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Ripple Effect: KCCP Campus Project

Ripple Effect: KCCP Campus Project

Ripple Effect is a New Orleans-based organization whose goal is to promote water literacy through standards-aligned, design-based environmental science curriculum. Ripple Effect’s founders—urban designer Aron Chang from Waggonner and Ball Architects and teacher Claire Anderson from KIPP Central City Primary—aim to create an informed citizenry that understands how to live with the region’s abundant water resources. Last year, Ripple Effect received a Green Infrastructure grant from the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) to pilot water literacy curriculum and teacher training for grades K-4 at KIPP Central City Primary (KCCP). Additionally, seed money from KCCP was leveraged with private funding to create a demonstration “water literacy campus” in the school’s courtyard. Mackenzie Stagg (BArch ’08) joined the Ripple Effect team as project manager for the campus project.

New Orleans is the third rainiest city in the United States. While higher, stronger levees guard against storm surge, the city continues to be increasingly susceptible to flooding from rainwater runoff. For years, an elaborate pipe- and pump-based drainage network has worked to remove runoff. However, the pump system has also been pulling groundwater from the city’s soft soils, resulting in subsidence and, in turn, exacerbating flooding. Taking cues from the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, the campus project aims to demonstrate how sustainable and attractive methods of on-site water management can be integrated into the existing urban fabric.

The campus design team—Claire, Aron, Mackenzie and landscape architect Emily Bullock from Spackman Mossop Michaels—set out with the following goals:

1. Resolve ponding issues, which created soggy conditions and limited courtyard use.

2. Divert water from the city’s drainage network by storing water on-site.

3. Slow down and filter collected storm runoff by allowing it to filter into the ground and be absorbed by native vegetation.

4. Demonstrate good water management practices for institutional sites, creating replicable lessons for other schools and institutions around the city.

At its most basic, the design of the courtyard is a study in how water flows: from high to low. Removing existing soils and adding gravel and sandy soils that facilitate infiltration created the rain gardens, the lowest points in the courtyard. The removed soils were re-shaped and re-purposed into a play mound, the highest point in the courtyard. The rain gardens, covering almost 1000 square feet, are designed to hold the first half-inch of site runoff during a rain event. The courtyard design takes environmental science lessons from classroom to campus, showing students how design solutions can create tangible, positive impact.

Though this project already benefits the school community on a day-to-day basis, the city will need to see hundreds and thousands of similar and even more ambitious site adaptations to achieve systemic change. This begins with individual sites and with individuals. In Ripple Effect’s work, education is the first step toward creating that meaningful change. To learn more about Ripple Effect, visit