Philadelphia University Independence Plaza Stormwater Management Techniques


In March 2008, staff of Philadelphia University’s Physical Plant approached the Landscape Architecture Program and Environmental & Conservation Biology Program to request help with the design of a buffer planting at the Independence Plaza Apartments, located at the edge of Philadelphia University’s campus in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood. The site is located at the edge of campus, bordering the properties of neighboring homeowners.

Photo Credit: Philadelphia University

Rain Garden

After the Landscape Architecture faculty expanded the original scope of the project to include a rain garden, the final project required students to work with a homeowner to design an evergreen buffer as well as a rain garden on the University’s property for stormwater infiltration and to serve as an educational tool.

The analysis, design and installation of the evergreen border and rain garden were planned and executed by the students with oversight by Physical Plant staff. Students analyzed the site to determine sight lines that needed buffering for the homeowner to ensure the proper heights and placement of the plantings; engineered the basin of the rain garden for the collection of runoff for a 2-year storm event; selected and tagged native plants in the nursery; and assisted the landscape contractor in placing and planting all trees, shrubs and perennials. The students were also instrumental in supervising the re-grading of the site.

The rain garden was designed using native plants placed at the proper grades to demonstrate their ability to withstand varying amounts of inundation during a rain event. The seasonality of the plantings was also considered for bloom throughout the season and for winter interest. The students also selected plants that had wildlife value for birds and insects. The Biology & Conservation Biology students assisted with the planting installation.

The project was a great success for all participants, especially the students, who gained valuable project management experience. Students set the agenda for the meetings with the Physical Plant and homeowners, critiqued their own site drawings, and made decisions in the field for design changes, as well as selection of plant species in the nursery. The homeowners are happy with the students’ approach to the design and execution of the project, and the university is also pleased because stormwater runoff has been mitigated, while good relations with the local community have continued.


County: Philadelphia
Watershed: Wissahickon Creek


Philadelphia University




Claudia Phillips
Philadelphia University
4201 Henry Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Site Photos and Plant List
Planting Plan
Planting Details

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