Suzanne LaBarre wrote a snappy article on the “Living Building Challenge” (LBC) in the October 2009 issue of Metropolis magazine. She says that we should “think of the Living Building Challenge as a Port Huron Statement for the green age.” I had to look that one up on Wikipedia and found a tie-in to the University of Michigan as follows:
The Port Huron Statement is the manifesto of the American student activist movement Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), written primarily by Tom Hayden, then the Field Secretary of SDS, and completed on June 15, 1962 at an SDS convention at what is now a state park in Lakeport, Mich., a community north of Port Huron. It begins: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit…”
So it’s the radical voice of green building according to Suzanne whose “motto, ‘No credits, just prerequisites’ rebukes the moderate incrementalism of LEED, which favors plaques and incentives of soup-to-nuts sustainability.” The LBC may well pressure USGBC to “radicalize, effectively tamping the entire industry into smaller carbon footprints, one pretty little building at a time.” Ouch! And further, LBC “turns architecture into a series of Carthusian statutues that no one, not even the most devout among us, could possible follow to a tee.” Huh? Back to Wikipedia where the site for Carthusian statues is a bit rough and reads in part:
(The monks) follow their own Rule, called the Statutes, rather than the Rule of St Benedict (as is often erroneously reported) and combine eremitical and cenobetic (sp.) life.
I’ve been out of school for a long time, so it’s off to the dictionary for “eremitical” (like a hermit) and “cenobitic” (a member of a religious order living in a convent or community). Cool! LBC will make us all monks and nuns living in convents and following all sorts of neat rules and rituals! So how far out does the radical voice of green building get? Well, the article is really about the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, “the newest addition to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a non-profit that is every bit as New Age as it sounds and wherer shape-shifting courses and ‘bootcamp for goddesses’ do the work of its sunny mission: ‘awakening the best in the human spirit.’”
There are 16 rigorous prerequisites and lots of inherent conflicts. You really need to read the article, if only to get to the part where the Omega therapeutic dance teacher has you “exhale out through your hands and feet today.” And don’t skip the very last line!
With more and more emphasis being put on storm water quality control and the use of best management practices (BMPs) such as sediment forebays in detention/retention basins it is often overlooked that large state/county/local road projects don’t have the space available to install what can be quite large above ground storage systems, or they don’t have the funds to install an underground system. As a result road drainage runoff and the associated pollutants (oil, fertilizers, salt) as well as trash (plastic bottles, lawn clippings, plastic bags) just flow straight into the sewer system and eventually discharges into our lakes and stream and this action is not promoting a healthy environment. Communities have begun to try to fight against this pollution by first installing new catch basin inlet castings with sayings of “discharges to streams” in an effort to educate the public but even this isn’t enough.
There are several newer designs that are being used more and more these days in order to improve the storm water runoff quality before it reaches the streams. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of pollutant laden runoff from entering the storm sewer system is to just not let it. Rain gardens are a solution that are being utilized more and more across the country, particularly in developed areas that contain limited space and that presently have no means of treating runoff. The overall size of rain gardens can vary depending on the amount of runoff that is desired to be treated, but they all operate in the same manner. By increasing the amount of vegetation that wants to absorb water while also slowly the runoffs velocity, rain gardens reduce the amount of runoff from being channeled underground. As this article shows rain gardens are being used not as a replacement for storm sewers but as a means to increase the storm water quality before it reaches our streams and lakes.
If storm sewer systems must still be used there are several options for treating storm water with no noticeable aboveground features. One is called a hydro-dynamic separator (HDS). This device is installed as a typical inlet/catch basin that we see everyday with the difference being that a inlet/catch basin will just catch runoff and direct it into a pipe with no cleaning. A HDS unit in one of several different ways (screens, filters, vortex action) will remove pollutants and debris depending on the type you design it to remove and to what level of cleanliness. While these units work very well they do require maintenance and cleaning on a schedule based on the amount of pollutants that enter the unit. Of course this maintenance requires money in addition to the original cost of the unit which is dependent on the size of the unit which is based on the flow it is designed to handle.
A lower cost and simple method of controlling larger pollutants and floatables is the use of Snouts. Snouts are a plastic cover that cover the downstream pipe inside of a storm sewer manhole. As can be seen on this link the Snout works by preventing pollutants from entering the manhole and then continuing downstream by re-directing the flow down under the Snout and then up through the outlet.
The method works due to the way that water works which always seeks the lowest point possible while maintaining a constant elevation. Because of this the water level on either side of the Snout will always be the same, but the pollutants will be kept on one side while the cleaner storm water discharges on the other (This also occurs due to the Snout extending below the invert of the downstream pipe which helps to keep the pollutants inside the structure even when no rain event is occurring) While the Snouts may seem that they are considerably cheaper than an HDS unit this can be deceiving. In order to install the Snout a manhole must be wider in diameter and have a deeper sump than traditional units. These additions can increase the cost, but depending on the size of the manhole/pipe this system is typically still cheaper than an HDS. Snouts do require periodic cleaning, but it would be no different than if the structure had a traditional sump that would need to be cleaned. Snouts can be used for existing manholes depending on the required dimensions.
When designing tomorrow’s roads more thought must be given to how this road will impact the environment both today and in the future. By utilizing new and different BMPs a smaller impact can be achieved while still designing a system that satisfies all the engineering requirements.