2015 Bmore Resilient Design Competition: Honorable Mention – DIRT

Team: Stephanie Deutsch, Renata Southard, Alexander Dzurec | School: University of Maryland
Download project board pdf

Project Narrative


DIRT is a 21st century infrastructure system for Baltimore.  As opposed to the current paradigm of a centralized infrastructure system for utility and community services; DIRT is a distributed and interconnected infrastructure and technology system.  It utilizes the concept of interconnected micro- grids to ensure resiliency in the event of catastrophe, but also to maintain stability in day to day usage of utilities and services. DIRT will enable community level micro-grids to “Island” themselves from the city grid; in order to maintain electricity, water, sewer and community services in the event of a catastrophe. In day to day operations these resources are input into the overall city grid to meet the City’s sustainability goals.

Infrastructure Networks & Components

DIRT provides three levels of infrastructure networks and components:

Utility Infrastructure

Power – Solar Electric generation, battery storage, distribution and grid interconnect controls

Water – Rain water collection, storage, distribution and grid interconnect controls

Grey Water – Grey water collection & reuse for irrigation

Black Water / Sewer – Local sewer system loop to collect & treat Black water

Natural Infrastructure

Permeability – The alleyways are re-paved with permeable paving to reduce storm water run-off.

Urban Agriculture – Community Gardens provide residents with a means to grow their own food and the community with a valuable resource in the event of a catastrophe.

Green Walls and Roofs – To combat the heat island effect as well as provide fresh air and greenery for residents.

Community Infrastructure

Resilience Hub – Neighborhood community center.

Community Outreach Police Station – Neighborhood police station.

Resilience Storehouse – Neighborhood provisions warehouse to store food, emergency supplies and tools in the event of a disaster.  It can also be used to store food from the community gardens and as a tool lending library for residents.

Neighborhood Pop-up Commercial Space – A location for the incubation of home based business ventures in the community.


As the City upgrades its utility infrastructure and community services in the coming decades, DIRT can be implemented on neighborhood level scale. This allows flexibility in tying infrastructure needs to available funding.

Baltimore is a city of row houses and DIRT provides a mechanism for their preservation.  This strategy assumes that existing row houses will be rehabbed over time, continuing current trends.  Infrastructure components will be placed in row house sites that are in poor condition while remaining row houses will be modernized to state of the art green building standards, either through private developers or City initiatives.  The basic unit size for an infrastructure component is a typical row house lot. As DIRT is implemented, a physical conditions assessment for a given neighborhood is completed.  Structures in danger of imminent collapse will be demolished and utilized for Utility Infrastructure components.  Row houses in need of moderate rehabilitation will be modified to provide Community Infrastructure components or be newly renovated homes.  Row houses in need of little or no rehabilitation will remain homes and renovated accordingly. Infrastructure components are then installed, as located by the physical conditions assessment.

Once the Infrastructure Components are built, the Infrastructure Networks are installed.  Alleyways are renovated to enhance permeability while also installing the neighborhood micro-grid components for potable, grey & black water systems.  A resiliency armature is installed on existing structures which can accommodate PV panels, green walls/roof systems, glazing and power lines. The resiliency armature is a modular diagrid truss system, that can expand and adapt organically to given neighborhood conditions. Over time, as row houses are rehabbed, they are tied into the infrastructure networks.

DIRT can be applied incrementally, and support long-term improvement of Baltimore’s neighborhoods. Revitalization will happen steadily but gradually, and the proposed process will support current residents instead of displacing them. The development of DIRT is a major and long term economic development and infrastructure strategy that will transition Baltimore into a resilient future. Once fully implemented throughout the city, DIRT will enable Baltimore to be a dynamic and self-sustaining organism that is resilient to a wide variety of natural and man-made catastrophes, while also a very livable city for its residents.

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