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Contest Pits Low Impact Development Against Traditional Building

The San Antonio River Authority is using a new contest beginning this week to create awareness for the benefits of Low Impact Development.

"Initially we're targeting the private developer community and their engineers, architects, and landscape architects," says Stephen Graham with the San Antonio River Authority.

Graham says the technology of Low Impact Development is starting to come to the forefront as a design element of new projects that provides cost-savings. Graham says technology such as bioswales, natural channel designs and rain gardens are not just for mitigating pollution anymore.

"It's not just for the environment. Low Impact Development really has opportunities to make our quality of life better for our community and our constituency," he said.

Members of the EPA were in town last week and toured two projects in the San Antonio area, including one at Madison High School. Aarin Teague of SARA explained to EPA visitors a swale that disperses more of the sediment and toxins collected in flood waters so they don’t end up in streams and rivers.

"The green roof, permeable pavers and the rainwater capture are in a train so everything starts off with some preliminary treatment," she said. "Runoff gets routed through swales like this to slow it down a little more and give it an opportunity to infiltrate."

SARA is setting out to prove the cost-savings point with a contest that forces contestants to demonstrate the cost-savings of a LID project against a traditional design of the same project.

LID technologies came off the drawing board about ten years ago and gradually are penetrating different communities, each of which has its own topography and climate challenges. Graham said the movement has to get buy-in from designers and developers alike.

"Ideally you design this on a holistic basis. It's brought in at the early inception of a subdivision or a reconstruction of a neighborhood rather than as a single, discrete little fix or band-aid," Graham said.

The contest kicks off this Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a presentation at AIA in The Pearl.