Department of Landscape Architecture
Architecture Building

LAE students work with other UF departments for EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge

February 11, 2013
What happens when students from Landscape Architecture, Soil & Water Sciences, Environmental Horticulture, Environmental Engineering and Agricultural & Biological Engineering work together on the same team? A submission in the inaugural Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Campus RainWorks Challenge.

The team’s goal was to raise awareness of and heighten the relationship between humans and water by creating a “journey of water” that represents the movement, processes and properties of stormwater as it falls, flows and eventually spills out into Lake Alice. The project site where the journey takes place is in the heart of UF’s campus, The Reitz Union.

The team members include LAE students, Emily Sturm, project manager, Jabari Taylor, Brenda Lugano, Tracy Wyman, Jayne Branstrom, Hannah Plate, Gregory Ford and Josh Evitt, LAE faculty adviser, Glenn Acomb, Agricultural and Biological Engineering students, Wesley Henson, Angelica Engel and Natalie Nelson, and Environmental Engineering student, Tracy Fanara.

With a three month timeline, the team researched, developed and created a master plan of stormwater management tools that would provide the opportunity to clean the rainfall before reaching the recipient of 60% of all campus stormwater, Lake Alice.

The U. S. EPA’s Office of Water’s first ever “Campus RainWorks Challenge” is open to undergraduate and graduate student teams across the country to create innovative green infrastructure design for their campus. The intent is to show how “managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.”

“This competition was a perfect fit for Landscape Architecture’s Design Implementation Studio because our focus is green infrastructure,” says Glenn Acomb, LAE faculty adviser. “From the beginning of this studio to the submission of our work to the EPA, the class conducted this project as a cross-discipline, team effort. We organized as an “office” with a project manager and worked tirelessly to produce the various submittal products, receiving especially strong participation from engineering and soil and water students.”

The 5th year LAE students began this project by identifying other departments on campus that would be best to team up with and contribute to the project’s goals and objectives. Thus, here is where the collaboration began with Soil & Water Sciences, Environmental Horticulture, Environmental Engineering and Agricultural & Biological Engineering. After meeting with the new team members, the students researched the best Low Impact Development (LID) tools that would raise awareness of and effectively manage stormwater on campus. The students then analyzed UF for the best location for their proposal. After meeting with several campus organizations, such as the Office of Sustainability and the Environmental Horticulture Department, the team choose the central, highly populated area of the Reitz Lawn.

A highlight of the team’s development process was to involve those who use the Reitz Union most frequently, UF’s student body. The team conducted a participatory research event to get their fellow gators to provide ideas and opinions on the Reitz Lawn. Students participated in visual activities such as “the Dot Map” and “Site Circulation,” as well as provided feedback, including “My Idea Is” and “I Love the Reitz Because….” The information gathered at this event helped the team put together the next phase of the project, the design.

“This project offered our studio a really unique opportunity – we were able to collaborate with students and professors from other departments, talk to the student body and get their input, and design a stormwater solution for a place we all know and love,” says Emily Sturm, project manager.

The design, or “master plan,” includes four points of roof-top stormwater collection, each feeding into either rain gardens or bioswales. Three water bodies receive this water which leads to Lake Alice and eventually the Floridian Aquifer as the final destination for the stormwater. The team’s design visually demonstrates the “journey of stormwater” and the relationship between humans and water with every decision.

“Given the critical importance of water in Florida, we must look to innovative and sustainable practices that conserve and protect water resources –both on campus and throughout the State,” Acomb states. “This design updates the functions and appearance of the “Reitz Lawn,” while highlighting water in an artful way and connecting the design to the pending improvements to the Reitz Union. What a great opportunity we have for our campus to be a leader in green infrastructure.”

As a result of the project, the team presented their design in front of students, faculty and staff in early February and plan on making a formal presentation of the proposal to the University of Florida sometime this semester, and will be submitting the project for State design awards.