Stormwater Management Aesthetics: Function and Form as Part of Campus Charm

Regardless of the typical terrain, location or weather in any given area, stormwater management remains a quintessential part of any site design. Without appropriate drainage systems installed, lawns, sidewalks and roads can quickly become flooded in heavy rainfall. Howard Community College (HCC) in Columbia, Maryland, was expanding and contracted KCI Technologies to design and implement new stormwater management facilities around the growing campus.

HCC Science Engineering & Technology Building
With the new Science Engineering & Technology building constructed to be architecturally complex, Howard Community College wanted to develop an attractive stormwater management system that would be complementary.

With more than 20 years supporting the college, KCI has provided services on a multitude of renovations and utility upgrades, including the two newest facilities on campus. The state-of-the-art Health Sciences building was completed in 2011, with construction for the neighboring Science Engineering & Technology building ending in 2017. Both were designed to be visually appealing and attempt to rival four-year institutions in terms of style and architecture. HCC was looking for an innovative solution to maintain the surrounding aesthetics in the new drainage design.

HCC Stormwater Facility
With the blended elements and statuesque nature of this drain, students and visitors passing by may not even recognize the utilitarian function of the facility.

To blend the system in with the area, KCI worked hand-in-hand with architects to develop unique attributes for each drain point. Rather than using typical concrete as the base that leads stormwater into the system, our team designed features that incorporated granite and other stones as visual highlights. A stepping-stone waterfall follows the curvature of the nearby sidewalk and drains into a bioretention facility.

KCI’s long history with Howard Community College has led to innovative solutions being developed throughout the campus grounds. This stormwater management project showcases that even small changes in design can have impactful results.

Nick Barrick, PE, LEED AP BD+CRegional Practice Leader

Nick Barrick, PE, LEED AP BD+C

Extra care was needed due to the locations of the stormwater management installation, as engineers had to ensure that water would not backflow into the nearby buildings or create hazardous walking conditions. Foliage was added to highlight the architecture and add natural beauty.

HCC Bioretention Area
Bioretention areas are also sprinkled around the campus, adding another layer of drainage and beautification.

In addition to providing functionality, the stormwater management design also serves as a tool to teach college students about the creative possibilities in engineering. Classes can visit the facilities and witness creative strategies for retention firsthand as well as realizing how designs can suit each client’s individual needs. The goal of the HCC was to utilize the stormwater to create water features, rather than simply pipe it into a standard treatment and storage facility. The differing designs illustrate the many ways to solve an engineering challenge and serve a need in an artistic way.