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Siler City environmental developer and NCSU team up to monitor stormwater

By Judy Sharman
Posted Monday, September 26, 2005

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Siler City, NC - A North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) grant for $25,000 will enable researchers from North Carolina State University (NCSU) to monitor stormwater runoff before and after development at Walk Softly’s latest ecologically friendly community here.

The development, called Village Neighborhoods at Bray Park, will feature many Low Impact techniques, and the homes built by Walk Softly sister company, Earth Renewal Shelter, will be energy-efficient and use Green Building principles.

“Our low-impact development and environmentally friendly goals begin prior to construction” said Judy Sharman, marketing director for the two firms. “We would like the stormwater runoff to be the same pre- and post development.”

Dan Line, an engineer at NC State, installed the automated monitoring device Sept. 1. Water passes through the device to sample bottles that are periodically tested for quality. A computer also shows the quantity of water (flow vs. time) on a hydrograph.

“The first thing the monitoring device will do is measure the background conditions prior to development,” Line said. “Then it will measure the amount of runoff during and then at the end of construction. Village Neighborhoods will face the challenge that comes with replacing a wooded area with houses,” Line said. But Line praised Walk Softly’s approach of Low Impact Development.

“Taking several different measures to reduce stormwater is the most effective way,” he concluded.

Cisterns at each house catch rainwater off the roofs and use it to water lawns and flush toilets. Landscaping and grading around the house is used to slow runoff and keep as much water as possible on site. Grassy swales will replace the traditional curb and gutter, allowing water runoff from the roads to be slowed and filtered by the grassy vegetation. Rain gardens or bio-retention ponds catch and filter excess rainwater. Their design is based on the natural eco-system with sandy soils and vegetation that allow the water to be filtered. Water is then released slowly to prevent runoff onto roads and into streams. In addition, long, shallow grassed depressed spaces designed on a 10-year flood plan, catch extra water and allow it to seep back into the ground and be released slowly.

“We are excited about this grant,” said Harvey Harman, owner of Walk Softly and Earth Renewal Shelter. “We know it costs a little more to ensure the stormwater is properly handled and sometimes less land can be developed,” he added. “These are costs we are willing to pay to insure protection of the environment, while providing energy-efficient homes with green building materials.”

“With today’s high oil prices, conserving our natural resources and building energy efficient homes makes sense economically too,” said Sharman. “We also use local craftsman and materials whenever possible to help the economy here and minimize costs.” The developments also feature walking trails and community spaces to create a sense of neighborhood while continuing the theme of healthy living and energy conservation.

Village Neighborhoods at Bray Park, Siler City, NC

* Village Neighborhoods at Bray Park was approved by the Siler City Board of Commissioners on August 2, 2004. This development will feature quality built, owner-occupied housing, and wherever possible use local materials with low environmental impact. Infrastructure will begin in summer of 2005.

This alternative development will be ecologically friendly, energy efficient, architecturally integrated, feature walking trails, gardens and green spaces to create a healthy, safe and enjoyable living environment.

* Landscape: The 50-acre subdivision is located off South 2nd Avenue adjacent to Bray Park in Siler City. In future, walking trails are planned along nearby Loves Creek, around the natural pond, as well as throughout the development itself.

Downtown Siler City is within walking distance. Chatham Middle School and Jordan-Matthews High School are both within about a ½ mile radius of Bray Park.

The adjacent Bray Park existing recreational facilities include several lighted ball fields, a pool, tennis and volleyball courts, playgrounds and picnic areas.

* Community & Economic Development: The goal is to encourage a sense of neighborhood and community both in the development itself and by partnering with other efforts in Siler City, such as the Arts Incubator and other downtown revitalization projects, for economic development and the enhancement of the greater community.

Local craftsmen and locally purchased or manufactured building materials will be incorporated whenever possible to help sustain and grow the local economy.

* Conservation: Attention is given to minimize environmental impact and to encourage interaction with the natural world. The neighborhoods will be developed without any chemicals or pesticides and using design technologies that have the least impact on the environment. Development will be done slowly and carefully paying good attention to details.

o Conservation features planned include rainwater runoff from the roads and buildings caught and used to water gardens then allowed to seep back into the groundwater;
o Organic on-site food production in community gardens will be encouraged;
o Compost consisting of grass clippings, leaves and household vegetables will be recycled back into the gardens;
o Alternative energy can be generated on-site for some of the heating and electricity in buildings (solar, geothermal, etc.).

* Health and well-being: As with all Walk Softly developments, Village Neighborhoods at Bray Park will give priority to the overall health and well-being of the community. Safe spaces for children and an environment that encourages and supports parents in raising healthy and well-adjusted children. Walking and biking trails along with plenty of open space, gardens and picnic areas encourage people to be active physically.

Related info:
Earth Renewal Shelter
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Siler City environmental developer and NCSU team up to monitor stormwater
Dan Line examines the monitoring equipment.

Related info:
Earth Renewal Shelter
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