Philadelphia Community Center’s Site, Cisterns and Savings

June 15, 2015 |

At the unlikely site of the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Philadelphia, the campus has been called one of the most comprehensive, sustainable brownfield site redevelopments undertaken in Philadelphia. Designed by MGA Partners Architects in association with PZS Architects and landscape architects Andropogon Associates, it has been called “a model for both future transformations of industrial landscapes.”

Yet this is also one of the poorest areas in the city, and it was until recently an abandoned industrial estate. The building team developed the community center with a combination of construction and site waste recycling strategies as well as water management techniques for its 12.4-acre campus. Successful transformation of the brownfield site has spawned a new city planning study of the area, streetscape improvements, and proposals for surrounding development. The center’s campus offers landscaped gardens, walking trails, playgrounds, gathering spaces, recreation areas and a horticulture zone. Its synthetic turf athletic field is a novelty in the area, used for league and varsity sports.

Devoid of wildlife for decades, the created natural habitat establishes the foundation for a new ecosystem. Approximately 95% of the existing material, over 12,000 cubic yards, was recycled and reused on-site including concrete foundations, soil and asphalt paving. Demolition materials provided the fill under the building, alleviating the load on the region’s landfills. Passive solar shading, a 2-acre white roof, high performance glass, and mechanical systems that capture and reuse latent hot and cold air in the building reduce energy consumption. 

The center’s savings on water supply is large and immediate: low-water-use pool filtration and plumbing fixtures are used, and two decorative and educational runnels channel air conditioning condensate and water runoff from the roof to underground cisterns, where it is stored for irrigation. The regenerative pool filtration system itself saves 293,000 gallons of water per year. Almost 100% of the first two inches of stormwater runoff from the site and building is captured, reused, and infiltrated on site. The seven rain gardens, porous athletic field and porous asphalt parking lot, and engineered soil mixes return water runoff to the environment naturally, mitigating pressure on the city’s watersheds and aging infrastructure.


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