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East Tennessee communities are expected to grow 43 percent in the next three decades, which will likely impact the region’s water sources. UT’s Landscape Architecture Program has created a guide that will help counties address these challenges.

The book, Low Impact Development: Opportunities for the PlanET Region, was prepared for the City of Knoxville and the Plan East Tennessee (PlanET) Consortium, a regional planning initiative supported by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It addresses Anderson, Blount, Loudon, Knox and Union Counties.

For three years, faculty and graduate students of the UT College of Architecture and Design conducted research and created design solutions in collaboration with PlanET. The publication encourages communities to embrace low-impact development in watershed planning, community design, and site development. This means addressing stormwater issues at their source by reintroducing natural hydrologic functions and biological processes into developed landscapes. The Knoxville County Metropolitan Planning Commission funded publication of the research.

View the publication online.

“In East Tennessee, water is a resource that defines the landscape and sustains the region economically, socially, and environmentally,” said Brad Collett, an associate professor of landscape architecture and plant sciences. He co-authored the publication with lecturer Valerie Friedmann and program alumna Wyn Miller. “Precipitation, streams, rivers, reservoirs, and groundwater are all part of an interconnected system. As the East Tennessee population grows, the health of the region’s water resources, such as that for drinking, industry, recreation, and tourism, will face increasing challenges.”

The health of water resources is threatened by the amount and quality of the stormwater runoff in urban and rural watersheds, each of which is affected by prevailing development patterns, activities on developed properties, and existing infrastructure, Collett said.

Through the impact avoidance, minimization, and management methods outlined in the publication, East Tennessee communities can learn how to promote and protect the health of the region’s shared water resources. The research demonstrates water management solutions for existing and new development in rural, urban, and residential areas.

“By implementing ‘green’ stormwater infrastructure, developed landscapes can perform as part of the solution to water resource challenges and help communities meet new stormwater management regulations by reducing, cleaning, retaining, and infiltrating runoff,” Collett said.

Low-impact development practices also present an opportunity for stormwater management systems to become an aesthetically pleasing part of a landscape instead of a buried function. According to Collett, developers around the country are reaping savings by using similar approaches.

The research was made possible through the coursework of landscape architecture graduate students. They investigated and designed for regional growth through grayfield redevelopment and low-impact alternatives to managing stormwater runoff and re-introducing natural water cycle processes on developed sites in Knoxville’s First Creek/White’s Creek Watershed. Several of the projects received awards in 2012 from the American Society of Landscape Architects Tennessee Chapter.

The UT Landscape Architecture Program is the only accredited landscape architecture program in Tennessee. It is a partnership between the College of Architecture and Design and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The program’s commitment to PlanET is valued at $1 million, an estimate based on students’ time, facilities, and faculty resources dedicated to the project through six graduate-level studio courses.

To learn more about PlanET and UT’s involvement, visit PlanET’s website. Information about the UT Landscape Architecture is available on its website.


Kiki Roeder (865-974-6713,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,