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Charlestown Police Station Site Design Low Impact Development

Client: Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston, Massachusetts

The Challenge

For the design of a new 14,000-SF police station located on a 34,000 SF parcel in the Charlestown neighborhood, the Boston Redevelopment Authority engaged architects, who in turn engaged Chester Engineers to provide site/civil and landscape architectural exterior design services based on low impact design principles, including rainwater harvesting and reuse, to comply with Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) standards for on-site infiltration. The site was located in a shady, windswept location under the Tobin Bridge ramps, and was densely programmed for the building and associated parking. The project was the first to be undertaken by the City under the brand new Green Building ordinance requiring LEED sustainable design standards for all new municipal construction, and the client sought advice and guidance from the design team to adapt to the new program needs.

The Interdisciplinary Approach

In developing the stormwater management plan for the site, an interdisciplinary process was employed such that landscape elements served multiple purposes; collecting and infiltrating all rainwater from a 1-year, 24-hour storm event; screening building and parking areas from nearby residential areas; and providing aesthetically pleasing, low maintenance ornamental planting zones incorporating rain gardens. Instead of typical drywell infiltration, a rainwater harvesting system recycles stormwater for reuse in irrigation and toilet flushing. Stormwater collects in a cistern and is pumped through filtration and UV sterilization to a pressurized surge tank from which users draw water. Rainfall from more severe storms than the 1-year event exits the site via a conveyance system discharging to the public storm drain. The stormwater first passes through a continuous tree trench supporting street tree plantings and a rain garden to achieve an 80 percent removal of suspended sediment. An oil/grit separator treats runoff from the fueling area and the wash bay before discharge to the sanitary sewer system. A number of additional features were also incorporated into the hardscape, including the use of pavers instead of concrete for walkways to promote infiltration and lower maintenance costs by reducing grass and weed growth under the perimeter fence.

The Sustainable Result

The City successfully completed its first green building project on time and on budget, and learned a lot about alternative technologies and materials along the way. Today the Boston Police occupy a modern facility that meets USGBC LEED Silver Design Standards on a formerly underutilized property that is emblematic of the revitalization of the Charlestown neighborhood, which has been accelerating in recent years. The thriving, low maintenance landscaping provides effective stormwater management while enhancing aesthetics in a neglected neighborhood; while the rainwater harvesting system reduces operating costs by recycling water for toilet flushing and irrigation–a win-win for the occupants and the environment.

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    Project Highlights:
  • Stormwater management integrated into landscaping.
  • Rainwater harvesting for recycle and reuse.
  • Application of low impact development approaches in a dense urban environment.
    Services Provided:
  • Developed stormwater management plan site/civil architectural design services landscape design services.