For project owners both new and experienced, assembling a team of designers and constructers to complete a project can be daunting. The unexperienced owner may not know where to begin, and the experienced owner likely has memories of the tedium and frustration that come with managing separate design and construction entities working on a single …Read More
Wendel, a nationally recognized architecture, engineering, energy efficiency and construction management firm, is pleased to announce the promotion of two existing owners. Daniel Goemann, RA, AIA, has been promoted to Senior Associate Principal, and Brian Sibiga, PE, has been elevated to a Principal owner in the firm.
Dan is an architect with a focus on K-12 Education projects. He is also the Resource Manager for the Architecture team in Minneapolis. Dan’s 13 years of experience encompass the full range of architectural services including sales, planning, programming, design and construction. He attended the University of Minnesota College of Architecture, and has spent time volunteering there as a mentor for architecture students. He also currently mentors for local high school students enrolled in the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentor Program.
Brian is the Director of Wastewater Energy Services in the Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Group. He has over 21 years of experience in helping clients develop capital improvement programs that implement energy efficiency at water and wastewater plants. He has led project teams for water and wastewater master planning, capital improvement programs, detailed design and process optimization, and construction management. He serves on the Board of Governors for the New York State American Water Association, is an associate trustee in the Western New York Water Works Conference, and speaks regularly at many conferences throughout the Country on energy efficiency at treatment plants.
Article written by:
Scott M. Rybarczyk, PE, LEED AP
Senior Environmental Engineer
Green Infrastructure is a solution being used more and more to combat a long-existing limitation to Buffalo’s stormwater management systems. During periods of heavy rainfall, the City of Buffalo sewers cannot handle all of the stormwater runoff entering the system. In these situations, overflows occur, allowing sewage and stormwater runoff to enter the Buffalo River, Niagara River, and Scajaquada Creek. Green Infrastructure (GI) can help to eliminate these overflows, protecting the water quality of the waters surrounding Buffalo, NY.
GI addresses this issue by mimicking natural processes that reduce runoff from developed sites. Vegetation that absorbs and captures precipitation where it falls can be used as GI. These GI techniques include things like rain gardens, green roofs, and constructed wetlands. Rain barrels that collect stormwater for future use are also used as GI, and porous pavements can be used to allow stormwater to infiltrate into the soil beneath paved areas.
The Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) has been championing GI solutions through a program called Raincheck 1.0. Under Raincheck 1.0, BSA focused on completing GI projects on public properties (for example, community centers and roadways). With the program’s evolution into Raincheck 2.0, BSA is migrating towards helping private and institutional landowners (schools, hospitals, government offices) include GI on their properties. To make this happen, BSA will be providing funding to construct GI on these properties.
If you own land in the City of Buffalo and are interested in including GI on your property, Wendel can help! We are experts in GI, as shown in our projects on Ohio Street, Willert Park, and at the Chautauqua Institution. We can act as your trusted advisor as you navigate funding options with the BSA for these projects. Together, we can help improve the environment and water quality in Buffalo, NY.
The Chautauqua Institution had a problem. Algae in Chautauqua Lake had reached unsafe levels. The algae blooms, caused by an overabundance of phosphorus in the water, were not just unattractive: they were toxic to swimmers and wildlife as well.
Founded in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution’s resort and adult education center had long been renowned for its natural splendor. Algal blooms were not part of the plan. So the Chautauqua Institution contacted Wendel with a simple request: implement a green infrastructure plan to improve water quality.
The project, which took place from 2013 to 2015, was a success. Through green infrastructure, Wendel helped to improve water quality while enhancing the beauty of the landscape.
Why green infrastructure?
The term “green infrastructure” encompasses a wide range of tools and techniques designed to balance human infrastructure needs with the impact they have on the natural environment. The basic thinking is to design with nature, not against it. That is exactly what Wendel did at the Chautauqua Institution.
Stormwater contributes to the water quality problems in Chautauqua Lake. When it rained, stormwater picked up phosphorous from streambanks, roadways and other sources, and washed it into Chautauqua Lake, feeding the algae.
In a traditional infrastructure project, this type of problem is addressed by diverting flow to buried treatment boxes. This typically results in an expensive, difficult-to-maintain infrastructure project, a disrupted environment, and several manholes placed throughout the landscape.
With green infrastructure, the goal is to keep as much of this water out of the sewer system as possible. The project team worked to naturally filter the water with plant life, slowing down flows and directing stormwater through constructed landscape features. The outcome was an infrastructure that was effective, easier to maintain, and complementary to the Chautauqua Institution’s natural beauty.
Our Plan at Chautauqua
For the green infrastructure project with the Chautauqua Institution, there were three major requirements:
- High impact on water quality. The top priority was improving water quality to make the water safe again.
- High visibility. By working in highly visible sites on the Chautauqua Institution’s campus, Wendel found ways to educate the public on green infrastructure and the local ecosystem.
- High returns for Chautauqua Institution. Wendel aimed to improve not only the Chautauqua Institution’s infrastructure, but the experiences of their visitors as well.
With these requirements in mind, the project team designed a project with three major components: a bioswale, streambank stabilization and constructed wetland.
The Bioswale: Slowing the Flow
In simple terms, a bioswale is a planted ditch. The bioswale built at the Chautauqua Institution was filled with plants chosen to filter phosphorous out of stormwater.
Plants need phosphorous, which is why green infrastructure was such a great solution for the Chautauqua Institution. Using the bioswale, the project team could divert phosphorous-rich water to the plants that needed it to grow, thereby starving the algae in the lake. The challenge was slowing the flow of water. If the water flow was too rapid, it would rip out all the plants in the bioswale and nothing would be left but a manmade ditch.
Wendel designed a system to control the flow of water through the bioswale, protecting the plants. A series of mini waterfalls were constructed to slow the flow and a diversion system was implemented to direct water away from the bioswale in case of heavy rains.
The added bonus: the waterfalls, as well as the plants and the bridge over the bioswale, turned what was once an underutilized area of the Chautauqua Institution’s campus into a place where visitors could enjoy the great outdoors.
Streambank Stabilization: Clearing the Water
Chautauqua Lake and the adjoining streams are beautiful features that delight visitors year-round. Prior to Wendel’s green infrastructure work, the banks of the streams were rather
unstable. If it rained too hard, sediment was dislodged, turning the water thick and brown.
This effect was not just ugly. Filled with phosphorous, that sediment was a large contributor to Chautauqua Lake’s algae problem. To solve this problem, Wendel planned a streambank stabilization project to hold the sediment in place and prevent the streambank from eroding further.
Stabilizing a streambank takes a lot of engineering, design and construction, but the result looks natural to the untrained eye. Strategically placed boulders now slow the current while new native plants absorb the sediment through their roots.
Initial stages of this work were completed near the Boys and Girls Club, helping to educate the students on engineering and green infrastructure. Doing this kind of high visibility work with the public is important to the success of the project. While green infrastructure is sustainable, affordable and effective, it can look like weeds or shrubbery prior to full maturity. Showing people how it works in real life is vital for gaining wider acceptance for this approach.
Constructed Wetland: Adding to the Challenge
Constructed wetlands operate by collecting rainwater and stormwater runoff in a designated area. Much like in the bioswale already discussed, the plant life in the area removes the phosphorous, using it as a nutrient for survival.
Wendel chose a location for the constructed wetland on the Chautauqua Institution’s golf course. The project team implemented the constructed wetland in that area for two reasons. First and foremost, it was an ideal spot to reduce overall phosphorous levels and combat Chautauqua Lake’s algae problem. The second reason was to increase difficulty for the golfers.
The people who run the golf course had been looking for ways to make it more challenging to attract tournament play. Altering or redesigning a golf course, though, is a difficult and expensive endeavor. However, the budget for green infrastructure already existed, and adding the constructed wetland would not disrupt the overall design of the course. After the constructed wetland was completed, the Chautauqua Institution was able to add a new tee box, making the course more difficult to play. It was a win-win.
The Chautauqua Institution green infrastructure project was completed in 2015. Recently, Wendel returned to the site to take stock of the plantings and gauge the project’s success. While it is an expensive and lengthy process to measure phosphorous levels directly, Wendel could see that the project had made a difference. The stream ran clear during storms and the native plantings were thriving.
By implementing a green infrastructure plan, Wendel was able to improve water quality, and complement Chautauqua Institution’s landscape. For an institution that has been celebrated for its natural beauty for over a century, this was a major accomplishment.
Written by: Scott M. Rybarczyk, PE, LEED AP, Senior Stormwater Engineer