Paul Wilhelms and Matt Snelling

Paul Wilhelms and Matt Snelling

Credit: Stefan Hester

Paul Wilhelms and Matt Snelling

HOK Product Design
hokproductdesign.com

Three years ago, architect Paul Wilhelms, AIA, and landscape architect Matt Snelling, both of HOK, devised a curb-based enclosure for rain gardens in a streetscape master plan. This year, they’re taking the system to market. Joined by HOK alum Jim Fetterman, the pair began working with in-house HOK Product Design and manufacturer Midwest Products Group to conceive of and produce the modular Freno Rain Garden system. “Our main concern was controlling the quality and finish of what’s basically a tall curb system,” Snelling says. Freno's precast concrete modules are designed to fit together like Tetris pieces, Wilhelms says, and are often installed in less than a day. The module-lined hole is then filled with bioretention materials. In residential, commercial, or municipal areas, the system can be used as a stormwater planter, green gutter garden, and vegetated swale, among other applications. Minimal excavation is required, and the eight available modules (including four radius shapes) are linked with threaded connection inserts. Basic modules range from 4'2" to 5'5" wide; custom sizes and colors are available, as are modules with recycled content. “We’ve figured out the feel of the system,” Wilhelms says, “but it’s still flexible and open to be used in ways that we haven’t thought of.”