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Green Infrastructure Draws Attention at Atlantic Builders Convention

May 16th, 2018 by

The New Jersey Future/NJBA Green Neighborhood at the Atlantic Builders Convention

The partnership between New Jersey Future and the New Jersey Builders Association – the Developers’ Green Infrastructure Task Force – is nowhere more visible than at the annual Atlantic Builders Convention (ABC) in Atlantic City. This year’s ABC, April 10-12, provided ample evidence that the task force is having an impact. Its members have become enthusiastic, articulate ambassadors for green infrastructure, and more and more developers are actively interested in the broad benefits of designing their projects with GI; they see opportunity rather than risk.

With expanded, highly visible exhibit space; beefed-up educational materials and graphic displays; expert green infrastructure designers on hand providing information and guidance to a steady stream of visitors; “speed consulting” sessions with developers, and a well-attended workshop, New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program delivered a lot of information to convention-goers: developers, engineers, contractors, architects and landscape architects.

‘Millennials are at the table, and they care about this stuff.’

A highlight of the convention was a well-attended workshop titled “Green Stormwater Infrastructure Consulting: Chat With the Experts,” featuring five panelists with great experience designing, permitting, building and maintaining green infrastructure.  Mark Cannuli, senior vice president of development at Sharbell Development Corp. and member of the task force, moderated.

George Vallone, president of Hoboken Brownstone, former president of NJBA and co-chair of the task force, summarized efforts to push for changes in New Jersey’s stormwater rule to require the use of green infrastructure, as well as updates to NJDEP’s Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual to account for infiltration – a critically needed reform. Most of Vallone’s remarks, however, centered on his experience with planning boards and neighborhood groups, and the difference that green infrastructure makes in a development plan’s appeal and acceptance.  Communities benefit directly from additional trees and other vegetation, from flood mitigation and clean water.  “Millennials are at the table,” he observed, “and they care about this stuff.”

Cannuli echoed this message, speaking of his experience with a project in a suburban community.  Green infrastructure makes a project look better and work better, he said, and neighbors and planning boards take notice.

Panelist Ed Confair, professional engineer and landscape architect with E&LP, works with both private- and public-sector clients. In addition to providing an excellent overview of green infrastructure practices and how they work, he presented case studies and conducted an energetic dialog with Vallone and Cannuli. Elissa Commins, Brick Township’s engineer, presented excellent information and insight from the municipal perspective about how to incentivize green infrastructure and capture the associated public benefits.

The key takeaway? Mainstream developers, not just high-end, “bright green” development companies, are coming to understand that green infrastructure is a highly effective strategy. An asset. Indeed, the future of stormwater management.

Taking the mystery out of costs and benefits

Since the task force first met in 2015, the question of costs and benefits has been front and center.  In researching the topic, New Jersey Future staff came across a number of tools developed to help both the technical and non-technical communities understand how green infrastructure practices fit into a development project.

New Jersey Future contracted with Meliora Design to evaluate four of the best-known of these tools and report back. Meliora notes that these tools are not a substitute for full design, but they can help with the site planning process and they capture many of the essential components of a site-level design. The findings, conducted by Meliora’s Elise Eggert-Crowe, were presented at the ABC workshop and are captured in an article written for New Jersey Future.

Attracting a National Audience

The partnership that gave rise to the Developers GI Task Force has drawn national attention. An article titled “Sensible Stormwater Standards,” published in the Spring 2018 issue of the National Association of Home Builders Best in American Living magazine, features the work of the task force including the Developers Green Infrastructure Guide. The article also highlights common ground between environmental and development advocates, including the task force’s support for regulatory reforms that are endorsed by environmental partners.

Some additional photos from the workshop and the Green Neighborhood are below.

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