Philadelphia Police Forensic Science Center Stormwater Management Techniques


An adaptive reuse project, the building that now houses the Philadelphia Police Forensic Science Center was once the Mary Channing Wister School, attended by famous comedian Bill Cosby. The building dates from 1929 and is a beautiful specimen of “Art Deco” architecture. It stood abandoned for 15 years before the transformation of the site.

Before site improvements, the 3-acre site consisted only of impervious surfaces, which generated 2.5 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually. The pavement surrounding the building was cracked and birds inhabited the building’s weathered interior.

This project, completed in July 2003, marks the first green building commissioned by the City of Philadelphia and serves as a model for future capital improvement projects in the City.  The site is also a demonstration site for stormwater management techniques.

Capturing runoff before it flows into an already-overloaded combined sewer system is of paramount importance within the City. Stone-filled infiltration trenches, a low-maintenance BMP, were constructed to capture stormwater runoff. Vegetated swales also were constructed along the parking lot to infiltrate stormwater and to filter common pollutants. For a landscape planting schedule and diagrams of planting techniques, please click here. For an accompanying site plan incorporating native Pennsylvanian plantings, click here. For a detailed list of seed mixes used in this project, please click here.

The incorporation of BMPs at the Philadelphia Forensic Science Center site has reduced impervious surfaces by about 30%.  In addition, 95% to 100% of the site’s stormwater runoff is now treated by the constructed BMPs.


County: Philadelphia
Watershed: Delaware River

The Philadelphia Forensic Science Center is located at 8th and Poplar Streets in Northeast Philadelphia.


The City of Philadelphia 
Capital Program Office
Capital Municipal Energy Office
CPO Recycling Office
Water Department 
Office of Risk Management
Police Department
U.S. Department of Energy 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Non-Profits Energy Savings Investment Program
Andropogon Associates
Croxton Collaborative Architects


Total project: $415,000.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener Grant (2002): $291,000 for the greening of the parking lot.


Glen Abrams
Sustainable Stormwater Program Manager
Philadelphia Water Department
Office of Watersheds
1101 Market St., 4th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Department of Public Property
Philadelphia City Government

Site Plan

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