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Earth Day: The VCU Rice Center

Creating a lasting, positive impact through engineering, surveying and environmental expertise is at the very core of what we do at Draper Aden Associates. With today being Earth Day, we wanted to highlight a past project that perfectly encapsulates that lasting, positive impact, especially when it comes to enhancing the environment. In 2008, Draper Aden provided civil engineering, design, and construction administration services for the VCU Rice Center. The Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences sits on a 343-acre property in Charles City County, Virginia, and is home to many natural resources and wildlife. When the property was donated by Mrs. Inger Rice, she requested that the building needed to make the most of green design elements. The Rice Center is situated on a hill overlooking the James River and takes advantage of natural day lighting as well as natural shading from the surrounding tree canopies. Draper Aden incorporated a number...

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Emergency Preparedness – Be Safe, Not Sorry

On August 7 and 8, 2017, Safety, Health, and Environment (SHE) professionals from Virginia and the Carolinas participated in the 16th annual Environmental, Energy, Health, and Safety School sponsored by the North Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (NCMA) held at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) McKimmon Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Draper Aden Associates, an NCMA Business Partner, coordinated the “Special Topics” classroom sessions, including a two-part session on Emergency Preparedness.   Most of us along the Atlantic Coast think about hurricanes when we hear “emergency preparedness”, and rightly so! We are now in the middle of hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted 14 to 19 named storms in 2017 and two to five of those could become major hurricanes.   Every business, small or large, should plan against natural hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. But even on a clear day, unexpected incidents could cause your company hardship....

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Strategies for Success with Environmental Regulatory Relations: Part 3

We’ve been discussing strategies for better relations with environmental regulators. We talked about building positive relationships in Part 1 and communicating our interests in Part 2. In this article, we focus on the process and not the people to achieve a desired outcome.   STRATEGY NO. 3 Focus on the process, not the people. Management Consultant, Edwards Deming said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” Any number of competent people can make the same mistakes when using a faulty or cumbersome process. Likewise, if we dismiss the regulatory process and focus solely on the regulatory personnel, we may overlook the root cause of difficulties when navigating a complex bureaucratic system. Consider the regulator’s perspective. Industry advocates or public watchdog groups often challenge their decisions. The regulator is held responsible when environmental problems occur (i.e. Why did you issue that permit? Why didn’t you shut them down?). They anticipate the worst possible...

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Strategies for Success with Environmental Regulatory Relations: Part 2

We’ve been discussing strategies to help your business have better relations with environmental regulators. Almost every business interest has some environmental impact, which means you probably are regulated by your local or state environmental agency, or maybe the US EPA directly. We talked about building positive relationships in Part 1. Now we want to think about the best way to communicate with regulators to achieve a desired outcome.   STRATEGY NO. 2 Communicate your interests, instead of stating your position. Most people will argue a point based on what they want (their position) instead of why they want it (their interests). The classic example to illustrate this concept is the story of two sous chefs arguing over a single orange in the kitchen. Each is adamant that they need a whole orange for their individual recipes. When the Executive Chef asks why each needs a whole orange, the first chef says their recipe calls for...

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Strategies for Success with Environmental Regulatory Relations: Part 1

Does your business affect the environment? Perhaps you need a permit. Maybe an inspector visited your site and discovered violations. No doubt you have found yourself in the company of federal, state, or local regulators. Sometimes those interactions go well, sometimes… not so much. Environmental regulatory issues can be dreadful affairs, but they don’t have to be. In this three-part series, we will explore useful strategies to help achieve a favorable outcome.   STRATEGY NO. 1 Build positive relationships with regulators and your surrounding community. Bob Burg’s now famous relationship-building principle known as the “know, like, trust” factor is a sales concept that can apply to regulatory relations too. The basic principle is that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Of course, we are not selling to regulators, but it is a transactional relationship, such as receiving a permit or negotiating a penalty. How well we are known, our likeability...

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What I’ve Learned About Bioretention: Part 2

Read Part 1 of this post here. 2. Bigger is not better Like most everything we design, when big things fail, they fail in a big way. Bioretention works best in applications where the drainage area to an individual cell is less than about a quarter acre. Larger bioretention areas are more likely to fail due to erosion because of larger flows, creation of low spots due to variations in the surface, and clogging of the surface layer. This can be avoided by dividing the area into multiple cells with smaller drainage areas. [caption id="attachment_6401" align="aligncenter" width="770"] Larger basin divided into three cells[/caption]   The largest bioretention area I know of is an example of this. Designed by others, it collects runoff from several acres at a highway rest stop. The measures designed to evenly distribute incoming flow have been overwhelmed by large flow rates, the engineered soils mix layer does not drain quickly enough, and...

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What I’ve Learned About Bioretention: Part 1

Bioretention areas (also sometimes called rain gardens) are a very useful tool in the toolbox of stormwater treatment BMPs. They provide a high level of pollutant removal and runoff volume reduction, and, if properly designed, require little maintenance. Bioretention was developed to mimic the hydrology of a natural forest. It consists of a shallow (typically 4-8 inches) basin with 3 inches of mulch and a variety of selected plants on the surface that can accommodate periodic flooding and drought. Under the mulch is a layer of engineered soil mix (typically 12-36 inches). The basin collects surface runoff and filters out nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients for plants, but pollutants in stormwater) as water passes through the engineered soil mix. Water is absorbed by surrounding soils or is collected by an underdrain. The plants convert the nitrogen and phosphorus collected in the engineered soil mix into woody plant matter and leaves. If designed and...

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Grasses for the Masses

Glenn Telfer, Technical Leader for Sustainable Design in our Richmond office, is making a lasting, postive impact by taking part in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Grasses for the Masses program. He is volunteering to grow aquatic grasses from seed and plant them in the Chesapeake Bay. Aquatic grasses are a vital part of the chain of life in the Bay. Also know as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), they provide essential habitat and shelter for the young of many species, including crabs and fish. Without the shelter provided by thick grass beds in shallow waters near the shoreline, the young are exposed to predators. Glenn volunteered to be part of this program because it links with his expertise in stormwater design. “On every project, I design stormwater systems to reduce nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Re-establishing the aquatic grass beds also helps to achieve the goal of a cleaner Bay.” Aquatic vegetation...

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Environmental Restoration Wiki

Extensive research over the past 30 years has greatly improved our understanding of environmental restoration and remediation. While the results of this work are readily accessible to industry experts and academics, much of this information has not percolated down to the people that actually manage, regulate and implement projects. This has significantly reduced the benefits of this research and increased the costs of managing environmental liabilities, especially at sites where contamination will persist for a significant time after selection of an initial remedy.   With support from DOD research programs SERDP & ESTCP, Solutions-IES, a division of DAA, developed the ERwiki (www.EnvironmentalRestoration.wiki) to communicate environmental restoration information to a variety of users in a timely and easily accessible fashion. The overall format is similar to Wikipedia with short ‘encyclopedia’ type summaries of current information, with extensive links to reports, project summaries and technical literature.   Internationally recognized experts from academia and industry prepare each...

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DAA at Virginia Brownfields Conference

DAA will be at The Virginia Brownfields Conference this week sharing one of our favorite success stories! There will be a session in this year’s conference, held in Fredericksburg on March 15-16, that targets small communities who are just beginning their redevelopment journeys. Dr. John White, Town of Pulaski Economic Development Director and Lori Kroll, DAA Community Resources Specialist will present the Town’s experiences during the “Synergize- Brownfields Planning, Grant Layering and Leveraging” session on Thursday. Two EPA Community-Wide Brownfields Assessment Grants in 2009 and 2014 sparked the Town of Pulaski’s reinvention of itself. John and Lori’s session will explore the keys to successful community revitalization, including a group of dedicated champions who have cultivated multiple leveraging opportunities and partnerships, layered with community planning and a long-term vision of a new economic paradigm. Stimulated by its brownfields program, the Town is realizing a true renaissance and quickly becoming a regional destination, strengthened by new...

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