Walking the Walk - Getting in Touch with LID Design
by Bill Sowa, ASLA, and Mike Campbell

In October 2009, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System municipal discharge permit that mandates the use of Low Impact Development (LID) treatment controls for all regulated projects, beginning in December 2011. During this period, Bay Area landscape architects, civil engineers, and planners needed to learn all of the details on how to meet the design intent, performance standards, and numeric sizing criteria required by the permit. A difficult challenge is to become familiar with the requirements to incorporate infiltration, percolation, and evaporation on infill sites, transit-oriented developments and mixed-use projects that are part of the long-range development objectives of the Bay area. In addition to the discharge permit, more and more design professionals and regulatory agency staff were preparing and reviewing plans that featured LID stormwater runoff treatment facilities. While these design concepts are not new, many of these individuals working on these plans did not understand their detailed requirements or practical implementation.

HMH, Inc. is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm in San Jose, California, with expertise in integrated landscape architecture, site planning, and stormwater management design. The firm recognized the need to share its expertise with the individuals who needed to comply with the various LID requirements. So, HMH’s landscape architects, planners, and stormwater compliance experts developed a variety of programs for City and County staff and local design professionals involved in stormwater management. These included presentations, workshops, and site tours of recently-completed residential and commercial projects in the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area.

Presenters emphasize integrating landscape architecture into stormwater management designs, using local development project examples. Image courtesy Robert Glick.

The first presentation was in April 2010 at the International Low Impact Development Conference in San Francisco. Mike Campbell of HMH spoke on “Overcoming Obstacles to LID Implementation – Tales from Silicon Valley.” The presentation focused on the trials and tribulations of implementing facilities into Silicon Valley LID projects, and was followed by a tour of relevant projects.

Mike Campbell describes maintenance issues and procedures for landscape-based treatment controls during a field tour for planners and engineers. Image courtesy Juan Borelli.

Also in April, HMH and the California chapter of the American Planning Association co-hosted an LID seminar and walking tour of projects to demonstrate the site planning, engineering, and landscape architectural elements of treatment controls such as bioswales, infiltration gardens, and pervious pavements.

It is hoped that these coordinated efforts will promote a greater understanding of the need for LID controls to manage stormwater, and provide practical solutions to meet the challenges now and in the future.

Bill Sowa demonstrates bioretention principles in the field during HMH’s Living With LID event. Image courtesy Brian Glick.

Bill Sowa, ASLA, is a principal and landscape architecture manager for HMH Engineers in San Jose, California and can be reached at: billsowa@comcast.net. Mike Campbell is the Stormwater Compliance Manager at HMH Engineers and can be reached at: mcampbell@hmhca.com.

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