. In all programs, tracking drainage areas, constraints and green infrastructure opportunities allows a municipality to evaluate trends in areas of success and improvements in underperforming areas.

The ability to standardize designs allows a community to implement green infrastructure quickly and in a streamlined fashion, yet the ability to adapt and evolve these designs is also important. One example of this is modifying traditional green infrastructure controls to create hybrid designs that balance surface and subsurface storage in order to maximize stormwater volume capture while minimizing impacts to pedestrian and vehicular access. While larger programs may build a library of explicit standard designs, smaller programs may be best served by developing a smaller number of generalized design standards that streamline review and approval of common elements, but offer flexibility for site-specific considerations.

With regards to green infrastructure maintenance, creation of digital inspection and maintenance logs can assist in better understanding local maintenance activities, frequencies, and performance trends. Although the specifics of this tracking setup may vary with program scale, the information garnered can be utilized to refine design standards and improve long-term performance regardless of program size.

While each of these strategies can be incorporated into a stormwater program, it is important to understand that not every strategy is needed or cost-effective for every municipality without adaptation. With appropriate adjustments, it is often possible for smaller-scale initiatives to benefit from the efficiencies and lessons learned from larger programs, supporting the realization of green infrastructure benefits across a wide array of program drivers and implementation scales.

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