The World's Greenest Parking Lot?

When students arrive on Olympic College’s campus, their education will begin in the most unlikely of place: the parking lot. Working with Schacht|Aslani Architects, SvR’s reconfiguration of this 260-stall space makes innovative stormwater management an integral part of the campus experience and a primary function of the parking area. With new swales, raingardens, and porous pavements, the parking lot reveals how natural processes can clean polluted runoff before it enters Puget Sound. The project is the first large investment in the campus following the completion of the College’s new Campus Master Plan in 2007.

Technical Performance

Knowing that the soils under the parking lot would allow for localized infiltration, SvR devised a strategy of distributed, small-scale attenuation opportunities. Our first tactic discouraged large volumes of water from accumulating in concentrated areas by incorporating porous pavements and cascading rain gardens throughout the site. Our team designed the system to infiltrate 100% of the water quality storm and the majority of the high-intensity storms, significantly exceeding code requirements. The project was also about creating a safer environment for students traveling from the parking lot to the campus core. Providing pedestrian-prioritization, we reduced the width of Broadway Avenue by six feet at two locations, connected to and improved existing bus stops, added LED lighting and created wide, raised crosswalks. ADA travel is also provided throughout the parking lot, and we have accommodated electric vehicle charging stations.

Design Performance

Through the designed landscape, we employed a variety of plantings to create buffers and provide screening of undesirable views. Since the relationship to the natural environment was so critical for the pedagogical program for the site, we opted for a design that prioritized a diversity of native, drought-tolerant plantings, particularly in the raingardens and swales. Our key challenge was to carefully site a wildlife-friendly palette of native plants that could withstand a variety of stormwater inundation regimes and adhere to CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles at the edge of the site. The final design uses primarily native wetland plant materials in areas that will be seasonally flooded, while upland varieties of broadleaf evergreen and deciduous plantings provide year-round seasonal interest, anchoring the drier, higher elevation areas.

Sustainable Sites (SITES™)

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) selected the Olympic College Parking Lot as one of the 150 sites around the world to act as a case study in the program’s pilot phase, which will test and refine the SITES™ rating system for sustainable landscapes. As part of this evaluation, SvR will document the certification prerequisites and credits and compiled feedback for the SITES staff to inform the final rating system, which will be released in 2013.