Planning For A Rainy Day

The University of Kansas in Lawrence is well-known for its basketball history, but did you also know the university has a commitment to effective planning principles and sustainable practices?

Rain gardens on the University of Kansas west campus help manage storm water runoff.

As KU expanded its west campus by adding a new classroom and pharmacy building, an opportunity to create a large-scale comprehensive Stormwater Management Project presented itself. In 2009, funding was secured and design began on this significant green improvement to the university.

About The Funding

The project was funded through a partnership among the university, state agencies, and the federal government. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $35 million to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) for green infrastructure projects.

KDHE contributed an additional $1 million in state funding from the Kansas Clean Water Revolving Fund, and selected 12 municipal wastewater capital-improvement projects totaling $29 million.

In June of 2009, KDHE selected an additional 15 projects worth $7.7 million, providing $178,941 in funding for the KU West Campus Stormwater Management Project.

The goals for the federal and state green infrastructure grants were to:

• Create jobs

• Provide non-traditional clean-water infrastructure

• Protect water resources

A stipulation of the grant program required funded projects to be under construction no later than February 17, 2010, which created an immense sense of urgency; design began almost immediately.

The university selected Landworks Studio to provide landscape architectural services and Professional Engineering Consultants Inc. to provide all of the survey and utility base data, along with an evaluation of hydraulic capacities of the design improvements and estimated storm-water discharge rates.

About The Site

The campus is divided into two distinct areas by Iowa Street, a major north-south arterial. The heart of the original campus lies just to the east of Iowa, and the more recently developed campus is located to the west.

New construction is prevalent on the west-campus property, as a new Park-and-Ride facility had recently been completed and construction of the new pharmacy building was underway near our site.

The area on the west campus had been master-planned around a large, open space surrounded by buildings. The storm-water project would become the central feature of a new quad enclosed by the multi-discipline building on the west, an existing biology center to the southeast, and the pharmacy building to the north.

The area open for storm-water management was more than an acre of undeveloped ground. This highly functional space connected the research buildings and satellite parking via perimeter sidewalks, and also served the infrastructure needs of the buildings with many utility lines and a large concrete service tunnel.

From the beginning, the design team was challenged to develop a concept that would provide surface storm-water management without disturbing the utility lines and tunnels while also preventing flooding of surrounding buildings.

An additional challenge involved coordination with the architecture team that was completing the pharmacy building directly north and uphill from this project. The project limits had to be clearly defined, and the pedestrian connections and grading required close coordination as well.

Part of the architectural design of the pharmacy building included an elevated bridge connection to the existing multidisciplinary building, all of which had to be seamlessly integrated with the pedestrian approaches from each side.

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