Post contributed by Kenzley Defler, Office of Sustainability Intern
In the spring of 2013, Professor Charlene LeBleu worked with students from the Landscape Architecture and Building Science programs to design and implement a rain garden outside of Dudley Hall, a project funded by AU Facilities Management and a grant from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The original rain garden was visually attractive with flowers and native vegetation, and provided numerous environmental benefits to the Parkerson Mill Creek Watershed in which it was located. However, from September 2014-October 2015, Dudley Hall underwent intense renovations, affecting the land outside as well. Plants were removed and soil compacted, leaving little of the rain garden behind.
Following the building renovations, AU Facilities spearheaded plans to revive the land outside of Dudley Hall, including collaborative efforts from many student groups and faculty departments. The rain garden has now been restored, returning many environmental and educational opportunities to Auburn’s campus!
Because the rain garden sits in the Parkerson Mill Creek Watershed and is surrounded by approximately 25,000 ft² of impervious surfaces, it functions as an effective rain water harvesting and bioretention site. A 1,000 gallon cistern collects rainwater to be used for landscape irrigation in summer months, both reducing water use and saving money. Overflow water is held in the bioretention area where plants allow it to slowly infiltrate back into the earth. This process improves water quality by filtering out unwanted sediment, nutrients, and pathogens and keeping them out of our groundwater. In addition, both native and nonnative plants were intentionally chosen not only for their beauty, but also for their role in maintaining biodiversity.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the Dudley Hall rain garden offers educational opportunities for students and potential outreach efforts to the wider Auburn community. Although a fairly small site, the impacts of the rain garden are far-reaching, showing Auburn’s commitment to sustainability on campus and in the surrounding community.