Late this fall, Primera completed a new schoolyard project on Chicago’s northwest side. Rarely does a public school have the budget to deliver a sustainable project of this magnitude, but with the assistance of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) grant, a sustainably-conscious parent group obtained the funding needed for the construction of a new play area at Goethe Elementary School. Together with additional funding from the owner, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the new schoolyard was designed to not only provide a new play area for students, but to also use sustainable best management practices (BMP) throughout the process. Primera took BMP concepts and engineered them to work within the site’s constraints, and within CPS’ budget and requirements. Applying complex sustainable BMPs in a public school environment made this project both innovative and unique.
Goethe Elementary School’s new schoolyard features an enhanced natural turf play area, playgrounds, ADA curb ramps, ADA parking spaces, rain gardens, a cistern system, permeable pavement areas, and a comprehensive irrigation system.
Primera was responsible for the overall project implementation, specifically the civil site, plumbing and electrical design, as well as stormwater permitting, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) permitting, and the IEPA’s grant calculations and coordination. From the initial planning phase, the intent was always to make the sustainable aspects and elements highly visible to the school children and the surrounding neighborhood to educate the public on the benefits to the environment. Primera incorporated a rainwater harvesting system to fill an aboveground cistern to feed an irrigation system. Applying this complex design to an area where children play required a design that protects the exposed components for the safety of the students. The design also incorporates the use of permeable concrete in various areas. A newly created mix had to be developed and resulted in a smoother finished surface to help reduce the number and severity of student accidents on the playground.
Primera designed the detention for this development to be located underground and in the voids of aggregate. This BMP was achieved by employing various permeable surfaces and interconnecting them with perforated pipes which converged into one area of underground aggregate where the water is stored in voids. Another major BMP for this project was the disconnection of roof downspouts from the sewer system. Instead, the downspouts were connected into one main downspout which discharges into the above ground corrugated metal cistern. The cistern contains controls, levels and a pump to discharge the roof water into an irrigation system as required. There is also a backup potable source of water to the cistern with controls for use during a drought.
The stipulations of the IEPA grant ensured that this project be classified as a sustainable design, yet with Primera’s help, it also added a learning element and provided value to the community. Making the sustainable elements visible to the public allowed the community to learn about rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement, and other sustainable design elements along with their respective benefits. Primera was able to implement all of these elements into the design while still creating a play area and open space that was ultimately fun and exciting for the students of Goethe Elementary School and the children of the neighboring community. Due to the project’s success, Primera’s final design is being used as a model for other Chicago Public Schools of similar size looking to utilize funding from an IEPA grant.