The year 2016 marks the 10th annual Greenovate Boston Awards – a decade of climate action leadership in the City of Boston! Check out our latest featured blog series Where Are They Now? to catch up with some of the winners since they were recognized.
On Friday, April 22, Mayor Walsh will honor this year’s Greenovate Award Winners at Fenway Park. It marks a DECADE of Greenovate Awards, and leading up to this year’s ceremony, we’re taking a look back at the amazing individuals and organizations who have won the award over the years. These individuals and organizations have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and exemplify the type of creativity it will take for Boston to achieve its climate goals.
Boston Architectural College offers students hands-on experience in planning and design, and integrates the principles of environmental, historical, and cultural sustainability into its programs of study. In 2014 the school was honored with a Greenovate Award for an implementation of sustainable design on its own campus called the Green Alley.
The BAC put their philosophy of sustainable design into practice when they created a beautiful and eco-friendly walkway in an alley in the middle of campus – between Boylston Street and Newbury Street, in a space that used to be known simply as Public Alley #444.
The Green Alley replenishes the groundwater table, mitigates rainwater from entering the storm-sewer system, and provides a beautiful green space where once sat a vacant paved alley. Permeable paving on the alley’s surface allows almost all of the rainwater that falls on the alley’s surface or on the roofs of surrounding buildings to infiltrate naturally into the earth, as opposed to contributing to the oft-toxic stormwater that channels into the Charles River.
Underground geothermal wells pump water through pipes inside the adjacent buildings, which helps with both heating and cooling costs. The system significantly offsets the campus’s energy costs and emissions.
We checked back in with Art Byers, Associate Vice President of Facilities at Boston Architectural College to hear about what the Green Alley has meant for the school’s campus and for sustainable stormwater management in Boston:
Can you give us some stats on how much water the Green Alley absorbed? How much storm runoff was prevented from ending up in the Charles River?
In the initial stages of planning, the Green Alley project assumed an annual rainfall amount of about 361,400 gallons. Of that amount it was assumed that about 83% would go into the groundwater layer, and the remaining amount would go into the stormwater system. We think the total rainfall amount that went into the stormwater system since project completion in 2014 is 0%. So the initial 83% infiltration amount into the groundwater layer is actually 100%. We are very pleased with that. We believe that if the city were to replicate our alley system, the stormwater discharge into the Charles River during heavy rain events would cease.
Has the Green Alley required any adjustments or upkeep in its first two years?
The maintenance of the alley has proven to be less onerous than we first anticipated. Our staff periodically sweep small sections and one annual power sweeping/vacuuming takes place in the spring. This work is typically sufficient to keep the porous pavement open and accepting of rainfall.
What does the Green Alley mean for the campus?
The alley is used daily by students as we have moved our bike rack system into it. We have a strong bike culture on campus and the additional lighting that was installed as a part of the project has helped our evening students keep their bikes safe. The alley is far more esthetically welcoming and our staff use it to transit between campus building all the time. The green screen installed at the rear of one of our buildings is thriving and will add to the esthetics and sustainability of the area.
How does the Green Alley reflect the BAC’s emphasis on sustainable design?
We have provided student groups (not just BAC students) with tours of the alley and hope we that the information provided relates to their project designs as they develop their design skills. Enabling students to understand that it is possible to mimic nature in a dense urban setting through our alley design will increase their positive impact on the built environment for years to come.