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Soak It Up! Philadelphia Water Department's design initiative to create next wave of green projects

The Philadelphia Water Department is once again raising the bar with their green infrastructure/sustainability initiatives, this time partnering with the US Environmental Protection Agency and Community Design Collaborative with the launch of Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!—a design initiative to increase awareness on how green stormwater infrastructure can revitalize urban areas.

Green stormwater infrastructure has been receiving a lot of attention in Philly in recent years – it is the key strategy behind Green City, Clean Waters, the city's nationally renowned and environmentally sustainable plan to improve the region’s waterways.

“As we evolve Philadelphia into America's most sustainable and green city, the opportunities ahead will be limited only by the confines of our imaginations and the extent of our determination,” says Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department.

Seeing Philly as an early adopter of green stormwater infrastructure programs on large scales, the EPA decided to partner with the Water Department on Soak It Up! to encourage and assist the City in their ongoing efforts to improve water quality and sustainability.    

Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up! is an offshoot of Infill Philadelphia, a program created by the Community Design Collaborative to help urban areas re-envision their neighborhoods and address specific concerns unique to urban places.   

Soak It Up! feeds off that program, and will host exhibitions, talks, design charrettes and a national competition to explore the vast potential of green infrastructure tools—rain gardens, green roofs, rain barrels and more—and figure out how they can enhance Philly's built, economic and social environment.

Currently, an exhibition of over 40 projects from Philadelphia and other cities including Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh is on display through Oct. 19 at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, at 1218 Arch Street.  The exhibition provides a sampling of smart, innovative green stormwater project ideas, ranging from simple and small to visionary and large.  The exhibition is open to the public from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon – 5 p.m. on Sundays.   

The exhibition and the other programs currently ongoing are cumulatively aiming to bring together city leaders, designers and community stakeholders and give them the platform to discuss how they can put green infrastructure best practices to work locally.  

“In our work, we’ve already seen how designing with green stormwater infrastructure can transform a park, a block, or even an entire neighborhood,” says Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative. “Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! will help produce greater awareness, advocacy, and collaboration around green tools—and the next wave of green projects in the city.”

Source: Howard Neukrug, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department; Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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