Philly Launches Green Stormwater Infrastructure Challenge

City of Philadelphia seeks creative ways to reduce the cost of developing green infrastructure as part of its $2 billion Green City, Clean Water program.
Philly Launches Green Stormwater Infrastructure Challenge
The City of Philadelphia is looking for creative ways to reduce the cost of the city’s green stormwater infrastructure program, beginning with more effective assessments of subsurface geologic conditions and utility locations.

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The City of Philadelphia is looking for creative ways to reduce the cost of the city’s green stormwater infrastructure program, beginning with more effective assessments of subsurface geologic conditions and utility locations. 

To protect Philadelphia’s waterways and meet federal regulatory obligations, the city is investing in a green stormwater infrastructure program that is projected to cost $2 billion over 25 years. In order to stay within the predicted cost model and keep water rates low, the city needs to find creative ways to reduce the cost of developing green infrastructure.  

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Tools for assessments of subsurface geologic conditions
  • Tools for mapping utility locations
  • Tools for accurate data analytics and visualization
  • Any other creative methods to identify conditions below ground

The opportunity
The challenge consists of two stages. The first stage is a Request for Information (RFI) during which the city is looking for information on products, technologies, services and other creative cost-reduction strategies. This is designed to provide the city with industry insight, experience and understanding of the solutions available on the market. Responses to this RFI will inform a future Request for Proposals (RFP) to implement the solution.

The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. EST on July 13, 2016.

Who can participate?
The opportunity is open to anyone with a solution to reduce the cost of the city’s green stormwater infrastructure program. The city welcomes ideas from social entrepreneurs, engineers, architects, designers, NGOs, and general city enthusiasts working locally or internationally.

To apply, download the RFI (pdf), and submit your proposal no later than 5 p.m. EST on July 13, 2016. Please send your response as an email attachment of no more than 2 MB. Attachments may be in .doc, .pdf or .ppt formats. Emails should be addressed to Jessica Noon with the subject “GSI Innovations Submission – First Name, Last Name” at


Is it free to register and apply?
Yes. It is free to submit a response to this RFI.

What should I include in my submission?
Participants are encouraged to share creative and innovative proposals, but at a minimum a submission should include answers to the questions listed in the RFI. Please keep your answers concise.

Who can participate?
All individuals, companies, entrepreneurs, innovators, groups, consortia, research centers and nonprofit organizations with solutions are invited to participate. You do not necessarily have to be constituted as legal entities or other form of partnerships to participate in the RFI.

Do I need to have experience working with the public sector?
No. Prior experience working with or providing products and services to the public sector is not required to participate.

Can I participate in the challenge if I have an international company/organization?
Yes. You are eligible to participate in the RFI if you have an international company or organization.

How do underground conflicts affect the green stormwater infrastructure program?
Relocation of existing utilities and other infrastructure for safety and functionality adds cost and complication to project design, so Philadelphia Water plans projects to avoid known utility locations where possible. For example, Philadelphia Water will generally avoid siting projects in a sidewalk where there are multiple service laterals or parallel utilities. However, not all subsurface conditions can be known in advance of project design or construction. Encountering unexpected subsurface conditions and constraints can significantly impact project budgets and timelines.

Which subsurface condition and utility location resources are currently being used?
During the Planning Phase, Philadelphia Water conducts a desktop analysis which utilizes:

  • Highway Supervisor Plans
  • City Plan
  • Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) gas plats
  • GIS records of water, sewer, and stormwater pipes, inlets, manholes, valves, hydrants, etc.
  • Historical land use maps, fire insurance maps and zoning records
  • State and federal brownfield databases
  • When available, surveys or as-built drawings from past projects

The desktop analysis is followed up with site visits, to confirm inlet locations, utility mark-outs, valves, manholes, overhead wires, and any other visible signs of infrastructure.

Once a project is selected to move into Design Phase, Philadelphia Water acquires additional information using:

  • Geotechnical investigation to determine soil permeability, composition, and presence of groundwater or bedrock at desired stormwater storage and/or infiltration locations.
  • PA One Call to collect record drawings from other utilities.
  • Field surveys and base plans showing locations and elevations of all known utilities.
  • Occasionally, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is used to obtain more detailed information about subsurface conditions prior to or during design.

What system is currently used to help share information about subsurface conditions and utility locations?
Philadelphia Water primarily uses GIS to collect and store information about utility locations and project locations. Highway Supervisor Plans, gas plats, surveys and as-builts are saved in PDF or CAD formats. Record drawings are requested from other city departments on a project-by-project basis.

Philadelphia Water uses two project tracking databases: one for projects in the planning phase and one for projects in design and construction. Data collected during site visits and land use history reviews are imported directly into the planning database. Both databases interface with the city’s GIS.

How are green stormwater infrastructure projects currently planned and designed?
Philadelphia Water uses drainage area analyses to identify potential projects. Drainage areas within a focus area are delineated using GIS. Potential project sites are selected based on inlet locations, utility locations, land use history and available space.

Please refer to the online PWD GSI Planning and Design resources for more information.

Does my idea need to be a tested solution?
Undeveloped ideas or concepts will not be considered. Solutions should be ready to pilot within three months of the winners’ announcement.

My approach will take several years to show results. Will it still be considered?
We welcome submissions and information about any and all solutions that address the problem statement. Ideally, we would like to see tools and services with a record of success, whether those tools or services take two months or two years to provide results.

My solution is not a mapping, data or information technology tool. Can I still apply?
Yes. We welcome submissions and information about any and all solutions that address the problem statement.

Will submitting to this RFI help me get a contract?
The information collected during this RFI will inform a future Request for Proposals. Submitting ideas to the RFI increases the likelihood that your solution type is included in the scope of the RFP. This, in turn, can strengthen your proposal during the RFP phase. Participating in the RFP does not guarantee an award or contract.

How will the industrial and intellectual property rights be handled?
Upon submission, responses to the RFI become the property of the city. Responses may be subject to public disclosure under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. However, a “record that constitutes or reveals a trade secret or confidential proprietary information” is exempt from access by a requester under that law. Ultimate determination of the application of that exemption cannot be assured, but participants are advised to mark clearly any portion(s) of any submittal believed to qualify for that exemption. Be sure to read the full terms included in the RFI.

What if I have more questions that are not on this FAQ?
Please post any additional questions as a comment on so that the question and response will be available to all participants. You will need to register on in order to post your question. Any questions sent via email or posted on social media will be directed back to the comment section on


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