What Is Green Infrastructure?

Developers understand that land development projects in New Jersey must be designed to “manage” stormwater runoff. NJ DEP regulations require that stormwater management standards be met through the use of “nonstructural strategies,” to the “maximum extent practicable.” Green infrastructure helps you, the developer, to do just that. This Developers’ Green Infrastructure Guide is meant as a resource to help you incorporate green infrastructure into your projects for maximum benefit.

The term “green infrastructure” or “green stormwater infrastructure” refers to a set of stormwater management practices that use or mimic the natural water cycle to capture, filter, absorb and/or re-use stormwater. Unlike traditional gray infrastructure, green infrastructure uses high performance landscaping and hardscaping to meet stormwater requirements while also improving the appearance and value of your project. Though most commonly understood as garden-like landscapes, green infrastructure can also be installed on roofs or in paved areas.

Green infrastructure can provide financial, regulatory and community benefits over the traditional approach, often at the same or lower cost to the developer. These practices can increase property value, lower operational costs, assist in meeting permit requirements and, by providing environmental and aesthetic benefits, can help attract community support.

When selecting which type of green infrastructure to use in different settings, it is important to understand the financial, regulatory, and community benefits of each type. These benefits are described in detail in the Benefits of Green Infrastructure. The following icons are used to call out the benefits afforded by specific green infrastructure practices:

This section of the Guide provides definitions, photos, diagrams, and permitting considerations for different types of green infrastructure practices. The majority of system types fall within the general category of “landscape practices,” which include a number of different designs at different scales but generally are systems that incorporate plantings at the ground level. Descriptions of landscape practices are grouped for small scale and large-scale practices in the pages that follow. In addition, non landscape practices (such as cisterns, subsurface tanks, and green roofs) are also presented.

Green infrastructure can be designed using a variety of different designs that incorporate plants, soil, stone, pipes, and more to fit into different site designs and achieve different types of benefits based on the needs of the development or redevelopment project. The following green infrastructure practices are divided by type and described in further detail in this section:

The New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual (NJ BMP Manual) includes a list of approved structural stormwater control measures, many of which are considered green infrastructure for the purpose of this Guide. This Guide also provides descriptions of eight GI practices—curb bumpout, downspout planter, tree trench/tree box, naturalized detention basin, cistern/rain barrel, green roof/blue roof —that are not included in the NJ BMP Manual. While not yet named as BMPs in the NJ BMP Manual, these can be valuable for managing stormwater.

*These techniques, while recognized as best practices in NJ DEP BMP Manual, are not viewed by NJ DEP as green infrastructure.

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