Construction Delays: How to Plan for the Expected and Unexpected

May 15, 2023
By Michael Rief, Sr Vice President of Construction, WSB

It is not every day that a construction project is delayed due to digging up unmarked graves, but it certainly happens more than the public might realize. Construction projects face the potential of delays in work for many reasons. Some of these are within the control of the managing company, while others are outside of their control. It is essential for industry leaders and local municipalities to understand the potential causes of delays and to have plans in place to address them promptly and mitigate cost, schedule, and quality.

Controllable Delays

Delays that are within the control of a company are often preventable and are caused by a variety of issues. Plan issues, utility conflicts, poor workmanship or low-quality materials can result in the need for rework, which can delay the project, impact schedule, and increase the cost of your project. This can happen if the work is not done to the required standard or if the materials used do not meet the specified quality criteria. The time and effort required to rework or remove and replace the work can be significant, and it can result in delays to other work later in the schedule that is dependent on it.

Permitting, environmental and safety concerns can also cause delays in construction projects and may require work to be stopped, which can also result in additional costs. Communication or misunderstanding in the planning and execution of the work between project stakeholders, can lead to confusion about project requirements, timelines, and other critical information

To mitigate these risks, WSB takes proactive measures, such as implementing quality control processes, investing in safety training, improving team communication, and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.

Uncontrollable Delays

In addition to these internal factors, there is a number of external factors which can cause delays in construction projects. Weather is the largest external factor in delaying construction. Whether it be snow, high winds, extreme temperatures, or severe flooding, all are outside the control of the construction project team and create significant setbacks.

Subsurface obstacles such as poor soils, unidentified utilities, contamination, or historical and religious artifacts uncovered during excavation significantly impact the project timeline. These may require design changes, new permitting and approvals, and additional costs.

We have also experienced government shutdown or stoppage in programming funding which has delayed construction because contractors are no longer able to be paid, and approval processes shut down. These delays can potentially shut down work by months, even years, depending on how long the stoppage lasts

These external factors are harder to influence and, in many cases, impossible to control, but there are ways WSB’s team and partners work to eliminate and minimize their impact on projects.

How WSB Can Help:

WSB thinks through all possible scenarios to ensure that it’s prepared to prevent, address, and resolve any delays that may arise.

Existing processes such as project scoping, soils exploration and project planning along with technological advancements like ground-penetrating radar and drone surveys help WSB identify potential issues like subsurface items or utilities that must be cleared before a project begins. These approaches help to further define the nature of the work and identify issues in the planning and design phases to prevent costly changes which can impact, cost schedule and quality during the construction phases of the work. Planning and sequencing of construction activities is also managed with technological advancements. WSB identifies conflicts for each stage of the construction stages by applying conflict analysis on temporary construction elements such as drainage and traffic needs by utilizing clash detection and contract time determination.

Construction project delays can be caused by a range of factors, both within and outside of the control of the owner and contractor. However, by implementing proactive measures, investing in technology, and prioritizing communication, WSB minimizes the risk of delays and ensures that projects are completed on time and within budget for municipalities.

Mike Rief leads WSB’s Construction Services team. He has nearly 30 years of experience in civil engineering, with an emphasis on pavement and materials, pavement management, quality management, project management, design, risk assessment, project controls, contract administration, construction, and preventative maintenance. Throughout his tenure, he’s managed several complex, high-profile projects across Minnesota. | 612.518.8329

Michael Rief

Six Ways to Improve on No Mow May

May 15, 2023
By Andi Moffatt, Vice President of Environmental, WSB

WSB understands the importance of creating and maintaining healthy environments for residents and wildlife. While “No Mow May” is a well-intentioned campaign to improve the pollinator population, there are some more effective ways to protect natural habitats that cities and residents should be aware of and consider. There are several drawbacks that cities and residents should be aware of.

There are some pitfalls of “No Mow May” and several alternatives to protect pollinators:

  1. The research study that was the driving force behind the No Mow May was actually redacted because of inaccurate information about its effectiveness in attracting and protecting bees. Therefore, the effectiveness of this campaign on pollinators needs to be investigated.
  2. Not mowing the lawn may also create more trouble for the natural habitat by the growth of Kentucky Blue grass weeds, which are undesirable for healthy, thriving lawns.
  3. Residents participating in No Mow May may create a few headaches for neighbors and cities if they continue the no-mow theme into June. Not mowing the lawn throughout the summer could result in breeding grounds for mosquitoes, complaints from other residents in the neighborhood, and fines from the city for ordinance violations.
  4. Instead of participating in No Mow May, cities should educate the public on appropriately re-landscaping their yards to be more pollinator-friendly. Planting flowers and other plants that are native to the region in gardens or open spaces attract native bees and pollinator species to the area.
  5. Cities should encourage the reduction of chemical products on residents’ lawns. Overusing chemicals on lawns can kill off beneficial insects, contaminate soil and water, reduce food sources for pollinators, and increase susceptibility to disease.
  6. Use a public awareness campaign to remind residents of the enforcement of ordinances and communicate the facts versus myths of No Mow May. Additionally, ensure that city staff in publicly facing customer service roles are prepared to share this with residents who may inquire.

Cities and residents who want to do more to support their local habitats should learn about the many ways to help and be aware of catchy tactics that might actually do more harm than good. With sustainability as a core tenet of WSB’s work, WSB helps cities incorporate native landscapes into public spaces that cut down on maintenance costs and help the environment.

Andi is a Vice President with experience leading people and projects that include planning, environmental, energy, highway, natural resources, construction and development. She oversees our Environmental services and approaches her work with passion and positivity. | 763.287.7196

How Smart City Data Can Spur Brownfield Redevelopment

May 15, 2023
By Ryan Spencer, Director of Environmental Investigation and Remediation, WSB

Most cities have dozens of brownfield sites that they would like to see redeveloped. Finding new uses for these sites can spur growth and investment in underserved neighborhoods, increase community tax base, boost local economies, and more. However, many cities face significant challenges when it comes to brownfields redevelopment, from identifying prime redevelopment opportunities to understanding how to proactively market sites to potential developers.

As more cities integrate smart city tools and technologies into their everyday operations, here are some ways communities can approach brownfield redevelopment. 

Identifying Opportunities for Redevelopment and Making Data-Driven Decisions 

Identifying brownfields sites is the first and most important step. Brownfields are former commercial or industrial sites that are abandoned, underutilized, or no longer in use. Many times, these sites have perceived or documented environmental contamination that is preventing them from being redeveloped. Brownfield sites are not exclusive to sites with current and/or historical gasoline station or dry cleaner use. Brownfield sites may have been dumping areas, airfields, ports, railway land, etc.; basically, a site associated with petroleum or hazards substance storage and use. 

Using data and a smart city approach to brownfield revitalization can encourage cities to take a proactive approach and make educated decisions on when and where to invest their resources. Tools like GIS, census data, county and local government data, and so forth can help leaders filter and narrow down where investments are needed and will have the greatest impact. 

What’s more, many cities already have all of these tools and data at their fingertips. It’s about rethinking how you use this information to overcome hurdles and jumpstart projects. 

Reaching More Residents and Elevating Equity 

Brownfield sites are scattered throughout communities, but many communities find them to be most prevalent in low-income, BIPOC, and traditionally underserved neighborhoods. Spurring opportunity and investment in these communities is critical to improve equity and inclusion of all residents, and can also help meet community diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. 

Using data to better understand the resident makeup of these communities, where there are shortages of critical services and resources, and meaningful opportunities for economic redevelopment is important as leaders look to build the cities of the future. 

Having an in-depth understanding of how brownfield redevelopment will revitalize underserved communities can also help secure critical grant funding for investigation and cleanup activities.

The Benefits of Proactive Brownfield Redevelopment 

When communities are proactive about brownfield redevelopment, it can help mitigate project risk, create well-rounded narratives to secure critical grant funding, better serve key improvement zones across communities, and ensure that leaders have the data and tools to visualize and fully understand what opportunities are out there. Using data to drive these decisions can also help sell and secure partnerships with developers for redevelopment.

In short, cities have more data than ever at their disposal. Thinking about how brownfield redevelopment and smart city tools go together will drive communities forward. 

How WSB Can Help

WSB has a team of experts that can help your community identify and redevelop brownfield sites. Whether it’s finding the best properties to redevelop, securing critical grant funding, doing investigation of sites and developing contaminant removal plans, or helping you better use smart tools to guide processes, our team can help. 

Ryan Spencer is our director of Environmental Investigation and Remediation and has worked in the environmental consulting industry servicing both public and private sector clients. He is proficient in the planning, management, and completion of environmental due diligence, remediation, and brownfield grant writing. | 612.723.3644


3 Things Cities Should Consider About Smart Cities and City Staffing

April 17, 2023
By Alyson Fauske, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Like most industries, cities are facing numerous workforce challenges from city staffing to adjusting to more remote and hybrid roles. On top of that, many communities are also thinking big picture about how they can effectively build the smart cities of tomorrow.

As communities think about city staffing, here are some ways that they can rethink about how city staff play a role in building smarter, more efficient cities and how they can build engage, and connect workforces.

City Staff Are More Connected Than Ever Before

We may be passed the pandemic, but there were numerous lessons learned about how technology can better connect staff, and for cities, that is critical for cross-collaboration and problem-solving. Email, Zoom, staff management tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams – they all help with staff augmentation and close gaps on how staff are connecting.

Whether your staff is onsite, hybrid, remote, or all of the above, getting smart about technology gives city staff the tools to remain better connected and address critical community needs more efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively.

Understand How GIS Data Can Improve Efficiency

The need for on-the-ground repair and infrastructure services will never be fully replaced in cities. However, with tools like Google Earth Street view and GIS mapping, some investigative work to identify problems can be done off site. It can be a simple, yet effective tool, and it’s also one that is easily accessible to all cities.

Smart City Tools Foster Better Communication with Residents

At the end of the day, city staff are there to improve communities and the lives of residents. Smart tools and technology are significantly cutting redundancies in city staff time, improving connectivity, and making city government more accessible for everyone.

For example, phone apps and online tools allow residents to report city issues like potholes. Instead of creating multiple pieces of paperwork and follow up for each resident that reports on the same pothole, tech tools can measure the number of complaints and combine a single issue into one report.

Tools like these also ensure that residents can connect with city government at their convenience. They don’t need someone at a desk from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to submit paperwork, share resident input, or access important city information. Technology makes city government more accessible.

In short, as communities think about building smart cities and finding and maintaining a top-quality workforce, tools and technology are critical for fostering connections between city staff and between residents and local government. WSB has the staff and expertise to help support your community as you lead it into the future.

With over 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services. | 612.263.1736

Drinking water

How Cities Can Prepare for the EPA’s New Proposed PFAS Regulations

April 17, 2023
By Jon Christensen, Professional Engineer and Steve Nelson, Sr Project Manager, WSB

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed establishing legally enforceable levels for six man-made Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) that are known to exist in the environment and drinking water. The EPA’s proposed levels are below most states current guidance levels and are near the detectable limits of the particular PFAS compounds. This move represents a significant step forward in safeguarding the health of our communities. To achieve this goal, the EPA is leveraging the most recent scientific data and building on existing state efforts to limit PFAS, aiming to provide a nationwide, health-protective standard for these specific substances in drinking water.

PFAS compounds are being detected in more and more water sources, both in surface water and groundwater systems. It is essential that cities stay up to date on this rapidly evolving science, so they can be prepared to adapt to new regulations and rules as they are decided.

Here’s what you should do now to be prepared and the potential solutions if these PFAS compounds are identified in your city’s drinking water.

Testing for PFAS

Many cities are not currently monitoring or testing for PFAS compounds in their water systems. The proposed EPA PFAS regulations lower the acceptable amount of PFAS compounds, which will likely affect a greater number of cities. That’s why cities should begin testing now. Keep in mind that the Minnesota Department of Health has a web tool that cities can use to determine whether testing has already been done in their area. If no testing has been done, cities should consider testing and eventually will be required to conduct testing, and if regulated PFAS elements are detected above allowable levels, then cities must begin evaluating and implementing solutions.

Solutions for PFAS Contamination

There are several options for addressing identified PFAS that include obtaining water from a source or system that does not contain PFAS, blending water from multiple sources to dilute the amount of PFAS entering the distribution system, or treating the raw water that contains PFAS. The cost of addressing PFAS in the water supply will vary depending on the amount of PFAS detected and the solution type that is most feasible for that community.

How WSB Can Help

Thinking through the next steps now, while communities await the EPA’s final ruling on PFAS regulations, can set a community up for success and better prepare cities for evolving water quality regulations.

Jon’s experience in water and wastewater engineering include water supply systems, sanitary sewer collection systems and water and wastewater treatment facilities. Prior to joining WSB, Jon spent two years with an NGO in Honduras designing and constructing electricity-free sustainable drinking water treatment plants. | 612.437.7967

Steve’s experience includes treatment plant designs and renovations (for both groundwater and surface water plants). He has experience with treatment process technologies such as reverse osmosis, ozone, activated alumina, biological filtration, lime softening, radium reduction, plate settlers, plate and frame presses and solids handling. He has worked with the AWWA Office of Government Affairs and the AWWA Research Foundation on water studies. | 612.258.8152


MDH Lead Service Line Inventory Regulations – What Communities Need to Know

April 17, 2023
By Jerry Schimmel, Project Engineer, WSB

In 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules that require the removal of service pipes in cities nationwide that contain lead and copper. Lead pipes, primarily used in infrastructure through the first half of the twentieth century, can have negative long-term impacts on human health and water quality. This new rule will help communities support sustainable water infrastructure that provides safe drinking water to all Americans.

State regulatory agencies are tasked with enforcing and administering funds for this initiative. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is the managing agency. This is a significant undertaking for many cities, and it is important that municipalities understand how to navigate and comply with the new rules. 

What do cities need to know to ensure compliance with this new regulation? Here are three things to consider.

There will be funding to help cities comply with these new mandates. While updating water infrastructure and removing lead pipes can be an expensive task, cities have the opportunity to access grants to help fund this process. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2022 set aside dollars for cities to help support service line updates. Grant funding can also be flexible to meet community needs, from paying for community awareness campaigns to self-testing lines to taking lead pipe inventory and more.

Cities must inventory their pipelines by 2024. By October 2024, all cities must complete the inventory of all service pipes in their community. This means cities need to act now. Meeting this deadline requires a multi-pronged approach that includes mapping out all the service lines in a city, determining which contains lead, and finally creating and implementing a plan for the removal and replacement of the lead pipes.  

Data is key, and that means educating and working with residents. Mapping pipeline data is a big undertaking for many communities, especially as many cities will need to go beyond historical records to map out their service lines, that’s why resident participation is important. Communities should leverage GIS data to help build and map which service lines are at risk of having lead components. Online mapping tools and tips can help residents identify lead service lines and report back to the city. The more user-friendly testing and data collection is, the more accessible it is for the public.

What’s more, because water quality issues more commonly impact disadvantaged and low-income communities, 49% of program funds are directed toward traditionally underserved communities to improve drinking water quality. Educating and engaging with these neighborhoods and residents will be important for cities, and the focus should be on raising awareness and helping with testing.

WSB offers all the services for cities to navigate and implement the new regulations, including grant proposals, inventory, mapping, and identification. We assist cities throughout every step of the process, including:

  • Establishing a database that meets the MDH reporting requirements
  • Creating and implementing a public engagement plan to educate and build community awareness
  • Gathering and tracking data by leveraging Esri Lead Service Line Inventory software
  • Planning and implementing a lead pipe replacement program
  • Building a comprehensive report documenting the lead resolution to MDH by October 2024
  • Identifying and applying for grants to support community compliance and pipeline updates

    Service pipelines supply drinking water to homes, businesses, and schools. Safe drinking water and sustainable infrastructure are critical to healthy communities, and while this new rule will be a significant undertaking, it also provides meaningful opportunities for communities to make much-needed improvements.

    Jerry is a project engineer and manager delivering complex projects in municipalities, small and large. He has a breadth of knowledge and understanding of full reconstruction projects, and can identify and solve risks and problems throughout the design process, delivering projects on time and on budget. | 612.409.1014

    Paving the Way: Four Proactive Trail Maintenance Tips for Communities

    April 17, 2023
    By Jordan Gedrose, Landscape Architect, WSB

    As Spring emerges, trail use will be in full swing with joggers, walkers, and bikers. When looking at the types of recreational trails, such as gravel, concrete, and bituminous, bituminous is the most common type of trail. Bituminous, also known as asphalt trails, are used in high pedestrian trafficked areas and are often the more cost-effective trail option.

    Trail maintenance is essential for trail user safety, accessibility, and trail preservation. It means creating equitable communities where all residents have access to similar-quality trails and outdoor amenities.

    Here are four trail maintenance tips for communities, especially after a winter of record snowfall.

    1. Seasonal Trail Inspections

    Municipalities must inspect trails during each seasonal transition. Each part of the year brings new weather that can impact the usability of a trail, and as temperatures warm up and snow melts, cities need to inspect trails to be ready for increased traffic. Identifying pavement cracking, chipping, and heaving are part of the visual inspection. Trails receiving routine pavement inspections and maintenance will save communities money in the long run instead of allowing trail issues to worsen over time resulting in more costly repairs in the future.

    1. Repair and Preventative Measures

    There are many different reasons for trail pavement failure. These include environmental factors, such as sunlight, oxidation, water, the freeze/thaw cycle, aging, and vegetation. Traffic usage from maintenance equipment, utility vehicles, and pedestrians also contributes to trail failure.

    There are several different options for preventative and minor rehabilitation practices that significantly increase the overall lifespan of a trail. Generally, applying a trail sealant every four years after the trail is constructed is ideal.

    1. Remove Debris

    A build-up of debris on the pavement occurs during the winter when usage is low—blowing and sweeping trails in the spring is essential to clear them. It can involve removing fallen trees and branches or trimming overgrown vegetation. Snowmelt can bring additional leaf litter and soil onto the trail, so be sure to identify any areas near the trail that are eroding to protect the structural integrity of the trail as well as limit the amount of debris getting on the trail. Check catch basins to ensure no debris obstructs the inlets to ensure water is not getting trapped on the trail.  

    1. Update Trail Markings & Infrastructure

    For the same reasons pavement may need repairs based on environmental, usage, and design, pavement markings such as walk and bike lanes, direction symbols, or trail instructions should be upkept and repainted as needed. This includes signage as well. This is critical for user safety. 

    In addition to trail maintenance procedures,  infrastructure such as pet relief stations, bike repair tools and pumps, benches, garbage receptacles and lighting should be operational and ready to use. 

    How WSB Can Help?

    WSB can help create a customized trail maintenance plan that meets your community’s needs. We also design, construct trails, and help communities implement preventative maintenance to ensure residents get the most out of local trails.

    Jordan is a landscape architect who has worked with many communities to deliver visionary and achievable park master plan projects. He brings his conceptual, graphical, and technical expertise to projects including streetscapes, park and trail planning, playground design, and athletic complexes. Jordan is committed to collaborating with the client and providing thoughtful design input to create unique outdoor spaces and experiences. | 612.263.0687

    Designing Drainage Systems for Renewable Energy Sites

    By Dan Cazanacli, Project Manager, and Henry Meeker, Graduate Engineer, WSB

    When designing drainage systems for renewable energy sites, many different surface water factors must be considered to ensure a well-constructed system. These factors include how floods can impact the site, how water damage affects equipment and access points, soil erosion, water regulations, and how runoff impacts the surrounding ecosystem.

    Floods can cause both widespread and deep channelized flow across solar farms.

    Designers need to understand how water will flow across the site in different flood scenarios. Many renewable energy sites are located near floodplains, which can make the design process even more complicated. To tackle these challenges, WSB engineers use sophisticated 2D hydraulic models to map the direction, depth, and speed of water flow across the site.

    Stop water damage to critical site components.

    A crucial part of the drainage systems design process is ensuring that water, in any scenario, can flow smoothly across the site without causing any damage or flooding to critical components, such as inverters or battery storage units. Designers use the results of the hydraulic models to find the best solutions for water flow and to place these critical components away from the main flow of water. The models are also used to identify areas where water flows too quickly. WSB develops erosion control measures in these situations, such as reinforcing road surfaces at low water crossings.

    Plan for ground erosion around solar panel support piles.

    Another important aspect of renewable energy site design is ensuring that the supports for the solar panels can withstand strong winds and flooding. Each site is unique, our engineers work closely with our clients to use the results of the hydraulic models to assess the potential scour depth, meaning the point in the ground where erosion won’t occur, around the support piles and identify the appropriate methodology to use. This determines the best depth for embedding them. The models can also be used to identify areas where water is flowing too quickly and to develop erosion control measures, such as rock stabilization.

    Consider water quality and management regulations.

    Designers also need to consider regulations around stormwater management, water quality, floodplains, wetlands, and critical species/habitats. Project timelines will be significantly delayed without proper planning and consideration of these factors. WSB works to minimize the impact of the site on these sensitive areas while ensuring that the project proceeds on schedule. This often involves working closely with local government units and obtaining the necessary permits.

    Protect ecosystem health.

    Designers must understand how solar panels interact with the surrounding vegetation and soil. Major institutions, like the University of Minnesota, are performing ongoing research into how panel runoff affects water infiltration and an ecosystem’s health that will be incorporated into designs. Designers can leverage these findings to optimize water quality benefits for the site, incorporating water quality basins, pollinator-friendly vegetation, and site-specific erosion control measures.

    How WSB Can Help

    Do you need help planning your solar project and navigating challenges around drainage water systems? WSB can help with your design, develop erosion control models, ensure protection of local ecosystems through sustainable solutions, and more.

    Dan has 15 years of experience in water resources and geotechnical engineering in the private sector. Dan is now a project manager for WSB, and provides value to projects through his extensive background in hydrology and hydraulics, fluid mechanics, geomorphology, geology, soil mechanics, and groundwater flow. | 612.201.0184

    As a water resources graduate engineer with WSB, Henry works on a variety of stormwater management projects. His work on regional stormwater systems, roadway improvement projects, and stormwater treatment retrofits benefited from his technical knowledge which includes utility-scale solar drainage, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, water quality modeling, floodplain modeling, best management practice design, watershed permitting, and stormwater conveyance systems. | 612.258.8157

    Housing, house

    How Smart Cities Can Help Leaders Rethink Housing

    March 13, 2023
    Lori Johnson, Sr Professional Community Planner, WSB

    From phone apps for garage doors and heating systems to new security tools like Ring doorbells, we use technology in our homes to make our lives easier. Now cities are also using technology in housing decisions to make the lives of residents better and improve their communities.

    Smart city tools and data are key when cities think about housing, including when it comes to making constructive decisions, building homes, and identifying the greatest needs for community housing. 

    Here are some ways cities are getting smart about housing. 

    A Different Approach to Building Permits 

    Until recently, builders were sending in paper copies of everything they needed to obtain building permits. Architectural plans and site plans were required, and they often came into building departments on large paper rolls. Inspectors and planners were using paper plans to review for code compliance and very often had to move these large plans from office to office. Now, technology is making this process smarter, more accessible, more efficient, and eco-friendly. 

    There are several tech applications that cities can take advantage of for building permit issuance such as iMS and eTRAKiT. All building permits can be issued online, and everything is submitted and paid for electronically. The automation and productivity of issuing online building permits makes it faster and easier for builders to get started on homes – saving time and money.

    Data-Driven Decision Making

    With the use of online applications for building permit issuance, it also allows cities to collect information to make data-driven decisions. This means having access to information on home prices, location, types of construction, etc. 

    Additionally, this data can be mapped to see where there are deficiencies in certain types of housing and resources. From that, communities can identify where there is a need for additional affordable housing, what types of housing are needed in different neighborhoods or regions, and make future investment and resource allocation decisions. Moreover, as affordable housing is a need in most communities, smart tools and data are essential to help resolve critical shortages. 

    It’s not just city leaders that benefit from smart tools, but residents too. Technology allows homeowners and buyers to easily research addresses for past building permits, so they know what has been done to their home and when. There are also advantages when it comes to shopping for mortgages, allowing consumers to make educated purchase and remodeling decisions. 

    The Building Process in 3D

    Smart technologies are also affecting the way new homes are constructed. Some modular home builders use 3D modeling to generate home plans. Builders can then create modular homes in temperature-controlled environments at a faster pace than regular home construction and with less physical labor. It also helps eliminate barriers like being able to build in snowy, cold climates for instance. This is making home building more affordable and efficient. 

    For city planners, the use of 3D modeling also comes into play when envisioning new housing types within communities. When planners are able to virtually see what the built environment will look like, they can make better recommendations to the community.

    Looking Toward the Future

    Integrating smart tools and tech into community building and planning allows cities to make smarter decisions. It can help identify and solve problems, tackle affordable housing shortages, and make processes more efficient and effective for builders and residents alike. 

    It is important to remember that the term “smart cities” does not always mean that all citizens need to use technology to make their built environments better. But it does mean that it helps decision makers make smart decisions and smarter cities. WSB has many ideas and resources available to help cities be a part of this smart city evolution. If you have questions, we are always here to help you plan for and implement smart city technologies.

    Lori has more than 25 years of experience working in a municipal planning department, having worked her way up through the planning department at the City of Blaine to become their city planner. She has worked in all aspects of city planning activities including project management, site plan and application review, public participation and long range planning. | 612.364.3029

    How the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Can Help States, Cities, Municipalities, and Tribes

    March 13, 2023
    Andi Moffat, VP of Environmental Services, WSB

    Major infrastructure and spending packages passed in the last year by the federal government, including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), are assisting communities across the country build a more sustainable, equitable and environmentally friendly future. There is a significant influx of dollars going into communities across the nation, and now is the time to ensure you do not miss out on these meaningful funding opportunities. 

    Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced eligibility requirements for its Climate Pollution Reduction Grant, and here is what community and tribal leaders should know about this grant program. 

    The Climate Pollution Reduction Grant

    The new Climate Pollution Reduction grant consists of $5 billion in funds and is broken up into two different phases. 

    The first phase is a non-competitive planning phase where $250 million in grants will be made available to qualifying communities. This phase is all about collaborating across government entities, assessing greenhouse gas emissions, and climate planning.

    • States must submit a Notice of Intent to Participate to the EPA by March 31, 2023. The funding that State’s receive may be available for cities within those states for additional planning funding. Please watch for updates from your local State Pollution Control Agency. 
    • Cities within Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) designated in the grant guidance may also be eligible when coordinating across the MSA. The lead entity for the MSA will need to submit a Notice of Intent to Participate for grants by April 28, 2023.
    • Tribal communities must coordinate with their EPA Regional Office soon to indicate interest in this funding.

    While this is a non-competitive grant, an application is required. States must submit the application by April 28, 2023. MSA’s must submit the application by May 31, 2023. Tribal Nations must submit the application by June 15, 2023.

    The second phase of the grants will have $4.6 billion available for project implementation for the year 2024 and beyond. It is important to note that to qualify for the second phase grants, communities must have received or been covered by the first phase planning grant either directly from the EPA or covered by your State grant. Applicants must have a System for Award Management (SAM) number and be registered in to apply for the grants. 

    Funding Opportunities 

    City planners, sustainability coordinators and local leaders can support a wide variety of planning and implementation projects with this grant funding. Projects can fall under a number of categories including transportation systems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, natural and working lands, resilient communities, and clean energy. 

    Additionally, each project must have a diversity, equity and inclusion connection, so it’s critical that applicants carefully consider and understand how these projects impact BIPOC and low-income communities, improve underserved neighborhoods, or incorporate an environmental justice lens in the project. 

    What To Do Right Now

    This is a substantial and historic funding opportunity for communities and tribes, so be sure to submit a notice of intent by March 31 if a State, by April 28, 2023 if a large MSA, or to start coordination with your regional EPA Office if a Tribal Nation. Also check with your state Pollution Control Agency or equivalent as states will also receive funding.

    If you are unsure where to start or how best to approach next stems, WSB is available for consultation, grant writing, and more. We can help partner with you to advance meaningful infrastructure and environmental improvement projects in your community. 

    Andi is a Vice President with more than 23 years of experience leading people and projects that include planning, environmental, energy, highway, natural resources, construction and development. She oversees our Environmental services and approaches her work with passion and positivity. | 763.287.7196