Marquette Students Plan for a Greener Milwaukee

Green Street Design

The Collegiate BMP Design Challenge, one of the Joyce Grant initiatives led by 1000 Friends of WI, connects university students with priority projects in the Kinnickinnic and Menomonee Restoration Plans and challenges them to develop designs utilizing green infrastructure to improve local water quality and create a community amenity in the process.

This year, two teams of student engineers from Marquette University participated in the design challenge in conjunction with their senior capstone project and developed plans for a pilot green street and a green roof in the Wilson Creek area in Milwaukee.

The pilot green street project is located along a 5-block stretch of 6th Street in Milwaukee between Armour Avenue and Bolivar Avenue.  The goal of the design was to reduce storm water runoff from the 5 block area by incorporating best management practices to capture rain on site. These best management practices, also called green infrastructure, counter the effect of the urban environment with its vast imperious surfaces of roads, pavement, and roofs that prevent the infiltration of rain.  (See their presentation here.)


Green infrastructure mimics how rain is absorbed in a natural environment and works to employ those same processes to capture water on the site where it falls.  The green street team used an integrated approach to reduce the runoff of storm water by using porous pavers, bio-swales and vegetated planters to absorb and capture the rain.


The green roof project, located at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s Community Center, is in an area with a high volume of storm water runoff.  A green roof replaces traditional roofing materials with specialized plants that absorb and hold rain releasing it gradually through evapotranspiration reducing runoff from the roof and trapping pollutants. Plants are sometimes combined with other materials such a felt to increase its capacity to hold and store rainfall.


The engineering students examined the structural viability of the Community Center to support a green roof, researched green roof options and recommended the type of green roof material for installation.  Their work will be incorporated into the next phase of the project as it moves forward this summer with funding through Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s green roof program.


Green infrastructure practices balance development needs with responsible stewardship of our water resources. The practices in addition to addressing the problem of storm water runoff and its associated nonpoint pollution also treat storm water as a resource that can be used to create amenities for the community by adding more green space and landscaping in an urbanized area or by creating water features thus bringing people into relationship with this vital resource.


The Collegiate BMP Design Challenge will continue into the final year of the grant through spring of 2012.  Additional universities will be recruited to participate in the initiative. For more information about the project, contact Kate Morgan at or at 414-416-6509.