What is Blue-Green Building?

Green building, low-impact development, sustainable infrastructure — these terms open up a tool chest of ways to make cities more environmentally friendly. They include saving energy, recycling, using sustainable materials, minimizing global warming.

This website, created by all-volunteer Friends of Five Creeks, showcases “blue-green” building – low-impact development aimed at sustaining water and watersheds, so that nature can flourish even in cities. The projects shown here are all east of San Francisco Bay, in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, California, USA. They include office buildings, schools, homes, parklands, even a cemetery.

To see projects, click from the Google map or click one of the “Projects by Type” index pages at right.

How Cities Affect Water and Watersheds

Cities cover much of the land with streets, sidewalks, and roofs. Rain no longer drips from leaves and soaks into soil. Instead, it rushes with flash-flood-like intensity to gutters, storm drains, and creeks. This runoff carries a toxic soup of heavy metals, petroleum products, pet wastes, pesticides, and litter washed from yards and streets.

The result is flooding, erosion, and pollution. Streams overtop their banks or cut deep, steep, unstable canyons. Plants, fish, and frogs are swept away. Storm flows and pollution endanger people, pets, and property.

Studies show that these effects begin when as little as 10% of an area is developed. Many millions of dollars are spent trying to lessen or repair the damage.

How we can make cities more water- friendly

Urban development can do a lot to filter out pollutants, slow down storm flows, and/or let water soak into soil. Possibilities include permeable surfaces, swales, detention basins, gardens, flow-through planters, green roofs, and cisterns. As the photos in these pages show, these elements also can make cities more beautiful and livable.

Some of the projects shown here were voluntary efforts. Most “blue-green” infrastructure, though, is appearing due to requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, cascading down through the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (a state agency), which in turn imposes requirements on local governments under a permit system. These affect only large projects and there are many exceptions.

With time and stronger rules or incentives, however, the kinds of projects you see on this website could make cities friendlier to both water and people.

For background and related information, go to Contact Us, Other Links.

Click to the Friends of Five Creeks website to find out more about the all-volunteer group that developed this website.

Do you know a project that should be on this website? Email us at f5creeks@aol.com or use the form!

This web site is not copyrighted. Use the images and information to let others know about water-friendly development. We would appreciate references and, especially, links to this website, to spread the word more.