Back in the middle of the summer we took over a job that was in the middle of the review process. iRoy Sport and Fitness is a gym located in East Norriton Township owned by Yori Adegunwa. Taking over a job from another engineer is always a challenge, and on top of that, the new site for iRoy has provided us with some interesting engineering challenges.
The proposed gym will be located along Germantown Pike in Lower Providence Township. Existing conditions at the proposed site include a rundown bridal shop, a few deteriorating buildings, a ton of overgrown vegetation, and some dying trees. It’s quite an eye sore.
The new location is a little over 4 acres and has a grade change of about 32 feet across the site. Finished floor elevations, retaining wall heights, stormwater drainage patterns, and driveway slopes, are all factors that we need to consider during the design phase to balance cuts and fills. Two retaining walls and a steep hill in the front of the building had to be incorporated into the design to make the layout work.
Shallow weathered rock and bedrock were encountered throughout the site during geotechnical investigations. Infiltration was almost nonexistent during testing. How are you supposed to satisfy Township and County Conservation District infiltration requirements if your soils won’t let you? Thanks to the newly released managed release concept (MRC) (https://www.dlhowell.com/blog/pa-dep-releases-guidance-for-managed-release-concept/) you can now achieve the requirement without actually infiltrating. This may seem like an easy fix, but you will most likely need a waiver from the Township to do this and need to do extensive infiltration testing to prove there are no other options.
For this project, we had to design an MRC system, which is more complicated than it might seem. Although there is no “infiltration volume,” there is a volume that needs to pass through water quality features and a volume that needs to pass through the small “slow-release” orifice. Discharge rates must be below a certain value, but you also need to make sure the system will fully dewater within a certain time period. It’s a balancing act to make sure the discharge rate is slow enough, but also fast enough.
Despite some struggling with the new MRC design and the large grade change across the site, the iRoy Sport and Fitness job has been an interesting project to work on. We here at DL Howell are always ready to take on a challenge!
Some of the D.L. Howell team recently visited a few Coatesville middle schools to present to students in the Chester County Futures’ (CCF) “Futures AHEAD” program. Futures AHEAD is CCF’s middle school program that provides assistance and enrichment to students coming from low-income homes. We had the opportunity to show the students a little about what we do. We presented to them about our careers in civil engineering in a way they could understand and tried to relate our work to topics they are learning in school now. The kids had the opportunity to see a drone, and one of our drone experts, Dave Gibbons, gave a brief presentation of how they work and what we use them for in our line of work. Unfortunately, we were too close to the Chester County G.O. Carlson Airport and the invisible fence prevented us from doing a flight demonstration, but the kids still enjoyed seeing a drone up close! After the presentations, we had a little friendly competition with the students. The goal was to build the tallest tower that could hold the weight of one marshmallow using only uncooked spaghetti, string, and tape. It’s surprisingly more complicated than you might think! We had a good time teaching the kids about engineering and building our spaghetti towers with them. But more importantly, the students learned about our careers and how what they are doing in school now can help them become an engineer.
Chester County Futures is a great program that provides support to low-income middle and high school students, helps prepare students for college, and offers scholarships for post-secondary school. The program was founded in 1996 and has since helped over 850 students. You can learn more about the organization at ccfutures.org.
I’ve been working at D.L. Howell for a little over six months now. I came from a firm where most of the projects I worked on were in Philadelphia, where I only had one set of ordinances I had to look through when designing land development projects. Since I have been here, I have worked on projects in Chester County, Berks County, Delaware County, Bucks County, and even New Castle County, DE. So many municipalities, so many ordinances, so many different rules! It was quite a shock when I started working outside the city, but I have gotten the hang of it.
I’ve recently been working on projects for The Westover Companies. They own several older apartment complexes and have been performing upgrades to them such as increasing parking and constructing rental offices and fitness centers for each complex. Most of the rental offices/fitness centers are under 2,000 square feet. For most of the projects, the footprints of the building are very similar, if not identical. Typically, the disturbance for these projects is less than 10,000 square feet. No matter how similar these projects are to each other, every municipality and county will see it differently. In one township, they required a waiver of land development submission, in another, they just required a grading permit, and in others, we had to submit a full land development submission. I have designed infiltration systems for a few of these projects, while others just required peak flow rate control. Some counties require submission to the conservation district, and others don’t. Every new project is a surprise.
One of the projects I’m working on for The Westover Companies, Newport Village Apartments, is a proposed rental office and fitness center with a small sidewalk and stormwater facility. The design was relatively simple, and we are even removing existing impervious as part of the project, something townships are always happy to see. But it turns out; we need a variance for an indoor recreation area. This adds another level of applications, meetings, and plan sets to go through.
What might seem like a simple project, dropping in a 2,000 square foot building, can get pretty complex depending on the municipality and county. Here at D.L. Howell we try to make things simpler by reading the ordinances, identifying potential issues, and talking through the project with the township/county officials. Although working on these projects can get complicated, it certainly never gets boring!
The city of Philadelphia is over 300 years old. As old as it is, there is undoubtedly very old infrastructure including combined sewers. A combined sewer is a sewer that takes in both stormwater and sanitary (wastewater) flow. Three-quarters of the city is connected to a combined sewer. It may have been an easy solution at the time, but as more development occurs, it becomes harder to manage the sewers. When there is no rain or snow, the sewer systems and treatment plants can handle the wastewater inflow. But when heavy rainfall occurs, the system sometimes overflows, and the city deals with this by having the networks of pipes overflow into a nearby river (Delaware River, Schuylkill River, Cobbs Creek, etc.). This means during heavy rainstorms there is a mixture of stormwater and wastewater going straight into the rivers! Overflows into the rivers increase erosion and negatively impact a river’s health (plants and critters). This is where stormwater management comes in. The City of Philadelphia has been working hard to manage their stormwater runoff better to prevent these systems overflows from occurring. Strict stormwater guidelines are in place for private developments, and in 2011 the city implemented their Green City Clean Waters program. They plan to invest $2.4 billion over 25 years in public stormwater infrastructure. They have been reconstructing public areas throughout the city using green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). These GSI components include things like rain gardens, stormwater tree trenches, and porous pavement. So far over 1,100 stormwater tools have been installed; hopefully, they can keep up this trend and meet their goal of reducing stormwater runoff by 85%.
P.S. If you own property within the City of Philadelphia and are managing stormwater on it, you might be eligible for the Stormwater Credits Program! Visit http://water.phila.gov/swexp/ for more information.