Green Infrastructure: Nature’s Way

    Wade Trim

    West Creek Stream Restoration Project, Parma, Ohio by Wade Trim

    A natural approach to the problem of stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow has been the idea of green infrastructure—systems and practices that use or mimic natural processes to infiltrate, evapotranspire, or reuse stormwater and runoff on the site where it is generated.

    Many regions and municipalities are working on projects right now that address the important issue of combined sewer overflow. Many older cities must reduce the amount of stormwater that overflows into their sewer lines, as mandated by the Clean Water Act.

    The problem with the combined system is that when the rainwater system gets overwhelmed, it can put raw sewage directly into the storm runoff receptacle. That means streams, rivers and Lake Erie are seeing more sewage than they bargained for.

    Landscape architects are uniquely positioned to help solve this problem.

    “Our approach with green infrastructure is that it’s not a silver bullet,” says David Anthony of Cleveland-based Wade Trim. “It is a part of a toolbox as you explore a long-term control plan for combined sewer overflow.”

    Anthony says it’s a challenge for communities to pay for these projects over a declining population base—many of which have been decreed by the Department of Justice. And they need creative ways to address the problem.

    “It’s a situation where … green infrastructure and a gray solution, that combined solution hasn’t been fully vetted yet,” he says. “The new technology we’re working on has pretty small data sets. We need more data to prove that the technology works to achieve the end product to remove stormwater from the combined system.”

    Wade Trim is in the early stages of working with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District on the management of its stormwater program.

    Green infrastructure can also be seen as a modification of a gray infrastructure: streets, roofs, parking lots, and city storm water and sewer systems.

    In addition to countless municipal projects underway throughout the state, one of the most recognizable examples of a green infrastructure project is at the Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden in Bexley, which has been a showcase of sustainability for the past 15 years.

    The use of permeable pavers in the driveway and parking lot are a great example of green infrastructure, according to Gary Meisner of Meisner + Associates/ Land Vision in Cincinnati. Rather than water flowing quickly off of a paved surface and into the storm drains, permeable pavers allow water to flow to plant-covered ground where it can be slowly absorbed.


    Springfield Regional Medical Center Green Roof, Springfield, Ohio by Meisner + Associates

    Meisner also worked on the green roof at the Springfield Regional Medical Center in Springfield, Ohio. “It’s combining functional storm water management with aesthetics, which is important for planning and design.”

    Hospitals have been setting standards for this kind of work, Meisner adds. “There are many different ways to be green. Each assignment has its own potential.”

    Anthony notes: “As we move forward in the next five years, we will use green infrastructure as a way to create stormwater features that fit within the context of neighborhoods.”

    If your firm has a green infrastructure case study it would like to share, please contact us at:

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