Competition: Design New Ways to Soak Up Water

The Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Community Design Collaborative have launched a new design competition called Infill Philadelphia: Soak it Up! The idea is to inspire teams of landscape architects, architects, and engineers to offer up sustainable, low-cost “green stormwater infrastructure” in Philly and other cities.

The competition is part of a broader initiative in Philly to use green infrastructure to revitalize communities. “A series of design centered programs including exhibitions, workshops, charrettes and design competitions will mobilize public-private partnerships to advance innovative, cost-effective, sustainable site design solutions in Philadelphia that can serve as inspiring, national models for watershed protection and community revitalization.” According to the competition organizers, bold, new ideas that come out of the programs will also be critical to “the implementation of Green City, Clean Waters, the city’s innovative, sustainable 25-year plan.”

The competition asks designers to reimagine three different sites. In the “Warehouse watershed” track of the competition, designers will need to reimagine “a warehouse and a city-owned vacant lot that offer possibilities for public-private partnerships and the revitalization of a high-vacancy, mixed-use residential/industrial district.” In “Retail retrofit,” the goal is to rethink a “retail strip center that has the potential to play a more central role in the surrounding neighborhood through improved walkability, pop-up space for community events, and access to river recreation.” Lastly, in “Greening the Grid,” an “historic neighborhood with an engaged community and a dense network of streets, alleys, roofs, and open space” offers opportunities for “small-scale interventions.” 

The organizers write that the property owners for the three different sites are interested in implementing the winning ideas from the competition. The designs, which have to be cost-effective and sustainable, need to address the questions: “what is the cost of the initial investment?; how long will it take to recover that investment?; and what will the cost of maintenance be over the life of the system?”

This competition is only open to professional designers. According to the organizers, each team must have include a licensed architect, licensed landscape architect, and licensed civil engineer. Also, at least one team member must practice in the Philadelphia area. 

Finalists will present at an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University on March 7, 2013. The jury will select one winner for each of the three different sites. Each winning team will receive $10,000.

Register by November 30, 2012 and get submissions in by January 22, 2013. 

Also, check out a new design competition called Movement on Main, which aims to bring the most innovative technologies to bear on a new green street project underway in the near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse. Initial submissions are due by December 10, 2012. The competition will result in real additions to a real design for a new $1.5 million street.

Image credit: GreenPlan Philadelphia / Wallace Roberts & Todd.

5 thoughts on “Competition: Design New Ways to Soak Up Water

  1. pole 11/08/2012 / 4:19 am


  2. Jack Sum 11/08/2012 / 11:21 am

    $300 submission fee? Plus $1000 worth of printing and boards for an ideas competition. I guess the economy is getting better to allow firms to do non billable work.

  3. Jack Sum 11/08/2012 / 11:26 am

    Its kind of upsetting to see more and more organizations and cities issuing design competitions with entry fees for free ideas with little return. Its taking advantage of individual firms struggling for work and forcing them to enter into a competition.

  4. Steve Nosillag 11/09/2012 / 5:25 am

    Not exactly a good return on investment. Plus the ideas from those contributing are now in the public domain.
    A friend has a really innovative design but will not compete until April of 2013. He has an eye on another “free” competition for his ” Super Absorbent Bounty h2o Project” that he will introduce at a International competition in late 2013.

  5. Bill Renter 11/10/2012 / 7:36 am

    I’m a Long Island landscape contractor with a rain water harvesting design using permeable pavers, a ecosystem pondless waterfeature and solar powered pumps. The water is used to irrigate the surrounding garden with no electric or makeup water required to operate. I’m not located in Philly, but would like to partner with someone who could enter this competition. We have one in the ground in New York.

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