Harvesting the Value of Water: Stormwater, Green Infrastructure, and Real Estate

The Urban Land Institute has found that real estate developers are incorporating green infrastructure stormwater management requirements into their business models. This report analyzes current stormwater policies and describes a variety of real estate development projects that have responded to them. The report details some of the latest advancements in stormwater management regulations cities are taking to address aging infrastructure, combined sewer overflows, and flood frequency, that are amplified by climate change. Case studies are included that demonstrate how innovative stormwater policies can also create opportunities for private-sector real estate developers.

The research behind the report found that sustainable water management practices can differentiate a real estate project along with offering positive financial, operational, or design outcomes. While successfully leveraging stormwater management mechanisms to reduce and manage runoff, for example, developers can also to add value to their buildings.

The report offers an analysis of city-level stormwater management and its significance, and then provides a series of real estate case studies with a range of green stormwater policies. The case studies cover a variety of development styles including: mixed-use, urban developments; master-planned residential projects; commercial and office developments; parks and institutional projects; and affordable or mixed-income projects. The case studies include the following real estate projects that have incorporated green infrastructure, and had successful development outcomes:

  • Atlantic Wharf; Boston, Massachusetts - Office, retail, and residential development, described as “Boston’s first green skyscraper”
  • Burbank Water and Power EcoCampus; Burbank, California - the first power plant in the world to run on 100 percent recycled water
  • Canal Park; Washington, D.C. - a neighborhood park with 95% of it’s irrigation, fountain, toilet, and ice-rink water provided through rainwater recycling
  • Encore!; Tampa, Florida - a mixed-use, mixed-income development with an 8,000-square-foot stormwater retention harvesting system and vault designed as the centerpiece of a public park
  • High Point; Seattle, Washington - the Seattle Housing Authority’s largest residential project with an extensive natural drainage system featuring bioswales and constructed wetlands
  • Market at Colonnade; Raleigh, North Carolina - a 57,000-square-foot commercial development capable of capturing up to 800,000 gallons of rainwater, including a Whole Foods Market that has a visible cistern as part of its branding
  • Meier & Frank Delivery Depot; Portland, Oregon - an office in a historic building with a rainwater recycling system that saves an estimated 193,000 gallons of water annually
  • Penn Park; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - a community open space developed through public/private partnership between Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania
  • Stonebrook Estates; Harris County, Texas - a Houston-area residential development with a low-impact development approach that survived catastrophic flooding in 2016
  • The Avenue; Washington, D.C. - a mixed-use, transit-oriented development that features a robust stormwater management system set in a residential courtyard
  • The Rose; Minneapolis, Minnesota - a mixed-income residential project designed for on-site treatment of all stormwater, including a rain garden and cisterns


Publication Date: 2017

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  • Case study
  • Policy analysis/recommendations


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