A university’s land use mirrors that of a town or city, as it includes housing, dining, offices, classrooms, recreation, parking, health care facilities and such. The physical sense of place defined by the University’s Grounds has several immediate effects, including providing an accessible network of buildings and activities, supporting academic functions, and cultivating the University’s relationship with the surrounding community. Alone among U.S. college and university campuses, the University of Virginia’s Academical Village has been designated one of 830 international World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Academical Village, as designed by Thomas Jefferson, is an early example of a tightly woven mixed-use campus, incorporating faculty and student housing, dining and teaching with social spaces. Stewardship of the University Grounds takes many forms: architectural oversight, historic preservation, land use planning, stormwater management, and responsible maintenance.
The University has worked for more than a decade on innovative stormwater management on Grounds. Traditional ways of handling stormwater centered on piping the water away from the site as quickly as possible. This has had negative impacts on streams and waterways, where increased flows cause channel erosion and carry pollutants, such as oils and nutrients, from impervious surfaces.
In 2007, an Engineering Excellence Honor Award was given to Nitsch Engineering for the Meadow Creek Regional Stormwater Management Plan. In 2008, the Society of College and University Planning gave a landscape architecture merit award to the University of Virginia and Nitsch Engineering for the Meadow Creek Regional Stormwater Management Master Plan. In addition to the Dell pond, this award encompassed the constructed wetland at the Emmet/Ivy Parking Garage as well as a series of stormwater management systems at the John Paul Jones Arena. The features at the arena include biofilters, vegetated swales, and a reconstructed flood plain. The stormwater management master plan, combined with other University sustainability initiatives, also led to an award for Outstanding Achievement for Pollution Prevention for a State Agency from Businesses for the Bay in 2007 and a silver Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2008.
Following the success of the stormwater features along Meadow Creek, UVA has installed other management practices that allow rain water to infiltrate or be taken up by plants, which supports the natural water cycle. Green roofs have been installed at Robertson Hall, the Claude Moore Nursing Education Building, and the South Lawn Complex. Biofliters and vegetated swales have been used at the Bice Parking lot, South Lawn Complex, Campbell Hall, Printing and Copying Services addition, and Clinical Lab Building. Efforts to recover water for reuse have also figured prominently in the University’s sustainability efforts. Cisterns, which capture and store rainwater for use in landscaping applications, have been installed at the Amphitheater, the Hunter Smith Band Building, and the South Lawn Complex. In some locations, water-condensate from air conditioning units is also captured and used for landscape irrigation.
U.Va. prioritizes use of native, adapted, low-maintenance, and non-invasive plant species in landscape design and replacement. Irrigation is not standard practice at U.Va. and nearly all landscapes are designed using xeriscaping techniques with specification of drought tolerant plants. All pest management, with the exception of Athletics and Intramural Recreation fields, is directed by U.Va.’s Plant Healthcare Specialist. Grounds are maintained in accordance with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that adhere to the four-tiered approach. The Plant Healthcare specialist is responsible for setting action thresholds and will recommend plant replacement in situations where plant material is likely to attract pests. When controls are used, biological controls, such as the use of nematodes, are prioritized.