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Hoffman Institute joins WKU-Habitat for Humanity Durbin Project

The Hoffman Environmental Research Institute is the newest partner to join the WKU-Habitat for Humanity Durbin Project.

This project will develop an integrated green infrastructure, green building, mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood on a 14.3-acre site owned by the Bowling Green-Warren County Habitat for Humanity as a statewide demonstration.

Initial funding for the Durbin Project was awarded by the Kentucky Division of Water through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The grant is administered by the WKU Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability, which has the mission to work with a broad set of stakeholders to provide resources and leadership to advance education for a sustainable future through educational programs, professional development, community service, and research.

A key goal for the project is providing community education and professional training on stormwater management and nonpoint source pollution reduction in a karst environment. Much of Bowling Green and Warren County is situated on a karst plain that has special requirements for groundwater protection.

The Hoffman Institute will develop educational signage that will be posted along walking trails and around the community to explain the low impact development (LID) features of the site and how they benefit stormwater management and water quality in a karst environment. Demonstrated LID techniques will include: drainage channel modifications to a more natural meandering configuration that slows and pre-filters stormwater entering the site; primary use of native plants, edible plants, and increased tree cover that absorb and filter water and reduce irrigation needs; trash collection and sedimentation mechanisms designed to improve water quality; a bio-retention basin that pre-treats water and removes pollutants before water enters the water table; use of bioswales, rain gardens, rain barrels, and underground cisterns that slow, pre-treat, and capture rainwater for reuse; and use of pervious pavers that reduce and slow runoff. The Hoffman Institute is a part of the Department of Geology and Geography at WKU.

The Durbin site also will be used as a learning laboratory for area schools, being located just across the street from the former LC Curry Elementary School on Glen Lily Road. Plans are underway to rebuild the school as a high performance school that reduces energy use, water use and costs, with expected completion in August 2014.

“We are proud to be a partner on this project that will benefit our students, families, and the community,” said Vicki Writsel, assistant superintendent of Bowling Green Independent Schools and an Advisory Council member for the Durbin Project.

Personnel at the Bowling Green Independent Schools will translate the text of the signs into multiple languages, to reflect the primary languages of students in the school system and other local community members. The translations, along with supplemental information on LID techniques and learning activities, will be accessible by QR codes on the signs that direct people to associated websites.

The Hoffman Institute team brings extensive experience in researching and addressing local and international water resource issues in karst environments to the project. They also work with communities through student engagement projects and develop learning materials through informal education research.

“We are very excited to be a part of this project,” said Dr. Leslie North, the Hoffman Institute’s associate director of education. “It is a perfect example of how diverse groups within the community can work together to provide a site for living, learning, and community engagement regarding crucial issues like water resource protection and sustainable development.”

“A growing mix of partners have come together on this project, reaching across the university, local businesses, schools, and government; these partnerships are transformational and vital to the project’s success,” said Nancy Givens, principal investigator for the project and program coordinator for the Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability at WKU.

Other key partners on the project include WKU departments including Planning, Design and Construction, and Landscaping; WKYU-PBS, which will do a public documentary on the project; Kentucky Habitat for Humanity; the Public Works Department of the City of Bowling Green; Arnold Consulting, Engineering, and Surveying, Inc.; Service One Credit Union; the Green River-Tradewater Basin Team; Roundstone Native Seed, LLC; and Bluegrass PRIDE.

Contact: Nancy Givens, (270) 745-2842.

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