Revitalizing school lots to capture stormwater reduces the risk of flooding in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, while fostering community engagement.

The Challenge

With climate change causing new rainfall patterns, flooding risks for poor communities have increased to new levels. In the last eight years, the city has experienced four storms exceeding the rainfall amount of a “10-year-storm.” Space to Grow mitigates the problem by providing green infrastructure to soak up stormwater.

The Solution

Launched in 2013, Space to Grow has revolutionized everyday asphalt school lots into green stormwater infrastructure playgrounds that serve as educational amenities and community gathering spaces. The project targets low-income areas facing flood risks as well as social and economic challenges. The design focuses on capturing stormwater, with the city’s current infrastructure unable to withstand the new rainfall patterns caused by climate change. By redesigning playgrounds, the project aims to reduce flood risk in the surrounding school neighborhoods, each designed to manage a 24-hour, 100-year storm, exceeding requirements in Chicago’s Stormwater Management Ordinance. At the same time, outdoor classrooms, vegetable gardens, and sporting facilities promote environmental education, social engagement, and physical activity. Access is provided to families and the community outside school hours, fully utilizing the new spaces. Overall, six school lots have been transformed by Space to Grow and 28 more are expected to be completed by 2019.

Environmental Benefits – Damage from flooding events and land subsidence are expected to be reduced.

Social Benefits – With 90% of the students served by the project from low-income families, Space to Grow fosters social connections and builds cohesion within communities by providing new and alternative meeting points.

Economic Benefits – Due to the implementation of Space to Grow, property values in surrounding neighborhoods are expected to increase.

Health Benefits – Running tracks, permeable turf fields, and basketball courts aim to reduce obesity.

About Cities100

In its second year, Cities100 – presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation. For the first time, this year’s publication features solutions that address the nexus of climate change and social equity.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2016 publication online here and read more about how may­ors will de­liver the aims of the Paris Agree­ment in a fore­ward by Anne Hidalgo, C40 Chair and Mayor of Paris, here.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
6.8 million liters of water is able to be retained by the completed projects
Share article

More Case Studies