Friday, September 5, 2014

Gainesville, VA (9/4/2014)

When I travel for work, I go to a place to teach a class or participate in the teaching in a stormwater related class.  That is why I am always excited to go to the offices of Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc. in Gainesville (the Manassas area).  In building their office, the owner has made sure that they constructed a building that is LEED certified (for the layman this means it meets very high environmental and energy efficiency standards) and that it manages stormwater the way we teach it.  It is a great place for show and tell (and no, I am not endorsing them; I just like the way they built their office; they are friendly and I hear they are a good company). 

So what do I teach?  This time I was teaching an erosion and sediment control plan review course for people in local government.  In it they learn about the various measures that control erosion from construction site.  In addition, they learn about managing stormwater that runs off construction sites and form sites where construction is done and the people have moved in.

Teaching all this can be frustrating and gratifying at the same time.  It is a required class if you want to work in the field, and you always have the very few that think that it is a waste of time.  They obviously do not believe in it.  Some even want to debate anything you say that has a slight slant towards environmentalism.  Conversely the majority goes through the motions; and then you have the few that really like it.  But I am happy to report that the reviews that I get from my teaching are generally very favorable.  I really try to make my classes relevant, interesting and I try to stay very dynamic in my classes.  There is nothing worse than having to go to a class and the teacher puts me to sleep.  It means; however, that I am exhausted after a day of teaching.

Anyway, we teach about the importance if infiltrating water back into the soil.  Far too often we see that rainwater/stormwater is treated like the enemy.  People connect down spouts to the storm sewer or to a drainage ditch and pipe it out of there.  In addition to disastrous results downstream the water does not go back into the soil where it belongs and we are now noticing dropping ground water table.  Moreover, we then also have to irrigate our lawns with drinking water.  It is all so backwards, that it often infuriates me.  At home we have three operational rain barrels and one waiting to go on line; in the summer we hardly ever water our plants with drinking water.

Back to this photograph; the building I taught at has a green roof. The roof has a growing medium on top of the roof that is 3 to 6 inches thick.  Plants are planted in the growing medium and the plants use the stormwater that falls on the roof.  Any excess rainwater is captured in a cistern, but a lot of the rainwater never leaves the roof.  Because of this, the roof is much cooler, which means lower air conditioner cost.  In the winter the thick layer of growing medium results in lower heating bills.  I took this photograph on the roof.  It has a narrow path and even two pick nick areas.  Great for show and tell.  (A previous post by me and picture of the roof can be found here)


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