The City of Chicago promotes sustainable development practices to construct buildings that minimize their environmental impact – and are both healthier for occupants and more affordable for owners.
As part of this effort, the city’s Sustainable Development Division encourages strategies that absorb stormwater on site, including green roof installation. Green roofs are effective in reducing the flow of rainwater into overburdened sewer systems, but in dense, urban areas, they are unfortunately often hidden from view.
After securing a contract to perform civil engineering services for a Whole Foods grocery store in Lakeview, RTM Engineering Consultants decided to take a different approach. Instead of creating a green roof that would be out of sight, RTM’s civil team was part of the design group that came up with the idea to create a living wall that can be seen and appreciated by customers, employees, and neighbors. The design team proposed the concept to city administrators and ultimately received approval.
“The store is adjacent to a residential neighborhood, and we thought it would be beneficial to the neighbors, as well as the business, to add this beautiful, vibrant wall of plants,” said Scott DiGilio, Principal at RTM. “RTM has good relationships with people in the city, and we worked with the head of sustainability to get our plan approved and moving forward in a timely fashion. An added bonus is that the living wall is a cost-effective alternative to a green roof.”
RTM’s design stores roof drainage in an underground vault and uses it to irrigate the living wall, instead of discharging it into the strained sewer system. The project consists of several different components that must work together seamlessly to be successful.
“It’s a complicated project because we had to make sure the stormwater detention vault and the irrigation vault function in tandem,” said DiGilio. “For example, if it’s been raining in the winter and the irrigation system isn’t being used, you need to pump the water from the irrigation vault into the detention vault, and then an outlet to release it.”
The complexity of the project produced unique challenges that had to be addressed by both MEP and civil engineering teams. The two divisions needed to collaborate to anticipate and resolve problems.
“We were proud that we could bring our experience in both MEP and civil engineering to this project,” said Matt Whisler, Senior Civil Engineer at RTM. “We do it all in-house, and our team specializes in looking for outside-the-box solutions. We’re not stuck on a one-way path; we’re always looking at completely new ideas that save money and create something better in the end for the client.”
Learn more about RTM Engineering Consultants’ civil engineering services.