The OLIN team’s award-winning submission to the Living City Design Competition responded to ambitious standards of sustainable development within the historically rich yet socially and ecologically underserved neighborhoods of Brewerytown and North Central in Philadelphia. Working closely with architects and urban planners Digsau and Interface Studio, OLIN explored how sustainable design can be implemented within an existing urban framework by utilizing local resources, community engagement, and respect for the vernacular culture and architecture.
Using an “evolving block” strategy, the team phased incremental and achievable improvements over a 25 year span. To achieve 100% on-site renewable energy for thousands of households, homes are retrofitted with façades of photovoltaic panels, and the commercial spine along Ridge Avenue is shaded with solar power-collecting canopies. Vacant parcels punctuating row home blocks transform into a pedestrian-friendly network of green spaces populated by play areas, community gardens and urban farms. Existing row homes are either retrofitted, renovated or replaced, with the materials of structures deemed necessary for demolition salvaged for reuse elsewhere in the neighborhoods, supplying over 30 million bricks and three million square feet of wood for the building of new homes.
Rain gardens and roof cisterns combine with district-level “living machine” water treatment centers located along the green space network, reducing the neighborhoods’ per capita potable water consumption from 69.3 gallons per day (the amount used by an average American) to 9.2 gallons, and easing demand on the city’s aging and over-burdened combined sewer system. The long-abandoned Red Bell Brewery is refurbished, creating local jobs and opportunities for locavore farming, thereby contributing to the goal of providing 80% of the district’s food needs from locations within a 500-mile radius.