Green Infrastructure Can Cool Our Cities

Written by: Katherine Holmok, Director

Most people would think Northeast Ohio doesn’t need to get any cooler, and generally I would agree (after all, Cleveland is my Paris). However, we could use some cooler ambient air temperature in our urban cores. Hotter temperatures in dense urban centers that adjoin rural/suburban areas are called Urban Heat Islands (UHI). In a 2010 University of Georgia study, Northeast Ohio had one of the top Urban Heat Island intensity in the nation.

Green Street

UHI has been linked to increased energy consumption (remember the black out of 2003?), elevated emissions of air pollution and premature death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from 1979–2003, excessive heat exposure contributed to more than 8,000 premature deaths in the United States (USEPA). UHI typically effects our most vulnerable populations first – lower income and elderly.

So, how can we cool our cities and not break the bank? Green streets, vest pocket parks, roadside rain gardens and street trees can provide some cost-effective relief. These green infrastructure measures are already being implemented to treat combined sewer impacts and improved water quality in Northeast Ohio. They can also provide the
co-benefit of mitigating UHI effects.

Did you know that large street trees have the potential to reduce surrounding air temperatures by 6-degrees? Green streets that remove stormwater from the combined sewers reduce energy consumption at the waste water treatment plants, thereby reducing air pollutants. Raingarden plants recharge the ground water, which can reduce surrounding ground temperatures.

NEW BRAND Aqueduct Street Green ImprovementsAqueduct Street Green and Complete Street Improvements, City of Akron

When I was young, I remember my dad strategically planting large, fast growing shade trees on the south side of the house. This was because he learned that properly placed shading around your house can reduce energy costs. I thought he was just frugal, but now I know, he was improving our quality of life.

Municipal Center Stormwater Demonstration Project, New FranklinMunicipal Center Stormwater Demonstration Project, New Franklin

How is your community using green infrastructure resources to help cool your city? If you want to calculate the benefits of your street tree, green roof, or rain garden, check out these online calculators.

For more information about implementing green infrastructure elements into your next community project, please contact Katherine Holmok at

Creating Community Impact by Donating Blood: Why Everyone Should Care

By: Teresa Dalton, P.E., Project Engineer

At Environmental Design Group, we’re always trying to make a positive impact on the communities we serve. Many of us take this to heart in our personal lives as well.

I was a very young child when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States, but even at my young age, he made a great impression on me. During his speech in 1963 when he called on Congress to enact comprehensive legislation to protect the civil rights of African Americans, Kennedy spoke of the Golden Rule – “to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” I doubt that I remember hearing those words when he originally spoke them, but later in my life, his quote rang true, and I used his words as a means for wanting to give back and help others.

I have created an impact in my community by being an American Red Cross blood donor. The first time I donated blood was in high school and now, years later, I have surpassed my 200th donation. I have donated both whole blood and platelets (the component of blood essential for normal blood clotting).

20170428_122720I have donated blood more than 200 times

Donating platelets is much more time consuming than donating whole blood – usually about two hours once connected to the cell separator machine, as it involves the continual process of blood being drawn, sent to the cell separator where the platelets are spun out in a centrifuge and collected, and the remaining blood components returned. Approximately three-quarters of my blood donations have been platelets.

I prefer donating platelets over whole blood because platelet donors are fewer in number. Did you know that one platelet donation commonly helps multiple people? Platelets are critically important to the survival of many patients with clotting problems like aplastic anemia and leukemia, cancer, and patients who undergo organ transplants or major surgeries like heart bypass grafts.

This week, Environmental Design Group is sponsoring the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign and luncheon to raise awareness of women and heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer in women and by donating blood we are increasing the chance of survival. How can you make an impact in your community by giving back? Blood donation is an easy and necessary means of life, and the significance of this is profound.

EDG American Heart AssociationBlood donation + good heart health = positive outcomes

Quick Facts About Blood Donation:

  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells and 7,000 units of platelets are needed daily in the United States
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the United States.
  • After being collected, most red blood cells must be used within 42 days and platelets can only be stored for five days
  • Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent do
  • The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in their body. Roughly one pint is given during a donation
  • The actual whole blood donation typically takes 10-12 minutes

Whatever the reason, the need is constant and the contribution is crucial to saving lives. I challenge you to make a direct impact in your community and donate blood today.

Give Blood Infographic
How can you create a positive impact in your community?



Low Impact Development: A Myth or Proven Practice?

By: Jill Pfeiffer-Ward, P.E., LEED AP, CPESC – Project Manager

My job gives me the opportunity to collaborate with co-workers who conscientiously bring low impact development (LID) practices into our projects, and at Environmental Design Group, we do what we can to incorporate this practice because we know it’s making great impacts not only on the environment but on long term economic development.

In engineering language, LID is a land planning, engineering design and ecosystem based approach to stormwater management, that is multi-functional and derives positive environmental and social benefits.

There are some myths about LID that may help clarify the benefit of this engineering practice in your next design project:

IMG_9604An office building bioretention with flow attenuation

Myth #1 – LID isn’t valuable:

LID techniques in stormwater such as sediments, bacteria, and hydrocarbons are filtered out before the stormwater reaches the natural environment. It reduces the volume of stormwater runoff while slowing down the speed at which the stormwater leaves the property. It enhances community beauty because LID solutions are integrated with adaptive landscaping and provides a space that is aesthetically pleasing and wildlife friendly. Do you still think LID isn’t valuable?

Myth #2 – LID is too expensive:

There was a time when the material costs for LID (including permeable pavements, bio-retention, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, etc.) were high and regulators were not receptive; however, with changing and advancing times, this is no longer the case. With our projects, it has shown to reduce construction costs by reducing pavement surfaces and road widths. When integrating stormwater handling into landscape areas, this reduces the cost of separating stormwater facilities, and maintaining natural landscape areas also reduces stormwater volume, which lowers flooding hazards, and minimizes maintenance costs. If done properly, LID practices will provide a positive return on investment.

IMG_0624An office building green roof

Myth #3 – LID isn’t aesthetically pleasing:

This is a trivial myth because the LID techniques we implement provide very aesthetically pleasing spaces that everyone can benefit from. We take the space design into consideration to ensure the appearance fits well with the project footprint. By adding park-like elements to streets and parking areas, it provides habitat for animals and beneficial insects, it increases a sense of quality to the area, while providing recreation opportunities in the form of pedestrian access routes.

Myth #4 – LID is difficult and costly to maintain:

It is true that maintenance costs of LID may be higher for the first few years as vegetation becomes established, but consider it a long-term investment. Once the vegetation is established, the operations and maintenance costs will be lower than the cost of maintaining traditional stormwater facilities because LID maintenance will be equivalent to traditional landscape maintenance costs, without having to maintain a separate stormwater facility.

Rain Garden
Rain garden at an office building that mitigates flood issues

Low Impact Development is an approach to stormwater management that is providing a positive effect on communities by enhancing the ecosystem with a “divide and conquer” theory to treat stormwater.  This concept is instilled in my efforts to provide our projects a sense of place in the communities we serve while addressing negative stormwater impacts. In my eyes, it’s a win win!