Green Streets Design Manual FAQ


What are Green Streets?

Green streets are streets that act as local stormwater management systems, capturing stormwater runoff and reducing the amount of stormwater that would otherwise make its way into Philadelphia’s sewer collection system. Green Streets utilize green stormwater management infrastructure such as tree trenches, vegetated bump-outs, stormwater planters and permeable pavement to manage the runoff from streets, sidewalks and other paved surfaces.

What is green stormwater infrastructure?

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) includes a range of systems that intercept stormwater, infiltrate a portion of it into the ground, evaporate a portion of it into the air, and in some cases, release a portion of the captured stormwater slowly back into the sewer collection system. GSI treats stormwater runoff as a resource to be incorporated into the urban environment instead of as a waste product requiring removal. A primary goal of green stormwater infrastructure being constructed by the City of Philadelphia is to reduce the amount of stormwater that would otherwise make its way into the sewer collection system and lead to combined sewer overflows into local streams and rivers. For more information, please see the City of Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters plan.

Practices such as a tree trench, vegetated bump-out, stormwater planter or permeable pavement are considered GSI.

Do Green Streets utilize recycled products or other green materials?

The City of Philadelphia’s Green Streets program focuses on stormwater management. While PWD recycles the asphalt and concrete it removes during the construction process it does not necessarily utilize such recycled products or other “green” materials. Philadelphia’s green stormwater infrastructure projects provide a wide range of environmental benefits, including infiltration of water into groundwater aquifers; filtration of stormwater through the soil profile; greening, air filtration and carbon sequestration benefits of vegetation and beautification of streets and communities.

Do Green Streets include amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists?

Green Streets projects are not required to include any amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, many of the features of Green Streets are considered to be tools used by communities interested in traffic calming. To learn more about rules and regulations associated with the provision of amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists, please consult the City’s Complete Streets Handbook.

Where can I find a map of the Green Streets that have been built in Philadelphia?

Utilize the Big Green Map to view all of the green stormwater infrastructure projects that are currently in design or construction or have already been constructed by PWD citywide.

How can I get more involved in green stormwater management initiatives in Philadelphia?

Philadelphians visiting will find opportunities to join PWD’s mailing list as well as a calendar of events to attend. Residents, businesses, schools and communities can learn more about how they can take an active role in managing storm water by visiting:

There are many ways that you can connect with the Philadelphia Water Department to help green our city and improve the health of our rivers and streams. Here are some resources for individuals and communities:

  • Community Input Form: Use this online form to submit potential locations for green stormwater infrastructure projects. Step by step instructions will help you identify possible projects in your community.
  • Soak it Up! Adoption: Soak it Up! Adoption provides grants to civic organizations to help maintain the beauty and functionality of green stormwater infrastructure in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
  • Residential programs: Residential roofs, sidewalks and driveways make up a significant percentage of hard or impervious cover in our city. Every homeowner can help transform Philadelphia into a greener city by managing stormwater. Think about participating in these programs:
    • Rain Check: PWD will help homeowners choose and pay for a landscaping tool that manages stormwater. Participants can choose from rain gardens, porous paving, downspout planters, depaving and yard trees.
    • Rain Barrels: PWD provides free rain barrels to city residents. Participants must attend a workshop to learn how to use and maintain the barrel.
    • For more information on tips and project ideas to help manage stormwater runoff at home, check out:

I want PWD to build Green Streets in my neighborhood. How do I get them to do that?

The Community Input Form can be utilized by community stakeholders to suggest potential green stormwater infrastructure projects. Criteria and the submission process are detailed within.

Do Green Streets have to be designed per PWD design requirements and drawing requirements?

Yes. GSI in the right-of-way will become a PWD asset after construction. Therefore, all GSI in the right-of-way must be designed per applicable PWD requirements and guidelines.

How can I work with the Philadelphia Water Department to build a Green Street together?

Developers, agencies and non-profits interested in working with PWD to build green streets should read Chapter 7 of the GSDM before submitting a PWD Green Street Project Proposal.


When should I use the Green Streets Design Manual (Manual)?

If you, your agency or your firm are planning, designing and/or constructing a Green Street in Philadelphia, you should consult the Manual for design guidelines, policies and processes related to Green Street project design review, construction and maintenance.

I am building a project within the right-of-way (new street, street reconstruction, greenway, etc.)

  • Does the manual require that any and/or all street projects be Green Streets?

    The manual does not require Green Street construction in any way. However, any entity that is developing a project within the right-of-way is encouraged to contact PWD to explore the opportunity to add green stormwater infrastructure to the project and access potential funds for stormwater management.

  • How can I pursue a partnership with PWD to turn a street project into a Green Street project?

    The Philadelphia Water Department partners with public agencies to build Green Streets. PWD will consider partnering with private entities to develop a Green Street. To initiate the review process for such proposals, applicants should fill out the PWD Green Street Project Proposal Form, available in the index and here.

  • Does PWD provide funding for the construction of Green Streets by city agencies?

    It is possible for PWD to provide funding for the construction of Green Streets by other city agencies. The availability of funding and the amount available depend on the potential for stormwater management of the Green Street site itself. To initiate the review process for such proposals, applicants should fill out the PWD Green Street Project Proposal Form, available in the index and here.

I am building a development and I am required to manage stormwater.

  • Do I have to build a Green Street?

    No. The PWD Stormwater Regulations apply to private development projects and not to projects within the ROW. As of the printing of this Manual, Green Streets are not required for projects to comply with the PWD Stormwater Regulations. The PWD Stormwater Regulations are available here.

  • Can a Green Street manage stormwater from my privately owned site?

    No. The PWD Stormwater Regulations apply to private development projects. As of the printing of this Manual, Green Streets may not be constructed in lieu of on-site stormwater management that is required by the PWD Stormwater Regulations. The PWD Stormwater Regulations are available here.

  • Does PWD provide funding for the construction of Green Streets by private developers?

    As of the printing of this manual, PWD is unable to provide funds for private entities to develop Green Street projects. However, it is best to contact PWD directly to investigate partnership and funding opportunities. Please also see the list of potential funding sources in Section 7.4.2 of the Manual. To initiate the review process for such proposals, applicants shall fill out the PWD Green Street Project Proposal Form, available in the index and here.

Do I need to use the manual if I am planting trees in the sidewalk?

Trees can be planted in the sidewalk without development of a Green Street project via the Manual. All tree plantings must be coordinated with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department.

How often is the handbook updated?

The Handbook will be updated no more than once a year.


What is the typical timeline for review of a Green Street project?

The Green Streets Design Manual is a new tool for implementing Green Streets projects, so no projects have been through the process at this time. Therefore, there is no data on how long the review of a Green Street project can take. Furthermore, the amount of time it takes for PWD and its applicable partners to review various aspects of the project will depend on the quality of the submissions. At this time, PWD estimates that it may take 2–4 weeks to review a project and anywhere from 10 to 19 months to design a GSI project, from project scoping through final design and procurement of permits.

I have submitted my project for the Streets Department to review, and some of their requirements conflict with instructions from the PWD or Manual itself. Whose directions should I listen to?

Upon receiving conflicting instructions from other agencies, project managers shall consult with their PWD project reviewer to determine the appropriate steps necessary to resolve the conflicting guidance.

I am developing a project that is on a State Route in Philadelphia. Can I still build a Green Street?

Yes. However, projects along state routes must be submitted to PennDOT for review. These projects will also require a Highway Occupancy Permit, so early coordination with PennDOT is critical. Please see Chapter 7 of the Manual for more information.

If I build a Green Street according to these specifications, will PWD accept the project as an asset and maintain it?

Yes. PWD will own and maintain GSI in the right-of-way after construction. All infrastructure must be approved by PWD’s Design and Construction unit.

Does review of a private development project with a Green Streets component entail a review by PWD Stormwater Plan Review (for the private development) and a separate review by Green Stormwater Infrastructure Design (for the Green Streets component)?

Yes. The PWD Stormwater Regulations apply to private development projects, while the standards identified in the Green Streets Design Manual apply to projects within the right-of-way, which will ultimately be owned and maintained by PWD. At this time, these are separate reviews administered by PWD. However, PWD is looking for ways to streamline the process. Further detail regarding PWD’s review processes can be found in Chapter 7 of the manual.