Site and water

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.


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 icon 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
Promotes new and innovative stormwater management practices including, a listing of erosion and sediment control tools and suppliers, a calendar of upcoming workshops, and information about low impact development.

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 create a manual to provide tools and techniques to assist Twin Cities municipalities and WMOs in guiding development and redevelopment.

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.

Rice Creek Watershed District implementation guidance
These BMPs include raingardens, infiltration trenches, vegetated swales, riparian restoration, pervious pavement, green roofs, and more. See design details, sample specifications, and descriptive brochures.

Catching 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
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.

US EPA Nonpoint Source: Urban Areas
Discusses strategies to address impervious surfaces for on-lot, residential street, right-of-way, and parking lots.

Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District office
Their facility was designed and built with green building BMPs including porous asphalt in their parking lot.

Native plants for site design and restoration

Planting for clean water |
Native plants decrease all of the top water quality concerns and help with drainage problems, reducing the “squishy” spots in lawns. Check out their 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
Describes 131 plant species for use in stormwater-management practices. Topics include 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.

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

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) |
A program by the University of Minnesota Extension and Sea Grant College Program, they provide educational and skill building workshops on land use and management decisions related to water quality and natural resources.

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.

Chicago’s Green Roofs BMPs
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.

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
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.

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.