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GMC wins Cahaba River Society’s Conservation Development Award for innovative stormwater design project on UAB’s campus

February 16, 2023 · Accolades, Projects

Cahaba River Society presented Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC) with a Conservation Development Award for their design of stormwater features outside of The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) McMahon Residence Hall. The awards ceremony took place at Cahaba River Society’s annual meeting on Thursday, February 9 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills. GMC Senior Landscape Architect Jane Reed Ross, PLA, ASLA, accepted the award on GMC’s behalf.

The unique site conditions on UAB’s campus created challenges that GMC’s design team met with innovative solutions. Steep slopes between Gold Hall to the north, and McMahon Hall to the south created potential stormwater issues for the new residence hall. An intricate network of features that includes a large cistern, concrete weirs, accents of sandstone, small bioretention basins, stone creek beds, and a larger bioretention basin in the lower courtyard were designed to capture the majority of rainwater on-site, as well as a large amount of condensate from the building air conditioning units. Water collected in the cistern is used to operate the irrigation systems for the site in an environmentally conscientious way.

GMC Landscape Architect Jane Ross accepting the award, with CRS Board Member Bolaji Kukoyi of Dynamic Civil Solutions (left) and River Sustainability Director Ben Wegleitner (center).

Overflow from the cistern can be followed as one travels down the ADA-accessible angled walkways.  The water flows across decorative grated trenches in the walks from one bioretention area to the next. Adjacent niches house spots for seating along the way surrounded by seasonal plantings of native grasses and perennials.

The entire route is a demonstration that the paths for accessibility, along with stormwater, can be an attractive focal point and destination. Much of the courtyard is built upon the storm shelter of the building and required thoughtful consideration in its materials and design, but effectively uses the site to achieve the programmatic elements desired by UAB.

While this project falls outside of the Cahaba River watershed (runoff flows to Valley Creek and eventually the Black Warrior River), it is another example of how infiltrative and nature-based practices can be used in our region and that steep slopes need to be an obstacle for innovative stormwater management.

The project team included Goodwyn Mills Cawood, primary architect and landscape architect; Dynamic Civil Solutions; Bernard Mechanical; and Hoar Construction. More information is available at