Philadelphia Water Challenge Seeks Innovative Approach to Streamlining Green Infrastructure Projects

The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at BigIdeasPHL.com. Credit: Philadelphia Water
The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge seeks to make projects like the stormwater tree trenches seen above more efficient by improving the subsurface analysis that takes place before construction. Learn more at BigIdeasPHL.com. Credit: Philadelphia Water

Philadelphia Water, in partnership with the City’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and the internationally renowned Citymart organization, is proud to present the Philadelphia Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Innovation Challenge.

A continuation of a partnership between Citymart and Philadelphia that began in 2015, the challenge represents a radical rethinking of the process that cities use to solve problems. Philadelphia is one of only a handful of U.S. cities chosen to work with Citymart, a company that specializes in helping cities around the world find new solutions to challenges.

The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge is designed to make Philadelphia’s rapidly growing green stormwater infrastructure program—Green City, Clean Waters—more efficient by improving assessment of subsurface conditions at potential sites.

“Over the last five years, Philadelphia has been writing the textbook on how a city can create a large-scale, transformative green stormwater infrastructure program,” says Marc Cammarata, director of Philadelphia Water’s Office of Watersheds. “As one of the national leaders in this approach, we have relied on innovation and creative problem solving to make Green City, Clean Waters a success. This partnership will enhance that spirit of innovation and provide valuable tools as we continue to expand the City’s green infrastructure footprint.”

While current methods of determining site factors, such as the location of utilities, are usually effective, unexpected discoveries can add significant costs to projects and delay construction. As existing agreements with state and federal regulators require the City of Philadelphia to nearly triple the volume of stormwater currently being managed by green infrastructure within the next five years, finding ways to increase project efficiency is critical.

By 2036, the City is required to manage nearly 8 billion gallons of stormwater from roughly 10,000 acres of impervious surfaces annually through Green City, Clean Waters.

What makes the Citymart approach to solving this problem different is that Philadelphia Water is asking companies, organizations and other entities to submit proposals for potential solutions that can help planners and engineers better determine subsurface conditions. Currently, the standard approach in most cities is to first determine the solution, and then ask firms and others to bid on contracts to provide that solution.

The Philadelphia GSI Innovation Challenge consists of two stages. The first stage is a Request for Information, during which the City is looking for information on all possible solutions available. The second stage is a Request for Proposals, which will draw from the market insights sourced in the first round.

The opportunity is open to anyone with a solution to the challenge. The City welcomes ideas from social entrepreneurs, engineers, architects, designers, NGOs, and general city enthusiasts working locally or internationally.

Applications for the Request for Information are due by July 14, 2016 at 5 p.m. EST.
To learn more and submit proposals, interested applicants should visit www.BigIdeasPHL.com.

Note: All applicant questions about the process should be posted to the BigIdeasPHL website or sent to PWD-GSI.Innovations@phila.gov  

Please see FAQ about the RFI opportunity at www.BigIdeasPHL.com.