Two-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: St Louis, Missouri
Project Size: 0.33 acres
Project Type: Commercial
Site Context: Suburban
Former Land Use: Greyfield
Terrestrial Biome: Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests
Budget: Confidential
photo by: SWT Design

Project Overview

The SWT Design office encapsulates sustainable design practices and showcases the firm's commitment to the environment and the community. A contemporary studio addition was integrated onto the south side of the building in a manner that utilized green building practices and preserved and enhanced the existing Victorian building. An adaptive re-use method of expansion minimized waste and environmental impacts. Native Missouri plants compose the plant palette, over 95 percent of stormwater is managed on-site, and approximately 75 percent of the campus's hardscape surfaces are pervious.

The environmental consciousness of the firm was the driving motivation for ensuring that state-of-the-art sustainable design techniques would be utilized throughout the site. The primary goal of the project was to provide a more expansive office and studio space for a growing firm while minimizing environmental impact and showcasing innovative green practices. The campus design provides an opportunity for staff, clients, and community members to take advantage of the site as a living laboratory for stormwater management as well as sustainable landscape and building initiatives.

Regional Context

The Interior River Lowland is made up of many wide, flat-bottomed terraced valleys, forested valley slopes, and dissected glacial till plains. In contrast to the generally rolling to slightly irregular plains in adjacent ecological regions to the north, east and west, where most of the land is cultivated for corn and soybeans, a little less than half of this area is in cropland, about 30 percent is in pasture, and the remainder is in forest. Bottomland deciduous forests and swamp forests were common on wet lowland sites, with mixed oak and oak-hickory forests on uplands. Paleozoic sedimentary rock is typical and coal mining occurs in several areas. View of the SWT Design rain garden looking toward the permeable parking lot.

SITES Features + Practices

A key tenet of the site design was to implement innovative techniques for managing stormwater runoff on a tight urban site. Through an intricate system of roof gardens, a rain garden, pervious pavers, sumps, and percolation pits, more than 95 percent of stormwater is managed on site. Approximately 75 percent of the campus’ hardscape surfaces are pervious. A pedestrian bridge connects the original historic building allowing stormwater from the front of the property to pass underneath and through a vegetated rain garden that contains a rock stream bed. Excess water is collected and funneled into the base courses and subsoils beneath the adjacent rear parking area. The parking area’s pervious pavers allow stormwater to pass through the surface and into a system of underground stratified percolation pits.

Additionally, the site was designed so that all of the sustainable practices implemented are visible and used as site features to inspire the employees and educate the community through outreach and interpretive experiences. The use of native vegetation, green roof, rain garden, and permeable pavers were used to create an aesthetic and functional environment that serves the employees and visitors. The campus improvements combined with the community outreach opportunities create a unique location in the market place.

The green roof was used to help address building cooling costs in summer months. Also, the permeable pavement and rain garden address point source pollutants, storm water quality and quantity issues as well as educational opportunities for the community. Additionally, the permeable paver system has a dramatic impact on reducing stormwater runoff on the site.


The project avoided having to install storm sewer inlets and piping infrastructure and easements because of the performance of the raingarden, permeable pavement system and overall approach to hydrology.

The collaborative efforts of the design team and stakeholders allowed for many ideas and design opportunities such as the green roof, rain garden and a vegetable garden to be identified in the early planning of the project. Holding design meetings on the site allowed hands on input from all the site users (predominantly SWT Design Staff) during the design process.

Maintenance + Stewardship

The design team created a comprehensive site maintenance manual to serve as a guide for on going site maintenance. Since the employees played an integral role in the design and implementation of the project there is an inherent understanding and ownership of the long term success of the project.

The site maintenance manual outlines the necessary best management practices and maintenance requirements and recommendations for properly maintaining the site. The employees are committed to personally seeing that the site is maintained properly and that the contract of those that will be hired to maintain portions of the site comply with the required best practices known in the industry.

Water use for irrigation is being tracked to monitor the performance of the native landscape and irrigation system. Non-potable water collected in the on-site rain barrel is tracked for use refilling the pond as well as for watering of planters. Green roof plant and native plant performance is of key interest and is monitored by observation to determine which species prove most effective in the region.

SITES and the many sustainable strategies implemented on the project have helped to raise local awareness of sustainable design practices and how they may be implemented. View of the future rain garden and parking lot before construction.

Sites Challenges

The constrained space and parking requirements for a commercial property were a challenge to address in designing the campus. The design team intended to maintain minimal environmental impact throughout the process and provide access to planted space and vegetation on the site.

Project Goals + Successes

As a growing firm, SWT Design anticipated the need for additional space and wanted to expand in a way that minimized the overall environmental impact. The company wished to showcase those innovative sustainable practices that it currently incorporates into each design project. As a result, the goal was to create a campus that served as a living and dynamic testament to sustainable best practices. As a firm that has become a global leader in sustainable design, the logical choice was to ensure that sustainable practices be used on its campus. In an effort to "practice what you preach," SWT Design was motivated to showcase innovative green practices through all of its daily operations.

The extensive sustainable design features that drive the site design allow hands-on experience for staff to apply Best Management Practices for a variety of design methodologies. The roof, rain, and woodland gardens serve as a living and evolving exhibit and demonstration space for clients and community members. The roof garden serves to reduce radiant heat, slow stormwater runoff, filter water and airborne pollution, provide additional insulation value, extend the life of the roof membrane, and promote a beneficial insect habitat. Of further significance is the functional space the roof garden provides for staff and community gathering, as well as the positive impact it has on employee emotional well being.

Lessons Learned

Retroactively tracking the project for certification was the most difficult challenge. Good record keeping and early engagement of contractors for construction and materials related credits is crucial to a smooth and efficient SITES certification process.

Applying the SITES guidelines to the firm's campus expansion has allowed SWT Design to implement design and construction strategies that can be used to help clients determine their own interests. It also provides credibility and experience that the firm can use as evidence for future efforts.

Project Team

SWT Design:
Landscape Architect, Designer, Project Manager and Construction Coordinator

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