Soak it Up! Philly-centric competition on greening stormwater systems kicks off


A rainwater collection system at Springside School | Image via Rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement—these are some of the techniques being used to green Philadelphia’s stormwater system. But can these tools also help revitalize the urban communities in which they’re installed? That’s what the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Community Design Collaborative are challenging design teams to find out.

Last night, the groups launched their national competition—Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! While Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program is slated to make green improvements to the city’s stormwater system over the next 25 years, the three organizations want to encourage public-private partnerships to create cost-effective, sustainable, innovative designs that can become national models for greening stormwater systems.

For inspiration, the PWD, EPA and the Design Collaborative organized the exhibit Soak it Up!, featuring 40 proposed or implemented projects from Philadelphia and other cities, like Detroit, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Examples from Philadelphia include a roundabout on Stenton Avenue, a moving park that educates on green stormwater management, a rain wall and garden at Springside School, and a rooftop farm on SHARE, a nonprofit food distribution center in North Philadelphia. The exhibit will be on display until Friday, Oct. 19.

For the competition, design teams are asked to choose one of three locations in Philadelphia and propose green ways to improve the stormwater system. The sites are: an industrial warehouse site in Hartranft, North Philadelphia; a commercial retail retrofit in Grays Ferry, South Philadelphia; or the Queen Village neighborhood in South Philadelphia. The hope is that these proposals will promote private-public partnerships and encourage property owners to implement green stormwater retrofits.

Registration is open until November 30, and the competition will continue through February 2013. The winners will be announced at an awards event in March and be featured in our June 2013 issue in a special insert done in partnership with the Community Design Collaborative. For more information, visit