[A tip of the hat to retired legendary Dallas Time Herald sports reporter Blackie Sherrod who introduced the idea of scattershooting, i.e., bouncing through a variety of topics in a single column, often producing interesting tidbits and food for thought.]
Did you catch the announcement by the North Texas Land/Water Sustainability Forum launching their Low Impact Development (LID) Design Competition a few weeks ago? The North Texas LWS Forum, like the original in Houston, is an all-volunteer organization whose steering committee is made up of leadership from most of the primary local professional organizations (for engineers, architects, developers, etc.) and government agencies whose members'/staffs' livelihoods depend on development.
Why would a consortium of groups like these take the lead in carrying out a Design Competition whose goals seem to be more in tune with those of an environmental non-profit? Although there are undoubtedly many reasons, the one that resonates most universally, is that the competition provides an avenue for 'learning while doing' in a competitive environment. The participants will be required to design using sustainable development and stormwater management principals, the efficacy of which they may not yet be fully convinced. In the course of developing their solutions to the design challenges, the participants will either convince themselves of the value of these practices relative to the best interests of their clients and themselves, or they won't, but they will have converted themselves, assuming conversion is the outcome. This has many beneficial results, not the least of which is in overcoming the 'chicken or the egg' dilemma of a design professional who might want to try new practices, but be wary of pitiching a client on something they've never actually done before.
If history is repeated in North Texas as it has played out elsewhere around the country, the development community will discover that these practices can not only produce a multitude of environmental, quality of life, and marketing benefits for both designers and developers alike, but they can be implemented at lower costs than traditionally designed projects. Economic gains drive change better than regulations, but people usually have to prove economic issues to themselves in order to believe them.
Professionals from all around the country are invited to register a team for the NTLWSF Low Impact Development Design Competition. Find out more information on the competition and how to register at www.lwsforum.org or www.texaslid.org. Registration is set to end July 1st.
For a fresh and interesting take on Houston's LID Design Competition, check out yesterday's blog post by Lisa Stiffler of Sightline Institute. Sightline works to promote smart policy ideas related to sustainability in the Northwest.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and EPA Region 3 are producing a 3-part webinar series on how to develop and execute a LID Design Competition in your community. Each 'nuts & bolts' installment will be archived on the WEF site to act as a reference resource. Find out more about these webcasts which will be broadcast in June, July and August at WEF's website.
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By the way, other LID Design Competitions in planning have been reported in San Antonio TX, Lancaster PA, Philadelphia PA and Johnson County KS, among others. These LID Design Competitions are not only educating design professionals but are also helping spread awareness about Low Impact Development practices and cost effective solutions around the country.