TECHNICAL REPRINTS

How they brought Tuscany to Central Florida

Low-pressure waste system proves to be a key solution to the challenges of hilly ­terrain that confronted developers of a landmark golfing and equestrian community. 

The hills outside Orlando, Florida are reminiscent of central Italy. The rolling terrain offered a tantalizing setting but posed significant infrastructure challenges for the developers of Bella Collina.

The landscape, similar to that found in Tuscany, creates a sense of authenticity to the design, feel and lifestyle envisioned by Orlando-based Ginn Development Company. Just 20 miles west of downtown, theme-park central and Sea World, near the historic Florida towns of Clermont and Montverde, the hilly topography is unique in central Florida with the greatest elevation changes in the peninsula state.

The newly created 2,000-acre development incorporates a gated community with 800 home sites, a private golf club and an equestrian center. The Pine Island Community Development District (CDD), established by Ginn, facilitated development and finances for needed infrastructure. 

With full build out projected by 2015, the developers envision the unique-lifestyle community will one day take its place among the premier developments in the country.

 “The land is diverse, with its ­undulating hilly terrain, open areas of orange grove and water. Lake Siena, a 300-acre body of water, is located completely ­inside the property lines, and 48-square-mile Lake Apopka, the third largest lake in Florida, borders the eastern boundary of the property.  There are spectacular water vistas and recreational opportunities. Ginn also built a one-million-gallon, lined irrigation pond to water the golf course,” said David Hood, Ginn Development Company project manager.

But the hilly terrain meant significant costs and a great deal of additional infrastructure to deal with wastewater demands. A specialized, low-pressure system which incorporates localized grinder pumps and small-diameter piping that can be shallow trenched proved to be the answer.

“Ginn chose the Environment One (E/One) system because we ­didn’t want a bunch of lift stations all over the property,” Hood said. “Other systems would have necessitated many lifts given the elevation changes of the property.”

The Vision
The Tuscan feel of Bella Collina creates a simple yet elegant lifestyle far enough from the crowds of Orlando, but close enough to enjoy the fruits of its offerings. Home sites in this rural country setting present views overlooking an equestrian center, orange groves and lakes. The design also incorporated waterfront course lots and lakefront parcels with private docks.

A traditional, valley-style layout golf course with open fairways and sweeping dunes, designed by professional-golf ­legend Nick Faldo, overlooks water and orange groves. An impressive 50,000-square-foot clubhouse includes handcrafted appointments and detail of authentic Tuscan design and will house a spa, fitness center, fine and casual dining, locker rooms, and golf shop.

Tennis courts, a resort-style swimming pool and landscaped, outdoor sports area with playground and playing fields surrounded by a bike/walking path made from cocina shells and wooden planks are future amenities.

Sewering, Design, Planning & Engineering
Miller, Einhouse, Rymer & Boyd (MER&B) was hired by Ginn for its expertise in   community planning, project management, engineering, and landscape architecture.

“MER&B did the design and engineering work, including the hydraulic study and infrastructure plans,” said Geoff Summit, who was then lead engineer and onsite project manager for the firm from the beginning of the project in 2001. He is now partner at Dedham Summit Engineering.

“As the civil site engineers, MER&B worked on the comprehensive planning, preliminary plot, sewering and construction plans. They also did the roadway, storm water and water infiltration studies for Ginn on this project,” he said.

The property is divided by County Road 455. On one side is Bella Collina East, where the sewage treatment plant is sited. Bella Collina West is on the other side of this county road which contains the golf course.

“The plant was built by Ginn but is owned and operated by the Pine Island Community Development District (CDD). The lift station sited there pumps wastewater and sludge from residences and the golf course facilities to the treatment plant through trunk lines under the road,” said Steve Besley, MER&B’s current project manager. 

Because the property is split by County Road 455, two trunk mains were required — one from the east side, the other from the west.

“Designs were done by MER&B for vacuum, gravity, and low pressure sewage systems to determine the best and most cost effective scheme. The site has over 160 feet of elevation change. The area adjacent to Lake Apopka, on the east side of the property, contains lots that are 10 to 12 feet below the level of the road,” Besley added.  

Early in the project planning stage, a former Senior VP at Ginn shared ­­­information about E/One’s low pressure sewage system with others at the ­company. He had read a trade publication piece about the technology, its functional advantages, and cost benefits.  After review and because of the topography, the system was selected for use at Bella Collina.  

“E/One’s equipment maintains a steady rate of pressure over a given range, necessitating only one lift station. Seven or eight expensive lift stations would have been needed with a gravity system. It allowed for flexibility in design and was the best in relation to cost as well,” commented Summit. “The system also proved to be more cost effective than the other choices.”

Putting the Plan in Play
Establishing the CDD simplified the process and timeline for installation of the sewer, water and power infrastructure. It also authorizes an assessment to be charged and additionally allows the developer to sell bonds that offsets the upfront and overall cost of the project.  

Potable water for the region originates in underground aquifers. Wells are drilled 2,000 to 3,000 feet through deep sand beds to reach the water source. Because water shortage is a problem in Florida, Bella Collina was required to get a consumptive use permit. Conditions of the permit mandated a plan for efficiency of water usage, alternative forms of irrigation and water conservation. It includes drip irrigation to control water usage at residential housing and in common areas. The plan also incorporates landscaping at home sites and common areas that diminish runoff and the use of reclaimed water from the treatment plant for irrigating common areas as well.

The preferred builder program at Bella Collina permits land owners to choose one of eight builders that were previously selected and approved by Ginn. There are architectural and specification guidelines for homes being built and construction must be completed within a pre-specified time from the date of land purchase. 

“Installation of the grinder pump station and lateral pipe line at each house to a subdivision road where the trunk line runs is done by the installers. Utility technicians do the grinder pump station installation and connection hookup during final stages of home construction. They work for all the builders and also have a service contract with the CDD,” stated Victoria Schmidt, of Water Resources Technologies (WRT), the local authorized distributor of E/One products and service.

“WRT does the start-ups of the pump station installed at each residence and other applications — golf course comfort stations, maintenance buildings, etc. It is responsible for providing service and repair on behalf of the installer. The trunk line in the road was installed during the infrastructure stage. Once connected, the sludge is sent from the grinder pump through the lateral pipe to the trunk line and onto the to the lift station before being pumped to the sewage treatment plant,” Schmidt said.

The sewer system requires only a shallow trench and much smaller-diameter piping.  Unlike conventional gravity central sewers, which can use up to 24-inch pipe and require deep excavation, the system minimizes destruction of the landscape. In addition to the installation and operation savings, it requires less maintenance and delivers big results.

Both the gravity sewer system and the specialized, low-pressure system are known as central sewer systems. Most cities and many villages use central sewering, which means that waste is transferred, usually by a pipe or main, to a central treatment plant.

Gravity sewers are the “original” central sewers, with origins in the Roman aqueducts. Unfortunately, the technology behind gravity sewers is also centuries-old. They’re bulky systems using a large main and can require major excavation to install. They must be accurately placed and bedded along a continuous downward grade. Plus, they’re expensive and not entirely efficient in transporting waste.

The E/One system employs tried and true technology and has become known for its reliability as it performs dependably day in and day out and is cost ­effective with minimal maintenance, low upfront costs and reduced operating ­expenses.
Its ability to be installed at any site, regardless of the challenges of topography, is helping to bring a vision of Tuscany to central Florida.