Green Infrastructure and the Navitas House Bioswale

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This summer was a busy one at DTE Energy’s downtown headquarters complex with the completion and opening of Beacon Park. There was also another project flying under the radar: the redesign and installation of the bioswale behind DTE’s Navitas House on Bagley Street. A bioswale is a landscape element, similar to a rain garden, that helps manage storm water in an environmentally-friendly way.

The bioswale was originally created during the rehab of the old Salvation Army building after its purchase by DTE to satisfy the green infrastructure component of the LEED Silver certification and the habitat component of the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Conservation Certification. The design included a variety of native grasses and wildflowers specific to Michigan that would filter and retain storm water, effectively reducing the total volume of runoff into the city wastewater system. In addition, the bioswale created habitat for pollinators, such as butterflies and moths, as well as bird species. The latter is especially important in our urban environment, where quality habitat and space for wildlife is scarce.

Visitors may have noticed its appearance changing over the past year. The garden was mowed down, redesigned, and replanted in a joint project between Environmental Management & Resources (EM&R) and DTE’s Major Enterprise Projects (MEP) groups. The project had not originally designated a maintenance plan, so the garden fell into disrepair after its original installation. The goal of the redesign was to make the bioswale more aesthetically pleasing, while still maintaining its form and function.

Members of the Environmental Sustainability Team within MEP began by identifying aspects of the bioswale in need of improvement or support. The team then worked to secure funding, develop a new design, and create a long-term plan. These efforts involved collaborating with other business groups and external consultants to create a landscape design with an ecological and water-saving function.

The groundwork for replanting began in the Fall of 2016 with the first round of herbicide treatment to the existing vegetation, which was mostly weeds and invasive species. This was essential to setting a good foundation for the new wildflowers and grasses. In Spring 2017, Wildtype Native Plant Nursery planted 1,485 individual plant plugs that included Milkweed, the important host-plant for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. Throughout the summer, the garden was monitored and maintained with many species of plants flowering for the first time. These steps created a strong foundation to ensure the project would be successful for years to come.

So, once the inevitable snow thaws this spring, take a walk to the Navitas House and look to see what may be popping up or buzzing around!