Graham Sustainability Institute

Different Contexts, Different Designs for Green Stormwater Infrastructure

August 2018

Joan Iverson Nassauer & Yuanqiu Feng.

Report topic:
A look at how local conditions including existing grey infrastructure can drive the scale of GSI design to achieve different multifunctional benefits.

NEW-GI (Neighborhood, Environment, and Water research collaborations for Green Infrastructure) contributes to knowledge about green infrastructure in legacy cities by integrating research about water quality, community well-being, governance and ecological design. Involving community, government and academic collaborators, it produces evidence-based guidance for sustainably managing stormwater in ways that enhance landscapes and the lives of residents in Detroit and other legacy cities.

NEW-GI ecological designs link Detroit’s vacant property demolition process with new forms of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) that aim to manage stormwater as well as enhance neighborhood landscapes. This research uses a transdisciplinary design-in-science approach, in which researchers, practitioners and community members work together to contribute knowledge addressing social and ecological objectives. NEW-GI researchers assess the performance of different GSI designs and governance approaches. This assessment provides evidence for making decisions about how GSI can better achieve objectives.

This NEW-GI report draws on lessons from the pilot sites and the broader scientific literature to suggest how GSI might be employed across whole catchments for a more comprehensive effect on water quality and well-being. Within the Upper Rouge Tributary area, it examines two catchments with very different soil, slope and underlying geological characteristics, as well as different patterns of property vacancy. One catchment is centered on Tireman Avenue and includes the locations of four NEW-GI pilot sites where DWSD constructed bioretention gardens in 2015. Another catchment is centered on Fenkell Avenue in an area with very high rates of property vacancy. The report demonstrates that these characteristics suggest very different GSI design opportunities at different scales, and it describes the implications of those differences for economic development, GSI maintenance, and neighborhood well-being as a product of GSI.

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