The Boston Architectural College was pleased to host the ribbon cutting for the Green Alley, the centerpiece of the College's Urban Sustainability Initiative, on Friday, October 18, in Alley #444 on Hereford Street, Boston, MA, between BAC campus buildings on Newbury Street and Boylston Street. The ribbon cutting was a celebration of the project's initial success in reducing storm water runoff by encouraging infiltration to the groundwater layer and the creative partnerships that made it possible. More than 200 members of the BAC community, neighbors, and supporters were in attendance for the celebratory ribbon cutting and presentation by Congressman Michael Capuano, Chief of Environment and Energy Brian Swett, and BAC President Ted Landsmark. "The BAC has always been fundamentally committed to serving the city of Boston and the surrounding areas, and this project that we are here to celebrate is one measure of that," said President Landsmark.
"To be able to do this kind of project in a heavily populated urban area is a real challenge and a distinctive opportunity. This Green Alley is the kind of asset that rejuvenates our neighborhoods and infrastructure, is highly innovative, and is essential to the long-term sustainability of our city."
Permeable paving in the Green Alley allows water to percolate downward into the earth below rather than be conveyed across a paved surface to the Charles River via a conventional storm sewer. Both permeable asphalt and permeable unit paver systems were installed over a large common gravel bed designed to collect, store, and drain rain water from the alley surfaces and two BAC rooftops. Below ground, designers and construction managers on the project had to work around many existing utilities, including the infrastructure of the recently-installed geothermal wells. The longer-term vision for the Green Alley effort includes the connection of the geothermal well system to serve the College's core buildings and lead the BAC toward a net zero campus energy goal.
"This project is a tough project to do, politically," said Congressman Capuano. "It's a great project to replicate all across Boston and other urban areas, and I am proud to be involved. It takes that kind of vision and that kind of commitment, that kind of thoughtful investment of dollars to get things like this done. This project represents a better way to put tax dollars back to work, good for the school, good for the city, good for the environment. I personally think that it's good for the country."
The Boston Architectural College's Green Alley project demonstrates that immediate and long-term environmental challenges facing the city of Boston can be met through public/private partnerships between experts and institutions. Its success extends beyond the intelligent beautification of a single area. It is a replicable design with potentially far-reaching effects.
"We have counted on Ted's leadership on environmental issues for years, and this is part and parcel of not only the City of Boston's Green Ribbon Commission, not only his involvement in leading education around sustainability, but in practicing it onsite, and we are very thankful that an urban school is practicing it here," said Chief of Environment and Energy Brian Swett. "This is not an easy project; there is a lot of ‘new' about this project. It involved the City getting over our concerns, it involved the College getting over their concerns about investing in a project of this type and the State and Federal resources getting over their concerns.
"In order to solve problems, we need to think differently. When we talk about open space, the largest section of open space that we have is our alleys, if you add up square footage, publicly owned. Thinking about this alley differently was absolutely critical. We were able to make significant accomplishments in groundwater infiltration, absolutely important to make certain that our buildings survive the next 400 years. There are now geothermal wells will help provide energy to the buildings around it. The space is serving multiple uses and is no longer a place for cars to get from point A to point Z, and this is exactly how we think about our public spaces going forward. We count on our institutions of higher learning not only to train the next generation of designers but also to help the City pilot new projects; we're excited to learn about this and are applying it to other alleys going forward."
The Green Alley ribbon cutting was the first in a series of events that celebrates the College's 125th Anniversary, which will culminate in December 2014 with an official birthday celebration.