Alexis and the RAIN Smart House: Chapter 4

This post is the fourth in a series about how Alexis is working towards a RAIN Smart Home.

by Daniel Jordan, RAIN Program Volunteer

As the winner of the RAIN Smart Front Yard Makeover contest Alexis Motuz receives $10,000 to spend on a Front Yard Makeover that will both enhance her property and reduce the amount of stormwater running off her property and directly into the storm sewer.

The prize included a consultation by our RAIN Coach to assess her home and provide some ideas of how best to manage water on her property. The Coach then turned those ideas into an appealing design for Alexis’ outdoor space.

Rebecca Robinson – RAIN Coach

Alexis and her family already use their yard heavily and she had some great ideas for how it could be improved. Having two young kids, she wanted to maintain some open space for play. She also wanted to have raised beds for growing vegetables.

Alexis and I sat down and in a very short time, we were able to take these priorities and build them into something that will increase the environmental sustainability of the space and enhance its functionality for her and her family.

Alexis

landscape design featuresWorking with a designer was a lot of fun. I had already sketched out some ideas, but the designer was able to take those ideas and really make the most of the space that I have. I wanted to keep an open space for my kids to play, but I also wanted to keep the vegetable garden and direct water into it.

Rebecca helped me come up with a design for the yard that maximizes play space while allowing me to keep my vegetable garden and reduce the amount of time I spend watering.

I really look forward to seeing how my family uses the space differently when it is finished, and I am excited that the design is both environmentally sustainable and has elements that can leverage the skills of artists and businesses in the neighbourhood.

In the end, Rebecca and I decided on a kid-friendly strawberry patch and allium garden at the front of the yard—something Dr. Seuss-ish. This will be planted overtop of storm water crates (B) that will redirect a significant amount of water from the roof that is currently running onto the driveway and street into the storm sewer.

In the back of the yard, we decided to use a cistern to collect water from the roof (D). We will then hook it up to weeping hoses and use this for irrigating the vegetable garden boxes. Although it may seem like a small gain to some, I am so excited not to have to water every evening and to move away from using municipal water.

We also decided to move the apple tree into the side yard because it is not flourishing out front, and we are going to install a second large rain barrel on the other side of the house (C) so that I can collect water to use for the front garden and raspberry boxes.

There were some design challenges that required me to keep an open mind. When the design first suggested moving the garden boxes in front of the deck so that we could do the passive irrigation (4), I thought this would look strange. I took some time to think about it more, though, and as I walked my yard, the idea grew on me. It is a something I would never have thought of myself, but I’m excited to see how it turns out.

Before meeting with Rebecca, I had thought about redoing the driveway in permeable pavers. While these are very effective at soaking up rainwater and they look fantastic, they are pricey and I wouldn’t have been able to develop my yard into the garden/play space that will be of much more benefit in the long term.

Finally, I had originally thought a rain garden might work on my property but between keeping an open play space, moving the apple tree, and the proximity to my foundations, it seemed the stormwater crates would be a better solution. So there was a lot to learn through this process and I had to keep an open mind. It’s been a wonderfully collaborative process with lots of back and forth, and I am happy to be adopting new design ideas and rain management systems in my yard.

RAIN Smart design solutions used

Here’s a closer look at some of the features included in this RAIN Smart Home.

design diagram of RAIN smart featuresA – Replace rain barrel

B – Infiltration gallery/basin

Alexis is also going to use an underground infiltration gallery to allow more water to soak down into the soil. Traditionally, infiltration galleries are made by digging a hole and filling it with rock or sand. Or as used at Alexis’ home, specially designed crates are placed into a hole and covered. It is recommended that infiltration galleries be professionally installed.

C – Added rain barrel

D – Cistern

Alexis has decided to use a cistern to capture the rain from her roof and use it as a resource for her vegetable garden. A cistern is essentially a larger version of a rain barrel. It is usually made of a heavy-duty plastic or concrete. Cisterns are sometimes buried underground, but in Alexis case, the cistern is kept above ground and raised slightly, which allows her to use gravity to passively water the plants in her garden. Cisterns can vary widely in size from between approximately 350-5200 litres of water.

Native plants

Although Alexis had hoped to plant a rain garden, she ultimately went with the infiltration gallery to maximize usable play space for her kids.  As an alternative, she intends to use native plants above the infiltration gallery and in the garden beds surrounding her yard. Native plants are being used because they are well suited to the local soil and sunlight conditions.

To learn about other RAIN Smart techniques, you are invited to visit the Reep  House for Sustainable Living at 20 Mill Street, Kitchener to see these techniques in action. We also invite you to sign up for our newsletter and learn more at one of our upcoming events.

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