Conway students and alums are on the front lines of the emerging Green Infrastructure industry by designing livable spaces that nurture the human experience of place while responsibly stewarding an increasingly important resource – stormwater.

Kate Cholakis '11In January 2014 alum Kate Cholakis ‘11 was a member of one of seven design teams to win the DC Water Green Infrastructure Challenge. Kate and her colleagues at Nitsch Engineering collaborated with landscape architect Kevin Robert Perry at Urban Rain Design, environmental artist Stacey Levy, and budding landscape architect Raymond Papa to create Kennedy|Greened: A Neighborhood Street Project. The DC Water Challenge sought to engage firms to design innovative green practices that absorb rainwater in place of or in conjunction with “gray” engineering solutions, to capture rainwater and prevent combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The Challenge will result in the construction of a large-scale, multi-million dollar demonstration project in the Potomac and Rock Creek sewersheds for evaluating the feasibility of using green infrastructure practices to prevent combined sewer overflows in the region.

Kennedy|Greened utilized green roofs (gardens on rooftops), rain gardens, rain barrels, pervious pavements, removing impervious surfaces, and using other natural means to capture and infiltrate rainwater at or close to its source. “Green Streets” elements to support pedestrian and bicycle livability included contrasting pavement at pedestrian egress areas to demarcate the vehicular zone, shared roadway signage, small stature street trees, and replacing degraded pavement with high albedo concrete to reduce the heat island effect. Kate’s team also created opportunities for irrigation or other non-potable uses from graywater with subsurface cisterns for stormwater collection.

Kate and her engineering colleagues at Nitsch are also monthly contributing authors for New England Real Estate Journal’s Green Building Section. In their January 2014 article, Kate and chief engineer Sandra Brock discuss the impacts of FEMA’s draft Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) on the City of Boston and considerations for adapting the way we design.

Washington DC and Boston are like many other cities nationwide looking at ways to utilize Green Infrastructure to address their Administrative Orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce and eliminate CSOs. During the Winter Term, one student team is developing a Green Streets Guidebook for an old industrial mill city in Massachusetts also under Federal mandate to improve water quality through sewer separation. The students are tasked with evaluating ways to utilize green infrastructure in support of multiple city agendas with seemingly unrelated connections including improving quality of life for residents and creating opportunities to reduce peak storm flows. Several other winter term projects are exploring the incorporation of green infrastructure to support an innovation district, bike and pedestrian trail development, open space planning, and urban food security.

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Anne Capra Madocks ’00 is Conway’s 2014 Winter Term Distinguished Planning Teaching Fellow. In between graduating from Conway and coming back to teach, she worked as a planner at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.