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!

Meet Matthew Beckwith – A High School Senior Mentoring with our Landscape Architect Team

Written by: Shannon Singler, Marketing Manager & Travis Mathews, Director

At Environmental Design Group, we take pride in our mentorship program, and we believe we’re helping the next generation find where their passion lies. Over the last six weeks, our team has welcomed Matthew Beckwith, a senior at Tallmadge High School to the Institutional team, where he has focused on landscape architecture as a means for learning more about the profession. We asked Matthew some questions about his experience in the program, and the opportunity for him to work on a job conceptualizing a new athletic complex for his alma mater, Tallmadge High School.

What’s your full name and title?
My name is Matthew Beckwith, and I’m a student intern from Tallmadge High School.

IMG_7384-2Meet Matthew, a senior at Tallmadge High School in Tallmadge, Ohio

What part of your intern experience did you like most and why?
I liked going on a site visit to Highland High School, which is in Medina. I went with Travis Mathews, my mentor, to tour the work they did on their sports facility. To see the concept from a drawing, to being built was cool to see. I liked this experience because it gave me a better understanding of the work that goes into a project of this size.

IMG_7387Travis Mathews, Director is teaching Matthew the ropes of the trade 

What did you learn from your experience here? Is there anything you can use in your everyday life?
My experience at Environmental Design Group has taught me to find the area of a building, and always draw up multiple plans because the customer may not like the first idea. I’ve learned what green infrastructure is, and determining wastewater prevention and treatment. I think I will definitely use the skills in my everyday life.

We know you’re a big fisherman. Are there experiences you have had here that mimic fishing?

I have learned to always ask questions and always keep the learning process going. This is like fishing because to an angler, asking questions is the fastest and most accurate way to find the answer you’re looking for. I have learned a lot about fishing by asking questions.

IMG_7383John Sloan, Land Planner, shows Matthew how to read building plans

How do you think the work Environmental Design Group is doing at your high school (Tallmadge High School) is going to affect the student body once complete?
I know Environmental Design Group is working with the School District on developing several concepts for the new high school athletic complex, and once complete, it’s going to provide a lot more opportunity for students. Maybe students will be inspired to look at landscape architecture as a future career?

IMG_7140Matthew in the field looking at a high school athletic complex

How has this internship made an impact in your personal life?
This internship has made an impact on my personal life because it showed me different jobs options I didn’t even know existed.

Do you feel the work you were exposed to at Environmental Design Group was valuable to your current studies?
Yes, I do feel that the work I was exposed to was valuable. This internship taught me what people do in their professional careers. It has opened my eyes seeing the variety of careers people choose. Things I didn’t even know existed.

Were you given responsibilities enabling you to apply knowledge and skills?
I was given a chance to do some quantity takeoffs and calculations to figure out how many parking spots were in one area and what the area of a building was.

How would you describe the work atmosphere at Environmental Design Group? Could you see yourself working here every day?
The work atmosphere is wonderful. The people are nice and everyone is always happy. If there’s a question, someone is always around to help. I can see people are friends here. This has been a good experience for me, however I don’t see myself doing this type of work when I start my career. It has opened my eyes, and while I appreciate what is needed to do the job, I believe this is not for me.

Would you recommend this internship to other students, and if so, why?
Yes, I would recommend this internship to other students because the environment was friendly, the people were nice and they respect you. They will also help you understand their profession, and why they chose that path. They will also challenge you and give you a chance to figure out problems for yourself.

IMG_7385John Sloan, Planner, teaching Matthew how to calculate the area of a building

EDG Feedback – We’re happy Matt joined our team and learned more about the profession, and one thing to consider is that landscape architecture doesn’t resonate with everyone. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, we believe if we can provide an opportunity for a student to learn the ropes, we’ve given them a chance to find their true calling in life, which will make the greatest impact for their future.

Maybe some don’t know what landscape architects do? Let us take you on a short journey in the life of what our team of landscape architects do every day.

So, what do Landscape Architects do?
Landscape architecture combines art and science in a profession that designs, plans and manages our land. Landscape architects plan and design traditional places such as parks, campuses, gardens, commercial centers, resorts, transportation corridors, corporate and institutional centers and waterfront developments. They also design and plan the restoration of natural places disturbed by humans such as wetlands, stream corridors, mined areas and forested land. Working with architects, city planners, civil engineers and other professionals, landscape architects play an important role in environmental protection by designing and implementing projects that respect both the needs of people and of our environment.

What skills and education is required to become a landscape architect?
A landscape architect needs to have a solid understanding of the arts and a humanistic approach to design.  They must possess the ability to analyze problems in terms of design and physical form and apply technical knowledge to translate a design into a built work.

A formal education is essential to gain these skills and knowledge. Professional education in landscape architecture can be obtained at the undergraduate or graduate level that usually requires four or five years of study in design, construction techniques, art, history, natural and social sciences.  Landscape architects are continually learning and acquiring new skills and to become a professional landscape architect, one must pass a national examination, the Landscape Architect Registration Examination, or LARE.

Landscape architecture can be a demanding career pursuit but for those passionate about playing a role in helping shape and impact communities, it can also be tremendously rewarding.