Resource: Conservation Design Template for Rural Minnesota
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Title: Conservation Design Template for Rural Minnesota
Resource type: Case study
Topics: Agriculture, Buildings, Communities, Ecosystems, Energy, Land Use, Water
Keywords: LID, storm water, green infrastructure, density, green space
Audience: Government
Region: Minnesota Statewide
Summary: Ecological design for a rural residential development on 380 acres that is low-impact development compared to typical rural housing developments.
Content: In conservation design, housing is clustered on a land parcel in ways that reduce environmental impacts, decrease costs to developers, government and residents, and create great neighborhoods in which people want to live. The City of Hanover (population 1,400; 35 miles northwest of the Twin Cities) worked with Barr Engineering ( and the MPCA during 2007 to design a residential development on 380 acres outside of town that, compared to a typical rural residential design, has these features and outcomes:

  • 289, 1/3-acre lots vs. 103, 2.8-acre lots (sprawl reduction of 64%).
  • Preserved open space of 211 acres, vs. 50 acres. Every home backs up to open space.
  • 9 miles of walking/biking trails vs. 1 mile.
  • $16,000/lot development costs vs. $33,000/lot.
  • Total hard surface (e.g., roads) of .18 acres/lot vs. .41 acres/lot.
  • Narrower streets and shorter driveways cut stormwater creation and save plowing and maintenance costs.
  • Medium-sized lots cut yard maintenance chores and irrigation costs.
  • Natural functions of the land, which borders the Crow River, are preserved by protecting natural waterways, woodlands, wetlands, and restoring former fields to prairies, which could be managed for biofuels or partially used for community supported agriculture.
  • Captures over 80% of stormwater and infiltrates it into the land by means of rainwater gardens and stormwater meadows.
  • Heating and cooling energy costs are cut by establishing windbreaks (which would funnel wind to an eventual wind turbine to power the homes) and orienting homes to the south for passive solar gain. South orientation also creates prime locations for roof-mounted solar panels.

The city also adopted a series of ordinances that will allow development in a way that protects the City's rural character and ecological resources: see [select: Conservation Design].

For those interested in promoting conservation design / low-impact development, see the web page below for a 3-page graphical brochure summarizing this prototypic design for the property in Hanover, and contact Don Berger, MPCA, at 651/757-2223 for more details (a full report) and assistance.

Suggested by: Philipp Muessig
Added: 02/29/08
Updated: 07/22/11