Approaches to Integrating Multi-Benefit Stormwater Projects in Parks
Our research into designing new form of stormwater wetlands suggests that engineering, ecological benefits, and public programming can be integrated into stormwater solutions. Traditional engineered stormwater infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain, and necessary upgrades have not kept pace with modernity’s explosive urban growth. Moreover, traditionally engineered stormwater solutions add little to no public amenities to the fabric of neighborhoods. With the explosion of urbanization, large volumes of stormwater to manage, and no space left in urbanized areas to treat it, cities and agencies around the country are looking towards parks as a way to manage stormwater in a greener and cheaper way. Using large-scale wetlands and ponds to clean, store, or reuse stormwater can create novel urban ecosystems that offer recreational, aesthetic, and ecological benefits.
In this MIT research project, we combined fluid mechanics testing of new designs for stormwater wetlands with an urban design framework to produce an illustrative, conceptual guide demonstrating innovative designs for stormwater wetlands and ponds that integrate hydrologic, ecologic, and recreational functions. Our new designs arose from testing thirty-four physical models in a fluid mechanics lab to measure their hydraulic performance as well as quantifying their ability to provide diverse vegetative habitats. Finally, using Los Angeles and Houston as case studies, we created an urban design framework that explains how to integrate a wetland into its urban surroundings and provide public programs.
Samantha Cohen currently works at Brown and Caldwell with the OneWater group. Prior to joining Brown and Caldwell, Samantha worked at the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT working on regional constructed wetland parks to improve flooding and water quality, at Blue Planet Environmental in NYC working on water aeration and urban agriculture and at Buro Happold in NYC doing sustainable infrastructure master planning. She has expertise in urban planning, stormwater management, green infrastructure, climate resiliency, master planning and policy development and analysis. Samantha is skilled in green infrastructure, integrated regional water planning, and climate resiliency work.
She recently completed her Master of City Planning from MIT, and before working in NYC in private engineering consulting, she completed her B.Sc. in Civil & Environmental Engineering also from MIT. She enjoys art, playing the drums, learning how to DJ, dancing, travel, hiking and snowboarding.
Celina Balderas Guzman is an environmental urbanist and planner. Having led a funded research project at MIT, she specializes in stormwater projects that integrate multiple functions to enhance urban resiliency. She is currently a PhD student at the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. Her education includes Masters degrees in urban planning and urbanism, and an undergraduate degree in architecture, all three from MIT.