By David Pendered
Georgia Tech has started work to improve drainage of Tech Green, a green space built as part of the effort to develop a sustainably designed building – the G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons.
Clough Commons opened in 2011. In 2013, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Commons the highest green certification possible, a LEED Platinum Certification.
One unique feature of Clough Commons was the installation of a 1.4 million gallon cistern under Tech Green. The cistern was part of the effort to develop a sustainable building that would set the standard for other college campuses.
The cistern holds storm water runoff from the park and from Clough Commons. Water that’s harvested from the cistern is used for flushing toilets in the building and for watering nearby landscapes. The cistern holds so much water that it could supply water for Clough Commons with no interruption for up to 28 days, according to a report on Tech’s website.
The end result is a systems that collects and stores for recycling 89 percent of the water needed to operate the building, according to Tech’s report. Clough Commons provides 220,000 square feet of space and was built at a cost of $93 million, according to Tech’s report.
Now, Tech is in the process of improving the soil and drainage of Tech Green.
Once the drainage system is improved, Tech Green is expected to recover more quickly after heavy rains, and from heavy use during activities. The irrigation system also is to be upgraded.
Tech Green was closed Monday and will remain closed until August. The construction is to be finished in May. The area will remain off limits during the summer, providing time for newly planted grass to take root.
Another project, just to the north of Tech Green, is to begin in March and be complete by November.
This one involves replacing a large section of steam pipes along Atlantic Drive. The pipes were built in the early 1950s and support the heating and research needs of academic buildings in the area.
Once the pipes are replaced, Tech intends to install landscaping and hardscaping that are to create a more pleasant place to walk. Lighting is to be improved, as well.
Tech’s goal is to create an environment more like the one that leads to the Engineered Biosciences Building.
Retrofitting Tech Green is not directly related to Tech’s Landscape Master Plan, adopted in 2011, or to the Stormwater Master Plan, adopted in 2013. But it does illustrate Tech’s intent to reduce its environmental footprint.
These plans provide a holistic approach to the sustainable management of storm water runoff and green space. The plan provides for a comprehensive, yet nuanced, retrofit of the Tech campus over time.
The plans are to result in a series of green spaces that follow the path of streams that now are buried. Rain gardens, bio retention areas and interconnected cisterns, plus the additions of trees, are intended to manage storm water runoff.
Hoped-for outcomes include:
- A 50 percent reduction of storm water discharged to the Atlanta sewer system, using 2003 as the base year;
- Increase campus tree canopy to 55 percent;
- Reduce light pollution;
- Buffer noise;
- Reduce lawn areas;
- Create a variety of outdoor venues for activities and relaxation.