Design with Nature: An Approach to a More Sustainable City

Green infrastructure (GI) is an evolving, community-based approach to integrating alternative, nature-based technologies into city design and lifestyle. GI includes public parks, street trees, and community gardens as well as less obvious practices such as rainwater harvesting, green roofs, green walls, and wastewater recycling. These practices can be implemented on both public and private properties. In many cases they provide cost-effective alternatives to conventional infrastructure such as storm sewers and wastewater treatment plants and provide an enhanced living environment at lower public costs. Many “empty-nesters” are moving into the city – why not bring nature with you?

This course will include six classes that will include lectures and discussion.

1. Introduction to Green Infrastructure – What is it? Discussion of the multiple benefits of GI including water quality, air quality, flooding, habitat, pets, microclimate (cooling & shading), recreation, exercise, food (garden).

2. Green Roofs/Blue Roofs/Green Walls – Multi-use rooftops and walls (recreation, aesthetics, stormwater management, food gardens). A discussion of the huge (and expensive) problem of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and how green and blue roofs can help. Rainwater is a valuable resource – collect it and use it for irrigation and reduce the impact of stormwater runoff on the harbor.

3. Rain Gardens/Street Trees – Runoff from street surfaces has to go somewhere. Currently, it is often piped directly to the Charles River or Boston Harbor causing significant water quality problems. Why not direct this water to vegetation in the city that needs the water? These practices provide treatment of stormwater, carbon sequestration, microclimate, and habitat.

4. Groundwater and Infiltration – Underlying the city is groundwater. It provides baseflow to surrounding wetlands, rivers and the harbor. Groundwater levels (called the water table) are important to maintaining wooden foundations and to avoid flooding of subsurface structures such as parking garages. A case study of the Boston Groundwater Foundation will be presented.

5. Public Parks (Post Office Square, Boston Common and The Public Garden). Co-benefits of public parks including water management and microclimate will be discussed. A case study of a water use project at Post Office Square will be presented.

6. The Future of GI – Where do we go from here? How do we get it done? Who can participate? I believe that Green Infrastructure is a truly sustainable environmental practice that needs to be more fully integrated into our government and lifestyles. I look forward to discussing this with you!


Class Recordings:

Class 1 - October 7

Class 2 - October 14

Class 3 - October 21

Class 4 - October 28

Class 5 - November 4

Class 6 - November 11


Meets on: Wednesdays 10:00 am to noon
Starting: 10/7/2020
Sessions: 6
Class Size: unlimited
Teaching Style: Lecture and discussion
Weekly Preparation: Optional 1 - 2 hours
Group Leader Biography:

Scott Horsley has more than thirty years of professional experience in the field of water resources management. He holds degrees in Biology and Marine Policy and teaches graduate courses at Tufts University and Harvard Extension School. He has worked as a consultant to federal, state, and local jurisdictions, and private industry throughout the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and China. Mr. Horsley has served as a consultant to federal agencies, numerous states and municipalities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private industry. He has served as an expert witness in federal and state courts in the areas of hydrology, wetlands science, water quality, and stormwater management. Mr. Horsley has served as an instructor for a nationwide series of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workshops on water resources management and has authored numerous publications on water resources mapping and protection. He serves on numerous advisory boards to the EPA, the National Academy of Public Administration, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, National Water Well Association, National Groundwater Association, and Massachusetts Audubon Society.