Who We Are

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is a 39-year old organization that develops tools and methods for sustainable economic development. We carry out three types of programs:

CNT is a recognized leader in transportation planning and anti-sprawl initiatives. It has a national reputation for developing cutting edge economic development programs that promote sustainable regions and communities. CNT’s Geographic Research and Information Division (GRID) is the largest public interest geographic information system (GIS) group in the Midwest and is integral to advancing CNT’s mission. The intellectual and analytical capacity of GRID made possible both the groundbreaking analysis CNT performed to establish the Location Efficient Mortgage (LEM) and the analysis of the electricity market that resulted in the development of Elevate Energy. The foundation of CNT’s geographic analysis is a strong commitment to open access to data and information.

Our Green Infrastructure Focus

Green infrastructure is a critical part of a sustainable city and region for a number of reasons:

Green Infrastructure Saves Money
  • Green infrastructure performs many of the same services as gray infrastructure, such as stormwater management, flood control and water quality, but often at a reduced cost and more reliably.
  • Cost savings is critically important, as the USEPA, General Accounting Office and American Society of Civil Engineers agree that the nation needs to spend between $300 billion and $1 trillion to fund drinking and wastewater needs over next 20 years.
Green Infrastructure Supports Sustainability
  • Wetlands, parks and other types of open spaces are a critical component of the sustainability of a region. Just try to imagine a neighborhood or community without a park or trees. Hard to do, isn’t it? And yet park districts and forestry and natural resources divisions face a constant struggle to obtain the necessary resources to fund these spaces.
  • If treated as infrastructure, however, open spaces and recreational areas could be treated as an investment, not an expense.
Green Infrastructure Better Uses Limited Resources
  • Governments not only spend less to install and maintain most green infrastructure, green infrastructure provides a host of ancillary benefits, such as increased recreation and open space, community building opportunities and better air and water quality.

CNT’s Green Infrastructure Projects

The Green Infrastructure Calculator is an important, but by no means only, component of CNT’s comprehensive approach to green infrastructure. Other elements include:

Natural Connections: Green Infrastructure in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana

This partnership with Openlands and five technical teams generated a map and interactive database for 14 counties illustrating the natural features that constitute the interconnected network of land and water resources that sustain the Chicago region. A second phase, set to begin in September, 2005, will result in an interactive website that can be used by anyone interested in acquisition, restoration and management. A number of critical data sets will also be digitized and we will expand the coverage to additional counties. The Joyce Foundation provided funding for Phase I; they are also supporting Phase II along with The Boeing Company, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness.

Please see www.greenmapping.org for more information.

Green Solutions Manual

Water: From Trouble to Treasure, is a pocket-sized field guide to understanding and advancing green stormwater management, a critical component of a sustainable future. The guide gives community groups, homeowners, and others practical ways to capture raindrops where they fall that are simple, affordable and can replace more costly conventional stormwater approaches. These green solutions include rain gardens, native vegetation, tree planting, rain barrels, and permeable pavement.

The guide lays out a vision of restoring the natural ability of landscapes to manage stormwater. It offers immediate steps for groups to get started without extensive funding, expertise, or fear of adverse consequences. Green infrastructure can save homeowners, developers and municipalities money while protecting water quality, recharging ground water supplies and creating more enjoyable landscapes in the process.

A Sustainable Community-Based Approach to Reducing Nonpoint Source Pollution

This project will address the performance of green infrastructure. CNT will work in partnership with the Illinois State Water Survey, the Illinois EPA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to conduct and document research on the extent to which green infrastructure can improve infiltration and reduce runoff. The work will be conducted in four subwatersheds of the Des Plaines River (a map of the subwatersheds is attached). Prominent engineers, biologists and landscape architects from the Chicago region with experience in green infrastructure will participate. Both public and private property owners will also participate.

Changing Federal & State Policy

We are developing a comprehensive policy framework that will ensure that green infrastructure is recognized as a viable alternative to gray infrastructure at the local, state and federal levels. We are particularly interested in the intersection of transportation, land use and water quality.

Past Projects

Visualizing and Empowerment in Small Watersheds (2000-present)

CNT worked with grassroots groups in two watersheds—Thorn Creek in the south suburbs and Hickory Creek in the southwest suburbs—to develop tools to improve local decision-making about land and water resource issues. This project was funded with a generous grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project – Farmer/Prairie Creek (2004)

CNT worked with the Lt. Governor’s office, the Des Plaines Watershed Team, schools, residents, businesses and local government to implement low-cost landscape features that improve infiltration and reduce runoff.