EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge


The EPA’s Office of Water held its fifth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge for undergraduate and graduate students in fall semester, 2016. The national competition challenges students to design an innovative green infrastructure project for their campus that effectively manages storm water runoff while benefitting the campus community and the environment.

Rising to that challenge, five student teams chose areas of the U-M campus to re-imagine, focusing upon the important link between sustainability, storm water management, public space on campus, and the historic heritage that permeates U-M. The teams were composed of SNRE landscape architecture students, along with a few of their colleagues in urban planning.

Stan Jones, Associate Professor of landscape architecture, notes that there was an additional component to the challenge this year. “The students are also being asked to increase focus upon climate change/resiliency, which adds an intriguing layer to working on the U-M campus,” he said.

The five student teams held a poster presentation for a roving review in the Dana building’s Ford Commons on October 10, inspiring more than 100 faculty, staff, and students to reimagine a more sustainable U-M campus.

* Team members are landscape architect students unless otherwise noted



Team members: Sanaz Chamanara, Kangyu Yu, Dhara Mittal, Audrey Pangalo

Site: Central Campus, the Diag, and the Mall

Our main intervention is a designed swale system that moves throughout the campus. Our swale system flows with existing pathways, maintaining a narrow structure and expanding in areas where usage of green space is lower. Other interventions include increased tree canopy and the addition of green roofs to specific buildings to cut down on runoff. We created a general planting plan, which in addition to improving the aesthetic provides resources for pollinators. In any design, it is important to look at the regional characteristics to understand how a site functions within those characteristics. Ann Arbor is located at the intersection of five different watersheds. Two go through Central Campus. These include the Huron River and Allen Creek. As part of our project, we created a map resulting from our watershed analysis.



Team members: Andrew Aamodt (urban planning), Winona Mu, Liang Yue (urban planning)

Site: North Campus, bounded by the Duderstadt Library to the north, the Engineering Research Buildings to the east, Fuller Road to the south, and the Art & Architecture Building to the west

Following the elevation contours of our site, our water system flows from north to south. Rainwater enters our system through on-site green infrastructure features and through traditional stormwater catchment basins and pipes. Stormwater catchment through basins and pipes is the traditional practice, as rainwater enters the basin from a more pervious surface like a street or sidewalk, then travels through the pipes into the large constructed wetland. We want to eliminate this as the only stormwater management practice because this deals with greater nonpoint surface runoff, which leads to higher pollution levels in the water. Green infrastructure features filter and clean the rainwater more effectively, without introducing the water to harmful contaminants. Therefore, reusing the clean water is economically beneficial to U-M as well. Our green infrastructure features range from small-scale pervious pavements and raingardens to a large-scale constructed wetland and retention ponds. 



Team members: Ya Cai, Xuehan Li, Muyao Li

Site: Central Campus (east of the Dana building) from transit center to South University Avenue

This site is surrounded by large academic buildings. The amount of stormwater runoff is a problem, and the impervious pavement between parking lots leads to erosion. Our project has two objectives. The first is to improve the ability of existing lawn surrounding the big buildings to slow down and absorb water more effectively. The second is to redesign the existing landscape features, especially the lawn spaces and the little square, into green infrastructures. Our method is to divide this site into three subcatchments, and solve their stormwater issues by the rain gardens above them. We changed the form of four lawn spaces to the polyhedral lawn spaces. Compared to flat lawns and canopy trees, the multiple faces of the redesigned lawns are more effective in slowing the flow of water while offering space for activities and leisure.



Team members: Jiayang Li, Rachel Boswell (landscape architecture/urban planning), Shui Wang, Xuan Jin

Site: Ingalls Mall

Ingalls Mall presents many challenges to sustainable use and climate resilience. Our design respects the university’s campus aesthetic while introducing innovative solutions to manage stormwater and increase user comfort. Pervious pavement and planting areas replace concrete and turf to support ecological diversity and infiltration. Stormwater flows to the Huron River are reduced and runoff is reused in water features. A new spatial design creates comfortable and accessible human-scale spaces for everyday use and programmed events.



Team members: Tiantong Gu, Yifei Wu, Chen Zhang

Site: Central campus

Based on the stormwater management idea, we sought to preserve the historical meaning of this 40-acre site and evoke people’s awareness of stormwater movement. To do this, we created a stormwater walkway based on main axis of the site. Along the walkway, there are several sculpture areas which function as both stormwater collectors and displays of university historical development. The metal material of the sculpture enhances the sound of underground water movement. Furthermore, we added some rain gardens along the path and streets to alleviate heat island effect and flooding problems. Then, we changed some impermeable paving to eco ones to increase the proportion of the water infiltration. In addition, we found some potential areas for green roof, which contributes to climate and provides green views for people in adjacent buildings.