Sustainable Business Network

2018 Innovation Finalists

On behalf of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN), the GSI Partners will be recognizing excellence in GSI for Innovation. These are processes or programs that break new ground, by applying information, ingenuity, and initiative to significantly advance GSI’s impact.

Smart Stormwater Management Technology

Primary: OptiRTC

Client: Cintas Corporation

Partners: Amec Foster Wheeler, PEER Environmental, LLC, Philadelphia Water Department

When Cintas discovered that its property’s on-site stormwater retention basin did not meet current Philadelphia Water Department regulations or earn stormwater credits towards the Stormwater Management Service Charge, it engaged OptiRTC (Opti) to improve the performance and function of the basin and to create a long-term operations and maintenance plan for the entire property. A SMIP grant was awarded to fund the retrofit of the basin to increase its treatment capabilities and reduce wet weather flows. 

Leveraging technology to create more efficient systems, Opti employed its Continuous Monitoring and Adaptive Control (CMAC) technology to support Cintas’ monitoring goals. CMAC helps cities and businesses turn stormwater storage assets into smart, resilient systems at reduced cost and with less risk. Using its cloud-based technology to automatically control the timing and rate of flow of Cintas’ stormwater system, Opti was able to integrate information from sensors and flow controls in the field with real-time weather forecast data to directly improve water quality, prevent localized flooding, and mitigate the combined sewer overflows (CSOs) onsite. Opti also retrofitted the existing stormwater pond on the property.

In addition to meeting the requirements for stormwater retention credits, the retrofitted facility still provides safe passage for larger storm events. And because the Opti platform provides real-time data, it can also be used as a tool to engage with the community on the importance of water resources.

Using technology to monitor and forecast weather events to create more efficient systems signifies a bright future for how innovative technologies can continue to improve GSI performance. 


SEPTA Frontier Bus Depot 

Location: Plymouth Township, PA

Primary: Meliora Design

Client: SEPTA

Partners: Gannett Fleming, Meliora Design, Michael Baker

The SEPTA Frontier Bus Depot, located in Plymouth Township, is a high-traffic, multi-use bus storage facility. It includes a Maintenance Building and Bus Washing Building, serving approximately 110 buses each day. To support SEPTA’s 2011 Sustainability Plan, Meliora Design collaborated with the Depot to create a stormwater management plan and novel water reuse system that supplies potable water for bus washing. The site’s former stormwater drainage system delivered all runoff directly into Plymouth Creek without rate, volume, or water quality control.

Meliora Design improved the existing stormwater conveyance by reducing the velocity of stormwater discharged on site and installing a 22,235 square feet riparian buffer along the tributary. Non-native invasive species were replaced with native species on site and green spaces with landscape buffers were also added at the entrance of the facility. The project additionally included improvements to existing buildings, site regrading, and a full depth restoration of the site pavement.

Seeing utility in the roof runoff from the Maintenance and Bus Wash Buildings, SEPTA elected to capture and reuse the runoff, storing, filtering, and disinfecting the water for future use as rinse water. Stormwater analysis based on actual historical rainfall records that was conducted on the system revealed that the conventional “drawdown in 72 hours” after a 24 hour rainfall event should not be applied to reuse systems. Requiring 4.77 days to reuse the regulatory stormwater volume, the SEPTA stormwater system demonstrates that the volume and rate requirements can be achieved over a longer drawdown period when considering actual rainfall conditions.

The SEPTA Frontier Bus Deport, with its sustainable design, serves as a model for other facilities for implementing water reuse systems as a form of stormwater management.


Sandmeyer Regional Stormwater Facility

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Primary: Infrastructure Solution Services (ISS)

Client: Sandmeyer Lane Businesses

Partners: Water Logs, LLC

The Sandmeyer Regional Stormwater Facility is mile long cul-de-sac of commercial properties totaling 33 acres with an additional 6 acres in the right-of-way. Objections to shared ownership and liability from the property owners prevented early efforts towards stormwater management from taking off, but in 2014, Infrastructure Solution Services (ISS) proposed a long term solution resulting in a public-private partnership (P3) agreement for them to build and maintain a regional facility on Sandmeyer Lane.

Utilizing funding from PWD’s Greened Acre Retrofit Program (GARP), the project successfully aggregates and manages stormwater on private property, allowing twenty properties to meet their stormwater management compliance obligations.

In addition to drafting a stormwater management plan for the property, ISS also assumed the 45-year O&M agreement, implementing an inspections and maintenance program that allowed the property owners to pay the service fee with the cost savings from their stormwater credits. The project’s P3 model functions to ensure long term performance and compliance while minimizing the upfront financial obligations and risk that often falls on property owners.

The completed facility is comprised of two infiltration basins that treat over 50,000,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually. A separate storm pipe captures runoff from the impervious services of the thirty parcels along Sandmeyer Lane to be piped into the basin during storm events. Not only does the Sandmeyer Regional Stormwater Facility successfully contribute to Philadelphia Water Department’s greened acre goals, it is also structured in a way that brings assurance that it will continue to successfully function far into the future, with little burden to the Water Department, or to the Sandmeyer Lane community.


Model My Watershed

Primary: Stroud Water Research Center

Client: Citizens, conservation practitioners, municipalities, researchers, educators, and students

Partners: Azavea, LimnoTech, Pennsylvania State University, Utah State University, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, University of Washington

The Model My Watershed web app functions as both a learning tool and a land-use decision making tool. Developed by Stroud Water Research Center, the app allows students and professionals to explore the environmental impact of human activity on their neighborhoods and watersheds by using two different models to estimate stormwater runoff and human impacts to water quality. 

The combination of engineer-grade stormwater models paired with a BMP library and national data sets in a web-based software, makes the tool assessable via workstation, laptop, or mobile device and easy to leverage without the need for extensive training. As a result, it reduces many of the costs and technical barriers that are encountered when bringing environmental education to the public.

The app allows users to perform site-specific stormwater runoff analysis, exploring the geographic, social, political, and environmental challenges related to GSI and its impacts. Its innovative design allows the application to learn from other models and incorporate them in real time.

Model My Watershed is a part of Stroud Water Research Center’s greater WikiWatershed, an online toolkit for supporting citizens, conservationists, municipal decision-makers, researchers, educators, and students further their understanding and stewardship of fresh water. By using the concepts of place-based and problem-based learning, Model My Watershed engages and excites students about career opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in hopes that it enables them to study and address contemporary environmental challenges. The app’s current users are a combination of teachers and students, citizen scientists, environmental conservation/restoration planners, and state and local land-use planners or practitioners. 


Philadelphia Parcel Viewer

Primary: Azavea

Client: Philadelphia Water Department

Partners: Philadelphia Water Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The scalable and replicable nature of Azavea’s innovative stormwater management software tools makes their use by other municipalities across the nation and beyond easily implemented, demonstrating how data and software technologies can dramatically improve the implementation, and therefore success, or stormwater management plans. The three applications assist the Philadelphia Water Department uphold a transparent billing system and the public to explore opportunities for stormwater credit opportunities and aggregated property retrofits in the region.

The Philadelphia Parcel Viewer application was developed to support the Philadelphia Water Department’s new non-residential stormwater billing system that relates a property’s burden on the sewer system directly to its stormwater charge by using the property’s impervious surface cover as the basis for the fee.

The initial version of the public web application displayed billing information and impervious surface data during the four-year phase-in, and then enabled users to appeal their bill and apply for credits when they implemented BMPs. Now, several years later, a new version of the application is about to be rolled out that will provide both new data sources and new features for the public. 

The Credits Explorer application, launched in 2015, enables the public to explore ways to reduce their stormwater costs by adding green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens, stormwater basins, or subsurface storage to their properties. Property owners can simply draw the extent of each potential remediation on the interactive map and their stormwater savings are calculated based on the proposed changes.

This year, Azavea will launch The Greened Acre Retrofit Program (GARP) Aggregator-Property Manager that will provide a similar planning canvas for contractors, companies, or project aggregators who want to apply for grant funding for large-scale stormwater retrofit projects that extend across multiple properties and total at least ten acres in project size.

The development of these technologies resulted from significant stakeholder engagement facilitated by both Azavea and PWD.


Cira Green

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Primary: Roofmeadow

Client: Brandywine Realty Trust

Partners: Erdy McHenry Architecture, Hunter Roberts Construction Group, Sean’s Landscaping, Inc., EDA Contractors, Inc., Roofmeadow Services, Inc.

As Philadelphia’s first elevated public park and first blue-green roof, Cira Green represents an evolutionary innovation in design, particularly for shallow landscapes. This project casts a vision for the region in which challenging surfaces can inspire revolutionary design solutions.

Its novel design optimizes the horizontal shallow hydrologies of urban spaces and typifies the kind of cutting edge design that could inspire future development of vertical neighborhoods and sites for biophilic play and community gatherings.

The park sits atop a parking garage originally designed to be a 3-floor semi-public facility with a subsurface stormwater cistern. Brandywine Realty Trust (BRT) and its design team conceived of a dynamic elevated amenity space that would also comply with stormwater regulations.

The fusion of intensive green roofs, permeable paving, and “pancake cisterns” results in a hydrologically integrated site that provides a higher level of stormwater performance than conventional green roofs.

Its topography engages visitors, offering both passive and active recreational space.  BRT has developed an informational tour program, which attracts designers, students, engineers, and policy-makers from around the country.

By artfully integrating an innovative and unobtrusive stormwater management strategy into this extensively paved, high-traffic park, BRT and the design team created a new standard for city living which leverages the roof plane for unparalleled amenity spaces that also aggressively manage stormwater.

Developing workable solutions for implementing GSI on shallow rooftops opens up new possibilities for vertical living and foreshadows the future of urban design. 


Click here to buy tickets to the 2018 Excellence in GSI Awards on Thursday, May 17 at FringeArts.