In RTM Engineering Consultants’ civil engineering department, sustainability measures are incorporated into practically every project. Cities like Chicago have high sustainable development standards, and RTM has decades of experience researching, designing, and implementing projects to meet these requirements. But RTM’s expertise goes beyond fulfilling guidelines; the team also excels at determining the ideal green building strategies for each particular project.
“This may sound controversial, but sustainability isn’t always a good thing,” said Scott DiGilio, Principal at RTM. “What I mean is that you need to apply the right sustainability solution to the right project for it to be effective. Sometimes what sounds like an environmentally friendly initiative actually does more harm than good – and costs the client a lot of time and money in the process.”
DiGilio gave two project examples to illustrate his point: one that used sustainable materials successfully to solve a problem, and one that could have been an expensive failure if RTM hadn’t found a better alternative.
The first project, a health facility in Chicago, required a stormwater detention system resting above ground water, which was at a higher level than average. RTM estimated that installing piping under the parking lot would cost around $100,000. The team did multiple exploratory infiltration tests at the site and found that it contained the right soils to support drainage without piping. RTM installed permeable pavers instead of piping, a sustainable solution that also saved the client a significant expense.
“We love doing a project like that one,” said DiGilio. “It perfectly addressed the client’s problem. But the second project was the opposite. Someone wanted to use permeable pavers on a site because it sounded like a good, eco-friendly idea. But the site didn’t have the right soil to infiltrate. We would have had to provide a lot of excavation, haul dirt off site and bring in stone, which would require the use of large amounts of natural resources for the materials and waste of fossil fuels for transporting these materials. And in the end, we would have needed to install drains anyway because the soil wouldn’t have drained properly. It would have caused negative impacts to the environment, plus wasted a lot of the client’s budget.”
Matt Whisler, Senior Civil Engineer at RTM, described another project in which the civil engineering team implemented a design that was both sustainable and advantageous for the client.
“For the construction of a new public library, there wasn’t a deep sewer in the street to connect to for the storm sewer system,” said Whisler. “A conventional stormwater solution would have been very expensive and required a lot of retaining walls, which are unsightly in a residential neighborhood. But we examined the soils and found sand at a lower depth. We decided to use the excavation of the geothermal well field to also store stormwater. This design enabled us to store the stormwater in the void spaces of the stone and allow it to infiltrate into the sand below. We were able to solve a huge problem and keep the project on budget.”
RTM’s civil department specializes in site engineering designs for commercial, residential, industrial, and municipal projects. Learn more about RTM’s civil engineering expertise.