Piedmont Virginia Community College Site Design; A Sociotechnical Analysis of the Barriers to Green Infrastructure Design in Companies

Latham, Ryan, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Smith, Brian, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

The design of civil engineering projects is intrinsically linked to the health and sustainability of the Earth because of the scale of designing and shaping the built environment. The engineering code of ethics demands that engineers always abide by its principles of bettering society and holding paramount human health and safety which also extends to the environment. This portfolio explores the design process of generating a full plan set of construction documents and provides a sociotechnical analysis of the barriers to green infrastructure design in companies. By venturing through the typical civil design process in the technical project, the default design approach becomes obvious, which provides insight into how green infrastructure technologies can fit into that process and are currently not the design default. Green infrastructure design represents an opportunity for engineers to design in an environmentally ethical fashion and there is no better way of understanding the current design practices of companies than by performing the full design of a civil engineering project completed by an actual design firm.

PVCC Site Design

The most technical task a team of civil engineers going into the site design field after their final year of study is the development of a full engineering plan set. Undertaking the capstone project of designing a site for the new construction of a building at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC), the team of Ryan Latham, Abby Herrod, Barton Turney, and Zoe Weatherford collaborated to generate a full plan set of construction documents. This plan set details the design of a new welcome building with meeting rooms, lab spaces, and a café as well as a parking lot, outdoor spaces for classes, and the necessary grading and stormwater system modifications to meet county and state design standards. The project provided unique challenges of steep slopes from the roadway into the site, the requirement for a large, 100 space parking lot, and stormwater runoff flowing into the site from the PVCC main building across College Drive.
In order to complete the complex project, the team worked closely with engineers at Draper Aden and Associates (DAA), who mentored the team and acted as the client in the mock project scenario. Project architects at architecture firm VMDO provided additional insight into scope requirements and architectural considerations such as entrance locations and the requirement for a loading dock as well as outdoor hardscapes. After several concept designs were reviewed by the team, DAA, and VMDO, a final concept was selected and developed into a full site design. The design was presented in a plan set with details including the site layout, grading, erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, utility connections, landscaping, and a traffic control plan. The technical report included in this portfolio describes the decisions made by the design team and how project challenges were overcome.

A Sociotechnical Analysis of Green Infrastructure Implementation in Companies
Keywords: Green Infrastructure, Stormwater, Technological Momentum

Implementing green infrastructure as a primary option in the design of new civil engineering projects is paramount for reducing climate impacts and creating restorative stormwater infrastructure for the users of the projects. With the tangible benefits of the technology demonstrated in existing implementations and the industry yet defaulting to gray infrastructure and pipe networks, this research seeks to discover the barriers to green infrastructure design in companies. To further this end, the framework of technological momentum serves to contextualize the forces at play in the stormwater management space as well as how the identified barriers may be overcome. Exploring the ways in which design practices shape and are shaped by society allows for an understanding of the current systems of design and how they may be changed.
From this research, the difficulties with implementing green infrastructure technologies will be identified to answer the question of what barriers exist to the implementation of green infrastructure technologies in companies. Scholars will be able to draw conclusions beyond those in this paper as to how best to overcome the obstacles put in place by current design practices and regulations. The knowledge gleaned from this process will set groundwork for the adoption of the green technologies the civil engineering field so desperately needs in order to make the large influx of projects, due to Biden administration infrastructure bill, sustainable solutions; solutions that will be resilient to the changes in the climate and in society sure to come throughout their multi-decade design lives.


By working on both a technical design project and researching barriers to modifying design methodology to include green infrastructure simultaneously, it was easy to identify standard design practices and how the design world is predisposed to favor traditional designs. It is one thing to read about how design is done, but a totally different experience to follow each step in the process and be able to recognize where design standards specify requirements. Pipe networks may be shown before onsite quality and quantity measures in design guidelines, software packages give options for standard materials like concrete where additional callouts are needed for permeable concrete, and the most well documented design strategies are not inclusive of green infrastructure technologies. The frustrations of having green infrastructure be difficult to implement in the technical design greatly informed and reinforced the research done for the STS research portion of the portfolio and made the analysis more cohesive and complete.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Green Infrastructure, Technological Momentum, Stormwater

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

Technical Advisor: Brian Smith

STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook

Technical Team Members: Abby Herrod, Ryan Latham, Barton Turney, Zoe Weatherford

Issued Date: