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IIT wins EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge

Release Date: 04/22/2013
Contact Information: Phillippa Cannon, 312-353-6218, cannon.phillippa@epa.gov (news media only)

Chicago -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, won first prize among small institutions in the Agency’s first Campus RainWorks Challenge. EPA created the challenge to inspire the next generation of landscape architects, planners and engineers to develop innovative green infrastructure. The student team will receive a $2,500 cash award and IIT will receive $11,000 for faculty research on green infrastructure.

“EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge encourages the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater -- to improve water quality and to prevent the type of flooding caused by the heavy rains that hit Illinois last week,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, who presented the award today at an Earth Day ceremony at IIT. “The concept and technical quality of the IIT team’s design is truly impressive.”

The IIT team designed a plan to redevelop a 1,200-foot section of Dearborn Street on the IIT campus. The plan incorporates green infrastructure design elements, including rain gardens that double as outdoor seating areas and permeable walkways. Once implemented, the project will reduce stormwater runoff by more than 70 percent and reduce water used for campus landscaping by 3 million gallons annually.

The project will serve as an ongoing stormwater management design and research site for IIT’s campus and the city at large. IIT’s team was composed of a faculty advisor and 14 graduate and undergraduate students from various disciplines including landscape architecture, business and engineering.

“This is a really great moment for the IIT Master of Landscape Architecture program, for the College of Architecture and for the University, because it brings focus and attention to an increasingly vital urban landscape infrastructure issue: a great design problem for design education,” said Mary Pat Mattson, Studio Assistant Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology. “The award gives us an opportunity to build on our ideas through further research and coursework. And we look forward to seeing how this impacts the campus landscape in very real ways.”

More than 30 expert judges from EPA, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Water Environment Federation and the American Society of Civil Engineers reviewed submissions from 218 teams. The winners were selected based on six criteria: analysis and planning, preservation or restoration of natural features, integrated water management, soil and vegetation management, value to campus, and likelihood of implementation.

Stormwater is one of the most widespread challenges to water quality in the nation. Large volumes of polluted stormwater degrade our nation’s rivers, lakes and aquatic habitats and contribute to downstream flooding.

The Campus RainWorks Challenge engages students and faculty 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. Green infrastructure filters and captures pollutants by passing stormwater through soils and retaining it on site. Green roofs, permeable surfaces and rain gardens are some of the most common types of green infrastructure.