Space to Grow Program Recognized as a Model for Sustainable Campus and Playground Renewal 

Pervious pavement in new schoolyard at Grissom Elementary


Space to Grow is an innovative program forged by a multi-jurisdictional partnership with the goal of transforming Chicago’s underused and outdated schoolyards into vibrant outdoor spaces that benefit students, communities and the environment.


In its pilot year, Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards, undertook renovations at four elementary schools implementing “green” infrastructure solutions and other much needed improvements to outdoor spaces and facilities. The program is the result of a collaboration between the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Chicago Department of Water Management (CDWM), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), Openlands and the Healthy Schools Campaign.


Hegewisch school unveils Conservation Design Forum plan for 'green' playground

Completed renovations at the Grissom Elementary School in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood includes a pervious asphalt basketball court, pervious rubber and artificial turf play surfaces, permeable paving parking, bioretention landscapes and raised planters to grow edibles. These green approaches to stormwater runoff address recurring neighborhood flooding, combined sewer overflows, and the load on water reclamation facilities, while providing students with new opportunities for outdoor recreation and physical fitness.


The pioneering program was recently recognized with two awards; a 2015 Sustainable Project Award from the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IAFSM), and a Champions Award from the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Congress. Last fall, Space to Grow also won a Silver Ribbon Award from Friends of the Chicago River for its creative approach to river sensitive design and implementation.


In March, the Space to Grow program was featured in a presentation at the annual IAFSM Conference in Bloomington, Illinois. Entitled, A Multi-Agency Program to Provide Outdoor Learning and Play Places that also Improve Stormwater Management, the plenary session was led by Tom Price, P.E., Water Resources Engineer at Conservation Design Forum, and Meg Kelly, Project Manager for Space to Grow.


Tom Price presents Outdoor Learning and Play Places that Improve Stormwater Management


In 2014, Conservation Design Forum and Legat Architects were selected to design and engineer the improvements for two of the four school sites; Virgil “Gus” Grissom Elementary and Theophilus Schmid Elementary in the Pullman neighborhood. Both the project design and the construction methods integrate green infrastructure and other physical improvements that effectively resolve stormwater runoff throughout the entire school sites.


Read the entire project summary here.


Tags: neighborhood flooding, green infrastructure, stormwater runoff, pervious surface, sewer overflows, artificial turf, permeable paving, biorentention

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