Winning big with stormwater landscapes at Rivers Casino

By September 1, 2014Blog

A closer look at a riverfront amphitheater that captures and cleanses rainwater runoff

Image by Dennis Marsico, courtesy Strada

Rivers Casino’s landscape has seen much use after its opening as an extension of the Heritage Bike Trails and a beautiful park looking out to Pittsburgh’s skyline. But did you know the riverfront at the casino is also an environmental friendly stormwater management system with an aim to protect the health of our rivers?

Pittsburgh-based firm Strada worked with the Rivers Casino to create an urban riverfront that was both functional and sustainable. The construction of the casino and surrounding park broke ground around the same time of the publication of Pennsylvania’s new stormwater management handbook, allowing the design process to be a collaborative learning experience to see what could be done to meet the manual’s requirements while providing an aesthetically pleasing landscape.

The aim of the stormwater management guidelines is to prevent stormwater runoff from emptying directly into our rivers. Instead the water can be filtered through native plants in the landscaping to work toward the environmental health of the space, rather than polluting the river.

Most of the casino is surrounded by naturally porous surfaces, such as grass lawns and plantings that can capture the stormwater to feed the plants. The water that falls on the concrete surfaces will be directed through tiny drains into the infiltration planters that surround the casino. Any water that is not used by the planters will empty into a level spreader that runs the length of the riverbed filled with native plants to filter and capture the water before it empties to the river. (see image below) The level spreader is a perforated underground pipe that evenly distributes the water to eliminate the emptying of all the runoff from one point source.

The water that collects on the roof of the casino will also be directed through a pipe to an underground storage tank. Here the water will have the chance to cool off before being flowing into the groundwater filtration riverbank as well.

One of the most innovative parts of the project was the specially designed soils that were incorporated throughout the riverfront. Before the construction got underway the area where the casino currently resides was mainly a concrete and asphalt river bank. Any soil on the site was rocky with a lot of urban fill. For the environmentally conscious design to take place new soil needed to be installed that would be able to provide nutrients for the plants as well as permeate the stormwater run off.

Strada teamed up with a soil scientist to design a blend of soils composed of a layering of sand, top soil and compost that would work well for the site preventing erosion and allowing the native plants to blossom.

This beautiful landscape was on display during Riverlife’s annual fundraiser Party at the Pier, Friday, September 5. Next time you take a stroll in front of the Rivers Casino take notice of some of the visible details of the stormwater management system, such as the bioretention basins, lush landscape, and subtle drains alongside the walkways that are so seamlessly integrated into the design.

-Kate Wister, Riverlife