Syracuse University

SU News

'Green Infrastructure' for reducing stormwater runoff demonstrated by SyracuseCoE collaborators

August 11, 2009

Carissa Matthews
(315) 443-3507

The installation of a project to demonstrate multiple approaches to reduce stormwater runoff was celebrated today by the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems (SyracuseCoE) and its collaborators. Examples of "green infrastructure" include a rain garden, a green roof, permeable pavement and rain barrels. The project, installed at a private residence in Syracuse's Near Westside neighborhood, included efforts by SyracuseCoE, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County (CCE), Home HeadQuarters, and youth from the Onondaga Earth Corps working under the guidance of CCE educators.

"This project is a shining example of how the new green economy can help to revitalize urban neighborhoods in Syracuse and across the country," says Ed Bogucz, executive director of SyracuseCoE. "Green infrastructure improves sustainability of urban ecosystems and creates jobs for citizens in our communities."

Present at the event were Bogucz; State Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida); Matthew J. Driscoll, City of Syracuse mayor; BJ Adigun, director of public affairs for the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection; Marilyn Higgins, Near Westside Initiative president; Anastasia Urtz, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County; Kerry Quaglia, executive director of Home HeadQuarters; and homeowners Don and Helen Walrath.

Funding for the demonstration project was provided through Syracuse University's New York State Debt Reinvestment Project, which covers efforts by SyracuseCoE and others under the Near Westside Initiative.

"This project is important because it demonstrates the practical application of green technology in a residential setting, the positive effect this technology can have in revitalizing our urban centers, and the potential for a new industry-and new jobs-in Central New York," says Valesky.

"I am pleased to be involved with the Syracuse Center of Excellence on the many current and upcoming Green Infrastructure projects throughout Syracuse," says Assemblywoman Joan Christensen. "This rain garden is more than a green step forward in our community. It is a lovely addition to the neighborhood and creates an inviting atmosphere to the Near Westside. Projects like this show us that our area can benefit ecologically, economically and socially."

The project transformed a residential property at 515 Tully St. Previously, the property included about 3,400 square feet of asphalt pavement. As part of the project, the asphalt was removed and replaced with a rain garden and a 1,300-square-foot permeable pavement driveway. Both the rain garden and driveway are designed to have high infiltration rates to prevent stormwater runoff. In addition, a demonstration green roof was installed on a shed at the rear of the property, and eight rain barrels were placed around the home. Permanent instructional signs will be installed soon.

Before this project, nearly all of the rainwater that fell on the asphalt lot ended up in the sewer system. One inch of rain would release some 2,100 gallons of water into the street. Now, what falls on the property stays on the property: almost all rainwater is absorbed by the ground. The project location is within the "sewershed" that is targeted by Onondaga County for installations of green infrastructure to stop overflows of sewage into Onondaga Creek.

"By incorporating these types of green components into our neighborhood revitalization strategy we increase the quality of life and reduce the strain on our municipal infrastructure, benefitting all taxpayers in the region," says Driscoll. "This innovative project is yet another example of how the City of Syracuse is positioning itself to be competitive in the emerging green economy."

"This project is in line with what we are working to achieve in our 'Save the Rain' campaign and our goal of a cleaner lake and more sustainable community," says Mahoney. "These new ideas and technologies are part of the solution to the combined sewer overflows that we are working to address in a more environmentally-friendly way, and we are glad to see positive efforts made in this direction."

"The hard work everyone put in really means a lot to us," says homeowner Don Walrath. "People cross the street just to walk on the sidewalk and ask us about the Flexi-pave, and many get excited when they see we are reusing the rain water."

Recently, the Near Westside has been flourishing with green projects, including the installation of an energy-efficient modular home designed by SU School of Architecture students, as well as the deconstruction of a vacant home on Marcellus Street to make way for a low-cost, highly energy efficient home design by Cook+Fox Architects, one of the winners of the School of Architecture's "From The Ground Up" competition.

"The Syracuse Center of Excellence is a primary partner in the Near Westside Initiative," says Higgins. "By advancing, promoting and demonstrating green innovation, SyracuseCoE is helping to rejuvenate the Near Westside."

"The transformation of the property at 515 Tully St. has been a centerpiece of the 2009 Onondaga Earth Corps youth green jobs training program," says Urtz. "Local youth received science instruction and hands-on training; installed the rain garden and green roof; and served as ambassadors to area residents on the functional and aesthetic benefits of green infrastructure. These youth leaders are helping to build the future of their community."

"Home HeadQuarters is proud to be a part of the tremendous efforts being made on Syracuse's Near Westside," says Quaglia. "What started as a volunteer effort last year as part of our Tully Street Block Blitz, Don and Helen's home is now a showcase of green living."

The green infrastructure demonstration at 515 Tully St. is an excellent example of university/industry collaboration, which is at the heart of SyracuseCoE's operational model. Multiple local businesses were engaged in the project. The Flexi-Pave driveway-made from recycled tires and stone-was installed by Tony Ross of James Ross and Sons Contractors of Syracuse; the rain garden was created with materials from Green Scapes of Jamesville and Maple Hill Nursery of Manlius; the barrels were supplied by Syracuse Barrel; and the plants for the green roof came from Motherplants of Ithaca. Signage on the property was made possible through a grant from the Onondaga Lake Partnership.

The Syracuse Center of Excellence ( is a federation of more than 200 businesses and institutions that collaborate on sustainable innovations to improve built and urban environments. SyracuseCoE partners work on research, development and educational projects relating to clean and renewable energy, indoor environmental quality, and water resources. In September, SyracuseCoE will host Healthy Buildings 2009 (, a premier international conference focused on green technologies for buildings and communities.

Recent News