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EPA honors interdisciplinary projects on stormwater management

MANHATTAN, KANSAS Two teams of Kansas State University engineers and landscape architects are being recognized nationally for developing ways to sustainably manage stormwater on campus.

One interdisciplinary team of students and faculty placed first and another team received honorable mention in the site design category in the Environmental Protection Agency's second Campus RainWorks Challenge competition. The challenge encourages students and faculty to collaborate across disciplines and increase green infrastructure on campuses. More than 50 teams nationwide participated in the site design category and Kansas State University was the only university to have multiple winners.

The winning Kansas State University project recommends redeveloping the more than 13,000-square-foot area south of Hale Library. The project proposes a stormwater garden, filtration and infiltration systems, permeable paving, decreased lawn space, native plantings, shaded hardscape and wet meadow areas. The designed system is expected to retain 100 percent of the stormwater from a one-year storm.

"Due to the site's prominent location on campus, thousands of daily passers-by would experience this beautiful example of green infrastructure," said Jessica Canfield, assistant professor of landscape architecture member of the first-place team.

The honorable mention project focused on an area next to the Beach Museum of Art and the Hummel Family Meadow. The project uses a drainage channel, rain garden and cistern to manage stormwater and mitigate erosion. The designed system is expected to retain the stormwater from a 10-year storm.

The students developed the projects as part of a fall 2013 senior landscape architecture design course. Lee Skabelund, associate professor of landscape architecture, and Canfield taught the course.

"The project allows students to explore pressing issues related to integrated stormwater management with the twin goals of improving water quality and ecological performance while providing beautiful and diverse systems that are quite different from what has been the norm on campus," Skabelund said.

For the projects, the students divided into four teams and worked with faculty advisers to design a sustainable way to manage stormwater at a campus site. Each team included a civil engineering student who was advised by Ryan McGrath, instructor of civil engineering. Graduate students from biology, agronomy and environmental design served as consultants to the four university teams that entered the competition.

In addition to the winning projects, other course projects focused on Call Hall and the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex. While the projects are recommendations for improvements on campus, they had to be approved by the Division of Facilities as being realistic and not too idealistic, McGrath said.

Each stormwater management project was a coordinated effort and team members worked together to develop the project idea and vision. Team members brought their specialties to the project: engineering students surveyed the proposed campus sites to obtain measurements and develop construction cost estimates while landscape architecture students created graphics and visual displays to explain project concepts.

The interdisciplinary groups were important because they encouraged students to think outside their disciplines and to learn to find middle ground, McGrath said.

"It is good for the students to see that other people have priorities that might be completely different from their own," McGrath said. "Between communication and being able to compromise, the students learned to find common ground to move toward the solution."


Contact: Lee Skabelund
Kansas State University

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