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In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of its fourth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge. The design competition engages students and faculty members at colleges and universities to apply green infrastructure principles and design, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on campuses across the nation. Student teams proposed green infrastructure designs to help aid in development of more sustainable communities.

“Our Campus RainWorks Challenge winners inspire the next generation of green infrastructure designers and planners,” said Joel Beauvais, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “All the submissions included innovative approaches to stormwater management.”

EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories:

  • Master Plan category examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a broad area of a school’s campus, and
  • Demonstration Project category examines how green infrastructure could be integrated into a particular site on the team’s campus.

University of Maryland, College Park winning design concept is centered on reimagining a major, five-acre parking lot to retrofit it for improved stormwater management.

Teams of undergraduate and graduate students, working with a faculty advisor, developed innovative green infrastructure designs in one of the categories, showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment. The American Society of Landscape Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Water Environment Federation assisted EPA with judging and outreach.

The 2015 challenge winners are:

University of Texas at Arlington (1st Place, Master Plan category) — The team’s design concept, titled “Eco-Flow: A Water-Sensitive Placemaking Response to Climate Change,” transforms the campus through green infrastructure placed in relation to the natural water flow of Trading House Creek. The creek flows from northwest to south, connecting the campus. The plan proposes to increase biodiversity, restore soil quality and watershed hydrology, and implement photovoltaic cells to supply alternative energy. The plan has the potential to reduce stormwater runoff 25 inches annually, generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours each year, increase campus tree coverage 89 percent, and mitigate 5,000 tons of CO2.

University of Maryland, College Park (1st Place, Demonstration Project category) — The design is centered on reimagining a major, five-acre parking lot to retrofit it for improved stormwater management. Design features reduce 40 percent of impervious surface; add more than 17,000 square feet of new vegetation space, 56 new trees for shaded parking spaces, and 8,640 square feet of pedestrian space; and reduce 12.3 metric tons of CO2 annually. The team’s design has good potential for implementing on other campuses.

Stevens Institute of Technology (2nd Place, Master Plan category) — The team proposed the first stormwater management plan for the Stevens’ campus — “The Living Laboratory.” Stevens Institute of Technology is a 38-acre urban campus located on the east edge of Hoboken, N.J., bordered by the Hudson River. Flooding and combined sewer overflow is a primary concern for both Hoboken and the campus. Campus contribution of annual runoff to the overburdened Hoboken urban water system exceeds 20 million gallons. Sustainable stormwater management practices are proposed to reduce runoff and stress on the system.

The University of California, Berkeley team chose a creek site on campus that was the university’s first botanical garden with many artificial landscape features that cause drainage problems.

The design includes 29 green infrastructure techniques, which have been applied to problem areas to reduce runoff, contaminant discharge, and potable water use. The Living Laboratory provides a practical example for urban campus green infrastructure and introduces classroom and community educational opportunities. The team worked with Stevens Facilities and Events Management to ensure the proposed design is aligned with future growth of the campus, can be maintained, and is aesthetically pleasing and economically responsible.

University of California, Berkeley (2nd Place, Demonstration Project category) — The team chose a creek site on campus that was the university’s first botanical garden with many artificial landscape features that cause drainage problems. While it is home to a legacy of exotic plants, the site lacks habitat conducive to supporting native species and reducing runoff. The team proposed a design that will store 37,000 cubic feet of stormwater runoff, increase pervious surface area by 33 percent, and increase native plant species. The design has potential to reduce flooding and restore the ecological diversity of the area.

EPA also recognized teams from the University of Texas at Arlington (Master Plan category) and Northeastern University (Demonstration Project category) as honorable mentions for their entries.

EPA will announce the fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in the summer of 2016.

Information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More information is available at epa.gov/green-infrastructure/2015-campus-rainworks-challenge.

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