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Villanova Focuses on Green Infrastructure in Research

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

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While stormwater issues are developing into a more prominent environmental issue, one Pennsylvania-based university is studying how green infrastructure can help decrease flooding in urban areas.

Villanova University’s College of Engineering professor Bridget Wadzuk states that as "someone who studies green stormwater infrastructure, I can attest to the fact that researchers must continue to play a critical a role in helping cities address growing issues of flooding and resiliency.

“Our work leads to the creation of new knowledge and through collaborative work and partnership, we can share best practices so that they can become part of land development policies to benefit the environment and society.”

Villanova’s Research

Starting in 1999, Villanova University was reported to have supported researchers from the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership to convert a detention basin into a constructed stormwater wetland. Since that first project, the team, built of faculty and students, has continued research initiatives and an effort to build more than 20 rain gardens, three green roofs and various green stormwater infrastructure.

Having been a part of the engineering research team at Villanova for more than 20 years, Wadzuk reports that green stormwater infrastructure—such as rain gardens and bioswales that allow rain to sink into the ground— can help to decrease frequent flooding and mitigates problems associated with climate change.

According to Wadzuk, green infrastructure that keeps rain where it falls verses moving it to a storm sewer capable of experiencing overflow and flooding onto roadways, can positively impact the university and the surrounding community. Research shows in numbers that from July 2018 to June 2019, the United States received an average of 7.9 additional inches of rain per month than when compared to the long-term average.

The Commons Project

To further show the university’s commitment to the green infrastructure, Villanova decided to build an environmentally friendly residential, living and learning community known as “The Commons.” Made up of six buildings (Arch Hall, Canon Hall, Chapter Hall, Cupola Hall, Friar Hall and Trinity Hall), the project took up 425,000 square feet and previously served as a roughly 10-acre parking lot of impermeable asphalt.

Construction on the $225 million campus development began in November 2015 and officially opened in August.

According to U.S. News, in a collaboration between the Facilities Management Department and the College of Engineering, the project was able to incorporate a highly innovative stormwater design to manage more than 2 inches of rainfall per storm.

In total, the new site is reported to have four rain gardens, three bioswales, three infiltration trenches and two underground cisterns. Located on the ground, the gardens, bioswales and trenches allow for water runoff to filter out pollutants and recharge the groundwater while seeping into the ground. Additionally, plants within the system also provide ecosystem services.

During the installation of the green systems, project managers and researchers tested the rain gardens during construction to ensure they met design specifications. Equipment was also added by the facilities—such as access to power and wifi to support monitoring equipment—to ensure that the project would suffice as a long-term research facility.

The underground cisterns are part of a stormwater harvesting system that is slated to reuse the collected stormwater in the new buildings’ HVAC system, ultimately saving the university money by not using potable water.

Now, two undergraduate engineering students will begin post-construction monitoring for water quality and water quantity on the site. To determine how well the site is working, the students will be collecting and monitoring rainfall and flow data and comparing it to pre-construction monitored data.

Moving forward, Villanova plans to use the findings to help demonstrate how green infrastructure can effectively meet municipal requirements. Wadzuk reports that the research team shares best practices with organizations, municipalities and township officials, and other community groups through the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership and hopes to inspire other cities across the country.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; Engineers; Environmental Controls; Green Infrastructure; NA; non-potable water; North America; potable water; Research; Research and development; Stormwater

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