HomeWhy Innovation Depends on Cooperation

The Green Stormwater Infrastructure industry is a steadily evolving ecosystem. It is an industry not only rife with opportunities for innovation, but also reliant on novel solutions that alter how we look at best practices, processes, collaborations, and, of course, technology to ensure its continued success.


This is due to the skein of interwoven and interdependent tasks and processes necessary to conceive, implement, and maintain a GSI project that will meet performance standards for many years after construction. As such, creating a culture of innovation in the industry necessitates preserving and further cultivating a culture of cooperation. Without buy-in from industry leaders and government entities, implementation of innovative practices and products will be met with road blocks.


“Everything always has to be ‘road-tested’ and many times, once a practice or product is finally accepted, there is something new and improved on its heels,” said Alta Planning + Design’s, Liam Cleary.


A regional GSI industry permeated with a blend of innovation and cooperation would forge the open channels of communication and collaboration needed to streamline the adoption of innovative practices and products.


The more rapidly the industry embraces innovation and creates efficient pathways for its integration, the more incentive businesses have to continue to invest in the research required to devise new solutions.


And while many branches stem outward from the trunk of innovation—material selection, financing, project management, partnerships, monitoring systems, and others—we continue to see the need to underscore the potential for innovation in areas outside of technology or material development.


“I think innovation comes in many forms,” said Cerulean, LLC’s Susan Harris. “Innovation across the GSI industry is creative thinking and the ability to adaptively pursue goals.”


Harris emphasized the importance of innovating how we facilitate collaboration across multiple entities:


On one of our projects, we are retrofitting the landscape to install a regional GSI feature. We are maximizing environmental impacts by intercepting an existing stormwater outfall and also directing offsite drainage towards the regional feature. We are ensuring the greatest outcome by looking at offsite surrounding properties rather than managing flow from just the single source.


Harris spoke about how her team can accomplish more when they are not limited by property or municipal boundary: “Instead, we engage with the community towards regional efforts as a strategy to develop the most sustainable solutions. These may not be the quickest solutions available, but they are always worth the extra effort.”


This strategy requires a commitment to educating the public about the goals and vision of GSI. It is not surprising that some landowners might be cautious of new stormwater management procedures, especially if they will require modified or increased maintenance plans.


“We as an industry need to remain constantly on the pursuit of new opportunities to broaden the audience and further engage the community and landowners about the necessity for clean drinking water,” said Harris.


Water affects all of us. And although innovative products and practices can be created in a silo, they must be implemented by a community that strives for cooperation in order to accomplish a greater shared goal.


This is the power of an industry-specific community of practice like SBN’s GSI Partners.


We are energized by the collaboration and openness that is present at GSI Partners Quarterly Meetings. When you zoom out, you almost have to remind yourself that this is a room of landscape professionals, some who are technically in competition with one another. But it is this culture of collaboration that creates a culture of innovation which, in turn, benefits the industry as a whole.


“The real innovation is the adaptation of ‘best practices’ over time as the industry ages,” said Cleary.


Harris agreed: “The GSI industry is an evolving process and it is important to continuously adapt in order to meet the goals.”



Join us on April 24 for the next GSI Partners Quarterly Meeting to continue this conversation about innovation. Register.