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Tuesday
May222012

Northgate Mall’s “Telescopic Swales”

The "Telesopic Swales" at Northgate Mall provides a model of how parking lots can eloquently integrate natural drainage systems to mitigate stormwater runoff.  Meeting goals of Low Impact Development (LID), Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) developed a feasibilty study for Northgate Mall owners demonstrating how a series of natural drainage systems could be less expensive than a standard parking lot with the necessary underground infrastructure needed to meet current City of Seattle water quality codes.  SPU calculated mall owners could save 12% in costs in addition to enhancing the parking lot with trees and vegetation.  The swales "collect, filter, infiltrate and convey" stormwater from the parking lot, improving the water quality of Thornton Creek (City of Seattle, DPD)

Telescopic Swale, Photo by M L Smith

The Mall's owners agreed to be a case study for parking lot mitigation if they could retain the same number of parking spaces.  The redesign meet these goals.  The Telescopic Swales" are 4' in width at the highest points, allowing for larger parking spaces closet to storefronds.  Swales widen as they extend further down slope, allowing for greater retention capacity as the potential stormwater volume increases.  Parking at that point are configured for compact cars.  The inner and outer raingardens at both ends of the sales, increase stormwater capacity while visually and aesthetically defining parking aisles.

Telescopic Swale, Photo by M L Smith

Like the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel, there are valuable lessons that can be used in residential landscapes.  Some ideas include: choice of plants, use of curb cuts to allow mulitiple entry points into raingarden swales, adding check dams to slow water velocity, and how "telescopic swales" can provide flexibility within certain site=specific constraints.

 

Check Dams in Swales, by ML Smith

 

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