CLOSED – Green Stormwater Infrastructure Innovation Challenge

Seeking Creative Solutions for Identifying and Mapping Subsurface Conditions

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), in partnership with the with the City’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), is seeking solutions that will help provide more certainty about subsurface conditions and utility locations at project sites and throughout Philadelphia.

This Request for Information (RFI) is an alternative approach to city procurement, in which PWD first seeks information about all available solutions to a problem. In the second phase, PWD will issue a Request for Proposals to procure and implement the best-fit solution identified during the RFI.



In order to comply with state and federal water regulations, the City of Philadelphia has adopted a plan to manage stormwater runoff from 10,000 acres of impervious surfaces with Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). GSI consists of a range of engineered soil-plant-water systems that intercept stormwater, infiltrate a portion of it into the ground, evaporate a portion back into the air and in some cases release a portion of it slowly back into the sewer system.

The City is now looking for creative ways to reduce the cost of GSI projects through more effective assessments of subsurface conditions and utility locations.



Of the many factors that influence the cost of GSI projects, subsurface conditions and conflicts are critical. Existing utilities and other subsurface infrastructure add cost and complication to project design, so the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) plans projects to avoid known utility locations. For example, PWD will generally avoid siting projects in a sidewalk where there are service laterals or parallel utilities. Contaminated soils or soils with poor infiltration may also affect project design and construction budgets.

Unfortunately, because these constraints are underground, they are difficult to identify in advance of construction. Discovering constraints mid-way through a project means costs have already been incurred and more outlays are needed to see the project through to completion.

PWD uses a number of existing tools and resources to reduce uncertainty about subsurface conditions. In the planning stages of a project, a desktop analysis is conducted to identify soil conditions, underground infrastructure, potential contamination and other subsurface conflicts. This analysis uses information from Streets Department plans; Philadelphia Gas Works gas plats; GIS records of water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure; historical land use maps, fire insurance maps, and zoning records; and state and federal brownfield databases. The desktop analysis is followed up with site visits to confirm inlet locations, utility mark-outs, valves, manholes, overhead wires, and any other visible signs of infrastructure.

Once a project is selected to move into design, PWD acquires additional information by paying for surveys and geotechnical testing to determine soil permeability and content at desired stormwater storage and/or infiltration locations. A “PA One Call” is issued to alert other utilities to mark out their infrastructure locations on site. Occasionally, ground penetrating radar (GPR) is used to obtain more detailed information about subsurface conditions prior to or during excavation.


Problem Statement

The methods described above can be both costly and inconclusive. The City is seeking additional tools, resources, or services that can increase the certainty and/or reduce the cost of identifying or mapping subsurface conditions before significant design effort has been committed.

The City invites information about tools, resources or services for:

  • assessing subsurface geologic or soil conditions,
  • mapping utility locations,
  • accurately analyzing or visualizing subsurface data, and/or
  • any other creative solutions that address the problem described above.


Submission Guidelines

Participants are encouraged to share creative and innovative proposals, but please keep your responses concise, and ensure that your response addresses the following questions:

  1. Please describe your solution(s) and how it would address some or all of the points outlined in the problem described above. 500 words or less
  2. Has your solution ever been implemented before? If yes, please list where your solution has been implemented and the results of each deployment. 500 words or less
  3. Does your solution require in-kind City resources (e.g. staff time, facilities, technology, etc.)? If so, please specify what you would need the City to provide. 500 words or less
  4. How would you describe your business or organization (e.g. startup, small business, not- for-profit, large corporation)? Please provide a brief overview (e.g. number of employees, business model, annual revenue, etc.). 500 words or less
  5. Would you need to partner with any other organizations or firms to deliver your solution to Philadelphia? If so, do you need support identifying potential partner organizations? 500 words or less

Please send your response as an email attachment of no more than 2 MB. Attachments may be in .doc, .pdf, or .ppt formats.

Emails should be addressed to Jessica Noon with the subject “GSI Innovations Submission – First Name, Last Name” at

Submissions must be received by July 14, 2016 at 5:00 PM EST.


Use of Content

The Responses submitted by Respondents to this RFI may be used by PWD in the process of preparing a notice of a future contracting opportunity. All Respondents may submit proposals to the notice of contracting opportunity once it has been posted to the City of Philadelphia websites. A Response to this RFI is not a requirement to submit a proposal for the contracting opportunity.

Confidentiality and Public Disclosure

Respondents shall treat all information obtained from the City which is not generally available to the public as confidential and/or proprietary to the City. Respondents shall exercise all reasonable precautions to prevent any information derived from such sources from being disclosed to any other person. No other party, including any Respondent, is intended to be granted any rights hereunder.

Respondents agree to indemnify and hold harmless the City, its officials and employees, from and against all liability, demands, claims, suits, losses, damages, causes of action, fines and judgments (including attorney’s fees) resulting from any use or disclosure of such confidential and/or proprietary information by any Respondent or any person acquiring such information, directly or indirectly, from any Respondent.

Rights and Options Reserved

In addition to the rights reserved elsewhere in this RFI, the City reserves and may, in its sole discretion, exercise any or more of the following rights and options with respect to this RFI if the City determines that doing so is in the best interest of the City:

  • to decline to consider any response to this RFI (“Response”); to cancel the RFI at any time; to elect to proceed or not to proceed with discussions or presentations regarding its subject matter with any Respondent and with firms that do not respond to the RFI; or to reissue the RFI or to issue a new RFI (with the same, similar or different terms);
  • to waive, for any Response, any defect, deficiency or failure to comply with the RFI if, in the City’s sole judgment, such defect is not material to the Response;
  • to extend the Submission Date/Time and/or to supplement, amend, substitute or otherwise modify the RFI at any time prior to the Submission Date/Time, by posting notice thereof on the City web page(s) where the RFI is posted;
  • to require, permit or reject amendments (including, without limitation, submitting information omitted), modifications, clarifying information, and/or corrections to Responses by some or all Respondents at any time before or after the Submission Date/Time;
  • to require, request or permit, in discussion with any Respondent, any information relating to the subject matter of this RFI that the City deems appropriate, whether or not it was described in the Response to this RFI;
  • at any time determined by the City, to discontinue discussions with any Respondent or all Respondents regarding the subject matter of this RFI, and/or initiate discussions with any other Respondent or with vendors that did not respond to the RFI;
  • to do any of the foregoing without notice to Respondents or others, except such notice as the City, in its sole discretion, may elect to post on the City web page(s) where this RFI is posted.

This RFI and the process described are proprietary to the City and are for exclusive benefit of the City. Upon submission, Responses to this RFI shall become the property of the City, which shall have unrestricted use thereof. Responses may be subject to public disclosure under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law.

However, a “record that constitutes or reveals a trade secret or confidential proprietary information” is exempt from access by a requester under that law. Ultimate determination of the application of that exemption cannot be assured, but Respondents are advised to mark clearly any portion(s) of any submittal believed to qualify for that exemption. By submitting its Response, the Respondent agrees to the terms.



Please refer to our Frequently Asked Questions. Please post any additional questions as a comment below this solicitation on so that additional information will be available for all potential submitters to review. Any questions sent via email or posted on social media will be directed back to the comment section on

The deadline for questions or clarifications about this RFI is July 14, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST.

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3 comments on “CLOSED – Green Stormwater Infrastructure Innovation Challenge
  1. kchilders says:

    The “submission guidelines” on page 3 of the RFI document indicate “500 words or less” for each of the 5 responses. I am respectfully requesting clarification regarding the allowable word limit if multiple solutions are offered. Are 500 words permitted for each proposed solution or should the combined response be limited to 500 words? Thank you.

    • Avery Livengood says:

      The word limit applies to each submission. If you are proposing multiple solutions, please submit each solution under separate cover. Please feel free to use the same response to Question 4 if you opt to make multiple submissions.

  2. Avery Livengood says:

    Below is a question received via email-

    Q: The RFI indicated that there would be subsequent RFP—is there a timeframe when you anticipate that occurring?

    A: PWD is currently reviewing submissions to the RFI. Once the review is complete, PWD will determine whether it is feasible to procure one or more of the solution ideas through an RFP process. If PWD decides to issue an RFP related to this challenge, we will notify all respondents who participated in this challenge of the opportunity.

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