Advanced Drainage Systems collaborate on sustainable water management

Ohio State and ADS representatives celebrate a new collaboration to make campus more sustainable and create research opportunities for faculty and students

The Sustainability Institute at The Ohio State University has announced a new collaboration with Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) that will support water management research, enhance student learning and make campus more sustainable.

The company, a supplier of drainage products for residential, commercial, agriculture and infrastructure markets, is donating two state-of-the-art stormwater management systems for the Innovation District on West Campus along with a cash gift to install them, as well as funds to support research and teaching opportunities. Additional parts of the gift will promote diversity and inclusion by supporting the Engineering House Learning Community and will help the university improve recycling on campus. The combined value of the product donation and cash gift exceeds $1 million.

“The new collaboration with ADS will greatly improve the way Ohio State manages stormwater runoff from new development in the Innovation District,” said Kate Bartter, executive director of the Sustainability Institute.

Ohio State and ADS representatives celebrate a new collaboration to make campus more sustainable and create research opportunities for faculty and students

Stormwater management is a significant economic and environmental issue for new construction and redevelopment. Stormwater runoff from developed areas carries numerous pollutants to lakes, rivers and oceans; often raises the temperature of the receiving surface water body, negatively affecting aquatic life; and deprives groundwater recharge through absorption of stormwater into the soil.

The management system holds rainwater runoff from buildings, pavement and other surfaces in a series of underground chambers that trap contaminants and then slowly releases the water into the city’s stormwater pipes.

“The ADS systems will strengthen ecosystem services on campus, which is one of Ohio State’s sustainability goals,” Bartter said.

The collaboration draws attention to stormwater management at a time when climate change is exacerbating the issue by greatly increasing the number and intensity of storm events. City and state regulations require new development to manage stormwater from heavy rainfall to avoid overflows in combined sewer and other stormwater systems that can spread bacteria and degrade streams. Proper stormwater management can also improve water quality, especially by trapping sediment.

The challenges posed by stormwater management are a powerful motivation for ADS, said Scott Barbour, ADS President and CEO.

“Our reason is water, whether in an urban or rural setting,” he said. “We are pleased to be able to help Ohio State manage stormwater runoff at its new Innovation District with this donation.”

The company also plans to support research and teaching opportunities that will use the larger of the two stormwater systems as a living laboratory for urban water management. This will benefit Ohio State faculty like Ryan Winston, assistant professor in the departments of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) and Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering and a core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute.

“Most people in urban areas don’t think about where their water comes from or where it goes because so much of the infrastructure is hidden underground,” Winston said. “The installation of the ADS system means that we can create hands-on opportunities for students to learn about sustainable water management outside the classroom.”

Winston is faculty adviser to a capstone team of FABE students who will design a rainwater harvesting system that would pump water stored in the ADS system and use it for landscape irrigation. The final report by the students will help inform opportunities for the university to recycle rainwater and reduce the amount of potable water it consumes. Not only is ADS sponsoring the team, but its executive vice president for product development will also serve as a team adviser.

“Ohio State using our product on campus for research and teaching purposes is one of the most exciting parts of the collaboration,” said Brian King, ADS executive vice president, marketing, product management and sustainability. “We are especially pleased to be able to support engineering students from underrepresented populations through our gift to the Engineering House Learning Community.”

Water is not the only “stream” covered by the new gift.

“Roughly two-thirds of the material used in ADS products is recycled content,” King adds. Ohio State provides single-stream recycling across campus and has recently expanded what it accepts to type 5 plastic (polypropylene) used in yogurt containers and other packaging. As part of its gift, ADS will be the largest sponsor of the university’s “Recycle Right” campaign.

“The better recycling is across campus, the more material will be available for ADS products,” King said.

The collaboration was made possible in part by the Ohio State Administration and Planning team’s strong commitment to making campus more sustainable. Water and waste experts in the Department of Facilities Operations and Development, with technical support from its design and construction team and the university landscape architect, guided the opportunity.

For Bartter, the new relationship with ADS underscores the vast potential of combining research, student learning and campus operations.

“Bringing together Ohio State’s core assets like this is the equivalent of an academic trifecta,” she says. “It really demonstrates what the university can contribute to our knowledge and application of sustainability solutions. This collaboration will not only make our campus more sustainable, but it also will generate research and teaching benefits for years to come.”

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