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.