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Green Infrastructure

Managing stormwater surplus aesthetically and sustainably

Managing stormwater smartly and sustainably.
Changing weather patterns can cost taxpayers billions, but urban planners, civil engineers, and landscape designers are helping to counter these effects through green infrastructure design. By thinking about how city structures and natural landscapes work together, these jobs can improve the quality life for people living in any given locale.

As our climate continues to change, increased rainfall could prove disastrous to cities and neighborhoods fitted with legacy infrastructure that wasn’t designed to withstand it. Green infrastructure is a novel way of reducing flood damage that provides opportunities in many existing sectors, such as construction, paving, and landscape design. It involves creating both natural and engineered ecological systems for the purpose of controlling stormwater surplus, while also offering environmental benefits.

Greenprint Partners is a mission-driven green infrastructure consulting and project development firm, helping cities achieve high-impact, community-driven stormwater solutions at scale.

Kristin Ihnchak works as an urban planner at Greenprint Partners. “The difference between my role and what a more traditional urban planner role is,” explains Ihnchak, “is that I incorporate an advocacy for environmental health.” Urban planners like Ihnchak develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.

Most urban planners work full time during normal business hours, and some may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with officials, planning commissions, and neighborhood groups. The job typically requires a master’s degree from an accredited planning program.

In 2020, the median annual wage for urban planners was $75,950, and employment is projected to grow 7% from 2020 to 2030, with about 3,700 openings each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Alex Heidtke works as a civil engineer for Greenprint Partners. “Most of the time I’m working in CAD, designing the actual green infrastructure that’s going on a site,” says Heidtke. There are some days where I go out into the field so I can see what the site looks like and making sure there aren’t surprises underground that require changes to your design.” Civil engineers like Heidtke are essential in figuring out specifically where green infrastructure can be located in communities.

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. They generally work in a variety of locations and conditions. It is common for them to split their time between working in an office and working outdoors at construction sites so that they can monitor operations or solve problems onsite. Most work full time, and the position calls for a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. Civil engineers typically need a graduate degree and licensure for promotion to senior positions. Although licensure requirements vary by state, civil engineers usually must be licensed if they provide services directly to the public.

The median annual wage for civil engineers is $88,050. Employment of civil engineers is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, with about 25,000 openings projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Kristen Patino works as a senior landscape designer for Greenprint Partners. “Landscape design comes in many forms,” says Patino. “It can be as simple as designing a landscape garden for a residential area, or it can be a larger scale landscape for a forest preserve.” Landscape designers like Patino are responsible for making sure that the infrastructure is visibly appealing through the use of vibrant, native plants.

Landscape designers visually plan parks and other outdoor spaces, and the median annual wage is $52,006. They spend much of their time in offices, where they create designs, prepare models, and meet with clients. They spend the rest of their time at job sites. Landscape design can be self-taught and learned through hands-on experience. However, certification programs are available.

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