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Site and water

The environmental, economic, human, and community benefits of sustainable sites are far-reaching. Good site design can significantly reduce energy consumption and improve occupant comfort. Runoff and water pollution are minimized with effective control of erosion and sediment at the construction site, and the use of best management practices for permanent stormwater filtration and infiltration. Native planting results in less irrigation and chemical use, increased wildlife, and reduced stormwater impacts. To reduce the investment needed for infrastructure, choose an appropriate site to mitigate transportation impacts, reduce demand for irrigation through appropriate plant selection, and conserve energy with shading and optimal building orientation.

The extremes of Minnesota’s climate must be considered when designing sustainable sites here. The Site & Water section of the Minnesota Sustainable Building Guidelines offers strategies for sustainable site design.



To implement these strategies, we offer the following Minnesota-specific sources of information, as well as some applicable regional and national sources. Organized by topic below, these resources can help designers, landscapers, developers, builders, and owners achieve significant environmental, economic, human and community benefits.

Erosion and sediment control

PDF Document Stormwater Compliance Assistance Toolkit for Small Construction Operators (wq-strm2-09)

This illustrated toolkit by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency focuses on construction best management practices and how to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan for projects of one to five acres.

Minnesota Erosion Control Association (MECA)
Created in 1988 to communicate erosion and sediment control techniques and practices, MECA also actively promotes new and innovative stormwater management practices. Website includes a listing of erosion and sediment control tools and suppliers, a calendar of upcoming workshops, and information about low impact development.

Erosion & Sediment Control Certification & ETeam Training Program Manual (2.1Mb)
This extensive manual sponsored by MECA and the Minnesota Department of Transportation includes erosion fundamentals, project site management tools, BMP applications, the regulatory toolbox, project site planning, and numerous appendices. (2001)

Stormwater management

Low Impact Development
LID is a stormwater management approach and site-design technique that emphasizes water infiltration, values water as a resource and promotes the use of natural systems to treat water runoff. Low impact development is a way to mimic the natural process and to avoid water pollution.

State of Minnesota Stormwater Manual
A valuable tool from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, this manual helps professionals and newcomers manage stormwater in a way that conserves, enhances, and restores high-quality water in Minnesota lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and ground water. The manual is a dynamic document, and major revisions will take place every two years, so users should look at the site to confirm they have the most recent version. (Nov. 2005)

Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice Manual
The Metropolitan Council contracted with Barr Engineering to develop this excellent resource on stormwater treatment best management practices (BMPs). A graph on the first page of each BMP section shows the usefulness of that BMP for flow attenuation, runoff volume reduction, pollution prevention, and pollutant removal. Detailed illustrations accompany extensive descriptions of each BMP.

Protecting Water Quality in Urban Areas
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has developed this manual to help local government officials, urban planners, developers, contractors, and citizens prevent stormwater-related pollution. Chapter 4 addresses each specific BMP.

Stormwater BMP Maintenance
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has developed a series of factsheets on Maintenance of Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs), offering tips for routine maintenance and identification of additional maintenance needs for stormwater ponds, pervious pavement, and raingardens.

Non-point Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO)
NEMO is a national network whose mission is to help communities better protect natural resources while accommodating growth through planning and better site design. Their website provides detailed technical papers on reducing runoff and impervious pavement. The Northland Program focuses on Minnesota and Wisconsin.

International Stormwater Best Management Practices Database
A searchable database developed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. EPA. It provides access to performance data for more than 200 BMP studies conducted over the past 15 years, including data from seven Minnesota studies. Read this article describing the database.

Implementation guidance
The Rice Creek Watershed District have put together a number of resources for project managers to use in implementing best management practices (BMPs) on their project sites. These BMPs include raingardens, infiltration trenches, vegetated swales, riparian restoration, pervious pavement, green roofs, and more. See design details, sample specifications, and descriptive brochures.

PDF 1.5MbCatching the Rain: A Great Lakes Resource Guide for Natural Stormwater Management 2004 (1.5Mb)
Great guidebook on natural stormwater management techniques, published by American Rivers, is illustrated with photos and case studies. Based on the stormwater management principle "First, do no harm," this resource includes all the expected natural stormwater management techniques plus rain barrels, green roads and parking, urban trees, green roofs, and porous pavements (which includes a Duluth case study).

Pervious surfaces

Impervious Surface Reductions: Runoff Pollution Prevention
The Metropolitan Council’s Urban Small Sites BMP Manual contains detailed information about design strategies and the use of turf pavers to reduce impervious surfaces.

NEMO: Reducing Runoff
Information on pervious constructing materials (grid pavers, block pavers, porous pavement, soil pavement, and green roofs) and pervious landscape elements (roofs, driveways, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots). Includes case studies, specs, links, and photos.

NAHB ToolBase Services
The National Association of Home Builders Research Center offers estimated costs and photos of best management practices for permeable pavement alternatives.

National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas (Nov. 2005) | 4: Site Development discusses strategies to address impervious surfaces for on-lot, residential street, right-of-way, and parking lots.

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District's new building in Little Canada was built with green features, including porous asphalt in their parking lot.

San Mateo County: Sustainable Green Streets and Parking Lots Guidebook (2009) | PDF - 41MB!41Mb (HUGE file)
This 174-page guidebook includes beautiful color photos of low-impact development best management practices for new and retrofitted road and parking lot projects in urban areas. These types of infrastructure constitute as much of 70 percent of the total impervious cover in ultra-urban landscapes. Provides a variety of site layout strategies, specific design details, and practical advice for construction projects.

Native plants for site design and restoration

One-stop shopping to restore your yard and shore |
Native plants decrease all of the top water quality concerns and help with drainage problems, reducing the “squishy” spots in lawns. So why isn’t everyone planting natives? Part of the problem has been that native plants are harder to find in retail stores. The Rice Creek Watershed District launched The Blue Thumb project to make it easy for residents interested in doing their part to protect water quality to plan, purchase and plant native gardens, raingardens and shorelines with native plants. Check out the web-based Plant Selector.

Stewardship in your backyard |
This Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website contains extensive resources on gardens and native plants, exotic species (invasive plants), prairie restoration, and shoreland management. The native plants section offers five sample designs for native plant landscaping, including plant lists.

Plants for Stormwater DesignPlants for Stormwater Design
This valuable reference manual, funded by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, is now on the web. It describes 131 plant species regarding their use in stormwater-management practices. Topics covered for each species are habitat and range, light exposure needs, normal water level, flooding/fluctuation tolerances, general pollution sensitivities and tolerances, design considerations, wildlife use, nursery stock and seed availability, and recommended planting techniques. Includes photographs.

Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series |
Design, plant selection, implementation, and maintenance information from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Green Landscaping with Native Plants |
This U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website includes natural landscaping fact sheets for Minnesota and other Great Lakes states, Natural Landscaping Alternative: An Annotated Slide Collection, and the extensive Source Book on Natural Landscaping for Public Officials.

Landscaping and maintenance

HTML Content Clean Air Minnesota External Link
The Minnesota Environmental Initiative hosts information about this voluntary partnership to improve Minnesota’s air quality. Includes strategies for landscaping and grounds maintenance.

GreenScapes: Environmentally Beneficial Landscaping |
Millions of tons of waste materials that are hauled away, buried, or burned each day from landscaping and groundskeeping operations. Similarly, millions of gallons of water, pesticides, fuels, and oils are used every day. U.S. EPA provides strategies to reduce or eliminate the costs of these materials—both economic and environmental—with updated landscaping methods. Includes success stories.

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District's new building in Little Canada was built with green features, including a rain garden.

Green roofs

Minnesota Green Roofs Council
Promotes green rooftop technology as a sustainable building strategy in Minnesota. They educate developers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, roofers, building owners, policy makers and others about green rooftops as a cost-effective strategy to improve building performance, reduce environmental impacts and improve urban livability. The web page links to a flickr photostream with numerous Minnesota green roof projects uploaded.

Sustainable Overhead: The Green Institute’s New Rooftop
The Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center, home of The Green Institute, has a new green roof. It was planned to be a high-visibility demonstration project that could generate useful data for designers, planners and academics. It also is influencing decisions to install green roofs on other projects in Minnesota.

About Chicago’s Green Roofs
Chicago, with a climate fairly comparable to the Twin Cities, has undertaken a major effort to reduce heat island and stormwater impacts in the city by encouraging green roofs. Chicago’s web page on Green Buildings, Roofs & Homes includes useful reports from the Green Roof Test Plots Project, detailed case study information about the design, plantings and maintenance requirements of the Chicago City Hall Rooftop Garden, and other green roof resources. Visit Green Buildings, Roofs and Homes.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities |
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' mission is to develop a multi-million dollar market for green roof infrastructure products and services in cities across North America in order to take full advantage of the multiple benefits of these proven technologies. The website provides detailed information about green roof implementation and benefits. Green Roofs 101
This resource portal for the green roof industry provides extensive information on advantages, components, and how-to resources for green roofs around the world. Includes manuals developed in Portland, Ore., and Chicago. Check the site's home page for news and the latest case studies.

Extensive Green Roofs |
The Whole Building Design Guide provides a comprehensive overview of extensive (6 inches or shallower) green roof technology, designed to satisfy specific engineering and performance goals.

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District's new building in Little Canada was built with green features, including a green roof.

Light pollution

International Dark Sky Association
Provides information on good lighting fixtures, municipal lighting codes for the Minnesota cities of Mankato and Bloomington, key light pollution resources, FAQs, fact sheets and much more. Contact the Minnesota chapter.

Minnesota's Sustainable Building Guidelines address light pollution reduction:

Additional resources

Achieving Sustainable Site Design Through Low Impact Development Practices
The Whole Building Design Guide explores strategies, case studies and pilot projects utilizing low impact design, including a stormwater management project in Maplewood, Minn.

Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center
Funded by U.S. EPA, this site provides “plain language" explanations of environmental rules for the construction industry.

Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
U.S. EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System website contains a series of detailed fact sheets on best management practices for runoff control, erosion control, sediment control, and good housekeeping for construction sites.

The Practice of Low Impact Development (PDF - 3.4Mb3.4Mb)
This lengthy HUD manual discusses site design for low impact development, alternatives to conventional stormwater management, and circulation and design alternatives.

Post-Construction Stormwater Management in New Development and Redevelopment
The NPDES website also contains detailed fact sheets on structural and non-structural best management practices for post-construction stormwater management to minimize water quality impacts from new and redevelopment.

Last modified on April 04, 2014 13:40