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By Melissa Muroff, Esq. 

A couple of years ago, the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia tapped Roofmeadow and a few other firms to test drive the prospect of forming an industry group to advocate on behalf of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) in the Philadelphia area.  Primary objectives included advancing the local GSI industry (read, local job creation) and fostering innovation.  The GSI Partners has evolved and is collaborating with like-minded contingents at BIA, DVGBC among others. As a result, a fierce commitment to promoting green infrastructure over grey has surfaced. #TrueGreen has become a rallying cry in these circles.  In fact, voices promoting grey infrastructure are notably silent.  So, if we all are in agreement (and that’s a big “if”) – from government to developers to designers to contractors, where is all the green infrastructure?

Consider our current paradigm: Philadelphia’s goal is to create nearly 9,000 Greened Acres.  Great start!

A one acre green roof in Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuylkill River.

A one acre green roof in Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuylkill River.

But if we continue down the course we are headed, our math suggests that the 9,000 Greened Acres will be comprised mostly of grey infrastructure.  Sort of sucks the wind out of your sails, doesn’t it?

Grey stormwater installation in Maryland

Grey infrastructure installation.

Here’s what I think: Turning around this behemoth ship of the Philadelphia water infrastructure requires a total rethink, not just a regulatory tweak or the will of a few urban champions.  An increasingly vocal collective of whip-smart designers and developers are challenging our grey legacy.  In charrettes, design competitions (Soak It Up) and built developments (Ice House, RidgeFlats), innovators are demonstrating new ways to interact with rainwater and plants; they are artists at work with a living palette. This group of leaders isn’t designing and building green roofs, living walls, rain gardens, and urban tree groves just to win stormwater credits.  It’s much bigger than that.  They envision a new urban experience where concrete and glass interact dynamically with plants, habitat and moving water to create natural spaces that draw us in, soothe us and stimulate us. Places where we inherently belong.  It’s what David Waxman of MM Partners called, “the outdoor Philadelphia experience,” and this is the Philadelphia I want to live in.

And this is your call to action:

The industry’s efforts to promote, measure, and finance green infrastructure are growing and gaining momentum every day, but we need your support. Interested?  Then join us this Tuesday morning at the GSI Partners quarterly meeting!


RSVP here.

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