Nitsch Engineering Wins National Engineering Excellence Award for Complex Stormwater Solution

May 18, 2007; Boston, Mass. –The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) awarded Nitsch Engineering one of the 2007 Engineering Excellence “Honor” Awards for their work on the University of Virginia’s (U.Va.’s) Meadow Creek Regional Stormwater Management Plan. Project Principal Judith Nitsch, PE, LEED® AP, and Project Engineer Nicole Holmes, PE, LEED® AP, accepted the award on behalf of Nitsch Engineering. They were accompanied by Cheryl Gomez, PE, the Director of Energy and Utilities at U.Va.. This was the first time in ACEC history that an Engineering Excellence Award was presented to an all female team.

Each year, ACEC recognizes the 24 most unique and exciting engineering achievements from across the nation, including the “Grand Conceptor Award” for the single most significant achievement, and seven “Grand Awards” and 16 “Honor Awards” for excellence. Nitsch Engineering received one of the “Honor Awards” for the innovative stormwater management plan they designed for the U.Va. Meadow Creek watershed.

To help advance U.Va.’s building expansion and alleviate stormwater management problems, Nitsch Engineering developed a first-of-its-kind “Regional” stormwater management plan for the Meadow Creek watershed located within the University’s campus. By using natural systems such as created wetlands, daylighted streams, and feature ponds, Nitsch Engineering was able to provide U.Va. with a stormwater management plan that decreased costs, improved water quality, decreased stormwater flow from campus, and created beautiful campus amenities.

U.Va. was embarking on an ambitious campus growth initiative. Addressing the stormwater management issues on a building-by-building basis would have been costly and inefficient in most cases, and completely impossible in some cases. For example, the University’s plan to build a new basketball arena was on hold because the land allocated for the project was not large enough to accommodate the new arena and the huge detention basin that would be required to solve stormwater problems at the site.

Nitsch Engineering developed the Meadow Creek Regional Stormwater Management Plan to address U.Va.’s four main concerns: saving space, avoiding “ugly” detention basins, cutting maintenance costs (both money and time), and maintaining a high level of functionality. After completing an in-depth study, Nitsch Engineering found that all of the developments within the watershed could be mitigated by building integrated stormwater facilities at three key locations: The Dell, the Athletic Precinct Garage Site, and the John Paul Jones Arena. The firm’s innovative approach avoided reliance on traditional engineering solutions; instead, it acknowledged the retention and treatment capacities of natural systems.

“Natural systems have always worked to maintain a healthy watershed,” said Project Engineer Nicole Holmes, PE, LEED® AP. “By using wetland plants and other natural systems to treat stormwater, we can provide the same level of treatment – if not greater – than ‘traditional’ engineering systems, but also help to restore the healthy balance of our watersheds. In addition, solutions like this provide passive recreation areas while saving a significant amount of money – at U.Va., the total cost of the Meadow Creek stormwater improvements was around $2.5 Million… only 30 percent of the net cost if stormwater management facilities had been designed and built on a project-by-project basis.”

In addition to saving almost $6 million, the stormwater improvements resulted in an immediate 25 percent decrease in stormwater flow to the city’s system downstream. Other positive impacts include the cessation of flooding in campus areas that had previously been susceptible, an expedited permitting process for new buildings at U.Va., lowered maintenance costs, and increased use of campus areas.