Green Alley - Sustainable Design Features

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This page describes some of the key environmental sustainability features of our Green Alley design.


Pedestrian and Bicyclist Greenway

Flickr Error ( Photo not found ): PhotoID 3444653538 What it Is

A beautiful pathway open to pedestrians and bicyclists to travel to and from businesses and residences in the neighborhood.

Why it is Important

It encourages citizens to use zero-carbon forms of transportation. It makes our neighborhoods and communities more walkable and rideable by providing safe and attractive thoroughfares for people to visit businesses and residences. At the same time, it helps to promote business expansion and community building by taking one of our most underutilized assets, our alleys, and transforming them into a place people want to be. Vibrant, multi-use pedestrian alleyways are an integral part of most leading cities such as London, Rome, and Tokyo. Greening of the alleys has been done successfully in other cities such as Chicago.

What We are Doing about It

Creating a six foot pathway bordered with gardens open to pedestrians and bicyclists. There would be collapsible bollards at both ends of the greenway restricting vehicular traffic. This creates a safe place to walk and ride your bike. The long term vision would be to connect this green alley and others with the Midtown Greenway Loop. These would be "green fingers" reaching out into the neighborhoods connecting everyone to one another in a sustainable way.

Resources


Native Plant Gardens

Flickr Error ( Photo not found ): PhotoID 3444653550 What it Is

Create gardens along the pathway using Michigan native plants that are at home in our local climate and soils and require very little or no maintenance.

Why it is Important

Native plants are not only beautiful to look at year-round, they also provide the habitat that creatures above the ground (e.g. bird, bees, and butterflies) and below the ground (e.g. worm, and microbes) need to be healthy. We depend on these creatures for our food and clean water. So when they are happy, we're happy! Also, native plants typically have deep roots that help clean the rainwater before it enters the ground water table. Native plants require very little water, no fertilizers and they'll return year after year.

What We are Doing about It

We will be using over 25 varieties of native plants to create a beautiful gardens along the walkway. We've selected plants that can naturally grow in the alley environment (i.e. sun, soil and water)...it's called "the right plant in the right place." They will bloom at different times of the year so there will be year round interest. Some have special roles for attracting butterfies or feed the birds before the long winter.

Resources


Permeable Pavement

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What it Is

Paving surfaces that let some or all of the rainwater pass into the ground to be cleaned and stored for future generations.

Why is it Important

It keeps our rivers and lakes healthier by reducing the pollutants and storm surge that goes into them through our storm water drains. When we have heavy rains the water runs off our pavements so fast that our storm and sewage systems can't keep up. So they open the flow from these systems right to our rivers and lakes. This dumps sewage and road oils directly into our lakes and rivers, which were not designed by nature to process this waste. We've bypassed the earth's natural cleaning system, the underground ecosystem that cleans our water naturally.

What We're Doing About It

We're using permeable pavers on about 33% of the surface. This allows service vehicles to occasionally travel the alley. We are also leaving another 33% of the surface unpaved with plants. Together they allow 100% of the water to return to the ground to be cleaned and stored the way nature intended.
We're currently looking at Turfslab and Grasspave as possible products. They work slightly differently. Turfslab is a concrete matrix that allows the water to pass through the web openings. Grasspave works by creating a web of plastic containers that are filled with stones/rocks and placed just below the surface. While providing 100% permeability, it gives the ground the added strength needed to support heavy service vehicles.

Resources


High-Efficiency Full-Spectrum Lighting

What it Is

Street lighting using induction technology that requires a third of the energy and carbon emissions than regular street lights and even half as much as LED street lighting! It does this while providing a natural spectrum of light to create a safe, secure environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. By the way, they also last 100 times longer than your normal incandescent bulb, 10 times longer than a compact florescent and even 2 times longer than LED bulbs.

Why is it Important

There are over 100,000 street lights in Detroit. If we could reduce our energy consumption in half this would save over 25 million pounds of carbon, not to mention the financial savings. Also, the longer life means that we save money on maintenance and over time fewer bulbs are going to the landfill.

What We're Doing About It

We'll be replacing the existing lighting with high-efficiency induction lighting. This will keep the alley safe at night while dramatically reducing the energy to do so. The lighting is a full spectrum light that simulates daylight. The fixtures are dark sky compliant.

Resources


Reuse Historic Materials

What it Is

Reuse of historic brick pavers to create the pathway.

Why is it Important

Bricks are one of the highest embodied energy materials. That is, a very high amount of energy is required to make new bricks. So using reclaimed bricks reduces our carbon emissions. These historic bricks allow us to directly connect the appearance of the pathway to the wonderful historic character of the neighborhood. It also saves these beautiful pavers from the landfill.

What We're Doing About It

Using about 1,000 reclaimed historic brick pavers to create the pathway that the pedestrian and bicyclist will travel on. Maybe more importantly it saves our Detroit history in the form of brick pavers to be used for generations to come.

Resources

  • Historic Brick Company - Detroit's very own reclaimed brick company. Dwight Fowler's company is a great local resource for reclaimed brick 313.868.0256.


Elimination of Heat Islands and Light Pollution

Heat island effect and light pollution are damaging side-effects of our urban environments that adversely affect local wildlife.

What it Is

The heat island effect is the intense heat that is produced when the sun shines on a dark pavement (or roof) surface. This heat can get as high as 160F. Its adverse affects on human comfort are more obvious, but what is hidden is its effects on our ecosystem. For example, the light pollution of misdirected lighting (i.e. upwards) has a very detrimental effect on bird migrations, confusing the wildlife's sense of direction, season and time.

Why is it Important

The heat islands are greatly increasing the need for cooling in our urban areas, requiring even greater consumption of fossil fuels to create the energy needed for cooling. Additionally, as planetary citizens we need to reduce our impact on other living plants and creatures.

What We're Doing About It

Most of the alley will be covered by plants which will absorb the sun's energy and convert it to new plant growth...not heat. This will almost fully eliminate the heat island effect. Also, our lighting will be dark sky compliant. This is, no light will be emitted upwards into the night sky.

Resources


Community Level Recycling and Waste Disposal

What it Is

Diverting our waste from incinerators and landfills by creating community-level recycling and trash centers.

Why is it Important

Recycling diverts waste from our landfills, reduces the need to extract more natural resources from the earth and reduces the energy needed to make new products. maybe more importantly in teaches us how to care for all our resources from cradle-to-cradle...seeing them reborn again and again. Just like nature does. Our community-level recycling and trash also reduces the transportation energy demand by allow just one trip for collection versus multiple trips for each business and/or residence. We anticipate being able to have community level composting in the future.

What We're Doing About It

Community-level recycling and trash centers. The recycling center would be a single stream design. The trash would be a compactor there by reducing the number of trips.

Resources