HomePrivate Project Finalist: West Laurel Hill Cemetery Nature’s Sanctuary

The Excellence in GSI Awards Ceremony (May 23) is the region’s only award that celebrates and elevates green stormwater infrastructure projects and innovations, the triple bottom line (TPL) benefits of a nature-based approach to stormwater management, and the partners who bring these projects to life in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Buy tickets.


On behalf of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN), the GSI Partners will be recognizing excellence in GSI in the following categories: Public, Private, and Innovation. Winning applications will highlight the TPL (environmental, social, and economic) benefits of a green infrastructure approach to stormwater management. 

Congratulations West Laurel Hill Cemetery Nature’s Sanctuary. 


Over five years ago, West Laurel Hill Cemetery began efforts to create a more sustainable business practice throughout the cemetery. From this, the concept of a green burial cemetery took place. Following the USGBC SITES model for a collaborative communication and design process, the design involved every level of decision-maker from concept to ribbon cutting that included Board of Directors, administration, sales, landscape architects, engineers, contractors, funeral directors, grave diggers, maintenance personnel, and local government.


With this design team in place, the strategy of a design that would manage stormwater and grow stronger and become more self-sustaining over time evolved. With the site perched above the Cynwyd Trail, controlling runoff to the trail below was only the beginning. Improved infiltration via natural meadow and woodland ecosystems, and pervious natural aggregate pavement and raingardens were integral to the design. Every aspect of the final design was viewed through a lens of sustainability and ecological value, resulting in a unique model for sustainable cemetery design.


Nature’s Sanctuary’s theory of Assisted Ecological Succession utilizes the structure of existing cemetery maintenance staff to maintain, care for, and encourage natural succession processes in a cemetery environment. The design reintroduces stratified vegetation including groundcover, understory, subcanopy, and canopy, providing the opportunity to retain rainwater on expanded vegetative surface area. The cooling effects of evapotranspiration and shade offer natural amenities to cool stormwater before it flows to nearby streams.


Designed to evolve into a native climax forest, Nature’s Sanctuary provides a lovely interment option to the community, while also allowing cemetery patrons to be a part of the eternal legacy of this restored ecosystem


Congratulations to the partners who made this project an example of the kind of nature-based approach to stormwater management that has made the Greater Philadelphia Area a leader in GSI. 


County: Philadelphia
Watershed: Schuylkill River
Planning/Design Team: Alta Planning & Design
Client: West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Construction/Maintenance/Monitoring: Seravalli Inc. and Farrell Carota Landscaping, West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Extension Cemetery Care


Join us on Thursday, May 23, along with the region’s industry professionals, local businesses, developers and property owners, government and non-profit institutions, decision-makers, and academics. It is the networking and celebration event for those in the GSI industry. Buy tickets. (SBN Members receive a discount on tickets.)