StormCon 2016 Recap: Part 2 of 3 (Green Infrastructure Tour)

StormCon 2016 was held in Indianapolis, IN during the last week of August. StormCon is the national conference and exposition for surface water quality. Conferences often host tours of local projects that highlight some trending topic within the industry. A green infrastructure bicycle tour of Indianapolis was offered at StormCon. Since green infrastructure and bicycling are two things I'm interested in I signed up. Consider this blog a brief virtual tour of the sites visited. There are many photos so take the time and look at them all.

Two things before we get started on our tour.

1) American Rivers defines Green infrastructure (GI) as "an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure is effective, economical, and enhances community safety and quality of life."

2) During the tour I learned that Indianapolis has predominately sandy soils. These sandy soils make installing green infrastructure very easy because the runoff can infiltrate into the sub-soil; costly and intricate plumbing is typically not necessary.

Tour Stop #1: Cultural Trail and the Julia M. Carson Transit Center; 200 E. Washington Street

The Cultural Trail is an 8 mile cycle track looping around downtown Indianapolis. Rain gardens are installed at intervals all along the trail to capture and infiltrate runoff from the street and trail. The Cultural Trail chose to keep the types of plantings to a minimum for ease of maintenance and aesthetic. Prairie Dropseed and Blue Flag Iris are the dominate plant species seen.

The Julia M Carson Transit Center is the newly completed transit hub in downtown Indianapolis. IndyGo achieved LEED Silver Certification for the project in part because of the innovative green infrastructure practices installed throughout the site. Some of those features include:

  • Bio-retention cells connected to underground detention & infiltration chambers
  • Pervious pavers, also connected to underground detention & infiltration chambers
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Native plantings (i.e. drought tolerant)
  • A weather responsive irrigation system to prevent over irrigation and wasteful use of potable water

In addition to being a beautiful new building and vibrant transit hub the trained eye will spot all of the GI features and really appreciate the triple-bottom line effects that smartly planned projects can achieve.

Tour Stop #2: The Nature Conservancy (Efroymson Conservation Center): 620 E. Ohio Street

The Efroymson Conservation Center achieved the LEED Platinum rating by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) while not exceeding the typical cost per square foot of traditional high-end office building in Indianapolis. It is also the city’s first LEED Platinum building and has been rated as the most sustainable building in Indiana. The inclusion of green infrastructure in the design of the building is part of the LEED Platinum certification. Some of the GI features that the tour group was able to explore included:

  • ZERO discharge stormwater design! WOW!
  • An intensive (shallow depth) and extensive green roof
  • Pervious pavers
  • Infiltration swales
  • Elaborate native plantings

Tour Stop #3: Anthenaeum 401 E. Michigan Street

The Anthenaeum is a historic structure built in 1893 as a German cultural center, ballroom, gymnasium, rooming house, and beer garden which is still operating true to its original vision; albeit by modern equivalents. Today it is a YMCA branch; the Rathskeller restaurant, and offices occupy the space. A rain garden was installed along the side of the building during a 2010 renovation. The installation of the rain garden met with zoning and building code challenges due to outdated City codes. Ultimately, the city codes were updated sparking a larger conversation about the benefits of installing green infrastructure. Even though the rain garden is not very big it is important to the GI narrative of Indianapolis. A raingarden provides many benefits.

  • native wild flower, grasses, and wetlands plantings
  • collects, detains, and infiltrates stormwater runoff from the property
  • recharges the groundwater aquifers
  • purifies the stormwater runoff
  • aesthetically pleasing landscaping effect
  • pollinator habitat

Tour Stop #4: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful: 1029 Fletcher Avenue

The Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) headquarters achieved LEED Gold. KIB’s facilities mitigate the impact of storm water on Indianapolis’ combined sewer overflow (CSO), while also delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits. Green infrastructure captures 56% of the storm water that falls on KIB’s grounds and reduces storm water runoff by 357,000 gallons each year. This is achieved through the following installed GI practices:

The items listed above are just a few of the innovative practices at the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful headquarters. The headquarters also utilizes solar panels, wind turbines, natural lighting, waterless urinals, green cleaning products. It truly was a lot to take in.

Tour Stop #5: White River Alliance: 1052 Woodlawn Avenue

The White River is a large river that flows through the heart of downtown Indianapolis and also touches numerous outlying counties. The White River Alliance is regional non-profit watershed alliance made up of dozens of different type of stakeholder organizations. Their mission is to "protect and improve water resources in central Indiana." Clear Choices Clean Water is their national-award winning program.

They believe it’s important to ‘walk the walk’, so the Alliance’s 1870 historic office building is a showcase of small scale urban BMPs that can be employed on a residential size lot. Through the use of rain gardens and native plantings the White River Alliance has been able to provide treatment to stormwater runoff, pollinator habitat, and migratory bird habitat. One of the most interesting takeaways from this tour stop was the careful planning that went into designing the native plant gardens. The Alliance was very careful to not allow the native plantings to encroach on the sidewalks. They created a very scripted garden; providing a variety of plant species, plant heights, and shelter that are important in attracting a diverse population of wildlife.

Please contact Brent Eysenbach at 216-524-6580 or beysenbach(at)cuyahogaswcd.org to discuss these articles further.

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