Since 1994, Nitsch Engineering has been committed to developing sustainable site design solutions that strive to mimic natural ecological patterns and promote self-sustaining, balanced, and healthy ecosystems. Our philosophy is one that treats and manages stormwater as a resource, rather than just something to be piped away; for this reason, Nitsch Engineering has a long history of promoting green design concepts such as innovative stormwater management and treatment practices, low-impact development techniques, and water conservation and reuse strategies.

When integrating these types of sustainable concepts into a project, one question comes up again and again: “How effective are these solutions when compared to traditional solutions?” In an effort to go beyond theoretical answers, Nitsch Engineering worked with the University of Virginia (UVA), where we had developed a stormwater management master plan that recommended an innovative regional approach to addressing stormwater management for the Meadow Creek watershed. (Click here for more information on that project.) After these regional solutions were constructed, Nitsch Engineering funded the purchase of equipment to monitor stormwater quality and quantity in the watershed, then worked with UVA to apply for a 2008 Boston Society of Architects Research Grant in Architecture. The BSA selected this UVA research project for one of seven projects (out of 73 submissions) to receive a grant, in the amount of $10,000. (Click here to view the abstract)

The Sustainable Stormwater Management: Validating Water Quality and Quantity research project initially involved four students, three UVA faculty, three UVA staff, and Nitsch Engineering’s team. The participants monitored and evaluated the actual performance of the regional stormwater management system for water quantity mitigation and water quality treatment capacity by setting up five monitoring locations along Meadow Creek upstream and downstream of the regional stormwater management facilities. Using a combination of automatic and grab samples, the students lab tested the samples for turbidity, phosphates, nitrites, and nitrates. The students also set up stilling wells to measure the rate and volume of stormwater runoff during rainfall events and even made use of evaporation equipment and other lab equipment to test for various chemical differences that may impact the evaporation times, etc.

Preliminary observations indicate that during high flow events, the Dell (a detention basin pond that serves as the upstream regional solution for the watershed) removes sediment, holds water, and then slowly releases it over a period of time, effectively reducing the peak flow rate by detaining it, allowing for evaporation, and allowing water to infiltrate and recharge groundwater. This pond and the daylighted stream (an important element of the regional solution) improve water quality by reducing nutrient levels and sediment load; the quantitative evaluation of the system’s success has continued as a freshman environmental studies class continues the research and testing as part of their ongoing class work. This sustained research has provided UVA students with “real world” experience and the university with ongoing analysis of the stormwater system performance.