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Houston Matters

Green Infrastructure: How Roof Gardens And Planting Trees Could Reduce Flooding

Green infrastructure describes features in buildings and landscaping that cleanse and capture rainwater onsite where it falls. Houston advocates for green infrastructure join Houston Matters to discuss how it can be used to reduce flooding.

Richard Johnson
A “green roof” at Rice University. Green infrastructure advocates hope to place similar projects around Houston.

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Since Harvey, we've heard plenty about over-development and the role it has played in Houston flooding. There's too much pavement. But we do know that development – and redevelopment – will continue to happen in Greater Houston. It just remains to be seen whether Harvey will not only affect where we develop but also how we develop.

While we wait to see if homes will be rebuilt in certain flood-prone areas, advocates of green infrastructure say it could be utilized in existing and future development in Greater Houston to help reduce the burden on our system of bayous.

But what is green infrastructure? The term describes features in buildings and landscaping that cleanse and capture rainwater onsite where it falls. And then it can either be reused or absorbed back into the soil – instead of running of into the city's systems of bayous (which, of course, can overflow and flood).

Examples of green infrastructure include:

  • Rain cisterns – containers that collect water from gutters
  • Permeable pavement – bricks or asphalt that allow water to seep through
  • Green roofs – putting soil and plants on roofs to capture and absorb rain
  • Rain gardens – gardens with special soil that filters pollutants and allows water to be absorbed into the ground

Brian Zabcik from Environment Texas and Barry Ward from Trees for Houston join Houston Matters to explain green infrastructure and how it could be better utilized in Greater Houston to reduce flooding.

MORE: Report Urges Houston To Incentivize "Green Infrastructure" (News 88.7, Sept. 27, 2017)

  • Dr. Phil Bedient of Rice's University's SSPEEDD Center, Brian Zabcik of Environment Texas, Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation, and Julie Hendricks of AIA-Houston  speak about green infrastructure at Rice. (Photo Credit: Davis Land)
    Dr. Phil Bedient of Rice's University's SSPEEDD Center, Brian Zabcik of Environment Texas, Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation, and Julie Hendricks of AIA-Houston speak about green infrastructure at Rice. (Photo Credit: Davis Land)
  • A "green roof" at Rice University. Green infrastructure advocates hope to place similar projects around Houston. (Photo Credit: Richard Johnson)
    A "green roof" at Rice University. Green infrastructure advocates hope to place similar projects around Houston. (Photo Credit: Richard Johnson)
  • Rain cisterns to collect water from gutters are incorporated into the design of New Hope Housing's Sakowitz Residence. (Photo Credit: Environment Texas)
    Rain cisterns to collect water from gutters are incorporated into the design of New Hope Housing's Sakowitz Residence. (Photo Credit: Environment Texas)
  • Sidewalks with permeable paving bricks and rain gardens line Bagby Street in Midtown. (Photo Credit: Environment Texas)
    Sidewalks with permeable paving bricks and rain gardens line Bagby Street in Midtown. (Photo Credit: Environment Texas)
  • Barry Ward, executive director of Trees For Houston poses at the organization's tree farm. (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher)
    Barry Ward, executive director of Trees For Houston poses at the organization's tree farm. (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher)

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