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Knoxville Regional
Transportation Planning Organization

400 Main St, Suite 403
Knoxville, TN 37902

email: contact@planeasttn.org
phone: (865) 215-2500
fax: (865) 215-2068

UT Landscape Architecture Faculty and Students to Write Green Infrastructure Guide

Posted 07/26/2012

Professor Brad Collett and his students didn’t set out to write the book on using green infrastructure to manage stormwater, but as a result of a partnership between UT and PlanET, that’s about to happen.

UT’s College of Architecture and Design has pledged an in-kind contribution to PlanET that includes a series of semester-long design studios that focus on regional issues. The first studio tackled stormwater management, offering green infrastructure solutions to reducing storm runoff, channeling it in cleaner, environmentally-smarter ways, and finding uses for water that otherwise would drain unchecked to area streams.

Green infrastructure promotes on-site infiltration and reuse of rainwater. In contrast to conventional gray infrastructure methods that concentrate and discharge surface runoff, green infrastructure filters runoff through landscape features and harvests rainwater. Working with other site design professionals, landscape architects are well equipped to weave this infrastructure into the design of a site, making it a performing asset of the project and not simply a utility.

The graduate students presented their work to PlanET members who saw such value in it that they asked the college to take it a step further and produce a regional guide to stormwater management using green infrastructure. Collett, with help from other UT faculty and landscape architecture research assistants, will repurpose the class work into a guide that will help local engineers, designers, developers, and the general public who are looking for better ways to manage stormwater.

Collett says, “East Tennessee’s water resources are of significant value to our regional economy, society, and environment. By partnering with PlanET in the creation of this guide, we hope to educate municipalities, developers, and the public about protecting these resources.”

And the guide couldn’t come at a better time. A new phase of the Clean Water Act went into effect recently, requiring communities to meet stricter runoff requirements.

Challenges to managing stormwater differ from place to place throughout the region. Development ranges from the high-rises of downtown Knoxville and Maryville, to shopping centers and housing in the suburbs, to wide-open rural areas. Stormwater problems can include runoff from parking lots and rooftops or erosion of silt from graded areas, draining into local streams.

And, because storm runoff doesn’t stop at county lines, it’s important to take a regional view when addressing these issues.

Once Collett and the students have finished their guide, a team of local engineers, planners, and developers will review it to ensure that best practices for all development types have been included and that the guide keeps a focus on regional concerns.

MPC Director Mark Donaldson thinks the community will see more benefits from PlanET partnerships.  “As the PlanET process continues, we will look for other opportunities to act on recommendations and ideas that benefit our regional partners. This is a great example of local expertise and regional collaboration at work. Opportunities like this build our capacity to come together as a region in the future.”

The manual will be completed in February 2013 and made available on the PlanET website.

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