As extreme weather events become more common and unpredictable, urban centers like New York City are presented with a prime opportunity to update aging infrastructure to better deal with flooding, contamination and other ramifications of increased climactic activity. As an alternative to standard wastewater treatment plants that are not able to contain wet weather events and run the risk of incidents leading to contamination, various experts have coalesced into an urban Green Infrastructure movement to implement green infrastructure into our city’s water systems. To help achieve this, Pratt Institute’s Urban Environmental Systems Management Program and NYC Soil And Water Conservation District have joined Pratt Continuing and Professional Studies to offer Green Systems Clean Water, a two-part fundamentals course in urban Green Infrastructure.
Instead of treating rainwater as waste and combining sewage and stormwater into one common stream, Green Infrastructure advocates argue that cities can utilize specially designed verdant plots and other infrastructure in order to capture and utilize most stormwater, minimizing the prevalence of Combined Sewage Overflow in our waters.
For many years, water quality advocates have pressured NYC to recognize the stormwater capture potential of plantings and innovative stormwater capture and treatment designs, like bioswales, green roofs, green walls and pervious pavement. These strategies and mechanisms have been used by many architects and civil engineers for a long time, yet their presence within urban systems is minimal and localized at best. Designers, planners, and political figures are building a movement to incorporate these constructs into the existing urban fabric. Cities like Philadelphia have led the charge with comprehensive plans, and other municipalities have started to reconsider the role of green infrastructure in water quality investments.
NYC’s implementation of Green Infrastructure to meet national water quality standards represents a tremendous educational need and opportunity. Training in standard designs, regulations, permitting, construction, monitoring and maintenance of innovative tree pits, curb cuts, green roofs, green walls and the like will be critical for successful implementation of Green Infrastructure citywide. Some of these professionals have the requisite knowledge to develop specific projects, usually in the public realm. But a complete, educated workforce is necessary for implementation of these strategies at an urban scale. It is in this spirit that Pratt Institute’s Center for Continuing and Professional Studies is offering this fundamentals course in urban Green Infrastructure.