American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Cover - An eye-catching and attractive communication piece, The Chicago Green Alley Handbook is intended for a broad audience of public officials and commercial, industrial and residential property owners. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)
Pages 6-7 - The handbook is organized to guide the reader through the Green Alley Program from macro to micro, focusing first on the public improvements within the alley right of way, presenting the pilot approaches, then dissecting sustainable solutions adjacent property owners can incorporate. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Pages 8-9 - The landscape architect was responsible for creating all the diagrams and graphics within the handbook. A consistent style and color palette was used to ensure the message was presented clearly to the audience without the distraction of different graphic techniques. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Pages 10-11 - Understanding the importance of communicating the information in a clear and user-friendly manner to the intended audience, photography, diagrams, and graphics are incorporated throughout the handbook to demonstrate the concepts of the sustainable design techniques. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Page 17 - Diagrams representing each pilot approach demonstrate the potential alley improvements property owners can expect. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

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The Chicago Green Alley Handbook, Chicago, Illinois
Hitchcock Design Group, Chicago, Illinois
client: City of Chicago Department of Transportation

"Hats off to Chicago! It's inspiring to see something this impressive come from city hall. The graphics are so simple and it communicates beautifully to its intended audience. It would be easy for other cities to replicate and we hope that they do."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

On the forefront of sustainable design in urban neighborhoods, the City of Chicago worked with the project team to create The Chicago Green Alley Handbook, a manual promoting the City’s use of best management practices within public alleyways. Beyond communicating the City’s program, the handbook outlines sustainable techniques that adjacent property owners can implement on their own commercial, industrial, and residential properties. Crafted with a clear and transferable message, it serves as a model to create greener, environmentally sustainable urban places.

Project Narrative

With approximately 1,900 miles of public alleys, Chicago has one of the most extensive and important pieces of infrastructure of any city in the world. Because the alleys were originally unpaved, there was no need for drainage structures or connection to the sewer system. Rainwater simply drained through the gravel or cinder surfacing. Over time, the majority of alleys were paved over with concrete and asphalt paving, translating into 3,500 acres of paved impermeable surface. As a consequence of this, flooding became a problem in many alleys.

Initially, the project team was commissioned to develop a series of eco-friendly prototypes for the City of Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to improve the drainage problem without incorporating additional costly sewer infrastructure. The landscape architect provided the vision for development of each prototype for what became the Green Alley Program. In Fall 2006, the prototypes were constructed as pilot projects at five locations throughout the City of Chicago. These prototypes will be incorporated into the construction of new, and reconstruction of existing, alleyways to enhance the City’s current alley program. Through the integration of permeable paving, recycled materials, reflective pavements, and energy-efficient, dark sky compliant lighting, the program will reduce the amount of stormwater runoff into the storm sewer system by up to 80 percent, reduce localized flooding of adjacent properties, and reduce the urban heat island effect. To bolster the public improvements, sustainable initiatives were developed for adjacent property owners including green roofs, rain gardens, recycling, planting native trees and plantings, and collecting and reusing rainwater for irrigation.

The city and project team recognized the need for a public outreach campaign to communicate the message and intent of the Green Alley Program. Serving as an “action guide,” a booklet was developed to promote the program to a general audience and clearly depict ways in which the public can participate in greening the city. The landscape architect worked with CDOT on the handbook content and format development and was responsible for the overall graphic design, text, and graphic content of the handbook.

Intended Purpose and Message
The Chicago Green Alley Handbook
was developed to promote and educate residents and public officials to the benefits of the Green Alley Program, as well as to encourage property owners adjacent to green alleys to incorporate sustainable techniques on their property to increase the performance and environmental benefits of the green alleys. Sustainable solutions for adjacent properties are segregated into techniques that include general costs and a key denoting the appropriateness of the application for residential, commercial, and industrial properties.

Intended Audience
The handbook is intended for City of Chicago residents, adjacent property owners, and public officials. The handbook is designed to be user-friendly with clean, simple diagrams and graphics that illustrate the technologies. The content is crafted with easy to understand written descriptions and benefits of each of the techniques and principles.

Immediate Impact and Effectiveness
As a result of positive feedback from residents and a demonstration of public leadership’s confidence in the program, five existing alleys have been reconstructed using green alley principles, including various types of permeable paving, recycled materials, and dark sky/energy-efficient lighting. The Chicago Green Alley Handbook played an important part in promoting the program and demonstrating the City’s commitment to the program.

Distribution Method and Circulation
Print copies are distributed at public meetings held to promote the Green Alley Program and inform and educate residents and adjacent property owners. Copies have also been distributed to aldermen and public officials, informing them of the program and to generate interest in funding future green alley projects as an alternative to traditional alley renovation. The final draft of the handbook was approved in January 2007 and an initial 2,000 copies of the handbook were printed. As the Green Alley Program is implemented throughout the city, it is anticipated that thousands more copies of the handbook will be distributed to the public. In addition to the printed version and in keeping with the sustainable idea of conserving resources, the handbook was formatted digitally and posted on the City of Chicago Department of Transportation website for public viewing and download access.

An eye-catching and attractive communication piece, The Chicago Green Alley Handbook accomplishes its goal of promoting the Green Alley Program and encouraging public participation in the greening of Chicago. With consistent and well-organized messaging and graphics, the handbook is a user-friendly manual on sustainable design for a general audience. The clarity of the handbook will help to ensure the Green Alley Program is well received by the Chicago community and its messaging is easily transferred to other urban cities interested in integrating sustainable design principles. It is for these reasons that The Chicago Green Alley Handbook is worthy of recognition by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Project Resources

Landscape Architects:
Hitchcock Design Group:
Bill Schmidt ASLA, LEED AP, Craig Farnsworth, ASLA, Garth Wemmer
Lance Thies, Sarah Gephart, Associate ASLA

Non-Landscape Architects involved in the project:
Hitchcock Design Group, Carl Wohlt

Civil Engineer:
Knight E/A, Inc.

Environmental Engineer:
Hey & Associates, Inc.



Page 27 - Property owners are encouraged to participate in the greening of Chicago. The handbook includes eleven techniques that commercial, industrial, and residential property owners can integrate to further enhance the performance of the green alleys. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Page 29 - Each sustainable technique includes a description, cost information, applicable property use, and outline of potential benefits from the use of the technique. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Page 31 - The text is written for a general audience that is likely unfamiliar with the subject matter of sustainable design. Technical language is crafted into more understandable terms that the intended audience can relate to and comprehend. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Pages 38-39 - Seen as a kit of parts, the sustainable techniques are compiled into example applications for the various site types - commercial, industrial, and residential - so that readers can see all of the pieces together. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

Pages 40-41 - The handbook includes a Resources section with Frequently Asked Questions, a Glossary of Terms and publications, both printed and electronic that can provide additional information and advice. (Photo: Hitchcock Design Group)

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