Would you ever guess that a parking lot could hold the key to reducing floods and keeping waterways clean? That’s exactly what Brooklyn-based thread collective is aiming to achieve with their sustainable makeover of the Cannoneer Court parking lot at Pratt Institute‘s Brooklyn campus. The retrofit project seeks to make the city more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change by reducing flooding, eliminating sewer outfalls to open waters, and keeping nearby plants lush and green. That’s not too much to ask from asphalt, is it?

thread collective, pratt institute, Elliott Maltby, Gita Nandan, parking lot retrofit, eco-friendly parking lots, stormwater management, flood management, rainwater recycling, native plants, green infrastructure

The parking lot retrofit is an innovative project coming together thanks to the partnership between thread collective, Gaia Institute, and Pratt’s Sustainable Environmental Systems (SES) department. Jaime Stein, coordinator of Pratt SES, spearheaded the concept. Gaia’s Paul Mankiewicz designed the unique water capture system, and architect Gita Nandan and landscape designer Elliott Maltby of thread collective are leading the construction, which is currently underway. The partners are all professors at Pratt Institute.

Related: Bronx green infrastructure project will prevent almost 2 million gallons of stormwater from entering sewers

To the unwitting eye, the resulting lot will look more or less like any other parking lot. It will be made from asphalt and there will be designated spaces in which cars will, you know, park. However, the lot will contain a variety of other seamless features that will make it a boost to the environment. Trenches will guide rain water to the edge of the pavement where it can sink into the ground and be absorbed in planted areas, which are known as bioswales. The plants will act as natural filters, cleaning the rainwater before it seeps into the ground. This system will also keep excess rain water (or rapid snowmelt) out of municipal sewers and circumvent flooding.

thread collective, pratt institute, Elliott Maltby, Gita Nandan, parking lot retrofit, eco-friendly parking lots, stormwater management, flood management, rainwater recycling, native plants, green infrastructure

All of the plants slated for the project, which will be planted in the spring, are native varieties that should thrive with minimal maintenance due to the unique rain recycling system built in to the parking lot’s surface.

The design team estimates the completed lot will be able to capture 2.5 inches of rainfall during an eight-hour storm, which equates to more than 68,000 gallons of water. Over 27 billion gallons of polluted stormwater, snowmelt, and raw sewage flow directly into New York’s waterways in just one year, so infrastructure projects like this one may seem small, but have a huge potential impact.

+ thread collective

Images via C.C. Sullivan