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The Answer to Houston’s Drainage Problems? – New ULI Report Details Sustainable Solutions; Highlights Houston Project

The Stonebrook Estates in north Harris County is analyzed in a case study in a new ULI report on sustainable drainage. Photo: Terra Visions

The Stonebrook Estates in north Harris County is analyzed in a case study in a new ULI report on sustainable drainage. Photo: Terra Visions

HOUSTON – Green stormwater management could be the answer to Houston’s drainage and flooding issues, according to a new in-depth national study by the Urban Land Institute research organization.

The report, “Harvesting the Value of Water: Stormwater, Green Infrastructure and Real Estate,” cited the 51-acre Stonebrook Estates community in suburban Houston because its innovative drainage systems withstood the heavy rains of “Tax Day Flood” in 2016.

Details about the Stonebrook Estates stormwater management and other sustainable drainage systems in Houston were reported recently by Realty News Report in an article by Michael Bloom, manager of the sustainability practice at Houston-based R.G. Miller Engineers. (Click here to see Bloom’s article.)

The ULI Stormwater report, released Tuesday at ULI’s Spring Meeting in Seattle, looks at how water management mechanisms using green infrastructure can create value for real estate projects by improving operational efficiency as well as serving as an attractive amenity.

Green infrastructure, explains the report, includes pipes-and-pumps alternatives such as rain gardens, bioswales and green roofs, which are often accompanied by water storage and recycling tools such as cisterns.

Bioswales are low areas that capture runoff rain water and employ infiltration systems and engineered soil to filter rainwater and control the stormwater flow rates.

Permeable surfaces, such as porous asphalt, porous concrete and paving bricks can also be used to reduce stormwater runoff. Household cisterns and large scale rainwater harvesting can also make a difference, the report said. Green roofs, with vegetation plantings, can manage stormwater, while decreasing energy usage of the building.

“The development community is addressing the challenge of stormwater management with creative solutions that are not only conserving water, but also adding value and appeal to real estate projects across the nation,” said ULI’s Urban Resilience Program Director Katharine Burgess, who directed the research.

Harvesting the Value of Water points out that while using green infrastructure to capture stormwater is not new, what is new is that a rising number of local governments are creating coordinated citywide green infrastructure networks including both public and private properties. Many real estate developers are responding to new regulations by incorporating the requirements into their business models, it notes.

“Whether by increasing potential development yield, introducing tangible amenities for residents, reducing operating costs, or building on a broader placemaking strategy, innovative stormwater management strategies can create value and contribute to the quality of life and resilience in cities,” the report says.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees federal standards for water quality and management, local approaches to stormwater management vary widely due to different market conditions, annual rainfalls and climate challenges, notes the report. However, despite the differences in how stormwater is managed, several common themes are emerging from green infrastructure approaches that involve the real estate community. These include:

  • Green infrastructure offers cities opportunities to enhance environmental performance and save money, compared to costly gray infrastructure projects that do not offer other community benefits.
  • Green infrastructure can offer real estate developers opportunities for cost savings by freeing up more developable land than traditional water management solutions.
  • Green infrastructure can enhance the attractiveness and value of a property and reduce operating costs.
  • The emerging range of green infrastructure policies and strategies works in different markets and contexts.
  • Green infrastructure may require an initial learning curve, but the payoff can be worth the effort, in terms of improved amenities, aesthetics and marketing appeal.
  • Real estate owners and operators value green infrastructure’s performance during peak weather events and the added security it brings to their investments.

May 3, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017

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