Abstract

We engaged developers in the early stages of creating a residential neighborhood to determine the developers' perceived barriers and benefits to incorporating LID/green infrastructure practices in new homes. Likewise, a pre- and post-message survey of new home buyers informed product desire and acceptability. Analysis of this information helps to determine the type and extent of LID practices installed at new homes and the message and signage realtors utilize in selling these homes within the target neighborhood. Ultimately, our goal is to begin to alter the social norms whereby LID/green infrastructure and "green" lawn care practices become an expectation- that protecting St. Mary's River is one of the responsibilities of area homeowners. By understanding our target audiences, home builders and home buyers, and beginning to integrate LID practices into model homes in the watershed, we hope to alter perceptions of the current social norms.

Behavior

Behaviors: Conservation landscaping

Behavior Pattern: One-time

Target Audiences

Audiences: Businesses, Detached single family homeowners/renters

Primary Audience: N/A

Secondary Audience: N/A

Demographics: Black or african american, Hispanic or latino, White

Ages: N/A

Description of Target Audience

St. Mary's county is the fourth most affluent county in Maryland, yet it is also host to a sizable population of low-income families. Approximately 18% of residents are people-of-color, and school age-youths-of-color make up 22%. Census data revels that about half of the job force is employed in white-collar professional positions making incomes that are three times, or more, of median county income. That means that the other half of jobs must moderate this high income, leaving many employees with incomes at or below the national poverty line. Households with two wage earners are more common in this under-average-income population, with many people holding more than one-job in order to make ends meet.

Demographics inform housing needs and St. Mary's county has a fundamental need for two types of homes-one is the high end "McMansion" costing $400,000 or more and catering to the white collar worker. The other is the start home (or step-up first home for renters), or first home for newly employed white collar workers. Our project focus was on these started homes with a price tag at the bottom of the new home market and selling for $274,000. Our hypothesis was that new subdivisions of affordable housing were likely to be greater polluters than high-end developments where yards size and buffers areas are usually larger. Additionally, we sought the housing that was currently most in demand, with these low-end new homes outselling the new McMansions four to one over the prior two years before our study period.

The study project appears to benefit primarily the middle socio-economic families of the county, and the housing industry targeting this market. but a closer look at the data shouls suggest that since the attitudes and perceptions recorded were overwhelmingly supportive of on site LID, then it is likely to apply to more affluent home buyers who have the means to support LID implementation. Demographic refinement to ethnicity is less informative since the project was centered on new home buyers. Still the cenesus data reveals that a greater number of people-of-color are present in lower income populations. That suggests that the project informs people-of-color on an level equivalent to, or greaer than, the overal county demographic.

There is a sense of the growing need for a grassroots type of campaighn to markey greeener homes (including on site LID). our Initial work in ore affluent neighborhoods suggests taht this ppooulation is ready and willing to support greener landscapes and on site LID integration. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to look at the middle family income population, those whoa re buying homes, for expansion of the grassroots movement- a keeping up with the Jones approache and growth from neightbor to neighbor might be an effective tool. in the future.

Research

How did you research your audiences: A combination of in-person interviews or focus groups and then broader surveys

Barriers

One of the barriers is not having a clear and concise template for what the county requires in terms of on site LID BMPs. New regulations without much specific guidance leave an uncertain playing field fraught with changes and pitfalls, and uncertainty. The majority of developers (3/5) did not feel that on site LID BMPs would work, especially on different soils. They cited specific ares of the county where soils are heavy and impermeable. Developers felt that homeowners would remove the on-site LIDs. LID BMPs are a "one-off"-- you have to mobilize the equipment and resources as each house is being finished and it is therefore neither cost efficient nor environmentally effective. Storing water close to the house has inherent risks and can invalidate house warranties and results in other "call backs."

Benefits

none of the developers ascribed any benefits to onsite LID practices in the focus group because they see the regulations as a monolith (they do not distinguish between them). They see them as part of a moving target that make their business more expensive and difficult. "what will the next round of regulation require?"

Gaining insight into your target audience

The LID survey of new homebuyers was conducted by social psychology and advertising (respectively) Professors Anna Han from St. Mary's College of MD and Patrick Vargas from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Most of the survey questions, due to their often LID technical nature, were developed by Paul Sturm, of Ridge to Reefs, in conjunction with Vargas and Han.

We surveyed 27 homeowners in the Pembrooke housing development area to assess new homeowners' attitudes toward, perceptions of, and receptiveness to LID practices. Pembrooke was chosen because it is a new housing area that is similar to Elizabeth Hills and Wildewood in terms of housing cost and demographics. The findings are encouraging. We are currently running a larger national sample survey to assess other homeowners' attitudes, perceptions and receptiveness.

A literature review was completed to determine effective strategies for outreach to a broad spectrum of potential homebuyers- this ranged from effective strategic marketing research to research on the relationship between political affiliation and environmental attitudes. Some of the especially relevant information focused on ensuring that the practices were not simply marketed in a "green" or environmental way- but were used in terms that were more inclusive and that included core values across a broader spectrum of users. Key resources identified in the research included "Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive" and papers by Markowitz and Sharrrif (2013). Additionally, we identified research on climate change and the reluctance of political conservatives to accept scientific evidence on climate change, among many concerns, and consider behavior changes as valuable resources. Fundamental conservative values were at stake in the climate change debate including loyalty (to party and party ideology). As a result, in our marketing materials we used core conservative values that include loyalty, family, patriotism, and personal responsibility as well as more universal American values including cost savings and protection of wildlife. In addition to cost savings of on site LID practices by reduced water usage, we avoided traditional "green" advertising and environmental buzzwords- to ensure an inclusive approach to our demographic which is a high proportion of technology and engineering professional working for defense industry contractors-this is critical most anywhere as we do not want our messages to miss a significant percentage of the population.

Strategy

Outreach Tactics: Feedback, Social norms

What media/communication channels did you use? Face to face, Small group or public meetings

Lessons

How did you measure impact? N/A

Most significant lessons learned

On site LID is not just about final grading. Builders/developers often have the backhoe operator finish grades with soil they have around onsite (usually not good permeable soil), and as a result there is the high potential for error, particularly where soils are not consistently suited for infiltration.

While we had a knowledgeable team with past experiences on site at all times, one rain garden was installed without their supervision. This rain garden was not connected to the underlying permeable farm field soils, add as a result did not drain properly. The other three rain gardens, with the guidance of our experts, did drain properly, giving us a success rate of 3/4.

Rainwater harvesting and use in an irrigation framework was challenging because of code that requires two back flow preventers, which negatively affect pressure. In the future we could likely work to keep these systems separate, or to use domestic water on a timer to refill the cistern prior to scheduled watering during the growing season, in order to avoid regulatory and maintenance issues. Simple methods to drain the cistern are advised in order to separate cistern water from household potable water systems, thereby negating the added expense for back-flow preventers and booster pumps.

A large stumbling block for the project was the challenge of entering the survey into the Qualtrics program which included: willingness to pay questions with random generation of potential cost values, as well as many "if-then" function.s This posed challenges in adhering to a project schedule as academic teaching and research professors are not used to having a tight timeline in regards to their research- as problems occur they are worked out and the project proceeds. Taking several months to deal with challenges of data input is generally not sees as an issue when it takes easily 3-5 years from conception to publish a manuscript, but it certainly can impact a one-year grant timeline. In retrospect, we would have simply used the paper surveys when they were completed rather than use an online program. The benefit is that the professors are pursuing a much larger survey population (1150-200) as a continuation of the work here in St. Mary's, which is only possible if the survey is online. it also makes it possible for other watershed associations/counties/developers to potentially make use of the survey for their areas.

Finally, the LID focus group was quite challenging, and frankly, it was shocking to hear both their level of frustration with how the new regulations, including LID, were affecting the developers' core business, as well as the level of certainty (or uncertainty) that these practices will work effectively. Despite the challenges, it was very important for us to understand these developers' perspectives. Moving forward there are some critical realizations that the Bay community must consider:

  • If both the developers and their engineers feel the on site LID practices will not work-it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The necessary care and dilifgence needed to construt these facilities in all but the best of soil conditions will not be taken if they do not buy in, wich could lead to the failed practies that they expected. SImply stated, without buy-in and ownership, developers will continue to cut ocrners on installation therby ensuing device failure.
  • This has been seen in some initial surveys of on site LID practives in St. Mary's county as well as Anne Arundel where many on site pracites are fialing or have been removed. Once a device is removed, the homestead no longer meets the stormwater regulations. Placing specific covenant restrictions has been ineffective in some subdivisions and has led to ongoing conflict between home builders and regulators, who see the developer as the most likely "agency" for compliance redress.
  • Marrick Homes, when asked if their contractor who sets the final grades for the site could just excavate the rain gardens as part of that process, immediately stated "no"; the technical aspects of doing so would likely be lost at that level and to do LID properly we (RTR, SMRWA) would have to work with their landscape contractor who has experience in rain garden and bioretention implementation.

What worked?

Our work with our two developer partners with on site LID integration projects in their model homes has helped change their perspectives so that they are now more open to on site LID integration. Marrick Homes is beginning to offer LID as an option in the Elizabeth Hills subdivision and is considering making it available as an option in other communities. They are also open to the full integration of on site LID in a future phase of Elizabeth Hills in order to fully vet the concept, and to compare the costs and benefits of LID versus traditional BMPs. This homebuiilder is truly interested in exploring the marketing potential of homesteads that are more environmentally friendly. In the other instance--with a developer who is based in Virginia but purchased a planned urban development (PUD) in St. Mary's--the developer still has little incentive to alter this development plans, as he has several thousand units grandfathered prior to the 2000 stormwater criteria. It is a multi-phase planned urban development, and he therefore has existing stormwater practices build many years ago where most of the stormwater from the development drains. Despite their reluctance to fully engage, they are open to allowing us to educate the residents and provide signage at their on site LID integrated model home. Meanwhile, we will work with existing residents on LID integration. A couple of important barriers persist for this developer:

  1. LID practices are a one-off that would require extra time for construction and review on a house-by-house basis versus traditional BMPs that can (often) be done once by converting your contrustrction phase erosion and sefiment control practies into your stormwater practices.
  2. The placement of on site LID close to the house structure may jeopardize home foundation warranties that the developer includes in the purchase of his residences as well as raise more general concerns about water-wetness in basements and around basement walls.

What were the most significant limiting factors to greater success?

Our work with our two developer partners with on site LID integration projects in their model homes has helped change their perspectives so that they are now more open to on site LID integration. Marrick Homes is beginning to offer LID as an option in the Elizabeth Hills subdivision and is considering making it available as an option in other communities. They are also open to the full integration of on site LID in a future phase of Elizabeth Hills in order to fully vet the concept, and to compare the costs and benefits of LID versus traditional BMPs. This homebuiilder is truly interested in exploring the marketing potential of homesteads that are more environmentally friendly. In the other instance--with a developer who is based in Virginia but purchased a planned urban development (PUD) in St. Mary's--the developer still has little incentive to alter this development plans, as he has several thousand units grandfathered prior to the 2000 stormwater criteria. It is a multi-phase planned urban development, and he therefore has existing stormwater practices build many years ago where most of the stormwater from the development drains. Despite their reluctance to fully engage, they are open to allowing us to educate the residents and provide signage at their on site LID integrated model home. Meanwhile, we will work with existing residents on LID integration. A couple of important barriers persist for this developer:

  1. LID practices are a one-off that would require extra time for construction and review on a house-by-house basis versus traditional BMPs that can (often) be done once by converting your contrustrction phase erosion and sefiment control practies into your stormwater practices.
  2. The placement of on site LID close to the house structure may jeopardize home foundation warranties that the developer includes in the purchase of his residences as well as raise more general concerns about water-wetness in basements and around basement walls.

Advice Or Suggestions

Implications for Bay-wide LID and Implementation Efforts:

  1. Cost savings and moral values may be stronger drivers of behavior change than environmental reasons alone.
  2. Efforts to elicit behavior change should be very careful of using language that could be construed as partisan or exclusive, and should focus more on language, colors, and symbols that are inclusive and invoke common moral and societal values.
  3. Efforts to foster behavior change may also focus on economic drivers such as: 1) Stormwater utilities can be used to help drive individual and community based responses to by offering discounts or incentives for LID implementation at the site or neighborhood association scale, 2) water pricing and the appearance of additional fees for "over usage" may be able to help drive implementation of rainwater harvesting and capture methods.
  4. Particular care and attention must be paid in on site LID implementation efforts or the anticipated failure of many LID practices will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  5. Working together with the development community is critical in LID implementation in order to work out the challenges, which include poorly permeable soils, improper construction, and lack of proper drainage of rain gardens and bioretention. It should also include design adaptations for challenging settings, which may include the provision of underdrains/overdrains for rain gardens to minimize ponding. other adaptations are possible as well such as tiny wetlands with storage capacity, fromgs, minnows and floating plants are possible where soils are impermeable.Rainwater harvesting and graywater reuse/capture hold significant promise to reduce stormwater and waste loads to the Chesapeake Bay but need to have robust strategies for year round drawdown and water usage to maintain storage capacity.
    Willingness to pay survey results suggest that homeowners ascribe a significant value to these practices and some of our data suggest homeowners would like to see the cost of these practices folded into the price of the home. The "Cost" to the developer can be offset by the reduction in traditional regional BMP usage and any landscaping costs incurred by the build typically. In addition, placing the landscaping, rainwater harvesting, and rain barrels on site allows each landowner to share in the benefit of stormwater management in the form of enhance landscaping, rain water capture and reuse which our data shows they view favorably. These can be linked to cost savings as well as increased property values, "self-watering landscaping" and the purveyance of stored water for lawn and garden water and other uses.