Seattle Children’s Hospital Rain Gardens


In an earlier post (Infiltration and Laboratory Testing Support Green Design), we described how rain gardens and bio-filtration swales are important to sustainability. The Seattle Children’s Hospital main campus expanded through the Building Hope program to meet the growing need in our region. Please enjoy these photos of the rain gardens when they were newly planted outside the new construction.




Wetland Banking 101

Edmonds Wetland 033

When the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released their final rule on Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources in 2008 (2008 Rules), compensatory mitigation became as easy as going to the bank. A mitigation bank, that is. The 2008 Rules set out a hierarchy for mitigation that gives preference to larger-scale wetland restoration in a watershed context. Mitigation banks provide this ecological framework. Before 2008, mitigation banking was more expensive and riskier than concurrent mitigation. Cheaper, smaller-scale permittee-responsible mitigation was preferred even if it wasn’t the most ecologically beneficial.

A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or preserved. This resource area is then set aside to compensate for future impacts to aquatic resources resulting from permitted activities. The value of a bank is determined by adding up the aquatic resource functions restored, established, enhanced, and/or preserved in terms of “credits.” Permittees who want to develop property get approval of regulatory agencies, to buy these credits to compensate for unavoidable wetland impacts.  Individual projects must still avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands before using a mitigation bank.

Many mitigation banks have been developed or are in process in Washington, Oregon, and other areas in the United States. So how’s the 2008 Rule being implemented and how is mitigation banking performing? There hasn’t been a national analysis of mitigation banking since the 2008 Rule, but expect another blog post when any analysis of the 2008 Rule or mitigation banking is released.

For more information, contact Jim Shannon, 425.775.4682.

Wetland mitigation bank guidance

Questions and Answers


What is Your Marketing Staff Saying behind Your Back?


You’ve just managed to land your firm a spot on a proposal team for a great project. The technical proposal manager from Company X tells you to send them some resumes and project descriptions. You rush back to your firm and inform your marketing staff.

Suddenly, your marketing staff is talking behind your back.

That is, if they’re smart. They’re calling the other firm’s marketing staff to ask, “What do you really want?” Because it’s almost never what the project manager from Company X asked you to provide.

The marketing staff members communicate about how many resumes and projects to prepare. They also communicate about other materials, length, formats, and win themes. That way your firm isn’t doing the work twice, and you give Company X materials they can actually use—that will help them win!

Next time, be sure to ask the technical proposal manager for the contact information of the marketing staff member who will be handling the proposal. Let your marketing staff talk behind your back.

Beyond the Go-To Microbe

Microbes Feeding on Petroleum

Microbes Feeding on Petroleum

Rapid, cost-effective complete genome sequencing (CGS) has opened a universe of possibilities.  New discoveries. A better understanding of life. New ways to solve modern problems.  The new advances could some day show the innovation of CGS technology to be as important as the discovery of fire.

One problem faster CGS is solving is confirming that the “right microbes” are present for environmental cleanup. Until CGS, scientists had only classified 10% of microbes in nature, guessing how the unculturable microbes related to each other.  Supercomputers are changing this limitation.

Over the past five to ten years, bioremediation practitioners have increasingly used specialized microbial strains to help them with environmental cleanup, termed “bio-augmentation.”  For example, various strains of Dehalococcoides ethenogenes have been the go-to microbe to treat chlorinated ethenes (at dry cleaning sites, for example).  This was largely because it was one of the first species to be successfully cultured and shared among researchers.  CGS and other genetic tools have revealed numerous additional microbes are able to perform some of the specialized reactions. We can now pick a sequenced gene, check for the simple presence of that gene, and then see if that gene is present in any microbes in a soil or groundwater sample.

While the newest tools have helped us, one critical fact remains the same. Give the microbes the food, nutrients, and growing conditions they need, and they will degrade contamination into something less dangerous to people and the environment.  We continue to work with nature to fix our transgressions against it.

Challenge to End Hunger

Food Frenzy Pet Contest

Our hallway is lined with photos of staff members’ pets. We vote with our change and small bills. The categories are cats, dogs, and “exotic” (which includes chickens, snakes, gerbils, or whatever doesn’t fit into the other two categories).

Food Frenzy books

Geochemist Anne Conrad looks to see what’s new in our book sale. Many employees collected books, CD, and DVDs to donate while spring cleaning at home. There’s a nice selection this year!

Food Frenzy, the two-week-long annual event sponsored by Food Lifeline, is going on right now. Hart Crowser is just one of many Seattle-area companies who are challenging each other in this competition to raise funds to help end hunger for children in Western Washington. This is our second year participating and we’re having a blast. So far we kicked off a book sale and launched a competition for the cutest pet. We are having bake sales and a silent auction this week. And we’ve had teams of volunteers working at Food Lifeline warehouses to earn even more points in the competition.

If your company wants to join the fun next year, contact Food Lifeline.

That’s Not Real Blood And Gore


Ward McDonald and Megan Higgins portray accident victims in a wilderness training class

Environmental scientists and engineers often go deep into the wilderness to sample surface water, sediment, soil, and groundwater.  Some sites may take hours to hike into, and others may only be accessible by helicopter.  Taking samples is not highly dangerous in itself, but a medical emergency in a remote and unpredictable environment requires a different level of first aid training.

With this in mind, some of our staff recently took an intensive two-day wilderness first aid introduction to remote medicine.  The course was led by paramedic and Mount Rainer guide, Carrie Parker of Remote Medical International.  The material was practical and hands-on: patient assessment, traumatic injuries, medical emergencies, environmental emergencies, lifting and moving patients, and medical kits.

Realistic practice helped participants learn to handle serious situations when they are an hour or more from professional help.  We hope they’ll never have to use these skills, but they’ll be ready if they do.

10 Ways to Save Time on Your Computer and Phone

[ted id=1725]

Engineers, scientists, and basically anybody who uses a computer or cell phone needs to watch this brief TED talk by David Pogue.  In five minutes and 45 seconds I learned tips about my computer and phone that I’ve been happily using ever since, wondering how I got along without them before.

Maybe you’ve seen plenty of TED talks (if you haven’t, you should), but this one is particularly useful for the way it will immediately save you time, without any major adjustments to your schedule or mind set.

11 Things You Didn’t Know Were Under Your Feet


Unless you are a geotechnical or environmental engineer, or have similar reasons to be interested in such things, you tend not to think about what may be underground. You may know that sewers, pipes, and other utilities are down there. Underground oil storage tanks are also very common—sometimes undocumented and/or leaking. But what else might you find when you dig in the right (or wrong) place? Hart Crowser staff have been involved with projects where the following items were buried:

Cars. Squashed, in an old landfill.

Houses. Also squashed, with primarily the foundations and chimneys remaining.

Arsenic and lead from a historic glassworks factory. In the 1800s, toxic materials were used to color glass. The contaminants seeped into the soil, coloring it yellow, red, and black. This material was taken away so the property could be redeveloped.

Antique bottles and jars. Cold cream jars, cosmetic jars, medicine bottles, and others.

Burning coal. Thousands of underground coal fires are burning around the world right now. Since these fires can ignite spontaneously (by lightning) and burn for years, any exposed coal mine site is vulnerable.

Melted glass from the 1889 Great Seattle Fire. Fist-sized and iridescent, with impurities.

Skid Road Logs. In the 1800s, workers greased timber and slid it downhill to a sawmill in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Some of these logs are in the fill in downtown Seattle.

A brick wall. While digging near Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The joke went:
“We hit a brick wall.”
“What’s wrong?”
“No, literally. We hit a brick wall.”

Golf balls. Found on the edges of a municipal waste landfill. One was a “gutta percha” ball dated just after the turn of the 20th century.

Petrified/fossilized wood. Found in a downtown Seattle excavation.

Medical waste. Needles, animal carcasses, and other appealing items found during a cleanup at a site on a river.

Raising Puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dog Puppy

Paige, a Labrador retriever puppy from Guide Dogs for the Blind, and raiser Lou Travis.

Lou Travis, a Project Administrator in Hart Crowser’s Portland office, didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she signed up to be a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). She soon found out. Before getting the puppy, she completed an application, read a detailed manual, got a home visit, attended lots of little pup meetings and outings, and puppy sat. She also got permission from property managers and fellow employees to bring a puppy to work.

Finally, a cute little ball of fur named Paige became Lou’s new constant companion. The next 14 months were a constant stream of, “sit, wait, come, on your bed, down, stay, do your business, nice, kennel, stand, okay, let’s go, good girl, I’m sorry she’s working now but thank you for asking if you can pet her.”

Being a puppy raiser takes work and a great deal of patience, dedication, and love. There’s no pay (except puppy kisses). When the job is done it’s like sending a kid off to college. The adorable little ball of love has stolen your heart, but it’s time to send it off to someone who needs help getting somewhere safely, whether it’s by foot, bus, train, or plane.

Once the dog’s formal training is complete, GDB matches the dog with a handler to begin the final step of the training. Dogs that complete the training become working guides for blind or sight-impaired people, and career-changed dogs become therapy dogs or loving, well-trained pets. A select few become breeders (Paige is being considered for this).

It’s hard to give the pup back at the end. But according to Lou, “It’s an amazing and worthwhile experience that I’ll do again…absolutely! Try it…it will change your life!”

One Million Pounds

West African Elephant

What’s 12.75 inches wide, 70 feet long, and can hold the weight of 83 fully grown male African elephants?

Until recently the answer would not have been a helical pipe pile. But at University Village in Seattle, tests for a new parking garage showed that a single helical pile could hold over a million pounds. Until then, helical piles had been used for up to about one-third that weight (if you’re keeping track, that’s the weight of only 27 fully grown, male African Elephants).

Why is this important? Helical piles can be installed more quietly and with much less vibration than standard pipe piles. The piles can be screwed into the ground without disrupting property owners and users. They can also be a less expensive foundation option for certain sites. Helical piles are well suited for sites with soft or liquefiable soils over a firm bearing layer.

Helical Pile

A helical pipe pile is named for the helix (spiral)-shaped plate that winds around its base. Photo source: Advanced Geosolutions Inc (AGI)

More about helical pipe piles.

More about African elephants.