Next Generation LID is...
LID technology has been around for almost 20 years, yet most applications of these practices around the country essentially rely on minor variations of the original designs. While effective and proven, these techniques are woefully out of date. Our growing reliance on these practices as part of our national response to critical water management issues demands that we take LID to a new level of performance.
Next Generation LID isn’t just brand new technologies but equally important, variations that apply adaptive management to use lessons learned nationally to evolve and improve upon existing technologies to reduce costs, enhance cost-effectiveness, improve performance, longevity and reliability. Every LID technology can be improved or advanced through more sustainable designs, post-installation verification, more efficient construction techniques, and easier maintenance, operation and inspection procedures.
Enabling these advances will require changes in our regulatory infrastructure and in our industry. It’ll mean developing performance-based requirements which allow flexibility in design and the minimization of design ‘cookbooks’ which by definition don’t meet the meet for LID designs to be ‘site specific.’ It’ll also mean developing tools and procedures for onsite performance verification and maintenance programs that encourage system manufacturers’ involvement in the entire lifecycle of their products, and allowing for ‘system-oriented’ bidding and provision for some stormwater BMPs rather than typical ‘line-item’ bidding processes which undermine the viability of these systems.
Big changes are needed, but the alternatives aren’t pleasant and the time for procrastination is short. Resolving our nations critical water management challenges demands our best efforts. The ‘way we’ve always done it,’ doesn’t work. Embracing and enabling innovation is our best path forward.
Although historically not often a consideration, in today’s world cost-effectiveness is perhaps the most critical element in assuring adoption of Green Infrastructure practices. New solutions, if they are to be widely adopted simply must be better and less expensive. Cost-effectiveness isn’t just important for the initial installation; it’s equally important long-term. Maintenance costs must be affordable and they must be minimized within the context of system design.
Thousands of underground stormwater treatment systems sit unmaintained and non-functional as a result of a design that puts them ‘out of sight and out of mind’ and maintenance costs that can break the budget of most owners. This is not a sustainable model. Low Impact Development brings stormwater management into the light of day in a multifunctional landscape, but large bioretention surface areas can mean lots of specialized maintenance that often proves daunting. Moving to high performance bioretention medias like Element 1 reduces bioretention foot prints to minimalize special maintenance. Built-in maintenance reduction is a hallmark of Next Generation LID.
How can we rely on any technology to solve our critical stormwater problems if we can’t be sure that installations are actually functioning as designed? When we build any other critical infrastructure, post-installation verification in the field is the norm.
When a road is built, the concrete supplier must provide documentation attesting that the concrete delivered meets the specification. A materials testing technician conducts an onsite test to verify material characteristics before the pour. After curing, the concrete is cored and sent to a testing lab to prove that it meets the performance specification. Why don’t we apply similar verification protocols to key elements of our water management systems?
Bioretention is a keystone component of Low Impact Development, yet some analysts believe that 50% of all bioretention systems are not functional. Many reasons for this phenomenon come into play, from contractor error to poor media design specs to poor media blending and quality control standards. Regardless of the reasons, high failure rates are not acceptable in the new Green Infrastructure paradigm. On site testing of in-situ bioretention media is a simple process and easily carried out post-installation. It’s a required step in every FocalPoint installation, shouldn’t it be standard operating procedure for every bioretention installation?