Description:

AET Group Inc. (AET) is an environmental consulting, auditing and scientific services firm founded in 1998. Their head office in Kitchener is in a 135-year-old former farmhouse. They have remodeled it to rival some of the leading buildings built today in terms of its energy and water efficiency. LED lighting, and a planned addition of a ‘living wall’ to improve indoor air quality are among the many features that are or will soon be integrated into the building. As part of their work, AET is often asked to provide stormwater impact monitoring and water quality assessments. With this project, AET has taken the plunge to address stormwater problems on their own property.

Challenge:

The former farmhouse is now surrounded by development on all sides. The property has been paved over as a parking lot for their employees. Any rain that falls on the property flows over hard surfaces into the storm sewer carrying with it any oil and grit from the parking lot. Large storm events have caused flooding and water damage in the basement with the potential to form mould. AET Group wanted to improve the quality of the water and reduce the overall volume flowing from their property without sacrificing any parking spaces.

Project Details:4,200 Litres capacity

  • Location: 531 Wellington Street North, Kitchener
  • Maximum Capacity: 4,200L
  • Estimated Diversion Per Year: 205,000 L
  • Awards and Certifications
    • Environment & Sustainability Award,  Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards (2009, 2012)
    • Green Team of the Year – Regional Carbon Initiative: Sustainable Waterloo Region (2014)

 

 

 

Solution:

A RAIN Business Visit evaluated the water issues and came up with some recommendations to address the problems and maximize stormwater credits for the site. AET consulted RAIN’s Service Provider List to find a landscaping professional and hired Thompson Environmental Planning & Design Ltd. for the technical design and project installation.

70% of the stormwater on AET’s property will be captured in their new system, which includes a:

  1. A 500L stone forebay which filters debris
  2. A 1m x 12m planter box bioswale designed to catch, soak up, and treat 1,300L of stormwater flowing from their rooftop and parking lot. Only a small amount of asphalt had to be removed to install the bioswale and rain garden, and no parking spaces will be lost.  The property is now eligible for stormwater credits from the City of Kitchener.
  3. Overflows into a 2,400L rain garden captures excess water and allows it to infiltrate and recharge groundwater before it can flow into the storm sewer.

diagram of stormwater features on AET Group property

 

RAIN Partners & Funders

City of Cambridge logo

 

Huron Natural Area is a 107-hectare site that is home to one of Kitchener’s few coldwater streams and some sensitive wetlands. People in the community gather to hike the extensive trail system, photograph wildlife and relax in the woods. Children learn to connect with nature through interpretive programming and play in the natural playscape.

Because of Huron Natural Area’s popularity, there was a demand for more parking. The problem with adding hard surfaces such as parking lots is that they can disrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain from soaking into the ground. Matt Wilson, Design and Construction Project Manager at the City of Kitchener’s Stormwater Utility, saw the problem as an opportunity to test some innovative technology. Matt proposed constructing the parking lot with permeable pavement in order to prevent negative impacts to the natural area and wetlands.

Permeable pavers are specially designed to allow rain and melted snow to pass through the gaps between the pavers (bricks). But the real key is in the stone reservoir underneath the pavers. Water is temporarily stored in the reservoir before slowly percolating into the ground. Naturally occurring micro-organisms in the reservoir help to break down hydrocarbons and other pollutants coming from vehicles. When looking to diversify your garage’s capabilities, you can never go wrong the flexibility of 2 post car lifts. Rainwater absorbed from the permeable parking lot then travels underground through the soil further filtering and cleaning the rainwater so that only clean water is released back to the wetlands and streams in the park.

Helped with a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Matt and his colleagues at the city will be monitoring the site for water quantity and quality to determine its effectiveness and evaluate whether permeable pavers are a feasible solution for other municipal projects.

permeable pavement diagram at Huron Natural Area

2015 Homeowner Impact Award Winner

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Most people know that buying an old house doesn’t come without future renovation cost. While some costs are not initially evident, a greater concern is how much those improvements will increase the efficiency of the home. This is the question that Jeff and Daria Casello were hoping to have answered for their recent purchase of a 1895 year old home in the Waterloo Region. The answer has them nominated for an award at this year’s Celebrating Community Action: Building Resilience event.

Unlike recent mass housing development, which seems to mirror replicas of each home built, more homeowners like Jeff and his wife are finding value in older homes. Historic homes provide a glimpse into the past and have “tremendous character” says Jeff. They are constructed using quality materials, not available today, and are built to last. Yet at the same time, the energy performance of older homes does not live up to the energy standards of today.

Jeff and Daria were well aware that their home was not “particularly energy efficient”. Dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint, the home owners “were eager to improve the performance of [their] home in as many ways as possible”. They called REEP Green Solutions to perform an EnerGuide Home Evaluation for their home.

Since purchasing their home, they knew that their furnace, which dated back to the early 20th century, would need to be a priority if they were to reduce their carbon footprint significantly. After becoming aware of the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate, the Casellos jumped at the chance to cut down on some of the renovation costs by participating in the Home Energy Evaluation program. With the help of REEP’s Certified Energy Advisor, the Casellos learned that their home improvements would result in the efficiency they were hoping for.

After receiving their evaluation report, the Casellos modernized their home, renovating their kitchen and family room by switching to storm windows and adding new insulation. Storm windows are a great option for preserving the architectural history of the home and maintaining the high-quality wooden frames. The home owners also gutted both of their washrooms, adding high R-value insulation and vapor barriers to reduce moisture build-up. To compliment these insulated rooms, the owners also installed in-floor electric heating which, when combined with effective insulation, reduces energy consumption. Targeting heat where it is needed will thereby reduce a home’s energy needs and increase the comfort levels of the washrooms.

New high efficiency boilerJeff and his wife upgraded to a combined gas boiler and hot water unit running at 95% efficiency levels. The Home Energy Evaluation also helped them identify a cold draft that continues to draw “the heat from the living areas to the attic”. They are considering using spray foam insulation where the joists of the basement ceiling hit the exterior wall to reduce thermal waste. Furthermore, they hope to refurbish their existing wooden windows by replacing the glass and adding quality storm windows.

One year after their renovations were completed, Jeff and his wife decreased their gas consumption by 20%. Their energy costs have decreased thanks to their lower gas consumption, and they now have fewer drafts and “less noise associated with heating”. They received a “substantial energy efficiency refund through the Union Gas program”, and have full confidence that the new boiler system “will last”.

2015 Residential Stormwater Award Winner (Waterloo)

Here’s the story of one of the 2015 Celebrating Community Action award recipients. Learn about all nine recipients.

Catherine Fife, Ken and Elizabeth McLaughlin worked together to de-pave their adjoining driveways and replace them with permeable paving strips. The downspouts of both homes have been directed underground to stone below the driveway that stores and soaks water into the ground. With this project, they hope to reduce the volume and improve the quality of stormwater that flows from their property, ensure some groundwater recharge, and improve their homes’ curb appeal. During the Grand Porch Party last summer, Catherine noticed that her driveway was of interest to a lot of people. “It was a conversation starter,” she says. “It was a way to bring together people that had similar values.”

The project cost Catherine and her neighbours $3200 to install the driveway. As demand for green infrastructure increases, prices should come down and people won’t need to compromise on their sustainability values when hiring a contractor. As a bonus, it stimulates the local economy. “It’s important that more people act on environmental beliefs. We can create green jobs in this way,” says Catherine.

Catherine has a long history of modelling her values. She and her husband knew that their 117 year old house was energy inefficient, so they had REEP complete an EnerGuide for Homes Evaluation. Afterwards they installed LED lighting, high efficiency heating, and were more conscious of their energy use. Their heating and electricity costs were reduced and they enjoyed a noticeable improvement in comfort. “Putting a plan in place, prioritizing projects – it’s the hardest thing to do,” says Catherine. “REEP has the expertise needed to help homeowners make the first step, and homeowners need this expertise.”

Goal: Oliver Popovic is a builder who specializes in eco-friendly homes. He custom built a family home in 2009 to accommodate three Popovic families. His spouse Andrea’s only request for their new home was “a place where she could grow fresh food.”

“It’s all part of conserving resources. We have a huge roof. Why not use it to our advantage?” Oliver Popovic

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Popovic Cistern Construction

Solution: Andrea has put her green thumb to good use in the 400 m2 organic garden. Watering the garden is convenient thanks to a 66,000L below ground cistern which was built underneath their back patio. The 6 foot deep concrete cistern captures rain water from all but a small section of the 680 m2 roof.
Other benefits: With their cistern, the Popovics are receiving the full 45% stormwater credit available from the City of Kitchener. Rain water from the cistern is also plumbed into the house for laundry use and flushing their toilets, saving the Popovics a significant amount on their utility bills. Any overflow from the cistern is directed to a weeping tile which gradually releases to the neighbourhood dry pond. By slowing the flow of rain during heavy storms the Popovics are helping to prevent flooding in downstream neighbourhoods, and erosion to our streams and rivers.
Challenge: Juanita and Trent are avid gardeners and own four rain barrels that harvest rain to water their plants. Unfortunately, water flowing from their downspouts and overflow from their barrels was eroding the soil and compromising their neighbour’s retaining wall.

Solution: After participating in a RAIN Home Visit, Juanita and Trent decided upon a plan to run excess overflow from their downspouts and rain barrels into an infiltration gallery (also known as a soakaway pit). Using the soil they dug up from the excavation, they built a berm to direct water away from their neighbour’s retaining wall and into the gallery where it could slowly infiltrate into the ground without causing erosion or flowing into the storm sewer.

They planted pollinator-friendly species around their yard. The plants’ root systems will help absorb and infiltrate water flowing from their rooftop as well as improve the soil stability around the retaining wall.

Trent installs infiltration gallery box

 Rock lined channels convey overflowBlooming Strawberry

Names: Juanita and Trent; Location: Kitchener, Ontario; Credit Eligibility: 880L Rain Barrels (4 x 220L) + 120L Infiltration Gallery = 1000L = 30% credit

“We have rain barrels because we don’t want to use municipal water. It doesn’t make sense that we use treated water for the garden when we can harvest the rain. The cost of water isn’t much because we’re spoiled with cheap water, but it’s the principle of it.” Juanita and Trent

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Challenge: Jackie and James’ house is located at a low point and all the water from the houses on higher ground behind them drains onto their property. One spring day, when there was still snow on the ground, they were doing laundry while it was raining heavily. Soon after, the sump pump overflowed and about 6 inches of water  covered the basement.
Solution: First, they had a RAIN Home Visit to review their options. During REEP’s RAIN Barrel Blitz they bought and installed two rain barrels. They planted a new garden and moved a lilac bush to the hill to soak up the water flowing down from other homes. They re-graded the garden that sits right up against their house to direct water away from the foundation.
Future Plans: They will be installing two more rain barrels on the other side of the house; extending the weeping tile to soak up more water and directing it away from the house; modifying the gardens into larger rain gardens; and creating an infiltration gallery using stone where water usually pools. They will also be re-doing all of the eavestroughs because they are cracked and leaking.

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“The water pressure I get is the same as I would get from any hose – I can shoot it 50 feet! Yes, the pump uses electricity, but the amount is minuscule and we don’t notice a difference on our electricity bill, but we sure do notice a difference on our water bill!” Kevin

Kevin’s problem was both practical and logistical – an outdoor tap placed on an inconvenient side of the house was causing him problems. Dragging a hose across his lawn meant that his kids’ bikes were constantly running over it, causing cracking and safety concerns. He already had rain barrels, but found it difficult to continually empty them which resulted in overflows and soggy grass.

When Kevin found a used cistern for $50 he knew he could solve his problems. He used the following stormwater solutions:

  • 900L Cistern
  • Wooden support platform
  • Electric pump to the cistern (purchased at a local hardware store)

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“We created a system that embodies the idea of using the rainwater we’re given for free. It gives us better drainage and it’s good for both the plants and the earth.”  Nicole and Henry

Nicole and Henry Rasmussen installed a series of rain water collection systems on their property. One is located at the front of their home to water the garden. Another is connected to a diverter that directs rain water underground  in case of overflow. Two more downspouts in the the backyard feed into two 1,000L cisterns, elevated on concrete blocks to increase the water pressure. Rain barrels connected to the cisterns have an electric pump that is used to help with irrigating their extensive gardens. Any excess overflow from the cisterns flows into a 3m x 8m rain garden where it can soak into the ground naturally.

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Challenge: Pete and Susan were having drainage problems around their house because it is on a slope and in a low lying area. Whenever it rained, a stream of water would run around the house next to the foundation, pool in the backyard, and seep into the basement. They knew something had to be done.
Solution: Their neighbourhood association had a presentation by RAIN in the spring. When Pete and Susan chatted with their association’s president she suggested they consider installing a rain garden to solve their water problems. After doing some more research they went to Kolb Green Thumb Nursery.


“The people at Kolb Green Thumb were great! They designed the garden for us for free because we were buying plants at their nursery and suggested a rain garden to hold the water. We did the installation ourselves. It was a month and a half of trial and error, but it was worth it – we love it now! Our backyard and basement are now dry. It’s amazing!”  Pete and Susan

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