Balancing Urban Development and Water Conservation


March Featured Project

Posted March 11, 2020 @ 2:17pm | by Victorian

March Featured Project

Bull’s Horn Food and Drink Celebrates Stormwater Runoff Creatively

When Amy and Doug decided to purchase a dive bar, they didn’t have grandiose plans to reform it, rather they chose to refine it. 


Playing off of ’70’s decor, signage, and vibe they offer a much improved version of the tv dinner, baskets of fresh fried chicken and the best hamburgers in town by mastering the perfect ratio. 


They made the restaurant a favorite community amenity for nearby residents with affordable good food and drink. And they didn’t stop there. 


They extended their purposeful intentions outside the building envelope. A super cool mural takes up the entire side of the mixed-use building. On the roof, solar panels were installed. 


Then it was determining what to do with the parking lot.


That’s when we could offer some help. 

Parking lot before 

First, understanding Amy and Doug’s personalities, the restaurant’s needed functionality, the quirkiness with the property and finally budget.


Since the first year of business isn’t the time to embark upon a big project, we came up with a phased plan that made sense. We started with the necessary basing and grading to remove the pothole-laden muddy lot to a useable aggregate lot. 


Next was a garbage/recycle pad and wooden structure. We even met with the refuse hauler to make sure alignment and the gate opening mechanism was sensible with a poorly placed overhead line.


The last and biggest highlight that first year was an outdoor patio. Not only did this provide more tables for more seating capacity but it helped to bring more revenue. 


Year 2 brought the other more earth-friendly aspects. 

1. Of course a raingarden. Despite some not so great subsoils, there was proper drawdown of standing water. With any raingarden, ponding water is okay. It’s actually okay up to 72 hours. Mosquitos are always a concern with standing water but the larvae need 7-10 days of water so any properly design raingarden doesn’t actually contribute to these breeding areas.


2. Pavers.  Permeable pavers in front of the entrance to welcome patrons, manage those icy times (permeable is better at that). Permeable allows for air flow. So when it’s cold outside those areas are warmer. In the summer, those areas are cooler. Cool, huh

Permeable pavers

3. Same old sort of blacktop. You might think blacktop isn’t so environmentally-friendly, but conventional pavement directed towards sustainable practices does make sense. Being sensible about materials in and materials out, hauling and disposal is being thoughtful with the carbon footprint.

4. Cistern. An above-ground cistern to capture the roof water is filtered and held. A cool pump and hose to make things easy for irrigation.

5. Native plantings. A good layer of compost was placed around the perimeter to give some good hearty nutrients to the native plug plants and low-input required fescue turf areas. 

With Earth Wizards’ help and Amy’s efforts, various grant funding helped to also finance the project. The next step is to apply for a stormwater fee credit with the City of Minneapolis.

We are elated that Doug and Amy were extremely mindful of their property and willing to do what they could towards the property’s environmental impact. With the stormwater mitigation work, it has lessened the amount of volume, heat and sediment that leaves the site and enters into the Mississippi River. It’s a perfect example that ties into Earth Wizard’s philosophy balancing urban development and water conservation.


Filed Under: Featured Project | Permalink

The Crack Effect

Posted March 4, 2020 @ 12:33pm | by Victorian

The Crack Effect

March Newsletter/Blog


The Crack Effect


Now that we are seeing glimpses of non-winter ahead, we get excited for green grass, beautiful flowers and warm sunlight rays. Unfortunately before the goodness happens we get the remnants that are left behind with winter; the ugliness. Dirty sediment, dormant vegetation and the reminder that it’s clean-up time. Time to get to work.


Winter takes a toll on pavements too 

Over the winter you may have noticed cracks in your driveway, sidewalk or patio a bit more than you usually do. Where the frost is most active is where the most movement occurs. That movement then translates to where the pavement is most susceptible. With concrete, after installation, cuts are placed in the surface with the intent that the movement will translate to those weakened areas (but that isn’t always the case). For asphalt, the surface is laid as one continuous mat so the expansion cracks form more “organically,” shall we say. 


Freeze/thaw cycle

Cold temperatures cause surfaces to contract which in turn makes those cracks look bigger. Conversely, warmer temperatures cause expansion, making the cracks smaller. What worsens cracks and diminishes pavement integrity? 

  • freeze/thaw cycles; 
  • severity of temperatures during those cycles; 
  • frequency of those cycles;
  • the quality and depth of base aggregate - provides a buffer to underlying earth movement; and,
  • existing subsoils - clay soils retain moisture which exacerbates the expansion/contraction process.


Thawing and moisture

Moisture becomes the biggest culprit.  As moisture enters into the crack it will get into the underlying base and potentially subsoils that will compromise the foundational support of the surface. When a substantial amount of force is applied, i.e. driving/parking a car over that spot, the surface is no longer supported properly and is prone to “caving” in. This is why you see potholes in the city street go from small to large quickly. In a driveway, generally you won’t see potholes but you’ll notice hairline cracks in the pavement around the crack beginning to form.


When should I pay attention to cracks?

With springtimes bringing more chances of rain, it’s a good time to think about crackfilling. Cracks up to 1/2” generally aren’t substantial enough to merit filling but you can still do so - it just is more difficult to get the material in. You can either continue to watch those smaller cracks until they’re at a point to fill or you can choose to route (widen) the crack to get an ample amount of material in. This is usually done by a contractor. 

Cracks over 1/2” generally should be filled. There are various materials on the market, whether you have an asphalt or concrete surface which can be purchased at your local hardware store or if you want a better commercial-grade product we recommend SealMaster in St. Paul (asphalt) or Brock White (concrete). 


If you’d like some assistance with getting this work done, give us a call/email and we can send our team out to get it done for you!  (763) 784-3833 or


If I don’t fill the cracks now what can happen?

Over time, when pavement is exposed to underlying moisture issues that cause the surface to be unsupported, more cracking will appear and can become more extensive. Once these areas begin to spread with cracks, generally termed “alligatoring,” it’s time to do something. Whether it’s a surface patch, infrared repair or a full dig-out and replacement our estimating team of Shelly, Derek and Gary can provide you the information you need to make an informed choice.


What is infrared technology and what repairs are appropriate?

Infrared is a heating system that penetrates deeper into the asphalt surface and allows a solid bond of the new asphalt to the existing. Repairs that can be fixed with infrared are; areas of porosity (“rocky”) that is unsightly,“birdbaths,” minor surface imperfections, oil spot removals and wide crack repairs. 


Earth Wizards has this technology on hand for any small areas! 


If you’d like more information on these topics and remedies for repairing asphalt and concrete surfaces, click on the following links or feel free to reach out to us directly:



Like us on Facebook and/or Instagram for more content and updates including highlights on some exciting projects! 

Filed Under: News Letter | Permalink

Churches - A Big Stormwater Footprint

Posted June 12, 2014 @ 8:01am | by Earth Wizards

Churches - A Big Stormwater Footprint

Large Buildings and Large Infrequently Used Parking Lots

Church properties provide a great opportunity for sustainable landscape practices to be used. With a large building footprint creating enormous amounts of runoff any available green space should be considered for capturing, or minimally filtering, stormwater.  This can be done with rain gardens/bioswales, underground stormwater storage chambers and/or rainwater harvesting systems (large of course) and permeable pavements in the people-traffic areas. 

Another big ticket, is the parking lot.  Churches have a unique scenario of needing a lot of parking space - infrequently.  Most of the time when you drive by a church during a weekday there's a few cars, once a week things are fairly full and then wow the big events, packed. How does a designer design for this? Historically parking lot designs are done with those big events in mind but rethinking this scenario is vital for the health of our watersheds.  What about sizing the pavement for the often used circumstance based on say a 6 month analysis and then using alternative pavements for the higher use needs. These areas are often referred to as overflow parking and various alternative pavement types, such as a turfstone, or a grid structure filled with soil and turf, could be used.  Of course instituting capture facilities like rain gardens planted with native plants where any stormwater off the parking lot drains towards is a smart thing to do.

Approaching a stormwater mitigation retrofit (or new construction) should start with a purpose in mind, say a 5-year, 24-hour rain event which in Minneapolis/St. Paul currently is 3.5" of rain.  Factoring that runoff from impervious areas and knowing the subsoils then helps to define things. Certainly poor infiltrating soils will cause bigger expenses so being realistic is important.  Even minimally thinking about filtering runoff using most importanly native plants is doing something rather than nothing.

One last consideration and budget-friendly is to think of decreasing pavement with sharing resources. Why not partner with potential neighboring properties that need parking during the week but not on the weekends? Cities are becoming less structured with parking codes because this issue of stormwater quality requires property owners to take big steps towards change.  Plus with more intense rain events, city stormwater infrastructure is over-burdened and the impact on our waterways extreme.


Greening up your driveway

Posted May 1, 2014 @ 3:08pm | by Earth Wizards

Greening up your driveway

Driveways are conduits for runoff.  Not only do our impervious driveways shed stormwater but often portions of our home, garage and even lawns direct runoff onto the driveway. Hence, why the driveway becomes an ideal design feature to rethink how it's constructed.

Generally there are three methods of thought in making a driveway more "green."  

  1. Decrease the extent of pavement,
  2. Reroute stormwater from the driveway to available green space for a rain garden or native-planted filter strip (one of my favorite methods as it provides habitat), and
  3. Make the pavement permeable, pervious, porous - somewhat interchangeable terms depending upon the surface type used.

Starting with decreasing pavement surface, think about where your car tires actually go. Oftentimes we think the driveway needs to extend all the way along the house to the back of the garage or for it to be three cars wide the full length of the driveway. Consideration of the vehicle's path will help determine what really needs to be a solid hard surface, what can be a secondary pavement type (both turfstone, a grid structure or concrete runners can work well) and then green space of course.

Rerouting can entail contouring the surface if slopes are relatively slight or installing a diverter structure, such as a trench drain.  In Minnesota, contouring can be tricky as winter conditions need to also be considered.  When we're snowbankless that's one thing but take 2014 winter's deluge and that means overflows need to be working well to prevent major ice dams.  Here are two examples of driveways showing a contour versus a steeper slope necessitating a trench drain (also see the main photo of this blog).

Lastly, most expensive but sometimes the most appropriate, are permeable pavements.  In order of the photos are; porous asphalt, porous concrete, permeable pavers, permeable stonework (not generally recommended for driveways but great for patios).

Keep in mind the entire surface doesn't need to be permeable.  Setting a design goal, such as a 2" rain event capture, helps to determine how much of your driveway surface needs to be permeable (that means less cost, less maintenance and less of a carbon footprint with material export/import). I hope this helps in considering what approach may work best for you and feel free to give us a call or email if you'd like us to visit and provide some options for you. Thanks for rethinking your driveway.

Filed Under: Paving | Permalink

Concrete, Blacktop or What?

Posted April 1, 2014 @ 7:33am | by Earth Wizards

Concrete, Blacktop or What?

How do I choose a driveway surface?

 This is a great question and requires additional information before deciding on the product or products that are right for you and your situation. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a driveway surface, so lets go through them.

1) Cost

Obviously cost is a big consideration in your decision. Don’t make the mistake of going with the lowest price simply because it is the lowest price. There is usually a reason for the lesser price. Just like anything, “you get what you pay for”. At the same time, the most expensive may not mean better quality either. Do your research and find out who is a quality contractor and get multiple quotes.

2) Existing soil type

This is probably the single most important and often overlooked item in the decision making process. What soil type is in the driveway area? Sand, loam and clay are common soils in the upper Midwest and react differently during the freeze/thaw cycles. Sand is very forgiving, provides good drainage and doesn’t require extra excavation. Clay retains moisture and can move greatly as it expands and contracts during freeze/thaw. If you are in a green/grey clay soil that is wet, you can expect to pay more to have additional excavation, additional base material and possibly stabilization fabric installed. It is critical to have a stable base course for the driveway surface to have a long lasting driveway. This may not be an issue in other parts of the country.

3) Appearance

This is your preference. There are more choices than ever and it’s really exciting! Asphalt, concrete, trap rock, gravel, runners, flag stone or even grass (grass is planted inside a turf stone or plastic which supports the vehicle weight and doesn’t flatten out). How about a combination of two or more of those?

4) Usage

In other words, will there be heavy loads or frequent vehicles using the driveway on a regular basis? This is often not considered in choosing the driveway surface.

Filed Under: Paving | Permalink

I have already recommended you! Our consultant, Shelly, was extremely knowledgeable. She explained (the process) in technical detail. She is the reason I chose Earth Wizards over the other 5 bidders. Installation crew was terrific and exceeded my expectations.

- Don P.
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