Three Decades in the Making: The Story of Environmental Design Group’s Updated Brand

Written By, Shannon Singler, Marketing Manager

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Back in 1984, when Environmental Design Group first opened its doors, the thought of branding and what it meant for overall business development was not a part of regular conversation. In fact, it was incomprehensible. For many years, Environmental Design Group didn’t think about branding as a form to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Instead, we were occupied with engineering roads, building trails and forming relationships in the industry. This is the backbone of who Environmental Design Group is – we build relationships and foster those partnerships to ensure the impacts we’re making in the communities we serve make a difference for everyone.

So what’s changed now that our brand is so important? While our business ethics and morals have withstood the test of time, and our passion has led our business to where it is today, the meaning and effects of branding in the marketplace have changed dramatically.

brand-evolutionEnvironmental Design Group believes that everything we do helps to shape, define, conserve and restore land and water resources. We believe that every project has the potential to create a positive impact on the communities we serve. Our organization fosters success with integrated teams that thrive on collaboration. We’re change agents. We’re passion seekers. We’re the community impact people!

About a year ago, we set off on a journey to figure out how we could best tell our story, and without knowing where the process would take us, we ended up here – a place where associates demonstrate their passion for the impact their work has on our clients, and even more importantly, the community at large. Now, we have channeled this “community impact” energy and excitement into everything we do, and today, we’re happy to be known as, the community impact people!

In today’s industry, success is determined by those who can differentiate themselves from the crowded pack and create an emotional connection. While we’ve always thought of ourselves as the community impact people, we never really talked about it. It’s always been embedded in our core values but now, as the marketplace gets more and more crowded, we knew it was time to separate from the pack, form new traditions, wipe the dust off some of our old traditions, and start talking about why we are the community impact people! Now, from a visual standpoint, we can personify what we believe at our very core in a way that shows how our words and images can be integrated into our business process, and we can share this with the clients we serve.

Environmental Design Group can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be something great to those willing to be pushed. We’re the aspirers, the visionaries, the envelope pushers, the creators and makers, the progressives, the accomplishers. We’re the community impact people, and we’re excited that our updated logo and new tagline can play a huge role in the work we do every day.388191703-brand_experience_quoteYes, the logo colors have been updated to elicit how and why we do what we do every day. The moss green was chosen to reflect the natural environment, and exhibits how our organization strives to make the best use of natural resources in everything we do. The navy blue was incorporated to reflect the importance of water balanced with urban design. It’s a perfect yin and yang for our business…note the logo formation!

Over the last year, Environmental Design Group has witnessed a seismic shift in the way our business is seen, and the way our business is conducted because the industry is changing, and we believe this is essential for the well-being of our business.

As we finished this phase of the branding journey, we realized this was just the beginning. We came full circle, and now we’re ready to draw connecting circles to form this ring of devotion we have to the industry. We’re ready to continue defining a sense of place that benefits everyone we serve. We’re ready to continue our journey in revolutionizing the way we think about business and the projects we take on because after all, we are the community impact people.

Oh yeah, and we’re all getting new business cards and apparel too!

When Size Matters: A Green and Complete Street Retrofit Case Study

Written By: Katherine Holmok, Director Parks, Trails, Green Infrastructure

For anyone who has constructed green infrastructure in a roadway right of way, identifying opportunities within the spaghetti system of utilities can keep you awake at night. Gas lines, fiber optics, electrical duct banks, above ground utility poles, street signage, street trees and guard rails, can all shrink the potential BMP implementation footprint to negative numbers. That’s why it’s important to step back from the prescribed BMP manuals, consider why these design standards were created and find inventive new designs and technologies to provide the same or better benefits. The Marshallville Park Street Green and Complete Street project is a juxtaposition of BMP design standards with multiple new design methodologies and technologies, contrasting each system in a singular area.

before2.JPGBefore Construction – Typical Ohio rural residential street with no sidewalks and flat grading

The Village of Marshallville, with a population just under 800, is located in the eastern part of Wayne County, Ohio. Localized flooding and drainage have always been a concern for the Village. Geographically located at the headwaters of the Tuscarawas River, there is very little topographic relief in the Village and soils are heavy clay with low permeability.

Pervious Concrete sidewalk captures and stores stormwater from the newly repaved road

The Village owns and operates its own utilities including water, sanitary sewer and electric services. Over the past ten-years, the Village of Marshallville has been proactive with efforts to upgrade its infrastructure including a new wastewater treatment plant, waterline upgrades, wetland creation and various street improvements.

The Village was in need of replacing a water line along Park Street, which was the last segment in the Village wide water infrastructure improvements. Additionally, this segment of Park Street is one of the last sections of walking paths to connect the Village Park to the future Rails-To-Trail (Heartland Trail). The Village of Marshallville plans to remove and repair a portion of the road to install this water utility providing the opportunity to install cost effective stormwater mitigation through the creation of a demonstration suburban green and complete street.

Four different technology bioretention areas capture and treat stormwater runoff while providing an aesthetic amenity

The completed design included a utility friendly pervious pavement all-purpose path that captures and treats stormwater on one side of the street. The typical rectilinear pervious pavement installation was modified to incorporate an underground infiltration trench, which weaves in and out of underground utilities. A portion of this trench also uses expanded shale technology (Haydite), which can provide additional water quality benefits in a cost effective manner. This is designed to capture and enhance infiltration for a 1yr/24hr storm while still enabling drive access, pedestrian traffic and room for underground utilities.

The opposite side of the street includes four different bioretention designs and technologies. Two of the four technologies include high flow rate soils, which allow stormwater to flow faster through the media, elongating the stormwater’s contact with existing below ground soils, thereby expanding the overall infiltration potential. The remaining two technologies are typical bioretention designs prescribed in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Rainwater and Land Development Manual (2012 and 2014). No other application in northeast Ohio includes these four technologies juxtaposed in a way that allows scientific study of the operation and maintenance of these technologies.

One of the new technologies used is a high flow rate bioretention system called FocalPoint. This T.A.R.P. tested system provides equal water quality treatment with a smaller footprint than a traditional bioretention.

The Village of Marshallville is continuing with its proactive efforts to improve the health, well-being and environmental aspects of its citizens and become a regional example of pragmatic sustainability. Five years ago the Village installed a wetland next to their waste water treatment plant and last year installed a solar field. This project provides a new regional design model for suburban stormwater control through a simplified Green and Complete Street Design.

The project was wholly funded by grants from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District and Ohio Public Works. The Village will provide post construction operations and maintenance of the project. The project also includes permanent educational signs at each of the BMP sites. Click here for the Marshallville Green & Complete Street fact sheet.

Why Engineering is an Art…or is it?

Written By: Jim Mitchell, Senior Transportation Engineer

Not too long after graduation from the University of Akron, I was given the task of creating an intersection detail plan sheet for a complex roundabout. The Quigley Road Roundabout, as it is commonly called now, is in the Tremont area of Cleveland and was the first multilane roundabout in the state of Ohio. There wasn’t a great deal of experience in the area with these new, fandangled, traffic-circle-like thingys back in those days  (Look kid’s, it’s Big Ben! ) – and especially not ones made of concrete.

So there I was, very painstakingly laying out every single construction, longitudinal, expansion, butt, and contraction joint on a five-leg, multilane concrete roundabout – all the while identifying the standard centerlines, points of intersection, dimensions, and radii found on a standard ODOT intersection detail. My brain was swimming and astounded. By the time I’d finished…well, let’s just say the plan sheet was “a little busy.”

Weeks later, the design team was hovering around the project manager’s desk, listening to him reeling off outstanding coordination issues, drafting goofs and various desired tweaks. About halfway through this evaluation, he revealed my intricate, exquisitely comprehensive intersection detail plan sheet. He gave it a quick glance and said, “Well, now…that…that’s just a work of art.”

I was very proud of my effort. Did he have a point? Was it truly a work of art?

quigley-roundabout-intersection-detail-drawingQuigley Roundabout Intersection Detail Plan Sheet, Tremont, OH

quigley-roundabout-intersection-detailQuigley Roundabout Intersection Detail Plan Sheet Art Display, Tremont, OH

We try to surround ourselves with objects and spaces that are gratifying to us. From the colors we choose to wear to the destinations we choose for vacations, we want the things around us to generally “be nice.” So why not our infrastructure?

Infrastructure is everywhere around us. It’s so prevalent, it’s no longer there and we barely notice it. In those moments when we do notice, it’s because it has either failed us or it’s under construction (again). I’m sure we can all agree orange barrels are not art (I did witness a college student’s apartment that seemed to disagree, but that’s a different blog entirely).

We all understand that spending taxpayer dollars on several frivolous, aesthetic treatments isn’t the best idea. Many of the things we design as civil engineers are for the civic good after all (I mean, that is why we’re called Civil Engineers, right?). It’s difficult to sell artistic, more expensive ideas when a much less expensive utilitarian thing will serve the purpose (and serve it well, I might add). So what then do we do? The answer is really quite simple – we do what we can, when we can.

When a project needs to make a statement, like a region-defining signature bridge, aesthetic treatments are usually at the top of the list of the client’s must-haves. Projects like the Millau Viaduct in France make that statement emphatically for its owners.

Millau Viaduct, Aveyron Deparement, France

The Millau Viaduct Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tam in Southern France, and can be thought of as an engineering piece of art

I’m sure there are folks out there in cyberspace that don’t believe a bridge like this should be considered art. It should at least be considered “aesthetically pleasing.” I tend to define art as a material object that elicits an internal emotion and this particular bridge undeniably elicits an emotion from me – sheer awe. That pure emotion makes it art to me. The nearly unbelievable scale, the seemingly delicate but incredibly strong structural elements, the mathematical rhythm of the cable stays and towers, the considerable amount of collaboration it took to construct it and so on. It’s beautiful to me in so many different ways.

When aesthetic treatments aren’t on the must-have list at all, they should not be forgotten. Think of a simple, two-lane road in your particular city of choice. Do you consider it art? Probably not. Does it elicit an emotion? Yes, but probably not a good one. If the budget was too tight for ornate light poles, contrasting brick pavers in the crosswalks, or complementary landscaping to include commissioned wrought iron bike racks, how can it become art, or at least be aesthetically pleasing?

Applying a few principles of good design can make all the difference.

If you don’t have them memorized by heart, or haven’t read about them elsewhere in Environmental Design Group’s previous blogs (do so, they’re really good blogs!), this is a partial list of what is generally accepted to be principles of good design: balance, movement, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm and unity. Picking two or three of these principles and applying them to infrastructure projects creates an easy way to make that unartistic two-lane road more appealing to its user – even if it’s done subconsciously.

Some of these principles are upheld automatically. For example, lane width does not vary all over the place. Could you imagine driving and the width between stripes changing randomly between 9 and 12 feet, back and forth in no discernable pattern? If you’re like me, it’d drive you bonkers (Get it? Drive you…? Insert eye roll here). Since lane width is generally a constant, you’ve already integrated some design principles with no additional effort. Perhaps, in this case, aspects of balance, proportion and unity have been addressed.

Many design elements are still left up to you, however. The number, spacing and types of trees in the tree lawn all make a difference. The spacing of catch basins along the curb line, or the strategic placement and replacement of traffic signage. Think about these types of items as opportunities to create a cohesive – and dare I say it, pleasing (gasp)-roadway treatment without burdening taxpayers and still pleasing our clients by aiming for safe, yet aesthetically pleasing, roadways.

Now that you’ve put the basic elements of a streetscape in place, is there room in the project budget for more than the standard stuff? That’s where a landscape architect (insert selfless company promotion here) can help with inexpensive roadside treatments that serve your intended purpose but may also add aesthetic value to the project, and who knows, may help with stormwater management issues in the process, too.

Landscape architects tend to look at projects like this a little differently. Is there a way to unify the project with aesthetics without breaking the budget? Do some research. Do a site visit or two and, most importantly, keep the channels of communication fluid. Site visits almost always bring new ideas and directions to enhance the design by expanding the view of a project scope to be more than a mere checklist of must-haves. The collaborative effort between engineer and landscape architect can make all the difference.

When the project is complete and you’re sitting at a booth in your favorite neighborhood breakfast spot, you might just overhear a group in the next booth commenting they can’t believe how nice that new road is. Pat yourself on the back (in your head–not for real. It looks weird if you physically do it), and realize you’ve just elicited a real emotion from someone. You’ve just created “art.”

quigley-roundabout-intersection-detail-5Quigley Roundabout Intersection Detail Plan Sheet Art Display, Tremont, OH