Article taken from Pruned (an excellent Landscape Architecture blog)

Sidwell Friends School
(The wetland machine of Sidwell Friends School by Andropogon Associates, Kieran Timberlake Associates and Natural Systems International. Image by Andropogon Associates.)

Reading an ASLA interview of Jose Alminana, a principal at Andropogon Associates, we were reminded that Sidwell Friends School, the Quaker school of choice for the Obamas, the Clintons, the Gores, the Bidens, the Nixons — practically every member of Washington’s politocracy, except for the Carters, of course — has in the courtyard of a recently renovated building an artificial wetland.

Not merely an eco-ornament, it’s a machine that “manages all the wastewater generated by the building, as well as all the rain water that falls on the site.”

Sidwell Friends School
(View from top of the wetland terrace towards the new building extension. Photo by Andropogon Associates.)

Typically, wastewater is drained away via a complex network of tunnels that requires vast financial resources just for its maintenance, an infrastructure that’s undoubtedly deteriorating just as fast as tax revenues get siphoned off away from public works budgets to General Motors and Bank of America. Miles and miles away from its point of origin, the water then gets treated in an energy intensive process. But it still isn’t entirely clean afterwards. Thus, when discharged, it still poses a risk to bodies of water, contributing in many instances to elevated bacterial count and eutrophication.

At Sidwell, wastewater is treated on-site, somewhat off-the-grid and using comparatively minimal infrastructure. The treatment cycle begins inside the building in a tank filled with anaerobic bacteria. Among other things, these bacteria help break down solids. The effluent is then pumped outside to a trickle filter before continuing on by gravity to a series of tiered wetlands. To lessen the health risk of contact with students and to mitigate any odor problems, water flows through beneath layers of pea gravel; there’s no surface flow, in other words. This planting medium contains phytoremediating plants which, together with the microorganisms attached to their root hairs and to the gravel stones, extract contaminants from the water. After slowly trickling its way outside for about a couple of days or so, the water then re-enters the building and gets collected in storage tank ready for reuse in flushing toilets, among other uses for greywater.

Sidwell Friends School
(Site plan: 1. Existing Middle School; 2. Middle School addition with green roof; 3. Trickle filter with interpretive display; 4. Wetlands for wastewater treatment; 5. Rain garden; 6. Pond; 7. Outdoor classroom; 8. Butterfly meadow; 9. Woodland screen at neighborhood edge; 10. Playground. Image by Andropogon Associates.)

Just as with wastewater, managing urban stormwater typically involves massive infrastructure to dispose runoffs as efficiently and as quickly as possible. In addition to being a drain on municipal coffers, such a method is known to increase the probability and the intensity of a flood event during major storms, endangering human life and property. Moreover, since stormwater isn’t allowed to remain where it falls, (1) water doesn’t have enough time to infiltrate the soil and seep into waiting, possibly depleted groundwater aquifers, and (2) what may have been clean at first contact with the surface undoubtedly will not remain so as it moves through sidewalks, roads, parking lots and sewers before going on to pollute rivers, lakes and other sources of our drinking water.

Sidwell Friends School
(Two students on the border between the rain garden and the pond. Photo by Andropogon Associates.)

At Sidwell, we get a hint of an alternative system for stormwater management: hyperlocal, lo-fi, modular (i.e., implementations at multiple sites would be needed to bring about an appreciable effect on urban hydrology), soft and comparatively cheap.

Sidwell Friends School
(Section cut through the 1. tiered wetlands used for wastewater treatment; 2. rain garden; and 3. pond. Image by Andropogon Associates.)

Runoff is directed to a rain garden and a permanent biology pond located downslope from the tiered wetlands used for wastewater treatment.

Sidwell Friends School
(Flow diagram of stormwater runoff. Image by Andropogon Associates.)

Some of the runoff gets in an underground cistern. During dry weather, this storage tank provides water to the pond. During heavy rains, excess water flows from the pond into the rain garden, simulating the hydrological dynamics of a floodplain environment. Water seeps through the soil and gets naturally filtered.

Sidwell Friends School
(Flow diagram of stormwater runoff from pond to rain garden. Image by Andropogon Associates.)

Andropogon describes this project as a “working landscape” but we might prefer calling it an “event landscape,” wherein natural processes are co-opted into a cybernetic amalgam of landscape, architecture, geology, biology and institutional pedagogy. Rather than in the inaccessible subterranean voids and in scientific abstractions, this eco-machine is made to perform out in the open for the edification of the elite who, in their dirty, smelly, real-world engagement with the landscape, will hopefully turn into great stewards of the earth.


Mine Brook Road

Mine Brook Road

taken from

As the credit crunch makes it harder than ever to obtain financing from lenders, some real estate players say an environmentally friendly portfolio may offer builders an advantage in securing funds to develop new projects.

“In general, financing anything is really difficult, given the credit crunch,” said Robert Politzer, president of Greenstreet Construction Inc., a New York-based builder with a New Jersey office in Princeton. But given the growing popularity of green building, developers who do not have green projects are at a competitive disadvantage, he said. “It would be easier these days to interest a potential funding group, whether a bank or private equity, in building a state-of-the-art green building than a conventional building project.”

Because of the benefits of green building, such as energy efficiency and reduced operating and maintenance costs, “you’re going to see increased tenant demand,” said Jim Lutz, senior vice president of development at Liberty Property Trust, a Malvern, Pa.-based commercial real estate developer that recently completed its first LEED-certified New Jersey project in Mount Laurel. LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, establishes criteria for the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council.

Higher demand means higher occupancy rates at green buildings as compared to conventional buildings, so “a lender who’s concerned with making sure that the loan gets paid back is going to see it as a less-risky investment,” Lutz said.

But while a green component may help to attract interest from lenders, it ultimately does not determine whether a building gets funded, experts say. “It’s much more subtle, how building green influences financing,” said Michael Saltzman, a partner at Newwork, a Newark-based real estate development company. “It’s more of a secondary factor.”

Less than two months ago, Newwork closed on nearly $17 million in financing from PNC Bank for The Richardson Building Lofts, a 67-unit, 86,000-square-foot, LEED Silver-proposed apartment building on Columbia Street in Newark. The project, which is the conversion of a former jewelry factory, broke ground Oct. 22, and is expected to be available for occupancy by next summer, Saltzman said.

“If a deal came into us that had green attributes, we’d be excited to see it, and we’d consider those as part of the overall underwriting,” said Bill Lashbrook, senior vice president of real estate finance at the East Brunswick office of PNC Bank, which has held in-house discussions about developing a green financing program.

The bank noted in its internal documents that Newwork had applied for LEED certification for its project, though Lashbrook said “the deal stood on its own merits,” including the property’s location in Newark, where PNC is looking to invest, and the current strength of the rental market.

The challenge of arranging financing for a green project lies in assessing the value of the building, Lashbrook said. “In real estate development financing and construction financing, the target is always to create enough value in the project so that [the] owner has the ability, whether it’s through refinance or the sale of the project, to repay the bank,” he said. But “we haven’t seen these properties trade in the market, so we’re not really sure how the market has come to value them.”

Many lenders helping to fund green projects are betting when the real estate market rebounds, such properties will bounce back faster than other types of buildings, said Lindsay Napor, executive vice president of Ecological Development LLC, a New York-based real estate developer working on two green residential projects in New Jersey. “People think when the market comes back … there will be a bump in value in those properties,” she said. Ecological Development has secured $90 million in financing for green projects in New Jersey in the past two years, and is working on obtaining money for two others, Napor said.

Rather than seeking loans from banks, Ecological Development has worked with real estate funds; real estate investment trusts, or REITs; and private investors for financing. “Real estate funds and REITs are still fairly well-funded,” said Anthony Sblendorio, the firm’s chief executive officer. “There’s still a desire by funds and REITs to deploy that money.”

Hampshire Generational Fund, for example, has made an equity investment in Ecological Development’s 89-acre green luxury residential development on Mine Brook Road in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards. The project, slated to begin construction in the spring, will include 12 LEED-rated single-family homes, organic agriculture and manmade wetlands for a stormwater treatment system.

The equity stake marks the first time that Hampshire Cos., the Morristown-based real estate investment firm that administers the fund, has committed capital to a green project, according to principal Robert Schmitt. “We liked the green concept,” he said. “We think it’s where the future is going to be for development.”

Hampshire is paying for improvements and entitlements for the property from its equity capital, Schmitt said, but the costs for land acquisition and construction will be far more substantial, he said. “That definitely hinders our flexibility with the capital structure for this project,” Schmitt said. The firm most likely will fund those costs through lines of credit set up with lending institutions prior to the crunch, rather than seeking new financing, he said.

It is uncertain whether Hampshire, which committed to the project in February 2006, would have made a similar investment during the current credit crisis, Schmitt said. “It’d be a tougher deal to commit to today,” he said. Still, “going forward, we expect to increase the number of green buildings in our portfolios,” he said. “They are buildings that are growing in value, because they are buildings that tenants want to occupy.”


taken from American Rivers

About American Rivers

For more than 35 years, American Rivers has been the nation’s leading conservation organization.  American Rivers stands up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive – protecting and restoring America’s rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature.  Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with headquarters in Washington, DC and offices across the country.

Through our work in five key program areas – Rivers and Global Warming, River Restoration, River Protection, Clean Water and Water Supply – American Rivers is working to protect our remaining natural heritage, undo the damage of the past and create a healthy future for our rivers and future generations.

Our Programs:

Rivers and Global Warming

The impacts of global warming will hit rivers first and worst, in the form of increased droughts, floods, and waterborne diseases. Fortunately, healthy rivers boost community safety and security, building resilience against these impacts and helping communities thrive in the face of a changing climate.  To address these issues, American Rivers is:

  • Raising awareness of how global warming impacts river health, clean water, and water supplies, and promoting 21st century green infrastructure solutions that enhance health, safety and quality of life.

Restoring Rivers

Restored rivers and floodplains protect and enhance local communities and support fish and wildlife.  We are committed to restoring our nation’s rivers through:

  • Removing obsolete and unsafe dams
  • Improving the operations of dams, levees and other river infrastructure
  • Significantly reducing losses from catastrophic floods
  • Connecting people to their local river

Protecting Rivers

America’s highest quality rivers provide drinking water, flood protection, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.  To ensure that our nation’s rivers are protected, we focus on:

  • Preventing harmful and destructive projects such as logging, mining, drilling or damming
  • Protecting critical watersheds
  • Bringing national attention to threatened rivers
  • Providing an opportunity for advocacy on behalf of rivers

Clean Water

By focusing our efforts on stopping pollution from sewage spills and stormwater runoff, we are working to ensure that our urban and suburban environments are safe for drinking, fishing and boating.  We focus on ensuring clean water supplies through:

  • Protecting wetlands and other natural landscapes that provide clean water
  • Encouraging municipalities to effectively treat stormwater and wastewater, and consider them resources not waste products

Water Supply

Ensuring that our rivers and communities have enough water is critical to supporting a healthy environment and thriving economy.  We must ensure the nation’s long-term water supply through:

  • Blocking expensive and inefficient water storage projects that will damage rivers without providing substantial community benefits
  • Reducing total water consumption through proven water efficiency practices
  • Balancing human water consumption with the natural requirements of rivers and the habitats they support.



from Water for People

In the early 1980s, Ken Miller, a former President of AWWA, Wayne Weiss, with Black & Veatch, and John B. Mannion, a former Executive Director for AWWA, shared the heartfelt vision of a world where all people have access to clean water, adequate sanitation and basic health services.

Their vision touched the hearts of other leaders in AWWA. Together they put this idea into motion transforming it into the social responsibility of the water industry. AWWA members provided the unprecedented excellence of the North American water utilities, manufacturing companies and engineering consultants.

In 2007, Water For People provided more than 108,000 people with safe drinking water resources and/or improved sanitation facilities.

By the late 1980’s, AWWA’s International Affairs Committee received a gift from the Ford Meter Box Company, Inc., for John Kalbermatten to prepare a feasibility study on helping people in developing countries. In 1989, the study resulted in a small ad hoc group to study issues concerning the organization’s start up.

In February 1991, the dream turned into reality as Water For People became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) international nonprofit development organization, followed by the establishment of Water For People-Canada as a charitable organization in 1995.

Earthly Ideas

Earthly Ideas

Information taken from Earthly Ideas


Earthly Ideas LLC is dedicated to supporting project teams with the information, resources, and skills needed to produce high performance facilities. Through our efforts, we hope to redirect development towards environmental stewardship and sustainability.


Since 1992, building owners, architects, and construction managers have hired Earthly Ideas LLC to contribute to the design and construction of high performance buildings. To guide our clients, we draw upon our outstanding organizational skills and years of experience in the sustainable development field to identify and implement the most effective strategies. We have experience in a diversity of building types, including office, museum, library, university, K-12 school, cultural, mixed-use, institutional, and industrial developments. For additional information, please review our firm profile and brochure.

Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

information taken from

The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, established in 1975, is a non-profit education, research, and demonstration organization specializing in life cycle planning and design. We undertake projects based on their potential contribution to site, regional and global sustainability and human health, and actively pursue collaborations with associate organizations, businesses and professional firms.

Projects emphasize regional contexts as bases for responsible resource use relative to materials, energy, water, waste, food, and meaningful employment. Our expertise is accessible through green planning and design services, conference presentations, public lectures, and published papers.

Whitney Water Purification Plant image courtesty of Inhabitat

Whitney Water Purification Plant image courtesty of Inhabitat

article taken from

by Jorge Chapa

One of our favorite projects mentioned in the AIA/COTE 2007 list of Top Ten Green Projects was perennial Inhabitat favorite Stephen Holl’s Whitney Water Treatment Plant located in New Haven, CT. This project is fantastic in many ways, but the real beauty of it lies in the fact that the 30,000 square feet water treatment facility is sitting under the largest green roof in the state of Connecticut.

The long stainless steel building shown on the images house the extensive operational facilities required for the plant as well as an exhibition lobby, laboratories, a lecture hall, and conference spaces which are used for the multiple education programs that run on the facility. The roof garden design, the largest in Connecticut, expanded the existing wetland area where the site was located.

The shape of the building serves multiple functions. Architecturally the building has been cladded in thin steel shingles. The shingles, due to the shape in which they have been warped, absorb and reflect the heat of the sun preventing the exposed facility from gaining too much heat. Furthermore, the inverse-raindrop shape of the building, as well as reminding us of, well, rain droplets, also helps in reducing the area exposed to the sun reducing the heat gain even further.

The thin profile for the building allows all regularly occupied areas to have easy access to daylight. Furthermore, domed skylights in the green roofs allow daylight to enter the water treatment plant. These domed skylights serve a secondary function, which is that of allowing the visitors to the public parklands to see the water treatment process occurring within in the facility. On the materials side, the stainless steel shingles of the facade are recyclable and reusable. The building also features recycled terrazzo tiles, cork tile flooring, low VOC paints and sealants.

And of course, the most important feature of this facility lies in the way that it handles water for the project as well as how it interprets the processes of the water treatment in the facility below. The project is divided into six areas analogous to what is happening below the surface in the treatment plant. Those domed skylights mentioned above? They sit right above the ozonation bubbling area of the plant. On an area where there is rapid mixing and high turbulence, little streams move along the grass above. Furthermore the facility’s landscape manages the storm water drainage system for the facility, preventing storm water runoff as much as possible.