"You cringe… there’s not an inch of green!" says civil engineer Dan Meier about some of the schoolyards he’s seen as a Collaborative volunteer, “ It’s just this big paved thing. It’s a school in a parking lot. [In the city], kids don’t have access to a lot of green space as it is, and then they head to school and they’ve got nothing.”
"I would love to see Mayor Nutter’s dream of making this the greenest city in the country become a reality,” adds Dan. He sees his involvement with the Community Design Collaborative as a step in the right direction. Dan, a civil engineer with over thirty years of experience in environmental engineering, specializes in stormwater management at Duffield Associates.
When working on a Collaborative project, Dan is involved the entire way through—giving advice on city regulations, costs, and how to best integrate stormwater management into a design. Since he started volunteering with the Collaborative in 2011, he has participated in everything from projects, design charrettes, and our Soak It Up! design competition.
Making Plans for Meredith
One of Dan’s most memorable projects was with Meredith Elementary School, which plans to transform its uninviting asphalt schoolyard into a green schoolyard.
To start, like any Collaborative project, community input was given by parents, faculty and students. Dan thinks this involvement by everyone using the space is vital, but a long-term perspective is important too. “For something like a school… one year of kids and parents are going to set this trend. You develop the design that this group wanted that is going to end up being there for twenty years, so it’s important for the faculty to be involved too.”
At the meeting with parents, faculty, and students, “We talked about safety and entertainment, and what was going to keep being fun, so they didn’t play with it for a couple days and then be burned out on it.”
Kickball and green space can be both be part of a better schoolyard for Meredith.
What was the hardest part when formulating the design? Not input from the parents or faculty, but kickball! “There was a ferocious kickball league going on every day, and so we were trying to balance keeping this paved area for the [kickball players], versus creating these greener play spaces for the younger kids.”
Dan and the Collaborative’s volunteer design team came up with a design to green the schoolyard without interfering with the sacred kickball or basketball games. A generous area of paving is preserved in the conceptual plan—and kickballers will be playing near a beautiful bioswale and tagging bases made of painted pervious concrete.
Dan’s favorite part of the project? The overall amount of stormwater that will be managed through greening. “Stormwater always comes into play for these projects.”
Dan is currently volunteering with us to help North Light Community Center in Manayunk green its playground and parking lot.
By Andrew Halt, 2014 Collaborative Intern