With the construction of the new Davies Center, the Little Niagara Creek was converted to a more natural state. Three sections of culvert were replaced with graceful bridges, making it more like the trout stream it once was. The creek now echoes the curve of Davies Center and has been incorporated into the Central Campus Mall as a major feature of the landscape, rather than being pushed to the margins. To restore the creek, many years of deposited silt and sediment was removed from the streambed, eroded soil banks were rebuilt, and invasive plant species like Reed Canary Grass were pulled up. The stream bed and banks were shored up with riprap, stone that is used to prevent erosion and movement of waterways. Small cascades were added to the course, providing more oxygenation and also the sound of flowing water to those passing by. Along its banks, stones were laid down to allow people to access the creek, and native prairie grasses were planted to stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. These native species are beneficial for many reasons: they provide educational opportunities and form the basis for a more diverse ecology than typical green grass. Their extensive root systems also store a large amount of carbon over long periods of time.
Native plants were incorporated in all of the new landscaping of Davies Center, either as buffer zones for sensitive areas, such as the banks of the Little Niagara Creek, or as decorative plantings. These plants are water-efficient and do not require the application of pesticides or fertilizers, making it both easier to maintain than regular grass and more environmentally friendly.
An important part of the landscaping is found between Davies Center and Phillips Hall. That area, called a bioswale, is composed of a combination of stone and mulch and planted with carefully selected native plants. It is shaped to collect silt and other pollution in stormwater runoff from the paved areas around it, preventing damage to the ecology of the Little Niagara Creek and the Chippewa River. The bioswale also acts as a buffer, much as Davies Center’s green roof does, keeping stormwater flows to a manageable level, which reduces the chance of flooding. While not looking particularly imposing, bioswales are the first line of defense in protecting waterways.
The area located just across the Little Niagara Creek is the site of the original Davies Center, transformed into a green area that is part of the Central Campus Mall. When the original Davies Center was deconstructed, approximately 85 percent of its total weight was recycled into new construction and other materials offsite.