The APWA Center for Sustainability Leadership Group held its winter face to face meeting in Tempe, AZ, February 6-7, 2014.  While enjoying the relative warmth of Arizona, Center Leaders spent a day focusing on refining its mission and priorities for the next 6 months and then enjoyed a tour of Singh Farms to see how they are working with the city on its new compositing program. 

The Leadership Group spent time simplifying its purpose and developed an elevator speech to help explain what the Center does for APWA and its members.  


The APWA Center for Sustainability promotes and supports APWA members continuing efforts to advance efficiency in their operations, services, projects and usage of resources that consider the economic, environmental and social contributions to livable communities.


This statement reflects the elements of public works management and highlights the importance of balancing the elements of the triple bottom line in creating sustainable communities.  To achieve the goal of promoting and supporting APWA’s members, Center Leaders identified three priorities to focus on over the next several months:  (1) Focus on marketing and outreach to raise awareness of sustainability in public works and of the tools and resources the Center has created or identified to help APWA members achieve sustainability; (2)  Continue to promote and support the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the EnvisionTM sustainable infrastructure rating system; (3) and Institutionalize sustainability principles and practices throughout APWA’s operations, programs and services.   


Center Leaders Enjoy Dinner After a Long Day of Work


Over the next several months, Center Leaders will be working on several projects to fulfill these priorities.   We are already working hard to integrate the elements of the Sustainabilit in Public Works conference into the 2014 Congress in Toronto, Ontario this August.  There will be numerous sustainability related education sessions offered in Toronto and there will be a session highlighting several presentations on how to use the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.  In addition, Center Leaders are planning on hosting a roundtable discussion on sustainability in public works.  Center Leaders are also hard at work preparing several education sessions as well.   In addition, the Center also continues to solicit case studies highlighting sustainability in public works.  The Center would like to highlight sustainable public works infrastructure projects, programs and local initiatives so that we can build a collection of useful resources for your peers.  We have created a template for you to follow – http://www.apwa.net/DR/index.asp?ID=1726.  We will accept case studies on a continuing basis throughout the year.  Case studies should be sent to Julia Anastasio at janastasio@apwa.net.

In addition to spending a day working on the Center’s agenda for the next several months, Center Leaders had the opportunity to visit Singh Farms, an organic farm near Scottsdale, AZ.  Singh Farms was highlighted in the Stewards of Sustainability DVD that the Center for Sustainability produced in 2012. 


Singh Farm Vegetables


Mr. Singh took an abandoned piece of property and created an oasis in the desert where he grows organic produce, produces compost and fish fertilizer and holds a weekly famers market.  Mr. Singh has created a unique garden, designed for the Arizona desert environment.  He has planted a mix of trees that creates a micro-climate and increases humidity to protect his plants.  The gardens are planted in the spaces in between the trees where the plants are able to grow all year.  For his compositing activities, Mr. Singh has spent years researching and learning about the science of compositing and loves to share his knowledge about how to turn poor soil into rich productive soil.   Mr. Singh has been sharing his compositing knowledge and expertise with the City of Tempe’s new composting program.  Mr. Singh has advised city staff and remains in contact with them as they work to refine the city’s compost.  The City uses the compost at their facilities and parks and offers the compost to citizens in the community once or twice a year. 


Mr. Singh talking compost and soil science


All in all, Center Leaders had a very productive meeting in Tempe and are focused on identifying and providing the best tools and resources available to assist APWA members in creating livable communities.  


Envision Logo


The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) just announced the third project to receive an EnvisionTM award for innovative sustainable design.  The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park in Los Angeles, CA earned a Platinum Award from ISI for the integrated engineering solution that captured and improved local urban runoff and created a new neighborhood park that will help to revitalize the area.  The project is located in a historically underserved area of the city and is the result of Proposition O, a program supported by a series of general obligation bonds.  The projects are being implemented to protect public health by removing pollution from the City’s waterways, beaches and the ocean in order to meet its Clean Water Act requirements. 


The features of the project that helped the project score highly for sustainability within the Envision framework included remediation of the former Brownfield site, creation of new urban green space, and the design of the park to use urban runoff as a treatment-wetland sustaining resource. The South L.A. Wetlands project ranked very highly in many Envision credit areas including:


Quality of Life: The project enhanced public space and restored site accessibility.  Being surrounded by homes and schools, the site made an ideal locale for an urban park with restored natural features and green space.  The site was previously inaccessible to the public and surrounded by an eight foot high chain link fence. The project team developed informative way-finding signage located near the entrance of the park, and addressed safety and accessibility in and around the park by providing multiple access and egress points, as well as installing security cameras at the site.


Leadership:   The project improved infrastructure integration of the regional storm drain network using water from the storm drain network to sustain the wetland, using a series of stormwater best management practices to enhance the quality of runoff, treating urban runoff from a 525-acre contributing watershed, and adding beneficial park space in the community.

Resource Allocation: The project reduced energy use by installing solar lighting, which reduced energy consumption by 77%.  An extensive initial commissioning of the pump stations was conducted to ensure the SCADA system controlling the wetland's low flow and high flow pump systems operated efficiently.


Natural World: The project transformed the previous Brownfield facility into an urban park with amenities including trails, boardwalks, observation decks, picnic areas, and a natural rock garden seating area. A wetland with riparian and emergent marsh habitat was created at the center of a densely-populated urban community, and the land use designation of the site was changed from Light Industrial to Open Space in order to ensure the continued use of the site as a wetlands park.  The project incorporates native California plant species, requiring no pesticides or fertilizer. These open water, emergent marsh, riparian and upland plants contribute to wetland habitat restoration and help restore species biodiversity.


Climate and Risk: The project was designed to be resilient and adaptive to the consequences of long-term climate change scenarios, such as extreme flood or drought. Flexible operation features were built in so that the wetlands may be operated differently. Substantial efforts were made to address the effects of potential long-term climate change by constructing a wetlands environment with riparian habitat at the center of a densely populated urban community.


Loveland, Co RecycleBank Truck


The City of Loveland partnered with Recyclebank in July to not only increase residential recycling in Loveland, but also to give our customers more of an incentive to recycle, by offering them both local and national rewards, and also increase foot traffic through our local rewards partners.  The City not only took the "traditional" Recyclebank approach, by adding local partners, but we worked with local rewards partners and created the "Premier Partners" campaign to give our customers an even bigger bang for their Recyclebank buck, by offering free advertising to our local partners if they increased the overall reward that a recycling customer could earn.


Although the City of Loveland boasts a very respectable 61% diversion rate for all waste materials collected, that number has been static for a few years now and the City was ready to begin looking at how to get to the next level (62% and beyond).  One of the main issues the city has had in years past is the lack of education we are able to provide our citizenry.  The city does not employ any sustainability personnel and all outreach provided on sustainability/recycling/diversion is done through the Solid Waste Division.  Recyclebank was a perfect fit, by not only offering a robust rewards catalog, but by also offering their marketing expertise in place of a full-time staff member.


Although Recyclebank has been around for some time and is in over 300 communities nationwide, there is no other program quite like that in which the City of Loveland has partnered with Recyclebank to create.  Recyclebank’s program is well known and well run, but the City of Loveland wanted to involve their local, “homegrown” businesses more, and when the program began, they simply didn’t feel that there was enough local representation, but instead, saw a larger contingency of large, well known national brands and franchises.


With that, the City of Loveland, with the help of Recyclebank, came up with the “Recyclebank Premier Partners” program.  What this program is, is exactly what the name implies – premier.  Generally, Recyclebank Local Rewards partners offering a “reward” through the standard program, offer rewards that range from 5 to 15% off a meal, item, or service of some sort.  The Premier Partners program offers rewards that usually range from 25% off on a service (i.e. automotive repair), and can go as high as 50+% off for food and beverage items at participating local establishments.  Those who participate at a higher level of “reward” get greater advertising, all provided by the City of Loveland, GRATIS!  The advertising package includes large (4’x6’) banners on the sides of our waste collection trucks, rack cards with information regarding the company and the Recyclebank program, postings on the City’s Facebook page and homepage, information in our Library, and more.  Not only does this help with our recycling efforts, but it also gives our local retail and restaurant owners greater visibility with the increased advertising and the increased foot traffic into their establishments.


So far, the program has been a hit.  We have a very good participation rate from our citizenry, redeeming rewards at many local establishments, and the businesses are seeing more and more people utilizing their rewards.  Although the program has only been going for a few months, the businesses are reporting positive results.  Some of the “rewards” have been too good; we have had requests to change the reward offering.


[Post provided by guest blogger Tyler Bandemer, Loveland, CO Public Works]

Loveland, CP RecycleBank Truck



[This post is an update to Nov. 4, 2013 post "Do you have a story to tell?"]

The Center for Sustainability has received several informative and interesting case studies from across the country that demonstrates the benefits of incorporating sustainability into public works operations.  We are still collecting case studies and posting them on the Center for Sustainability’s webpages.  Consider sharing your sustainability story with your APWA colleagues today. 



Charlotte Old City Hall Renovation Case Study

The City of Charlotte’s Old City Hall, built in 1925, was energy‐inefficient and a challenge to maintain comfortable working conditions prior to extensive energy renovations. The work, funded by an Energy Efficiency & Conversation Block Grant, decreased building energy consumption by 43%, made the facility much more pleasant to work in, easier to control for maintenance staff and garnered EPA ENERGY STAR designation. Replacement of the control systems, major HVAC renovations, and interior lighting retrofits maximized energy savings and staff efficiencies. These renovations were carefully implemented while preserving the historical integrity of a facility listed in the Historic Landmarks Commission.


Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Steele Creek Division Station

The new Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Steele Creek Division Station opened in September, 2012. The 12,500 square foot facility, housing more than 100 personnel, was designed and constructed under the City of Charlotte’s Policy for Sustainable City Facilities, ensuring sustainable design features. These included insulated concrete foam walls, closed‐loop geothermal heating and cooling system, water‐efficient fixtures, landscaping not requiring irrigation, day lighting technologies, white roof and preliminary set‐up for building integrated photovoltaic. Green space exceeded requirements by 25%, with 53% of construction waste diverted from landfills. CMPD Steele Creek Division earned LEED Gold, with energy use 39% below baseline.


Pavement Sustainability Case Study – City of Arlington, Texas

The Public Works & Transportation Department for the City of Arlington, Texas published a case study that analyzes the changes they made to their maintenance plan for streets and roads in the city. The department’s goal was to revise their current plan to address the rising number of streets and roads that did not meet minimum overall condition index or OCI.


City of Gainesville Credit Basin Project 

The City of Gainesville’s Credit Basin Program is designed to recuperate capital costs associated with the purchase of land for master stormwater facilities. The City of Gainesville, in collaboration with the St. Johns River Water Management District, initiated the credit basin program in 2002. The program was created to facilitate redevelopment of properties within the City’s urban core, where land area is at a premium and thus on-site water quality treatment was an impediment to redevelopment. 


Urban Drainage and Flood Control District: Sustainability on a Large Scale – Denver Metropolitan Area 

In 1965, the Denver metropolitan area was hit with a devastating flood on the South Platte River. Following the flood, an organization of county engineers began meeting to find ways to address drainage problems that crossed jurisdictional boundaries. In 1969, the Colorado General Assembly passed the Urban Drainage and Flood Control Act. The legislation established the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District for the purpose of assisting local governments in the Denver metropolitan area with multi-jurisdictional drainage and flood control problems. The District operates four programs: Master Planning; Floodplain Management; Design, Construction and Maintenance; and Information Services and Flood Warning. The District Board made a commitment to develop a comprehensive floodplain management program to prevent new problems from being created by new development, while “fixing” existing problems. Since 1969 the population of the District has tripled, and yet there are 5000 fewer structures in mapped 100-year floodplains.

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