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Session spotlight: Reinventing Philadelphia through green infrastructure

Published on 25 Oct 2013 Posted in Greenbuild

Over the next 25 years, Philadelphia will invest $2 billion in green stormwater infrastructure, creating a more sustainable, healthier and livable city. The Greenbuild 2013 session “Reinventing Philadelphia Through Green Infrastructure” offers an overview of the benefits of the Green City, Clean Water program (the first of its kind approved by the EPA). Session attendees will also learn some of the challenges green stormwater solutions face and will collaboratively design solutions to overcome these barriers.

Christine Knapp, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Philadelphia Water Department, and Green Building Program Working Group Member Matthew Gray (who picked this as his favorite session at Greenbuild), Director of the City of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, discuss this exciting session.

What interests or excites you most about this session?

Matthew: This session is what Greenbuild is all about — addressing an increasingly important topic to cities across the U.S., taking advantage of the host city’s leadership on an issue, bringing together the right mix of speakers, and allotting enough time for ideas to germinate and translate into action.

Why is the topic of your session so important?

Christine: Water will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th. Cities around the world are figuring out how to be smarter, more efficient and better stewards of water. Cities in the U.S. in particular are facing increasing costs to repair and replace infrastructure and increasingly stringent regulations and higher customer expectations. Green stormwater infrastructure is one solution to several problems, but requires a new way of thinking.

Why should Greenbuild attendees attend this session specifically?

Christine: If participants want to get a deep understanding of the city they are visiting, this is the workshop where they can learn the history of the city through our water and the future of our city through the use of green infrastructure. But more than learning, participants will be invited to contribute their ideas in real life examples that will help implement green stormwater infrastructure throughout Philadelphia.

Matthew: Cities like Philadelphia are increasingly finding beautiful and innovative approaches to greening the built environment, and no matter what field you’re in, there will be something valuable to take from this session and integrate into your own work.

How do you interface with this topic or issue in your work or home life? Have you had an experience related to this issue or topic that you would like to share?

Matthew: Like Philadelphia, the City of Cleveland is working to clean our water through the use of green infrastructure (e.g. bioswales, permeable pavement, vegetative roofs, tree plantings, etc.). Unlike gray infrastructure, green infrastructure provides many other benefits, from cleaning our air and combating urban heat island effect to beautifying our neighborhoods and providing green space for residents. We are working to improve quality of life, and green infrastructure is a powerful tool to do so. 

What’s the most interesting non-green building related fact about yourself?

Matthew: I’ve visited 30 countries and lived in a handful more, but couldn’t be happier than living in my hometown of Cleveland!

Interested in creating the education program at Greenbuild? There are numerous Committees and Working Groups that you can join. The 2014 Call for Expressions of Interest is open from Oct. 7-Nov. 29, 2013. Learn more about the application process.

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