2010 Finalist: Eco-Boulevards
Chicagoans discard over one billion gallons of Great Lakes water per day. This “wastewater” never replenishes one of the world’s most vital resources. As a remedy, this project re-conceives the Chicago street-grid as a holistic Bio-System that captures, cleans and returns wastewater and storm-water to the Lakes via “Eco-Boulevards.”
ENTRY APPLICATION: PDF
FEATURE VIDEO: Eco-Blvd
UrbanLabs, Chicago, IL
Critical Need Being Addressed
Chicago's environmental and economic health is directly tied to the health of the Great Lakes. Blue/green Eco-Boulevards bolster Chicago’s long-term vitality by filtering/recycling water, promoting walking/biking, nourishing bio-diversity, and fostering green-jobs. Eco-Boulevards emphasize interconnectivity to support Chicago’s goal of sustainable urban growth.
Description of Initiative
The Eco-Boulevard concept transforms existing roadways, sidewalks and parks (the “public-way”), which comprise more than a third of the land in a city such as Chicago into a holistic, distributed, passive bio-system for recycling Chicago’s water. Treated water is returned to the Great Lakes, closing Chicago’s water loop.
Eco-Boulevards are ecological treatment systems that make use of natural bioremediation processes to remove contaminants from storm-water and wastewater sources. In the proposal, two types of bio-systems are at work: Type A and Type B. Type A is a hydroponic bio-machine that uses aquatic and wetland ecological processes to treat wastewater naturally. These processes are carried out in reactor tanks in enclosed greenhouses. Type B is a wetland bio-system that uses constructed wetlands and prairie landscapes that use low energy processes to biologically filter storm-water naturally.
Currently, the Team is in the process of: (1) preliminarily designing a full-scale bio-system prototype to be implemented on Chicago’s south side; (2) creating an Eco-Boulevard Calculator to measure the performance and benefits of blue/green infrastructure; and (3) developing a Storm-water and a Wastewater Toolbox of best management practices (BMPs), which is a catalogue of Chicago-specific multifunctional blue/green best environmental and social practices.
The metabolism of the city and its relationship to larger systems is becoming a critical space of inquiry, innovation and need for systemic solutions. Eco-Boulevards thoughtfully takes this relationship on. This team may be well positioned to develop and implement aspects of their model because they operate at the confluence of non-profit, educational, public and private sectors— at a high level. The team has a strong understanding of cultural and social-economic issues and tensions. Through Eco-Boulevards, they have a vision to relate and integrate often, marginalized communities as an important aspect of the development of the model. This is done via site selection, programming and design. So the system not only mediates our relationship to the ecosystem but it begins to heal long rifts in older models of urbanization. The model is bold for taking on wastewater conditions and for the long-term vision of rendering the centralized systems obsolete. While that may be questionable the intention could elevate the innovation in solutions, so we commend the position. They had a strong understanding of best practices and the latest technologies to consider. They understood the obstacles and means to work through them and overall are a strong capable team. This model could be instrumental in how cities around one of the largest bodies of fresh water operate as mindful gatekeepers of a critical resource.
PEOPLE: About Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn, UrbanLabs
The firm has been the recipient of numerous AIA awards including design awards in 2007, 2008, and 2009, the 2009 Latrobe Prize, and the 2003 Emerging Visions Award from the AIA Chicago/Chicago Architectural Club. UrbanLab has been published in Architectural Record, Architecture, the New York Times, and Places. Sarah Dunn received her B.A. in architecture from Columbia College, Columbia University and her M.Arch from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Martin Felsen received his B.Arch from Virginia Tech and his M.S. in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. He is Studio Associate Professor at Illinois Institute of Technology. They are also co-directors of Archeworks, an alternative design school where students work in multidisciplinary teams with nonprofit partners to create design solutions for social and environmental concerns.