PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

The Practice of Low Impact Development

July 2003, 131 pages

FULL TEXT: [IMAGE: bullet] *.pdf (3.32 MB)

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How can you increase your project's marketability, decrease development costs and protect the environment?

[IMAGE: The Practice of Low Impact Development]

Try Low Impact Development (LID).

[IMAGE: View of the inside of a sand filter that satisfied storm water management requirements without consuming buildable land area.] Best suited for new, suburban development, LID can offer developers infrastructure savings and a way to respond to increasingly stringent environmental regulations. For municipalities, LID can help contain burgeoning street and storm water management costs. For community residents, LID encourages local environmental stewardship.

This guide provides information for building professionals and municipal planning officials on conventional and innovative technologies that support LID. It also suggests amendments to existing development codes to facilitate use of such technologies.

Some of the key LID recommendations include:

  • Project Planning and Design - One of the keys to a successful project is to invest additional time and money in the initial planning stages of development. These expenditures are often recouped in the form of rapid home sales, enhanced community marketability, and higher lot yields.
  • Storm Water Management - LID storm water management systems can reduce costs through the reduction or elimination of conventional storm water conveyance and collection systems. LID systems can reduce the need for paving, curb and gutter, piping, inlet structures, and storm water ponds by treating water at its source, rather than at the end of the pipe. Municipalities also benefit from LID in the long run as a result of reduced maintenance costs.
  • Wastewater Management - Cost considerations or health and environmental concerns sometimes make linking a proposed development's wastewater system to existing municipal sewer connections unfeasible. Using the LID approach, developers can choose from a variety of on-site wastewater treatment system options, either as alternatives or enhancements to conventional septic systems. Some on-site treatment alternatives to conventional systems, such as recirculating sand filters and evapotranspiration systems, are "add-ons" to a traditional septic tank system. The additional treatment unit is connected in-line with the septic tank, and provides an extra level of treatment.
  • Circulation and Design - Municipalities have begun to reexamine the connection between circulation design and storm water management practices. Using the LID approach, new designs for streets, sidewalks, and driveways can maintain the functions of circulation while helping to reduce expanses of impervious surfaces that can alter local hydrology and degrade water quality. In turn, new street designs can influence the layout of lots, and help increase the volume of open space in new residential developments.

Benefits of LID


  • Reduces infrastructure costs (streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalk)
  • Reduces storm water management costs
  • Increases lot yields and reduces impact fees
  • Increases lot and community marketability


  • Protects regional flora and fauna
  • Balances growth needs with environmental protection
  • Reduces municipal infrastructure and utility maintenance costs (streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, storm sewers)
  • Fosters public/private partnerships

Home Buyer

  • Protects site and regional water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient, and toxic loads to waterbodies
  • Preserves and protects amenities that can translate into more salable homes and communities
  • Provides shading for homes and properly orients homes to help decrease monthly utility bills


  • Preserves integrity of ecological and biological systems
  • Protects site and regional water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient, and toxic loads to waterbodies
  • Reduces impacts to local terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals
  • Preserves trees and natural vegetation

Content updated on 11/9/2006

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