The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rolling out a new plan this year to promote the use of green infrastructure.
They will focus on cities and towns, and plan to work with the private sector to encourage the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff.
According to the EPA’s website, green infrastructure is “an approach to wet weather management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.” Sounds like a win-win-win situation!
The website goes on to elaborate that, “Green Infrastructure management approaches and technologies infiltrate, evapotranspire, capture and reuse stormwater to maintain or restore natural hydrologies.”
Green infrastructure can exist on many scales, and indeed works best when applied at multiple scales.
From a building with a green roof to the preservation or restoration of floodplains and wetlands – all of these things help to reduce the amount of water that enters a city’s sewer system, thereby reducing the amount of wastewater processed at treatment plants, which ultimately results in lower operating costs, and subsequently lower cost to taxpayers.
From the perspective of private entities, green infrastructure just makes sense, especially if you are constructing new buildings (though it is just as easy to incorporate green infrastructure into existing structures).
Green roofs can reduce energy costs by 10-15 percent by providing increased insulation, resulting in lower heating and cooling costs. Permeable paving materials used in parking lots or even walkways can help control localized flooding during rains as well as helping to filter the water and keep it from entering sewer systems.
If a green roof isn’t an option, consider a rain harvesting system for your roof. The amount of rainwater that can be collected from one storm can be substantial, and can be used to water surrounding landscapes, thereby reducing your water bill.
Planting trees increases the aesthetic value of a property in addition to resulting in energy savings from shading and windblocking.
It seems likely that building codes will start to reflect the movement towards green infrastructure at some point in the future. Why not get a jump on the game and start now?