HigH Performance LandscaPe guideLines
Soil is an important but often undervalued component of our
urban park infrastructure. Healthy soils have an incredible
capacity to capture and clean water, transform pollutants,
make nutrients available, and sequester carbon.
Healthy soils are the foundation upon which sustainable
parks are built. If soils are not prioritized as a critical resource
worthy of care during design, construction, and maintenance
cycles, parallel efforts to enhance the vegetative and water
ecologies will be compromised.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative has developed an outline of
the critical ecological functions of soil systems.37
SUPPORT FOR VEGETATION. Soils provide a base to sup-
port vegetation by providing rooting area, water storage,
and nutrition for growth. Healthy soil also suppresses many
plant diseases, and reduces the costs of caring for turf and
REGULATION OF WATER SUPPLY. Healthy soils allow
rainwater to inﬁltrate, reducing excess runoff, erosion,
sedimentation, and ﬂooding. Soils also cleanse and store
rainwater, recharge groundwater, and moderate the delivery
of water to plants.
TREATMENT AND FILTRATION OF WATER POLLUTANTS.
Water and air pollutants are removed or transformed into
less harmful materials in the soil. Soil particles and organic
matter can ﬁlter out pollutants by attracting and holding
chemicals and suspended solids. In addition, soil provides
habitat for microbes that break down pollutants into more
SUPPORT FOR NUTRIENT CYCLING. Soil and its microorgan-
isms play a major role in nutrient cycling, including the carbon
and nitrogen cycles. Much of the earth’s nitrogen exists in
rock, sediment, and soils. The nitrogen cycle depends on soil
biota to convert nitrogen in the atmosphere into usable forms
in the soil and return nitrogen back to the atmosphere.
SEqUESTRATION OF CARBON. The pool of organic carbon
in the soil is approximately twice as large as that of the
atmosphere. Soils can contain as much or more carbon than
the vegetation they support. Soil carbon storage can help
offset release of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas
that contributes to global climate change.
PROVISION OF BIOLOGICAL HABITATS. Soils are habitat
for such organisms as plants, worms, insects, arthropods,
bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. The soil food web
is responsible for decomposing organic matter, storing and
cycling nutrients, maintaining soil structure and stability,
and converting or attenuating pollutants. Soils also support
healthy vegetation, which supports life above ground.38
SOILS ARE FRAGILE NATURAL SYSTEMS. Soils are not
inert; they are a dynamic latticework of sand, silt, clay organic
matter, air, water, and microorganisms. If handled improp-
erly, a soil’s ability to support life is greatly compromised and
extremely difﬁcult to restore. Compaction, excessive handling,
contamination, and erosion all need to be controlled through-
out the construction process in order to ensure a soil environ-
ment that will be able to support water quality and vegetative
communities over the long term.
GOOD SOIL PRACTICES REqUIRE COMPREHENSIVE STAND-
ARDS, VIGILANCE AND ExPERTISE. Ensuring soil quality
on every project and in every park will be challenging but will
produce substantial beneﬁts. Soil conditions should be analyti-
cally tested and characterized prior to starting design. During
design, proposed in situ amendment or new soils practices
should be carefully controlled by speciﬁcation and testing to
ensure that the proper texture, organic matter, pH, soluble
salts and other parameters are appropriate.
DESIGN PARAMETERS NEED TO BE ENFORCED DURING
CONSTRUCTION. Parks staff need to develop a broad range of
expertise to be able to direct a variety of soil testing proce-
dures, interpret the results, and develop targeted responses to
individual site needs. Designers can consult with the Natural
Resources Group, and should also expect to rely on outside
soil consultants and testing labs until such time the agency
can fund trained dedicated in-house staff soils expertise.
Multiple testing laboratory vendors will be required to provide
an appropriate range of testing and consulting services to
ensure soil material and installation quality. No project should
be deemed too small to afford good soil practices.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A ONE SIzE FITS ALL SOIL.
A wide variety of soil types is needed in today’s diverse
range of parks. Soils must provide the appropriate planting
medium for the proposed landscape. Soils need to be
matched to stormwater design objectives and the anticipated
levels of use and compaction. The soil characteristics required
by the proposed park programming must be addressed as an
integral part of the design process. In order to support goals
for plantings and stormwater management over the long term,
existing soils must be paired with programming that can
realistically be accommodated. Otherwise, soils need to be
modiﬁed or replaced to meet the speciﬁc needs they are
intended to support.39
37 Hanks, Dallas and Lewandowski, Ann “Protecting Urban Soil quality: Examples for Landscape
Codes and Speciﬁcations.” December 2003. p. 1. http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/management/ﬁles/
38 The Sustainable Sites Initiative,™ Standards & Guidelines: Preliminary Report. November 1,
2007, p. 9.
39 Craul, Phillip and Craul, Timothy. Soil Design Protocols for Landscape Architects and
Contractors. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006, p. 29.
Ensure a thorough understanding of the soil quality, contami-
nation, percolation, and bearing capacity early in the design
process. Design soil protection with a high degree of technical
expertise; monitor construction to ensure proper practices are
followed and proper soils are installed. Where appropriate,
make it standard practice to obtain soil testing and analysis
and the services of a soil scientist.
J Provides critical information that can guide the design,
construction and longterm maintenance of a park project.
J Provides early warning of site contamination, percolation
rates, and bearing capacity in order to drive design decisions.
J Ensures success of landscape and minimizes the need
for future chemical intervention for fertility, pest, and
J Identiﬁes fragile soils prior to the start of the design process
and enables the design team to set limits on use of heavy
equipment and soil disturbance areas.
J Identiﬁes potential design and construction risks includ-
ing slope failure, erosion and sedimentation, and the need to
protect adjacent water bodies.
J Enables soils to fulﬁll critical onsite stormwater
J Provides clarity in the permitting process.
J Minimizes environmental impacts and costs associated
with removing contaminated soils, and introducing imported
topsoil or ﬁll.
J Informs cost estimation associated with soil remedia-
tion, amendments, importation, excavation, and drainage
J Aids in determining the appropriate plantings for
J Reduces use of unnecessary soil amendments or
J Maximizes the potential for soil reuse onsite.
J Identiﬁes costs and requirements for soil disposal,
J Quantitatively veriﬁes contractor compliance with
J Assists maintenance staff with monitoring planting
and stormwater design features post construction.
J Improves soil procurement and installation practices by
providing greater level of speciﬁcity.
J Budgeting the cost of soil analysis during the design
phase will be required, as well as the on call services of a
J Park’s Capital Projects’ Environmental Control Unit can
provide assistance for some soil testing and analysis.
J Soil testing for horticultural and stormwater BMP soils
typically requires specialized consultant and lab expertise.
This may limit the number of entities that can provide
J S.3 Prioritize the Rejuvenation of Existing Soils before
Importing New Materials
J S.5 Testing, Remediation and Permitting for Sites with
J S.6 Use Engineered Soils to Meet Critical Programming Needs
Geotechnical and analytical soil testing is indispensible to the
high performance design process. While an educated designer
can glean a great deal of useful information from looking at
and touching a soil, it is not possible to determine accurately
by eye or feel if an existing soil is safe, how it can be manipu-
lated to ensure longterm success, if the soil delivered to a site
is correct, or if it has been properly installed.
Comprehensive soil testing and analysis forms the funda-
mental basis for the evaluation of existing soil conditions and
lays the foundations for the proposed soil, vegetation and
onsite stormwater management strategies, allowing for a holis-
tic, ecologically based approach to site design.
Testing should not be a onetime event at the start of a
project. It can be used in a variety of ways and at a number of
different stages during the design and construction process,
as determined by the needs of the site.
J During the site analysis and assessment phase to:
j Understand existing site conditions and to determine
appropriate amendment procedures for reuse of soil
j Determine if there are any contamination hazards
within existing soils.
j Determine if there are opportunities for onsite storm-
J During site design phase as required to:
j Source recommended soil component materials if engi-
neered soils are to be used.
j Develop mixes and/or amendments for use onsite.
j Determine the appropriate plant species for installation
onsite based on chemical tolerance.
j Select compatible planting material.
j Locate onsite stormwater management facilities.
HigH Performance LandscaPe guideLines
Part iv: Best Practices in site systems
j Determine percolation rate.
j Determine bearing capacity.
J During construction to:
j Verify acceptable material sources during a contractor’s
or the agency’s procurement process.
j Verify that material delivered to the site is acceptable
and complies with speciﬁcations.
j Conﬁrm that the ﬁnal soil installation complies with the
J During postconstruction periods to:
j Verify soils are continuing to perform as designed.
j Assist managers in determining the need for supple
mental soil nutrients to ensure planting vigor.
j Monitor soil conditions including compaction levels,
and inﬁltration and percolation rates.
ProViDe an allowance for soil TesTing on eacH ProjecT
seParaTe from anD in aDDiTion To TYPical Design buDgeTs
without accounting for the cost and time required for accurately
testing and analyzing soils separately and upfront, this additional
cost may be disregarded and eliminated from a project.
engage a soil scienTisT
understanding soil quality requires more than collecting soil samples
and sending them to a lab for analysis. a soil scientist working as
part of the design team can be useful in several ways beyond the
interpretation of test results.
J Provide onsite observations: a soil scientist can provide
invaluable insights about existing soil qualities based onsite
observations about drainage patterns, condition of existing
vegetation, or absence of types of vegetation.
J Optimize onsite resources: a soil scientist can direct
the development of site program and physical design that
optimizes the use of existing soil resources through careful
preservation or reuse.
J Develop soil reuse plans for contaminated sites: there are
signiﬁcant opportunities during the investigation and reme-
diation planning for maximizing soil reuse, thus minimizing
importation of soil. Scoping of the remedial investigation
should include a soil scientist. Once contaminant results
are obtained that delineate contaminated areas (in three
dimensions), the soil scientist can optimize the cut and ﬁll
required for the project.
J Develop soil speciﬁcations: a soil scientist can develop
soil speciﬁcations aimed at rejuvenating existing site soils
or controlling the quality of new soils imported to the site
either for mixing with onsite soils or to provide entirely new
J Determine cost effectiveness: a soil scientist can
make a critical early determination if there are sufﬁcient
soil resources on the site for reuse or if, given the site
program, it will be more cost effective and time efﬁcient to
import new soils.
conDucT soil TesTing as DeTermineD bY siTe raTHer THan
a generic lisT of sTanDarD TesTing ProTocols
J Employ qualiﬁed soil professionals as an integral part
of the project design team to develop a site speciﬁc
J Speciﬁc testing protocols should be developed
on a project by project basis by the design team soil profes-
sionals, based on a site’s unique history and the proposed
J Identify the types of tests, testing locations and labs
qualiﬁed to complete the testing procedures.
J Discuss soil testing needs with the Natural Resources
Group to help lower costs by identifying local soil experts
such as those at the Natural Resources Conservation Service
or the NYC Soil and Water Conservation District.
creaTe a comPreHensiVe soils assessmenT rePorT
J See Part 2: Site Assessment: Soils Assessment Practices
use THe comPreHensiVe soils assessmenT rePorT
The soils assessment report serves as an aid in the following
J Determination of suitability of soils for planting
J Selection of plant material
J Selection of soil amendments to produce viable
J Identiﬁcation of construction protection zones
J Hydrologic and hydraulic analysis
J Design of stormwater management BMPs
J Selection of an in situ soil remediation strategy
J Design of contamination remediation, soil removal,
and soil cover
consiDer THe neeD for aDDiTional TesTing
as the design process continues, it may be necessary to provide
additional testing to more speciﬁcally design components such as
onsite stormwater facilities and building structures.
J Additional tests may include:
j Hazardous contamination percolation or
j Groundwater depths
j Bedrock depths
j Soil bearing capacity
j More detailed soil borings
J Additional tests may be required if material is to be
presourced, or if actual mix designs need to be determined
in advance of bidding.
use THe soil Professionals on THe Design Team To
DeVeloP comPreHensiVe soil sPecificaTions
J Once the design is near ﬁnal, speciﬁcations can include
required testing protocols and frequencies during procurement
of materials and onsite construction.
J The extent and frequency of testing will vary depending
upon the size and complexity of the proposed site work.
Testing during the construction phase is critical to ensure that
the proper materials are used and installed correctly.
J Bidding: Requiring contactors to submit proposed soil
supplier test reports is a good way to evaluate the thorough-
ness of a contractor’s bid.
j Too often contractors simply price their work based
on past experience or current market conditions without
carefully reading the project speciﬁcations.
j Contractors can easily underestimate a project and, if
awarded the contract, can have great difﬁculty completing
the work, leading to delays and complications.
j The inability of a contractor to demonstrate that they
have adequately researched the needs of the project should
be a sign of bigger problems in the quality of their bid.
J Procurement: Procurement testing is a standard
part of construction contracts and should be included in
J Delivery: All soil materials should be spot tested upon
delivery to the construction site before they are installed to
ensure compliance with the contract documents.
j Note that on sites regulated by the NYSDEC, there are
testing methods and protocols that should be referenced
in the project speciﬁcations. All imported soils should
be certiﬁed clean and delivered onsite with proper
j Testing ensures that problems are revealed before
materials are placed.
j Testing of materials such as compost is critical as
improperly aged compost can be toxic to plantings.
j See further S.4 Use Compost
j The sooner a material is tested when it comes onsite,
the sooner a contractor can remove and replace non-
conforming materials, minimizing construction delays.
J Installation: Testing during installation ensures that
problems are revealed and corrected before subsequent
materials are place over, adjacent to, or in the soil, causing
further delays and costs associated with the soil removal
Testing is especially important for stormwater manage-
ment elements; key testing windows during construction
including after completion of rough grading.
j Inspect subsoil and subgrade areas to ensure they are
free of debris or other contaminants.
j Test for proper penetrability, drainage, and especially
subgrade compaction as required by the speciﬁcations.
j During topsoil placement:
h Inspect soil placement procedures to ensure
proper material depths, layering, and transitioning
as described in the speciﬁcations and shown on
h Test for proper compaction and penetrability.
j After topsoil placement:
(1) Test topsoil before planting.
(2) Amend topsoil as required to correct for organic,
nutrient and pH deﬁciencies.
PlanTing anD sTormwaTer managemenT soils
There are a variety of soil tests that provide useful information
in the design of planting soils and soils for stormwater management.
The speciﬁc types of tests required for planting and stormwater
management are indicated in Part 2: site assessment Practices.
at a minimum, new soils should be tested for the following:
J Texture (particle size distribution)
J Organic content
J Reaction (pH)
J Nutrient content (including nitrate, ammonium,
phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron,
manganese, zinc and copper)
J Soluble salt content
J In-place bulk density
J In-place inﬁltration
During and after construction the following tests are useful in deter-
mining contractor compliance with the design speciﬁcations:
J In situ density
J Percolation or permeability
TesT soils on a regular basis To moniTor lanDscaPe
once a project is complete, regular testing should be used to ensure
that soils are healthy and functioning properly. Testing allows main-
tenance crews to apply fertilizers and other amendments at speciﬁc
levels providing a number of important beneﬁts:
J Provide the nutrients needed for vigorous and health
J Buffer plant material from disease and insect predation.
J Minimize runoff or leaching of excess fertilizers into adja-
cent water systems.
J Minimize excessive plant growth due to over fertilizing.
J Reduction of costs associated with needless or excessive
fertilizer and amendment applications
regular testing of stormwater management soils is also critical to
ensure proper inﬁltration and percolation, as it can determine:
J If soils have become compacted, or are becoming clogged
with silt and debris, requiring cleanout or other rejuvenation
J If soil biology is properly balanced to allow for proper
nutrient and pollutant absorption and breakdown
The generalized list below identiﬁes some of the more common
testing that is used in the assessment of soil during park operation.
J Lawn areas and Planting Beds: Test every two to three
years to ensure proper pH and nutrients.
J Sports ﬁelds: Due to higher use levels, test annually
for pH, nutrients, compaction, and Gmax (rating of impact
force for player safety).
J Sand based manufactured soils: Sand based soils,
due to their low clay content, do not hold nutrients as
well as loam based soils, therefore they require a higher
degree of monitoring.
J In the ﬁrst few years after the completion of construction,
HigH Performance LandscaPe guideLines
Part iv: Best Practices in site systems
test at least twice per year for proper pH and nutrients.
J Once the soil appears to have stabilized, test for pH
and nutrients annually.
J Recommended ranges for test results can be found
within the individual BMP descriptions.
f Craul, Phillip and Craul, Timothy. Soil Design Protocols for Landscape
Architects and Contractors. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006.
f Craul, Phillip. Urban Soils: Applications and Practices. New York: John
Wiley & Sons, Inc.1999.
To the greatest extent possible, preserve and protect soil
resources from damage by limiting the zone of site disturbance
and controlling erosion and compaction during construction.
J Maintains natural soil structure and thus the soil food web,
beneﬁcial microorganisms and soil organic content.
J Limits soil compaction and reduces runoff, leading to higher
levels of inﬁltration and water table recharge.
J Maintains vegetation, reducing the need for replanting.
J Maintains habitat.
J Maintains water quality due to contact with vegetation and
ﬁltration through soil.
J Prevents future restoration costs.
J Reduces risks of invasive species establishment, which
often occurs after disturbance.
J Protects on and offsite streams, rivers, lakes and ponds from
sedimentation and turbidity.
J Prevents on and offsite ﬂooding due to poorly controlled
J Can reduce buildable land area.
J Can increase construction costs and duration due to the fact
that the contractor may have to work in a more limited site
area with spatial restrictions for site access, staging, stock-
piles, and work areas.
J Requires frequent onsite supervision of contractor to ensure
compliance with protection measures.
J Requires costs associated with site protection measures.
J Prevention of compaction requires limiting vehicular trafﬁc
onsite, limiting contractor site access, storage, and staging area,
and requires careful sequencing of work during construction.
J W.1 Protect and Restore Natural Hydrology and Flow Paths
J W.3 Create Absorbent Landscapes
J V.1 Protect Existing Vegetation
J V.3 Protect and Enhance Ecological Connectivity and Habitat
J V.4. Design Water Efﬁcient Landscapes
While there are numerous ways to rejuvenate soil functions lost
during construction, it is virtually impossible to fully recreate the
structure and function of natural soil once it has been disturbed.
Retaining natural soil structure, vegetation, and hydrologic
patterns is the foundation for providing a naturally function-
ing landscape. Disturbing or removing soils and vegetation
destroys a site’s soil structure and can severely curtail or elimi-
nate its natural capacity for inﬁltration and evapotranspiration.
Compaction and disturbance of soils in the upper horizon will
eliminate macropores and signiﬁcantly reduce air and water
movement through soils. Correspondingly, runoff volumes and
pollutant loads will increase. The health of both vegetation and
fauna will decrease with reduced water and air ﬂow.
Disturbance of soils and vegetation also results in habitat
loss, an increased risk of erosion, and dramatic increases in
the rate, volume, duration, and frequency of runoff, storm-
water pollution, and reduced groundwater quantity and quality.
The risk of invasive species establishment is increased from
disturbance via seed migration on construction equipment,
seed that existed in the soil layers and is brought to the sur-
face, or seed ﬁnding available soil areas and lack of competi-
tion from existing vegetation.
On all projects, the goal should be to minimize soil distur-
bance using the following hierarchical approach:
J First, disturb the smallest site area possible by careful
design and site planning.
J Second, limit the size of equipment to be as small as is
practicable, or specify the type of equipment (i.e., tracked
vehicles may be permitted and wheeled vehicles prohibited).
J Third, limit the size of materials and equipment staging
and storage areas.
J Fourth, on a daily basis enforce soil erosion and sediment
control speciﬁcation requirements for construction practices that
limit soil erosion and compaction and reduce sediment ﬂow.
surVeY anD maP exisTing feaTures To iDenTifY criTical
ProTecTion areas before THe sTarT of Design work
J See Part 2: Soil Assessment Practices
J On sites where existing soils are to be preserved,
especially at historic ﬁll sites or areas suspected to have
been subject to past industrial use, test soils to ensure
that they are not contaminated.
J Soils should be sampled and analyzed per 6 NYCC 375
regulations to ensure they are safe.
use siTe Planning sTraTegies To PreserVe anD ProTecT
exisTing HealTHY VegeTaTion
J Design new facilities around preserved areas maintaining
as much continuity and connectivity between preserved
areas as possible.
J Coordinate proposed building or pavement development
areas (places that will require compacted subgrades anyway)
with proposed site staging, storage, and stockpiling areas that
will generate subgrade compaction.
J Plan linear utility runs in compact corridors through healthy
vegetation areas to minimize site disruption.
J Where possible, group utilities in common trenches
(maintaining code required separation) to minimize widths
J Require pavement removals to be completed with the
smallest equipment sizes possible; require that operation of
equipment over the base or subbase of pavements removal
shall be carefully monitored.
J Carefully consider proposed grading to avoid excessive ﬁlling
or cutting within critical root zone areas of existing vegetation.
J Carefully consider proposed drainage patterns so as to main-
tain contributing watersheds to protected root zone areas and
avoid the need for irrigation.
ProViDe aDequaTe soil ProTecTion Zones arounD exisTing
J Protect vegetation in clumps of trees and shrubs rather than
individual plants, thereby preserving shared soil volumes and
J See V.1 Protect Existing Vegetation
DeVeloP a soil PreserVaTion anD ProTecTion Plan
J As part of the early concept and master planning phase,
develop a soil preservation and protection plan diagram that
divides the site into ﬁve basic zone types:
j Zones of protection where existing soil and vegetation will
not be disturbed.
j Zones that, based on testing results, will be amended or
treated in-place with minimal disturbance.
h In areas that demand less invasive measures, such as
radial trenching, vegetation is to remain.
h Rototilling and other more invasive techniques gener-
ally require removal of vegetation prior to amendment.
j Zones where construction trafﬁc (both vehicular and
pedestrian) will be allowed
h To the extent possible, these areas should coincide with
planned building locations, parking lots, roadways, and walks.
j Zones for stockpiling site salvaged topsoil and subsoil
(in separate piles or areas) and imported soil and soil
J These zones should also be limited to areas where planned
building locations, parking lots, roadways, and walks would occur.
j Zones that require specialized soil treatments (such
as removal and replacement of soils or the installation of
subdrainage systems) due to existing site degradation, con-
tamination, hardpan layers, or areas that will unavoidably be
adversely impacted by site construction activities.
J Develop the ﬁrst two zones as large as possible to protect
them from construction trafﬁc.
J Locate construction activity zones after establishing soil
protection zone areas.
J Coordinate with other design consultants, including archi-
tects, site utility engineers, and resident engineers, to ensure
that protection and preservation zone locations and sizes
allow sufﬁcient room for the construction of the proposed site
improvements and not just the improvements themselves.
HigH Performance LandscaPe guideLines
Part iv: Best Practices in site systems
J Unrealistic preservation and protection zones create undue
hardship for contractors leading to inﬂated bids and unen-
forceable site restrictions during construction.
J Be sure to consider the needs for equipment access and
maneuverability in and around buildings, utility trenches,
rock outcroppings, stairs, walls, and other new or existing site
features when establishing protection and preservation zones.
sHare DisTurbance corriDors
J Construction roads should become ﬁnal roads, and utilities
should run along path corridors.
DeVeloP incenTiVes anD meTHoDologY for ensuring siTe
J Tie contractor payments to continued compliance with site
J Site protection speciﬁcation may be paid out at 25, 50, 75
and 100% complete, with no payments for lack of compliance.
J Design site protections that are adequate and not easily
destroyed by general construction activities.
J Maintain basic hydrology of protected areas to ensure
DeVeloP a siTewiDe graDing anD sTormwaTer managemenT
J Base plan on minimal earth moving.
J Consider construction sequence to minimize site disturbance.
During construction, erosion and sedimentation pose a serious
threat to soil and water quality both on and offsite. Erosion
removes topsoil and exposes subsoil that is less suitable for
plant growth. It reduces soil organic matter levels, making soil
more susceptible to compaction and further erosion. Loss of
organic matter also reduces nutrient levels and nutrient hold-
ing capacity. Erosion disrupts soil structure and soil biological
communities that contribute to landscape health. Eroded soil
and runoff carries excess nutrients, pollutants, and sedi-
ments to surrounding water bodies causing eutrophication and
turbidity. Sedimentation clogs drainpipes, swales, and stream
channels, oftentimes leading to increased ﬂooding.
These onsite and offsite damages are often expensive or
impossible to ﬁx completely, making prevention worthwhile.
Due to the seriousness of erosion and sedimentation issues,
the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP)
and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)
require projects to obtain approvals and/or permits to speciﬁ-
cally control construction operations and changes to both
overland and piped stormwater ﬂows.
Prior To THe sTarT of THe Design Process, DeTermine
agencY requiremenTs for soil anD erosion conTrol
incluDing THe neeD for a sTormwaTer PolluTion
PreVenTion Plan (swPPP), a Plan for conTrolling
runoff anD PolluTanTs from a siTe During anD afTer
J In most cases, soil and erosion control and stormwater
permits are required from one or more reviewing agencies if a
project disturbance area exceeds one or more acres.
J Consult the Instruction Manual for Stormwater Construction
Permit prepared by the NYSDEC.40
J See Figure 1: Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan
Component Flow Chart below
J The principle objective of a SWPPP is to comply with
the NYSDEC State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
(SPDES) Stormwater Permit for construction activities by plan-
ning and implementing the following practices:
j Reduction or elimination of erosion and sediment loading
to waterbodies during construction
j Control of the impact of stormwater runoff on the water
quality of the receiving waters
j Control of the increased volume and peak rate of runoff
during and after construction
j Maintenance of stormwater controls during and after
completion of construction
J A well designed SWPPP requires proper selection, sizing,
and citing of stormwater management practices to protect
water resources from stormwater impacts; Erosion & Sediment
Control (ESC), Water Quantity Control, and Water Quality
Controls are interrelated components of a SWPPP.
if a site is required to have a full swPPP, this plan must be expanded
to meet all the requirements of the water quality and quantity sizing
criteria outlined in the new York stormwater management Design
manual and the new York standards and speciﬁcations for erosion
and sediment controls.
Figure 1- Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan Component Flow Chart
SWPPP and Stormwater Permit Process
Located in a TMDL
discharging to an
listed Water? 2
Is disturbance 5
acres of more?
than single family
residences or not
Does SWPPP conform to DEC’s recom-
Submit copy of
SWPPP upon DEC’s
greater than 1
for a SPDES
Erosion & Sediment Control Plan
E&SC Plan constitutes SWPPP
Develop Full SWPPP
Water Quality & Quality Control Plan
SWPPP Certiﬁed by a licensed professional
Develop Full SWPPP
Water Quality & Quality Control Plan
1. Under any of the above conditions other environmental permits may be required. DEC may require permit
for construction disturbance <1 acre on a case by case basis.
2. and the following exists: construction and/or stormwater discharges from the construction or post-
construction site contain the pollutant of concern identiﬁed in the TMDL or 303(d) listing.
3. After receipt by DEC of completed application.
in 60 Days 3
in 5 Days
whether or not a formal swPPP is required for a project, consider
these basic site planning principals to reduce soil erosion and sedi-
mentation potential over the life of the project by ﬁtting the proposed
design to the existing terrain.
J Avoid the design of excessively steep grading and transi-
tions to existing grade that may become unstable or wear
away over time.
J Minimize length and steepness of slopes.
J Maintain sufﬁcient breathing room within the site plan to
provide natural buffer areas or pockets that can reduce the
velocity of overland ﬂows and provide opportunities for trap-
ping and settlement of debris and sediments.
J Plan for ways to control stormwater velocities within
swales, gutters, streams, and other open channels.
J Consider the use of vegetative stabilization methods for
hillsides, swales, and stream banks.
J These vegetative stabilization methods offer long term
stability and can often be installed as both required erosion
control methods during construction and as the permanent
J Consider temporary seeding for stabilization.
iDenTifY areas of concenTraTeD flow anD erosion
identify areas where existing storm sewers or concentrated ﬂows
discharge. often these areas will create or transform a headwater
ﬂow path into an eroded gully. identify upstream measures to reduce
the amount and velocity of ﬂow prior to implementing any restoration
or stabilization measures. caution: stabilizing one area of erosion
without addressing the source of erosive ﬂows is likely to transfer
the problem downstream.
iDenTifY PracTices THaT are conTribuTing To erosiVe
conDiTions in naTural flow PaTHs anD small sTreams
J Practices such as vehicle parking on lawns, compaction
along the travel paths of maintenance equipment, or a history
of compaction by mowing equipment can create ﬂows that will
damage natural ﬂow paths and small streams.
J Identify areas impacted by these uses, and implement
techniques to restore soils, provide stormwater management,
or modify practices.
J See W.1 Protect and Restore Natural Hydrology and
comPacTion ProTecTion anD conTrol
Healthy soil includes not only the physical particles making up the
soil, but also adequate pore space between the particles for the
movement and storage of air and water. Pore space in soils is also
necessary for root penetration and to provide a favorable environ-
ment for soil organisms. compaction occurs when soil particles
are pressed together under vehicular or pedestrian weight loads,
destroying a soil’s natural structure of ﬁssures and particle aggrega-
tion, and reducing the amount and size of pore space within a soil
structure. although desirable under and adjacent to building struc-
tures and pavements, compaction is destructive to soils that support
vegetation or facilitate stormwater control.
soil compaction threatens new and existing vegetation due to:
J Restricted root growth
J Reduced plant uptake of water and nutrients
J Reduced air exchange
J Reduced available water capacity
J Reduced soil biological activity
Poor soil quality results in less healthy plants, and higher rates of
plant disease and mortality, triggering the need for increased irriga-
tion and fertilization to compensate. Trees are especially sensitive
to compaction and low soil oxygen levels. unfortunately, the impact
of compaction on trees, whether caused by construction or post
construction use, may not become obvious until years after the
excessive levels of soil compaction also lead to wider potential
environmental degradation due to:
J Increased stormwater runoff as a result of low inﬁltration
rates of compacted soils
J Increased erosion due to increased stormwater runoff
volume and velocity
J Increased water pollution potential in local rivers,
streams, lakes, and ponds
compaction is extremely difﬁcult to ameliorate without drastic and
expensive remediation procedures. for open surface areas, tradi-
tional agricultural methods of compaction relief can be employed.
However, on more developed or vegetated sites compaction relief is
especially challenging around the roots of existing plantings, under-
ground utilities, buildings, pavements and other structures.
Planning & Process for comPacTion aVoiDance
careful planning during design and before construction can prevent
many problems associated with compaction during construction:
J Protect existing uncompacted soils.
J Conduct visual inspection and onsite testing to determine
areas where healthy, noncompacted soils are located. Survey
these areas and map them for use by the design team in
critical decision making.
J Protect uncompacted site areas by designing around them
to the extent possible.
J Maintain uncompacted areas in large, contiguous zones
rather than as smaller dispersed areas on a site.
J Limit the extent of disturbed area by design.
J Avoid site improvements in areas where there are uncom-
J Maintain as compact a development footprint as possible
to minimize soil compaction.
J Locate new site improvements in areas where existing
soils have already been compromised through compaction.
J Restrict onsite construction activities such as access
roadways, storage staging, and stockpiling areas to locations
where the proposed site development will require compacted
soils, such as proposed roadways, parking lots, paved pla-
zas, and sport courts, or future buildings.
J Design site protection measures, such as mulch blankets
to prevent soil compaction in areas where heavy equipment
is anticipated to be operated.
J Coordinate compaction zones adjacent to structures with
the structural engineer, the goal being to limit zones of
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