When specifying erosion and sediment control products a common mistake is that the performance goals are rarely defined. The majority of decisions are made based on development guidelines or local requirements to issue permits. Ask yourself why is what’s on the plans on the plans and consider these five points:

1. Are the BMP’s supposed to stop the erosion? Are they intended to prevent sediment and other pollutants from leaving the site? Or are they simply the minimum measures required to pull a permit?

2.All BMP’s have a failure point but designers rarely know what that point is. Even the results from products that are tested in facilities to simulate environmental conditions cannot always be relied upon to predict actual performance in the real world during conditions that differ from the test methods and simulations. It is fair to say that all BMP’s have a failure point and unfortunately there is very little information available to predict just what type of event will lead to the failure on active construction sites that tend to be very dynamic. Most approved plans and contract documents refer to the designed and specified measures as the “minimum” and require the operator to improve upon any failures in the field. While this may seem to reduce risk for an owner or designer it may actually lead to costly failures on site and delays in project delivery.

3. When designing or specifying always define the performance outcomes or goals the BMP is being used to accomplish. Without a defined desired outcome one should question whether they are really designing at all.

4. Be willing to adjust a specification or substitute a product due to changes in the schedule or site conditions that make the outcome unachievable with the original designed selection. Constantly strive to make better decisions in the future based on the hard lessons learned from the past. There is a word that has been used to describe doing the same things and expecting different outcomes.

5. Avoid specifications to save a few dollars on restoration and vegetation establishment. Frequently sacrifices in both products and methods are driven by the illusion of savings can become very costly when failures must be redone.

Do not accept failure as an option. The amount of time, energy and resources expended on failed installations is far too great. By expending the effort to create better designs that will meet the specific site requirements and succeed with the climatic conditions while ensuring productivity designers will demonstrate yet another area of expertise that will benefit their clients.

Alex Zimmerman
Technical Director