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Lunch and Learn: Green Infrastructure at DDC

On July 21, 2020, the New York City Department of Design and Construction Sustainable Infrastructure Unit Program Director Sofia Zuberbuhler-Yafar, Deputy Director Shani White, and Sustainability Coordinator Ankita Nalavade presented to over 39 students across New York City during the STEAM Virtual Lunch and Learn Series. Lunch and Learn is a one hour interactive presentation by DDC professionals speaking about their current role, career path and education. The series connects DDC professionals in the built environment, administration, construction management and design to students to share their experience and knowledge.

The team provided an introduction to work of the Sustainable Infrastructure Unit at DDC. They discussed two types of work within the unit - Green Infrastructure (GI) and Sustainability - and they explained how the Sustainable Infrastructure Unit helps New York City achieve its sustainability goals.

Program Director Sofia Zuberbuhler-Yafar stated, “It is exciting to share with younger generation ideas of sustainability and inspire them to improve and positively impact their future! NYC Invests in green infrastructure to control combined sewage overflow and improve water quality.”

“The work of the Sustainable Infrastructure Unit is critically important as it provides interventions that afford NYC residents a healthier, safer, and eco-friendly future through the creation of more sustainable infrastructure,” stated Lee Llambelis, Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships and STEAM Initiatives.

combined sewer overflow during wet conditions

Graphic of combined sewer overflow during rainy weather events

combined sewer overflow without any precipitation

Graphic of combined sewer overflow during dry weather conditions

The team went on to explain how green infrastructure projects aim to provide storm water management in Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) areas. Combined Sewer Overflow is untreated waste combined with storm water from the urban surface that is released into the environment.

Deputy Director White emphasized why citizens should care about sewer overflows, explaining that CSO outfalls adversely affect the quality of surrounding waters by contributing to high levels of bacteria levels that makes it dangerous for swimming, boating and fishing. The high levels of bacteria also result in increased organic material which causes low dissolved oxygen levels which in turn can stress or kill fish. Deputy Director White delved into different types of green infrastructure practices and discussed some ongoing pilot projects that the team is working on to help solve these issues. She stated, “One example of green infrastructure that DDC has installed across the city are over 5,000 bioswales, or rain gardens, that help control combined sewage, manage runoff, and improve water quality.”

Sustainability Coordinator Ankita Nalavade provided an overview of DDC’s sustainability projects that help integrate sustainable measures in the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects. She also explained the Envision credit system which provides a framework that includes 64 sustainability and resilience indicators, called ‘credits’, organized around five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Resilience. Simply put, “What LEED is to Building Projects, Envision is to Infrastructure,” Ms. Nalavade noted.

Building Green Infrastructure from NYC DDC on Vimeo.

How To Construct a Rain Garden from NYC DDC on Vimeo.

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit