When development firm Hebrew SeniorLife started the planning process for NewBridge on the Charles, a continuing-care community in Dedham, Mass., the Boston-based company realized that it needed to develop a project that was sensitive to its distinct surroundings, specifically its riverfront location and rolling meadows—the site was once used for polo tournaments.

Situated 6 miles from downtown Boston on 162 acres along the Charles River, the 1-million-square-foot campus will feature a number of elements that will recharge the groundwater aquifer, prevent any groundwater runoff into the Charles River, and conserve water.

The project, which is scheduled to open in summer 2009, includes an advanced stormwater management system that uses vegetated swales (ditches filled with vegetation), permeable pavers, and underground infiltration basins. All of these allow water to filtrate back into the ground and recharge the ground water rather than flow into a river or a city's stormwater system.

NewBridge uses extensive xeriscaping, which mixes grass and drought-resistant, or “unthirsty,” native plants. Only 13 acres of the entire 162-acre site needs irrigation, according to Joe Geller, a partner at Geller DeVellis, the firm that handled site and landscape design for NewBridge on the Charles.

The landscaping will be irrigated with rainwater collected by a 183,000-gallon underground cistern that is fed by an intricate system of pipes, pumps, and porous pavement roadways. If there isn't enough rainwater for irrigation, the cistern will be filled by an on-site well.

“With the cistern, NewBridge is completely self-sufficient and doesn't need to tap any outside water sources,” Geller explains, adding that the project also uses a state-of-the-art weather station that monitors soil conditions and weather conditions. The weather station will indicate when the soil needs to be irrigated and will prevent the irrigation system from watering the landscaping if a rainstorm is expected.

Additionally, NewBridge has created a drought management plan that relies on gauges that will be placed in the Charles River. When the river reaches a certain level, the gauges will alert the irrigation system to decrease the amount of water it uses.

Michael Crowley, vice president of project management service for Hebrew SeniorLife, says the water conservation and management efforts ended up either being cost neutral or saving the company money over time.