Stormwater management as art? Absolutely. Rain is a resource that should be valued and celebrated, not merely treated as an urban design problem&mdash
Artful Rainwater Design Presentation with AIA COTE Seattle
Join Committee on the Environment to discuss the book Artful Rainwater Design and address critical environmental issues, such as global warming, habitat restoration, solid waste reduction, and community planning. Eliza Pennypacker and Stuart Echols, authors of the book Artful Rainwater Design , speak about their book and engage with local stakeholders including policymakers, advocacy groups, and the local community to address environmental challenges of today. Members will to learn about the book, the research behind it, and authors’ unique approach to dealing with stormwater runoff in a design-friendly fashion.
Contact: Missy Garvin, AIA Seattle, 206-448-4938
Sustainable Cities Roundtable on Mercer Island
Stormwater runoff is the number one threat to water quality in the Puget Sound. Multiple jurisdictions, non-profits, and private organizations are actively working on innovative strategies to reduce this problem, which will continue to grow as population and development increase. But while traditional stormwater management has focused on flow control and cost savings, little attention is often paid to recognizing the value of this resource in adding amenities to a site and increasing its design aesthetic and capacity for improving site sustainability. Join Island Press authors and Penn State professors Eliza Pennypacker and Stuart Echols to discuss their book Artful Rainwater Design and hear about strategies to transform rain from a stormwater pollution and management problem to a way to enhance site design, provide multiple sustainability benefits, and celebrate rain for the precious resource that it is.
As a lunchtime event, you are welcome to bring lunch to enjoy during the Roundtable.
This beautifully illustrated, comprehensive guide explains how to design creative, yet practical, landscapes that treat on-site stormwater management as an opportunity to enhance site design. Artful Rainwater Design has three main parts: first, the book outlines five amenity-focused goals that might be highlighted in a project: education, recreation, safety, public relations, and aesthetic appeal. Next, it focuses on techniques for ecologically sustainable stormwater management that complement the amenity goals. Finally, it features diverse case studies that show how designers around the country are implementing principles of artful rainwater design.
We watch rain fall and we know it ends up in rivers and oceans, but it's easy not to care how it gets there as long as it doesn't end up in our basements. The new book Artful Rainwater Design reminds us that rainwater is a resource worth singing about—and offers creative ways to make the infrastructure we build for rainwater not just efficient, but also educational, beautiful, and even fun.
Publicity and marketing associate at Island Press; avid reader and tea drinker.
April is the month of rain. At least it is in our world: the mid-Atlantic U.S. With sincere apologies to readers who live in current drought, here in Pennsylvania we typically have reminded ourselves that “April showers bring May flowers,” and so we would endure—endure the puddles, the gloomy skies, the downpours, the temporary flooding of streets.
But we as a populace need to change our perspective about rain. Rain isn’t an enemy to be fought; nor is it a waste product to be disposed of down a culvert, into a pipe, out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Rain is a life-giving resource, our ally, our friend.
And so we propose that we manage rain as the resource and ally that it is, through a strategy we call Artful Rainwater Design or ARD.
There are three fundamental components to ARD that we must address when developing or redeveloping any piece of land. We present them for your consideration in ascending aspirational order:
- Use landscape to manage rain on a site (also known as “green infrastructure”);
- Make the rain management system a visual asset that is valued;
- Make the rain management system overtly celebrate rain.
Use landscape to manage rain on a site
This is such a simple concept—one that the natural landscape has handled brilliantly for millennia: let rock, soil, and plants accept the rain, rather than culverts, catch basins, and pipes. Natural systems perform great ecological service in rainwater management: they can capture sediments, filter toxins, detain rain to prevent a downstream deluge, retain rain and promote its infiltration as groundwater, promote evapotranspiration. Let’s put the landscape to work to manage rain. And, while landscape alone may not control massive flooding, in temperate climates landscape can be designed to manage the majority of rainfall and address the mandates of many US state regulatory agencies to manage “first flush,” the initial (and dirtiest) rainfall.
So let’s put the landscape to work, as civil engineer Steve Benz suggests: make the landscape perform, make it do some of the rainwater management heavy lifting that it’s so well-suited to do. Or, to put it another way, “Let’s make room for the rain,” as environmental artist Stacy Levy admonishes.
Make the rain management system a visual asset that is valued
Once we’ve decided to manage rain with green infrastructure, this second step is essential: that landscape system must be perceived as a visual asset by both owners and passersby. The rain garden you create in your yard, the curb extension that a municipality installs to catch and infiltrate first flush on a city street, the retention basin full of perennials that a school plans to serve as outdoor classroom/habitat/rain management system—all must be visually attractive, rich in texture and color, and well maintained. Why is this so important? Because at this early stage of green infrastructure development, we cannot afford for that rain-managing landscape to look unkempt, messy, weedy, feral; we can’t afford for people to accuse a green infrastructure system of being a breeding ground for mosquitos or home of rats and snakes. If the public reacts negatively to the appearance of the first green infrastructure system they encounter, there may not be a second chance. But if the rain-managing landscape is perceived as beautiful and valuable by residents and passersby, then the designers and owners have made a real difference, and ideally have prompted visitors to think, “We need one of those at our house/neighborhood/school/”etc. This is how we can help the public recognize the value of green infrastructure—because work that is truly ecologically sustainable must be loved to be sustained.
Make the rain management system overtly celebrate rain
This is the third and—to our minds—critical step to make a difference in rain management: create a landscape that engages, delights, entertains, or educates people about rain. And this is what transforms a beautiful green infrastructure rain management system into Artful Rainwater Design. A scupper drops water from a roof to a landscape below; the designed water trail clearly carries the rain to planting beds nearby. Or runoff from a parking lot flows through a robustly-planted filtration bed, then into a stream. Or rain shoots out of a downspout and races through chutes and runnels, disappearing in a large concrete vault. By creatively presenting rain in ways like these, we can take the final, critical step in helping public perception of rain to change. We can create landscape narratives that tell the story of rain’s journey from rooftop to river, from parking lot to pond. We can encourage public reactions to these designs that are delighted realizations: “Look at what the rain is doing!” or “Look—that’s rain!” And by these means, we can help the public not only grasp the value of green infrastructure in terms of management utility and beauty; we can also help the public realize that rain is indeed an ally, our life-giving resource.
So it’s April; let’s celebrate rain.
Eliza Pennypacker is a professor of landscape architecture at Penn State whose research and teaching about the roots and significance of middle class American landscape taste led her to realize that ecological landscapes must also function aesthetically if they are to be valued and sustained.
Stuart Echols is an associate professor of landscape architecture at Penn State whose fascination with surface water systems led to his teaching focus in stormwater management. When stormwater regulations evolved to treat what is known as "first flush" (the initial, dirtiest runoff), he recognized that this treatment strategy has resulted in subtle but significant changes to urban form.