IASB Journal Taps Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. for School District Zoning Law Cover Story

Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. project manager Spencer Craig, PE authored a cover story for the September/October 2018 issue of the Illinois Association of School Boards’ IASB Journal. The article, “Navigating uncharted waters: School district facilities and local zoning,” examines the implications of school zoning law changes on the relationships between school districts and local governments.

Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. and Team Partners Receive Fourth Consecutive Award from Canstruction Chicago

The last can was carefully placed on top of our team’s 10-foot tall can art exhibition at 3:10 a.m. at this year’s Canstruction Chicago build night. Although the next morning many of us had sleepy eyes and multiple cups of coffee, our team at Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA), and our partners from FitzGerald, Power Construction, and ECS Midwest were excited the 5,050-can “CANthedral” finally came to life.

At this year’s ChicagoCAN charity cocktail event and awards reception, the “CANthedral” received the 2018 “Structural Ingenuity” award, marking our fourth consecutive team award, and third in that category.

Canstruction Chicago judges were asked to make the selection based on the sculpture that, “Pushes the limits of gravity and physics to turn a basic can of food into a structure that makes you say, “Wow, how did they do that?”

The can art exhibitions designed by 22 teams of Chicago-area architecture, engineering and construction professionals were on display at the Merchandise Mart for two weeks and were later donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Topping off 727 West Madison

727 West Madison is now the tallest building in the West Loop. The mixed-use and residential development now stands at its final height of 44 floors.

Last week, team members from EEA rode the construction elevator up 33 floors to attend a “topping off” party hosted by the project’s construction management team, Lendlease. EEA is the civil engineering consultant on the project and worked with the design team to provide stormwater management, ADA compliance, utility connections and permitting services.

When finished, the building designed by FitzGerald will have 492 units, 9,500 square feet of retail space, parking for 375 vehicles and multiple luxury amenities.

The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2018.

4 Ways to Make School Campuses Safer with Traffic Engineering & Parking Solutions

The sound of the alarm clock on Monday morning starts the race for parents and students to make it out the door and begin their journey to school. Instead of waiting for a big yellow bus, private passenger vehicles are the leading means of transportation for elementary, junior high, and high school students. This new trend is creating traffic safety and congestion issues at many schools across the nation and here in Illinois.

Reduce Risk & Congestion
An intuitive and well-planned school campus can make other modes of transportation easier and safer, to help reduce the dependence on private vehicles.

  1. Consider Pedestrian and Bike Paths: Provide paths for walkers and bike riders to enter the school campus at protected locations that minimize conflict with cars or school bus traffic.  Add stalls for bike parking.
  2. Split up loading zones: Separate school bus loading areas from student drop-off areas. Preferably, each loading zone should be on opposite sides of the school building.
  3. Look at where students are loading: Student loading should be from the passenger side of the vehicle and designed to flow with afternoon dismissal queues from waiting parents.
  4. Increase on-site parking: Most schools have enough parking for their staff and some visitors, but heavily rely on street parking for students and special events. Overflow street parking slows the movement of traffic, decreases road visibility and causes traffic safety issues.

School Parking Needs and Illinois Zoning Laws
As mentioned in our post, Zoning Law for Illinois School Districts: Continuing Challenges and Opportunities, new schools or expansions at existing schools now come under municipal review and approvals. Many zoning codes are requiring more school parking. Although parking consultants can help schools attain a parking variance to reduce the number of required parking spaces, if overflow parking is a regular issue, adding on-site parking may still be required.

For more information about K-12 traffic and parking solutions, please contact EEA’s Director of Traffic Engineering, Steve Corcoran at scorcoran@eea-ltd.com.

Meet Our Team: Kara Beck, Landscape Designer

Kara Beck is a Landscape Designer at Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA). Kara works alongside EEA’s Director of Landscape Architecture and is based in our Chicago office.

Kara joined EEA in 2017 and supports the firm’s Landscape Architecture service offerings. While completing her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture at Michigan State University, Kara gained horticultural experience working at Frederick Meijer Children’s Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Mt. Cuba Gardens in Barely Mill, Delaware. Since graduating, Kara has worked with clients to oversee the landscape construction process.

What inspired you to choose LA as a career path?
Playing softball initially sparked my interest in landscape architecture. When it was time to start thinking about a potential career path, I wanted to find a way stay connected to the sport I grew up playing for so many years. Luckily, my uncle, a landscape contractor business owner, set up an opportunity for me to job shadow a landscape architect who specialized in designing athletic field complexes. During my first year at Michigan State University, I learned about the other facets of landscape architecture beyond field design, all of which attracted me to the field.

What is your role at EEA?
As a landscape designer, I work closely with EEA’s Director of Landscape Architecture providing clients with everything from conceptual landscape designs, to preparing intricate design details for landscape construction.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When the sod is installed, it’s the first time you get to see the culmination of your landscape design come to life. All of the work creating concepts, sourcing plants, working with vendors, and preparing construction details come together to make something beautiful and functional.

What is your favorite EEA project to date?
The Lake Arlington improvements for the Arlington Heights Park District is my favorite project since joining the team. The project scope includes a new children’s sensory garden, native beach plantings, boardwalk, bike path improvements, and an ADA fishing pier/boat pier extension. Playing a role in the design of the sensory garden allowed me to call on my experience as an intern at the Frederick Meijer Children’s Garden. Selecting the plants, landscape elements, pavements, and other materials to create a sensory experience for the children that will visit the garden is very rewarding.

The Site Scoop: Tightening As-built Requirements

4 Things Design Team Partners Should know

Near the end of 2017, the City of Chicago Department of Water Management released a general memorandum announcing the enforcement of civil as-built drawing submittals, outlined in the 2016 Regulations for Sewer Construction and Stormwater Management.

The memorandum directly impacts our clients’ projects, and since its release, we’ve worked closely with city engineers to understand and navigate the new requirements.

After four months of leading clients through the new process, here are 4 things design team partners should know:

  1. It’s retroactive. Projects submitted for stormwater review in January of 2016 are subject to enforcement, including completed projects that have received a certificate of occupancy. In these cases, developers will need to hire a surveyor to go back and collect as-built information. Missing submittals could leave developers open to liability.
  2. It impacts contractors. On current and future projects, contractors will need surveyors to document stormwater facilities as they are installed to ensure they are being constructed in substantial compliance with the approved plans. Our civil engineering consultants will coordinate with contractors to ensure the appropriate information is obtained.
  3. There’s a 30-day window. Drawings are due 30-days after construction, and late submittals can result in fees for contractors and owners.
  4. There are efficiencies. Engaging our consultants to focus the surveyor’s attention on collecting the needed data and manage the submittal, greatly speeds up this process.

For more information about streamlining your submittal approach, contact our Chicago office at (312) 463-0551 or at info@eea-ltd.com.

EEA Receives Second Nomination for the Annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards

Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA), is nominated for the second consecutive year as a “Consulting Engineer of the Year” finalist for the 30th Annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards. Proceeds from the event benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

EEA’s civil engineering consultants received the nomination for their collaboration with design team partners and local agencies on the following commercial developments:

In 2016, proceeds from the awards program provided 3,600,000 meals to Chicagoans. Join EEA and other award finalists at the 30th Annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards Reception on March 15, 2018.

Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. Among Finalists in the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers’ “Best Engineering Firms to Work for” Competition

Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA) is thrilled to announce our firm was named a finalist in the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers (ISPE) 2017 “Best Engineering Firms to Work For” competition.  EEA received an “Honorable Mention” in the small firm category of the competition, and was among five firms included on the list.

Each year, ISPE administers an anonymous and voluntary survey to employees to assess workplace engagement, opportunities for advancement, benefits, and satisfaction.

“The strength of our firm is based on the contributions of our talented associates; cohesively working together for the benefit of our team and our clients,” said Glen Eriksson, President of EEA. “Creating and maintaining an atmosphere where associates at all levels can see a professional career path, learn new skills, and take on new responsibilities is at the heart of our culture.”

Parks & Schools Intergovernmental Agreements: A School District Perspective 

When funding sources are in limbo, available land is limited, and the overall quality of facilities and resources can be dramatically improved, it’s no wonder why school districts and park districts consider joining forces. Whether to share costs, and/or usage of facilities, forms of intergovernmental agreements (IGA), joint use agreements or shared use agreements can help both parties better serve their communities.

A School District Perspective: Why establish an IGA?
Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA) recently sat down with longtime client, Ted Birren, director of operations at Township High School District 214, to learn about the district’s experience establishing shared use and joint use agreements through IGAs.

District 214 currently has multiple formal agreements with Illinois park districts as well as a private soccer club.  The facilities outlined in these legally-binding documents include swimming pools, turf fields, athletic stadiums, locker rooms, theaters, classrooms, weight rooms, and general facility access.

Aside from sharing costs of facilities, how do such agreements benefit your district?
“In many cases the benefits include some sort of reciprocal use of facilities of the other party, benefits to district 214 students, benefits to the district community, and the general expanded use of the facilities to benefit the different constituencies of the District through the IGA or lease.”

How do you start the agreement process?
After building a relationship, Birren recommends seeking legal counsel.  “Reliance on attorneys for review is critical.  An attorney will have agreements of other clients that they can share with you to suit the needs of your district or agency.” He continued that after establishing an initial agreement, legal reviews of subsequent agreements often become considerably quicker.

What do these agreements generally look like?
In Birren’s experience, the documents typically include a statement of, “Introduction and legal authority of the school district, general purpose of the agreement describing what is proposed to be accomplished, term of the agreement, fees associated with use, maintenance and custodial responsibilities and costs, insurance requirements, severability, and signatures of the respective parties.

What three things would you tell governmental partners who are new to the process?
“Always keep your attorney in the loop and provided with a copy of your agreement.  Even in the best relationships, the agreement may need to be referenced for guidance down the road.” 

Birren also emphasized the importance of evaluating the longevity of the terms. “Be sure that all of the ideas about the relationship are put down on paper today so that the people in our positions of both parties several years from now will have no question as to intent or rules/regulations surrounding the agreement. “

If something is missing from an original agreement, “Agreements can always be amended without starting over,” Birren explained. Any additions to pre-existing agreements, “should be captured in writing as an addendum or amendment to the agreement.”

Zoning Law for Illinois School Districts: Continuing Challenges and Opportunities

The Illinois Supreme Court ruling of Gurba v. Community High School District, mandating that schools are subject to municipal zoning ordinances, continues to burden school districts. School board members and design team partners now face a host of new obstacles to overcome during the building permitting process.

Since the 2014 ruling and the new enforcement of zoning laws for Illinois school districts, our team has worked with school and architecture clients to navigate the new approval process and expedite projects as quickly as possible.

Along the way, our team has identified the following challenges and opportunities we feel school board members and design partners should be aware of prior to conducting site development projects:

One District, Multiple Municipalities: Sometimes larger school districts are tasked with juggling several zoning requirements enforced by multiple cities and villages. Experienced civil engineering consultants know the intricacies of the permitting process and can assist with securing the necessary approvals.

Consider a Tree Preservation Plan: Gone are the days when districts could execute landscape projects without a landscape plan.  Work with a landscape architect to develop a tree preservation plan to document existing trees, decrease landscape budgets, serve as the basic framework for a masterplan, and potentially lower the number of required trees.

Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Congestion: Did you know if projects only modify access they are not subject to municipal zoning review? Traffic and parking consultants can determine the requirements, design the improvements, and help school districts accomplish student safety initiatives.

Ask for a parking variance: Many schools do not meet parking zoning requirements for the number of spaces or parking space dimensions. Parking consultants can assist districts with submitting parking variances to reduce these requirements.

To learn more about how our team of civil engineering, traffic and parking, and landscape architecture consultants can help with your K-12 project, visit us at booth #510 during the Joint Annual Conference or contact us here.

Engaging Facility Operators to Reduce School Stormwater Pollution

At last month’s 2017 Midwest Facility Masters Conference, Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA) and FGM Architects presented an instructional and training session, “Improving Water Quality by Reducing Storm Water Generated Pollution.”  

Tom Hill, P.E., technical director at EEA, identified several stormwater pollutants typically generated on school sites.  His presentation detailed potential local and national consequences of the pollutants, as well as affects on the community, school patrons and students.

Tom also reviewed development strategies, maintenance needs, and operational techniques for reducing pollution runoff.  “We can reduce site generated pollutants from our school sites without reducing the level of safety or service provided to our communities,” he added during his presentation.

In addition to stormwater pollution training, encouraging facility operators to bring their perspectives to the design process can result in better treatment strategies for specific sites, maintenance capabilities, and institutional culture.

Eriksson Engineering Associates Stormwater Expert Featured at the APA Illinois Chapter Conference

*Rendering credit: SCB

At this year’s American Planning Association of Illinois (APA-IL) Conference, Eriksson Engineering Associates, Ltd. (EEA), Solomon Cordwell Benz (SCB), the Village of Hillside, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) delivered a panel presentation, “Placemaking Through Stormwater Infrastructure and Economic Development.”

The design team, who worked together on a 70-acre commercial development site in Hillside, Illinois, shared their project experience and best practices for successfully designing an economic development in a flood-prone area. The Village of Hillside and the MWRD focused on budget-related issues, specifically the MWRD’s funding of the project.

During the project, EEA’s design team proposed managing stormwater through a large retention basin resembling a natural pond. Ben Ahring, PE, represented EEA for the panel, and explained the stormwater management strategy:

“The goal of the design was to use the water to create an amenity, while maximizing the site’s buildable area outside of the floodplain,” said Ahring, EEA senior project manager and the civil engineering consultant on the project. “The project’s application of stormwater management systems and development of a private public partnership offer some valuable lessons when managing urban flooding.”

The Village of Hillside is currently working with the MWRD and potential developers to fund the remaining phases of the project.

To learn more about the presentation and the speakers, visit the APA-IL’s program overview.