This article originally appeared in Storm Water Solutions March/April 2020 issue as "Customized Solutions Ramp Up"
Each year during hurricane season, residents and leaders of coastal cities closely watch the news to keep up with the odds of a weather disaster. According to the National Climate Assessment, the intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the regularity of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. And it does not stop there; hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase, experts predict, as the climate continues to fluctuate.
Florida, and the city of Tampa specifically, can experience up to 8 inches of rainfall per month during summer without a hurricane in sight. This amount of rainfall creates flooding for households and businesses alike–disrupting daily life and creating safety concerns.
The civil engineering industry spends a great deal of its time mapping out solutions that can arm residents of coastal cities with solutions that impede this weather. It is important for the public to generally understand how these construction projects for storm water solutions can help mitigate issues in their communities.
It is because of these reasons and many more that customized solutions are currently leading the civil engineering industry. The basis of these solutions consists of a variety of catch basins and curb/throat inlets, box culverts, precast filtration structures, dual vortex separators, area drains, reinforced concrete pipes and many more. The goal of these concrete structures is to manage rainfall and surface runoff involving streets, grassed areas, rain gardens and more, while stimulating a lesser need for natural evaporation. Understanding that each scenario is unique, these management tools are mixed and matched to handle the task at hand. At the heart of each project is public safety; understanding that flooding is a top danger to humanity, these infrastructure products provide engineers with the basis of every solution.
Let us start with the basics. First and foremost, city engineers identify the problem with key facts and figures. Next, they hire an engineering firm to imagine these solutions: what they look like, what they will do, how they will do it, where they will go and how this framework will be installed. Following, and the most important part, is when the civil engineers layout the size and makeup of each individual drainage system with their related underground structure drawings to each water management portion of an individual project. This process can be tedious as often there are dozens of structures in a single project, leading to the need for a manufacturer’s submittal drawings. These submittals are used as the map for creating each piece of this puzzle. They are then attentively reviewed by the city and engineering firm to be sure no additional changes need to be made before going into production by the precast manufacturer.
Once the submittal drawings sketches are finalized, structures are created over the course of several months and stored in climate-controlled areas for optimal curing of the product.
What the public does not see is how careful and calculated each step is prior to the construction itself. From the outside, construction is often viewed as a pain; slow traffic and detours with a wrench on local foot traffic. Contrarily, construction is the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel. Communicating the backstory to citizens of the affected area, outside of city council gatherings, is a critical step. Positioning this inconvenience as a step in the right direction for the greater safety of the citizens can go a long way when road closures begin.
Looking at Tampa, for years residents have been asking themselves if this is the year a storm damages the city. Announced in December of 2018, a project two-and-a-half years in the making broke ground near the heart of downtown Tampa, named the Cypress Street Outfall project. Custom infrastructure solutions make up this entire project, from sanitary manholes to box culverts to a wide variety of drainage structures. Oldcastle Infrastructure is premiering new structures to the city landscape that are being installed as we speak; with the goal to promote safety, efficiency and quality in a city that reached out for an infrastructure intervention.
I stand firm in my belief that concrete structures are the future of storm water management. My desire is that people will see these structures as a tool that provides framework to our lives. As we embark on a new decade, I look forward to seeing how custom concrete storm water solutions quite literally shape our lives for the better.