UWP students plan conservation-friendly subdivision

November 20, 2002

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2002_11_20.jpg Todd Swoboda of Chippewa Falls, Sheri Vande Voort of Greenleaf and Rob Karsten of Sun Prairie

PLATTEVILLE-Disappointed by professional plans for a housing development that proposed clearing out most of the trees and leveling the land, Dubuque resident John Gronen turned to University of Wisconsin-Platteville students to design options for a conservation-friendly subdivision.

Students Todd Swoboda of Chippewa Falls, Sheri Vande Voort of Greenleaf and Rob Karsten of Sun Prairie began working on plans for the development as a project for Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science Lisa Riedle's senior design class.

"We were contacted by John Gronen of Dubuque, whose mother-in-law owns roughly 100 acres of farmland and woodland located behind the K-mart store and Best Western hotel in Dubuque," said Swoboda, the student project manager. "The family would like to develop 15-20 acres of the land with minimal disruption to the environment. With the remaining land, they're looking for suggestions on what they could do with it, such as a nature conservancy."

While the students said they have encountered a few challenges in regards to gathering information from the city engineer and determining storm water flow estimation, much of the project is well underway.

"We've already plotted out the area and developed a design for the subdivision as to where the roads would go and how big the lots would be," Vande Voort said. "We did soil borings to determine the different types of soil on the property, and we also visited the site with Tom Hunt (UWP director of reclamation) to discuss ideas of what could be done with the property that will not be developed. He explained to us what trees should be preserved and what plants were invasive and should be removed."

The students are currently in the process of developing a design for a detention pond that would collect storm water runoff from the site after development. Although the city requires a storm water management plan, no standards or regulations have been set, giving students free reign on the design of a storm water management plan. While the students said they enjoy the freedom much of the project has allotted, that same privilege has a disadvantage.

"This is such a large project with fairly minimal direction from our client, so just getting started was difficult," Karsten said. "All we had to go by was that he wanted about 20 acres of the 100 acres developed with roughly 10 lots and no condos."

As the students finish designs for the storm water management plan and develop alternative designs for the subdivision, researching cost estimates for the development will be their next step. The project will conclude toward the end of the semester with the students preparing written and oral reports to present to their client. Each of the students agreed that the project has been a valuable learning tool.

"I've learned a lot about designing detention ponds, where one can begin gathering information for a project and how to better use the geographic information system (GIS)," Vande Voort said. "This project really provided me with an opportunity to use the engineering skills I've learned over the past four years."

"I've learned a ton about storm water management, hydrology in particular," Karsten said. "I've also learned how much planning goes into a subdivision before it's even presented to a city for approval."

"I've learned quite a bit about conservation development, as opposed to traditional subdivision designs where houses are on one-acre lots with huge lawns," Swoboda said. "The conservation approach is interesting - taking existing land and clustering houses together on smaller lots so more common areas, such as prairie land and park trails, can be preserved and used by everyone living in the subdivision."

Each of the three students anticipate graduating in December 2002. Swoboda is majoring in environmental engineering and plans to pursue a career as an engineering consultant. He is a 1998 graduate of Chippewa Falls High School and the son of Vern and Carolyn Swoboda of Chippewa Falls. He is a member of the Platteville Society of Environmental Engineers (PSEE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the engineering honor society Chi Epsilon.

Vande Voort is also majoring in environmental engineering and plans to pursue a career as an engineering consultant. She is 1998 graduate of Wrightstown High School and the daughter of Ray and Carol Vande Voort of Greenleaf. Vande Voort is a mentor for the Women in Engineering Programs and a member of PSEE, ASCE and Chi Epsilon.

Karsten is majoring in civil engineering with an emphasis in geo-technical and environmental engineering. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career as an engineering consultant or a construction project manager. Karsten is a 1998 graduate of Sun Prairie High School and the son of John and Diane Karsten of Sun Prairie. He is a member of ASCE and the UWP Hockey Club.

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