August 16, 2016

Using Green Infrastructure to Revitalize Communities With Intern Liana Banuelos

Meeting Walker Marsh of Flower Factory, Baltimore, Maryland

By Thomas Lee, Enterprise Green Communities

Photo: Meeting Walker Marsh of Flower Factory, Baltimore, Maryland

This summer, we had the privilege of hosting Liana Banuelos in our Washington, D.C., office as our summer intern. Liana came to us from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she just graduated with a degree in urban studies.

Equipping Communities to Leverage Government Resources

Program director Thomas Lee of Enterprise Green Communities supervised Liana during her internship, and together, they worked on a paper examining how urban communities could receive and leverage city, county, state, and federal government contracts to install green infrastructure in their neighborhoods. These infrastructure upgrades can enhance quality of life by increasing local employment opportunities, beautifying neighborhoods, reducing health risks and improving and protecting local habitats. Several case studies and pilots will be discussed in the publication.

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Visiting a rain garden next next to a surface parking lot by the Griffon Station Homes neighborhood redevelopment project in Baltimore, Maryland

Alleviating Pressure on Aging Infrastructure

This is an especially important matter in communities with aging combine sewage overflow (CSO) systems, where sanitary sewage pipes pipes are also tasked to handle stormwater runoff. When it rains, stormwater overwhelms CSO systems, which then discharge a mixture of stormwater and raw sewage into local bodies of water. This unsanitary discharge damages natural habitats, increases health risks and leads to economic loss.

Long-Term Value Added Benefits to Communities

Liana researched ways community groups can work with government bodies to obtain contracts to create green infrastructure. These green infrastructure elements divert stormwater away from drains and into the soil. This process helps alleviate pressure on aging CSO systems, reducing the need for costly repairs and expansion of grey infrastructure (i.e. pipes, storage tanks and treatment facilities). . Furthermore, the skills needed to create green infrastructure can be taught quickly, and this allows opportunities to hire local neighborhood staff. Finally, unlike traditional grey infrastructure, which is largely underground, green infrastructure is on the surface and can be seen and enjoyed by the community, providing aesthetic benefits in addition to the environmental and economic benefits.

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Liana Banuelos with Julie O’Neil (left to right), Green Program Director and General Counsel, Buffalo Sewage Authority

Liana will return to MIT this fall to pursue her Master of Science in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, where she can leverage her experience at Enterprise in her coursework and graduate studies.

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