Green Infrastructure in the Public Realm: Reimagining Stormwater and the Urban Fabric of Falls Church, Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Impervious surfaces are the greatest contributors to degradation of water quality and large volumes of stormwater runoff. Green infrastructure is the holistic solution to this problem which not only reduces flooding but also actively moves towards achievement of larger environmental goals. Green infrastructure has the co-benefits of reducing the heat island effect, traffic calming, beautifying the neighbourhood, improving the canopy within the city, the creation of parks and even supports economic development. The City of Falls Church is deeply concerned with the pressing matter of flood control due to the threats to human life and property in recent flooding events. The polluted waters of Falls Church also contribute to a highly impaired watershed- the Chesapeake Bay. This thesis recognizes the environmental crisis caused by polluted runoff and places equal emphasis upon reducing runoff as well as improving water quality.

In order to mitigate the effects of inundation, it is most critical to intervene at the source of locations which create the most runoff and pollution. The thesis provides a systematic methodology of identifying such areas and intervening in them. The watershed which contains the downtown area of Falls Church has the greatest amount of impervious surfaces and the highest rate of stormwater runoff. The two intersecting streets of S. Maple Avenue and Annandale Road are identified as the location of intervention after tabulating a confluence of stormwater and public realm factors. S. Maple Avenue is a part of the Falls Church bike network and is also designated to become a civic great street. Meanwhile, Annandale Road has the potential to play an active role in collection and management of stormwater. Annandale Road runs along the watershed boundary as well as crosses several tributaries which are low points in the watershed. Furthermore, there is a dynamic urban character to the street as it transitions from a residential zone to the commercial zone. Both streets present excellent possibilities for road diets, pedestrianization and traffic calming which bolsters the implementation of stormwater management in the public realm.



Green Infrastructure, Infiltration, Public Realm, Watershed