What are Low Impact Developments, and in what ways can they benefit your projects? Low Impact Developments (LID) are building strategies used to manage rainwater runoff and mimic the site’s natural hydrology. As the name implies, the goal is to minimalize disturbed areas on the project site, or to create natural looking infiltration features. This is achieved by utilizing one or more of the following methods.

    • Managing water runoff as close to the source as possible.
    • Reducing impervious area, including driveways, roads, parking lots, rooftops, and sidewalks.
    • Protecting open spaces and natural vegetated areas.

These strategies are not limited to the design phase, or even a new construction project. Several existing buildings are utilizing LID practices to help with sustainability and cost reduction. From installing stormwater planters to new bioretention zones that capture rainwater, these LIDs can be applied to any development stage and can potentially be utilized in lieu of a cistern and pumps.

Below are examples of LID practices:

    • Rain gardens – A naturalized bioretention strategy, a rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects rainwater from a roof, driveway, or street and allows it to soak into the ground. Planted with grasses and flowering perennials, rain gardens can be a cost effective and beautiful way to reduce runoff from your property.
    • Vegetated buffers – Shown in the picture above, vegetated buffers are areas of natural or established vegetation maintained to protect the water quality of neighboring areas. Buffer zones slow stormwater runoff, provide an area where runoff can permeate the soil, contribute to groundwater recharge, and filter sediment.
    • Permeable pavement – A porous pavement that allows for the capture of precipitation and allows it to eventually infiltrate the soil below.
    • Rainwater harvesting – Typically a cistern or rain bucket, this is the practice of collecting and using rainwater from hard surfaces such as roofs for landscape irrigation or toilet flushing.
    • Soil amendments – An additive used to improve a soil’s water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, and aeration.


All these strategies have environmental and economic benefits:

    • Rainwater can accumulate pollutants which can reach local waters and reduce water quality. LIDs not only help improve this water quality, but with better water quality comes better property values, better public health, and lower government water treatment costs.
    • Flooding occurs when large amounts of rainwater accumulate on impermeable surfaces. With an LID, that runoff is reduced while helping prevent potential property damage.
    • In more rural areas, stormwater can erode natural streams and channels, devastating the aquatic life in those systems. This runoff can be reduced by LID and help maintain these natural habitats.
    • LID strategies can retain more rainwater and allow it to filter through soil before entering the ground, which also helps to recharge aquifers and/or groundwater. Paving and other impermeable surfaces merely retain the water on the surface.
    • It just looks better! This can increase property values and enhance the enjoyment of the community living there.

All the above LID strategies are an essential and beneficial part of promoting green and sustainable development. VCA Green looks forward to seeing more of these practices being utilized across the industry. For more information on how LID can benefit your project (especially in pursuit of third-party rating systems such as LEED), contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Aaron Heinrich, LEED Green Associate

Moe Fakih, Principal