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Sustainability: Promotion & Education
Michigan Historical Museum & Library

Landscape Architecture by Land Design Studio - Southfield, Michigan


Design elements implemented at the Michigan Historical Museum & Library Rain Garden in Lansing, Michigan.
Technical rendering by Land Design Studio

Site Key:
1. Entrance to the Michigan Historical Museum & Library
2. Lower Rain Garden Basin
3. Sculptural Weir (Focal Feature)
4. Upper Rain Garden Basin
5. Educational Interpretive Sign
6. Porous Concrete Patio
7. Bioswale Rain Bridge
8. Bioswale to Rain Garden
9. Porous Concrete Parking Spaces
10. Parking Lot Drain Structure to Collect Sheet Flow Runoff

Lansing, Michigan is home to the Michigan Historical Museum and Library. It is located on the grounds of the State Capital Complex across from the Vietnam War Memorial. The recent resurfacing of its parking lot gave the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) the perfect opportunity to ensure the project was completed with sustainability in mind.

The rain garden installation was part of a large parking lot resurfacing project, during which the MDEQ requested that the design engineers incorporate various green infrastructure (GI) strategies into the design. These GI strategies would provide public demonstration, and serve as pilot projects, to promote sustainability and low impact development (LID) practices. The project engineers to assist with developing design strategies for these initiatives retained Land Design Studio (LDS).


The cross sectional drawing illustrates the composition of the rain garden at the Michigan Historical Museum & Library. Perforated pipe, washed stone and soil mix are stratified to help filter stormwater and mitigate its impact on surrounding bodies of water.

Recommended GI strategies included: pervious concrete paving, alternative snow and ice-melt methods, functioning bioswales, a rain bridge, a 5,280 square foot two-tiered rain garden with a decorative weir, and an interpretive sign about the onsite stormwater management practices.


The bioswale is a drainage course flanked on both sides by gentle slopes. It is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale to trap pollutants and silt.

Functional Flora
In areas without built landscapes, stromwater is absorbed and filtered by the soil, native plants or is channeled to bodies of water by the natural topical features of the terrain. However, this is not the case when roads, parking lots and buildings are introduced to a landscape. With no way to be reabsorbed or filtered, stormwater can become contaminated with pesticides and hydrocarbons, which can make their way back into the water supply.

Rain gardens are designed to absorb and filter surface water runoff from a major rainfall within 48 hours or less. The plants selected for this rain garden were predominately, though not exclusively, Michigan native species.


The rain garden is located near the drop-off point for school groups and the general public looking to tour the Michigan capital campus. This high traffic location is the ideal place to educate visitors on the low-impact development and green infrastructure techniques implemented at the site.

Design Vernacular and Maintenance
The proposed location of the rain garden was within a conventional landscape setting of planting beds and mowed lawns. It was felt that the more unruly appearance of a typical native rain garden design would be inappropriate at this busy building entrance. Therefore, a more structured and low-maintenance planting scheme, using woody plants and perennials, was devised for the garden.

The maintenance of the garden will be managed by the Michigan Department of Technology Management and Budget's (DTMB) maintenance department. The goal was to eliminate extra maintenance training on invasive and native plants with the notion that weeds would be more easily recognized for removal in a structured looking garden.

Post construction evaluation and monitoring by LDS over the last two years has confirmed the planting approach was best suited for this garden as the plants have filled in and flushed out nicely. However, ongoing invasive species issues are of concern for the long-term integrity of the rain garden. Specifically, a site visit in the summer of 2016 revealed a few Phragmites australis beginning to colonize the garden. The DTMB Maintenance Department has been notified and will hopefully be able to eradicate the few invasive plants before they spread further.


A host of native and nonnative plants were selected to provide the greatest possible level of stormwater runoff management. This photo showcases 'Lipstick' ornamental strawberry planted around a decorative weir.

Educational Opportunities
The rain garden's location at the museum and library also functions as a drop-off point for public tour buses and school buses. This location, and the high exposure to visitors, reinforced the opportunity to develop a comprehensive system of LID and GI strategies to promote and educate the public on the value of sustainable design.

LDS designed the interpretive sign graphics to educate state employees and visitors to the Capital Complex about natural stormwater systems, rain gardens, and pollutants in stormwater. The interpretive signage also highlights specific benefits of the rain garden including:

o Capture, absorb, and infiltrate stormwater runoff.
o Reduce, or eliminate, discharge of runoff into the storm sewer systems.
o Remove pollutants and contaminants from the water.
o Provide habitat and biodiversity for birds and butterflies.

This project incorporates education and demonstration at multiple levels. From designing, constructing, and maintaining sustainable landscapes, to educating the public about low impact development and green infrastructure, this rain garden has met the expectations originally established by the MDEQ. The design team applauds the commitment of the various governmental agencies who initiated, funded, and maintain the garden and pervious pavement. The garden is highly attractive and successfully treats stormwater runoff from the adjacent parking lot. More importantly, it demonstrates a commitment to sustainable design, and one small step in protecting Michigan's valued water resources.


Project Team
Landscape Architect: Land Design Studio, Southfield, Mich.
Principal-In-Charge: Tad Krear, PLA
Senior Landscape Architect: Charles Elias, PLA
Client: Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), Lansing, Mich.
Project Manager: Steve Urban, AIA
Civil Engineer: Nowak & Fraus, Pontiac, Mich.
Principal-In-Charge: Jeff Huhta, PE
Project Manager: Steve Sutton, PE
Landscape Contractor: Anderson-Fischer & Associates, Inc., Mason, Mich.
General Contractor: Reith-Riley Construction Co., Inc., Lansing, Mich.
Soils Testing: Michigan State University, Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory
Maintenance Contractor: DTMB, Grounds Supervisor: Chris Rankin

Specified Plants

Autumn Fire Sedum

Dark Towers Beard Tongue

Gerald Darby Blue Flag Iris

Kobold Blazing Star

Lipstick Ornamental Strawberry

Magnus Purple Coneflower

Montrose White Calamint

Northwind Switchgrass

Tara Dwarf Prairie Dropseed

Bailey's Red-osier Dogwood

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2017.

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October 23, 2019, 9:53 pm PDT

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