Green Infrastructure

Terra takes every opportunity to not only treat rainwater in a sustainable manner, but to celebrate the journey of a raindrop artfully. From non-conventional green roofs, to whimsical downspouts and funky rain barrels, to thematic runnels and dramatically planted rain gardens – we have great fun in celebrating the rain and returning it to the ground, cleansed.

 

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WETLAND EXPLORE at SCOTTS MIRACLE-GRO FOUNDATION CHILDREN'S GARDEN - Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus OH  [FULL SERVICE DESIGN]

Terra’s inspiration for the Children’s Garden is the depth and magic of the ever-changing landscape of central Ohio.  One of its iconic brands is the dramatic earth art installation/green infrastructure project called Wetland Explore.  All of the raindrops that fall on the Children’s Garden are captured and routed to the detention basin in the western portion of the site – a functional solution to storm water management. But what moves far beyond code compliance is the interactive design and stunning beauty of this green infrastructure feature.  During dry periods, bold drifts of rushes, little bluestem, and flame willow spiral around the basin, mapping the flow of rainwater water towards the outlet.  Wooden platforms elevated above the wetland floor invite children to hop from deck to deck and explore the wetland. Terra designed Wetland Explore for beauty in all seasons and in all weather.  But it is immediately after a rain event that it becomes truly magical as the water rises and children and their grownups can run into the center of the wetland, floating above the water.


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TRANSFORMING TWELFTH PROJECT at BARRETT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - Steel Valley School District, Homestead PA    [MASTER PLAN]

Commissioned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Terra and our team are actively taking the first steps in transforming the Steel Valley School District to the greenest in Allegheny County.  Planted rain gardens and underground infiltration chambers will capture, clean and release several city blocks of rainwater before it gets into the combined sewer system in Homestead.  In addition to providing opportunities to help the region’s Allegheny County Sanitary Authority renovate their combined storm and sanitary systems, this vacant city block will provide nature play and outdoor classroom opportunities for the adjacent elementary school on 12th Avenue in Homestead, PA.

Beyond green infrastructure and outdoor learning opportunities, Transforming 12th is an amazing project for another reason.  Prior to Terra’s involvement, Steel Valley high school students in the Creating Value Program held workshops and polled the community to learn what neighbors and other stakeholders hoped this vacant lot would become. These students continued to stay involved in the project, working hand-in-hand with Terra’s staff and Bernie Lamm, professional engineer and natural philosopher from Common Ground.

The Borough of Homestead has approved the Transforming 12th Master Plan, and they have submitted for funding from various agencies.  


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CARRIAGE HOUSE RAIN GARDEN at KINGWOOD CENTER GARDENS - Mansfield OH    [FULL SERVICE DESIGN]

The Carriage House Garden is one of the first phase projects of a multi-phase master plan for Kingwood Center Gardens. Designed to serve as a much-needed breakout space for the events scheduled in the renovated Carriage House and a visitor destination for the casual Gardens visitor, the Carriage House Garden celebrates Kingwood Center’s cultural heritage and conceptually resurrects the orchard and kitchen gardens from the 1920’s Country Place Era estate.

Perhaps more importantly, the green infrastructure components of the Carriage House Garden introduce Kingwood’s commitment to sustainable design. For the first time in its 50 year history, Kingwood is celebrating the capture and cleanse of a portion of its rainwater. Whimsical downspouts from the Carriage House roof channel water into a tumbled glass channel, sprinkled with echevaria and other succulents. The channel leads to two curving runnels, covered with custom-designed, engraved grates inspired by the plants that are showcased in the Garden. Finally, rainwater from the terrace and rooftop gathers in a beautifully planted rain garden and infiltrates into the ground water. 

Cascading pools and a large pond will join the Carriage House Garden’s green infrastructure components in later phases, as the journey of a raindrop continues!


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RADIATING WAVES RAINWATER EXHIBIT at HASKELL PARKING LOT - Lewis and Clark Community College, Godfrey IL    [FULL SERVICE DESIGN]

Lewis and Clark Community College is one of the founding partners of the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center and continues to serve as its long-term steward.  So it was with great pleasure that Terra designed “Radiating Waves”, a one-acre earth art installation that captures not only the storm water from the last unmitigated parking lot on campus but the attention of more than 100,000 annual visitors.  The first line of defense is a field of porous pavers that covers a 200-space parking area.  Rain that does not infiltrate into the groundwater directly is guided to the first of three boldly-planted tiered rain garden basins.  As each basin stages up, cleansed rainwater spills over weathered steel weirs to finally collect and travel to a nearby tributary of Piasa Creek, a waterway of interest to the Great Rivers Land Trust. 

Radiating Waves has become an iconic brand for the College and a model for other municipalities in the region.


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STREET TREE SOIL CELL INSTALLATION at FIFTH AVE PLACE and AUGUST WILSON CENTER - Downtown Pittsburgh, PA    [FULL SERVICE DESIGN]

In a typical urban setting, street trees live only seven years, and those that survive beyond that do not thrive. Terra Design Studios was involved in two streetscape projects in Pittsburgh where the health and longevity of the street trees were the primary focus.

August Wilson Center: Designed by Perkins+Will, the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture is LEED-NC Certified Gold. The accompanying street tree selection and planting details needed to support this LEED effort, while also showcasing for the City a better way to sustain a healthy green canopy along the streets.

A critical factor that aids tree survival in an urban setting is access to adequate uncompacted soil at its roots. Terra explored multiple ways to achieve this:  engineered soils, root paths, and enlarged raised planters, to name a few. Together with the architect and owner, we chose a system of engineered soil cells that were placed as an open-supportive grid beneath the walk, and are filled with nutrient rich uncompacted soil to offer a minimum of 500 cubic yards to each street tree. This prototype was the first installation of its type in Pennsylvania, and its development was funded by the R.K. Mellon Foundation and administered through Tree Pittsburgh. The project was completed in time for the Center’s opening in September 2009. 

Fifth Avenue Place: {pictured above} As part of the construction for a new subway station in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, the Highmark corporation undertook the renovation of the sidewalks and pedestrian spaces around their headquarters, which included the streetscape bordering Fifth Avenue Place. In an effort to do more than just replace the aging street trees in their urban environment, Highmark partnered with a local organization, TreeVitalize, whose goal is to increase public awareness on the importance of community trees, and to reverse the loss of tree cover in the state’s metropolitan areas. Along with project architect Pfaffmann and Associates, Terra presented several options to Highmark that would improve the overall sustainability of the site. 

These options included using a snowmelt system to avoid chemical snow removal, and an innovative, below-ground system that dramatically increases the available soil volume for the street trees. These “soil-cells” are installed beneath the sidewalks and structurally support the loads above, while providing cavities where friable, un-compacted, nutrient rich soil is available for the trees.  Terra was responsible for providing the unique construction detailing and oversight of the soil cell installation. Terra also guided the selection of trees with an eye to diversifying the species used in the city while fitting into the varying microclimates around the building. Construction of the Fifth Avenue Place streetscape was completed in 2011.