Posted on

Bioswale? More Like BioSWELL.

Every morning, on our way into the studio, we walk by a beautiful streetside tumble of native plants. Some are bristly, others green, with blossoms punctuating the landscape.

Along Cermak, on each block, there is a post, with an informative sign, and a small vertical wind mill, and a solar panel.

Our neighborhood is fairly industrial, so the green, as it grows throughout this hot and wet season, makes us smile.

But where did it come from?
In 2012, Chicago’s Sustainability Office set out to make Cermak — a main east-west artery that hosts everything from family restaurants and schools, to artists studios, and factories, even a food truck parking lot — the “Greenest Street in Chicago.” Awesome eco-sustainable-nature/people-loving things they did to make this happen include:

  • recycled and reused construction materials
  • energy-saving reflective paving
  • concrete that includes titanium dioxide to break down pollutants on the surface and up to 8 feet in the air (smog eaters!)
  • environment-responsive lights, powered by solar and wind collection
  • diversion of 80% of rainwater to sustainable landscaping (bioswales*)
  • use of native and/or drought-resistant plants
  • ADA-welcoming streetscapes
  • more bike racks
  • educational signage (like the one in the video above!)

*Bioswales involve grading the land and choosing sustainable plants in order to direct, filter, and make better use of rainwater.

cermak road

Up-close of a bioswale, via Dwell

One day while waiting for the bus, we watched a man pick up litter and throw it away. We followed suit. It definitely takes a community to support a sustainability plan; infrastructure can only go so far. Doing good together feels great. 

We love that our environment matches up with our own SWR mission to make life better for people and the planet at the same time!

FOR MORE INFO: You can access a pdf of the original plan here, and a great Dwell interview with “Complete Streets” program director Janet Attarian here.