Launch Slideshow

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Multipurpose solutions are on the rise

Multipurpose solutions are on the rise

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    A new face at the top:Although public works departments continue to retain architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms largely for road and water projects, nearly a third are now turning to those same firms for landscape architecture/park design. Source PUBLIC WORKS

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    South Florida Water Management District contributed $12.3 million toward buying the land, design, and construction of Freedom Park; the Florida Communities Trust provided $6 million for construction. Collier County property taxes funded the remaining $13.2 million. Photos: CH2M Hill

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    Early rebound:Use of AEC firms has rebounded slightly despite the continued decline in property and sales tax revenues. Source PUBLIC WORKS

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    Does your department plan on using an AEC firm within the next six months?“We're seeing that the decision to move forward [on projects] is contingent on getting matching funding,” says Mark Bridgers, a principal at FMI Corp. Source PUBLIC WORKS

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    For which services did you use AEC firms in 2009?“We've developed an on-call list of consultants for smaller projects,” says a respondent from a special district in the Rocky Mountains serves 100,001 to 250,000 people. Source PUBLIC WORKS

By: Michael Fielding and Stephanie Johnston

For the first time since 2005, when we began asking how your operations use consulting firms, “landscape architecture/park design” is one of the top five responses. That puts the category behind such stalwarts as road construction, surveying and mapping, pipeline construction, and water treatment.

In fact, the percentage of our readers who use architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms for this purpose has increased every year for the last three years, rising from 27% in 2008 to more than 30% in 2010.

We can think of at least three reasons for this trend.

WORKING WITH NATURE CAN BE AN ATTRACTIVE AND EDUCATIONAL WAY TO TREAT NONPOINT POLLUTION

“What's driving this trend are aesthetics and functionality,” says Jim Bays, technology fellow for natural treatment systems in CH2M Hill's wastewater office, which designed the 50-acre Freedom Park in Naples, Fla.

Completed last October, the $32 million engineered wetland is the city's antidote to development-driven environmental degradation. Untreated stormwater from a subdivision was threatening to impair Naples Bay. Total maximum daily loads had been established for the Gordon River, which feeds the bay. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection required a 29% reduction in total nitrogen in the river.

The designers recommended treating runoff onsite rather than diverting it elsewhere. Now stormwater is routed to a pond before flowing to 15 acres of engineered wetlands that capture and convert ammonia and nitrates to nitrogen gas. The water then flows into a 15-acre restored natural cypress swamp forest and trickles into the Gordon River Basin.

“The city's desire to conserve land led to creating a water quality park to treat stormwater,” Bays says of the project, which is home to a 2,500-square-foot educational facility with six lookout pavilions, water fountains, and walking trails. “We decided that since we were going to do something like this, let's at least make sure it's multifunctional, safe, and attractive.”

Such developments not only provide public recreational opportunities and create wildlife and aquatic life habitat, but they also reduce maintenance costs by storing a large volume of runoff before treating and disbursing it.