SDD PPN Recap: 2015 Annual Meeting, SITES, and Resource Links

Clear Creek Stormwater Basin, Atlanta, Georgia: a functioning green infrastructure system solution to detain stormwater for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system. The heron is standing on a 11’ wide littoral shelf that the City of Atlanta accepted in lieu of a fence. image: Steve Carrell

Clear Creek Stormwater Basin, Atlanta, Georgia: a functioning green infrastructure system solution to detain stormwater for Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system. The heron is standing on a 11’ wide littoral shelf that the City of Atlanta accepted in lieu of a fence.
image: Steve Carrell

It was great to meet some of you at the Annual Meeting in Chicago! As we end the year we are taking this opportunity to review 2015, highlight sustainable design topics that were raised by meeting attendees, and remind SDD members who did not attend the Annual Meeting that they can still avail themselves of valuable resources from the 2015 Annual Meeting Handouts.

But first, let’s take a few moments to summarize some highlights from the meeting. First a review of the past years SDD accomplishments:

Online Learning:
•    Community Engagement as an Essential Component for Sustainable Design
•    Green Design in Remnant Urban Landscapes

The Field:
•    The Role of Landscape in Green Building
•    If These Walls Could Talk
•    Allegheny County’s Monitored Green Roof

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The Role of Landscape in Green Building

Boston Children’s Museum Plaza, Boston, MA Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects image: Elizabeth Felicella

Boston Children’s Museum Plaza, Boston, MA
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., Landscape Architects
image: Elizabeth Felicella

The following research and thesis was presented to the Landscape Architecture Program at Chatham University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture in April 2010. The goal of the study was to support the need to increase the landscape principles that are represented in green building certification. Buildings can be certified by the LEED Rating System and still attain none of the landscape principles deemed necessary to a healthy environment by this research.

Evaluating vegetation, site, and location-related credits achieved by LEED Certified Buildings

The green building movement is one response to the environmental impacts resulting from the built environment; it aims to reduce material consumption and waste, while improving energy efficiency and occupant health. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System has become a base line for sustainable building in the United States.

Though LEED is increasing the number of high performing buildings, thus reducing the energy use and waste production resulting from the built environment, without a stronger focus on the exterior performance these certified buildings may not be providing the urban environment with the ecosystem services necessary for healthy cities. Douglas Farr, author of Sustainable Urbanism, points out that a shortcoming of the LEED Rating System is that the emphasis is put on just the building by stating that “a certified green building isn’t really a positive for the environment when it turns out to be surrounded by a massive paved parking lot” (2008, p. 29).

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If These Walls Could Talk

A well-designed home is oriented according to natural patterns, such as high-velocity air flow. In order to act as a wind-break for the cool winter winds of West Virginia, the WVU Solar Decathlon house included tall grasses around the structure.  image: John Wray, Team WVU / U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A well-designed home is oriented according to natural patterns, such as high-velocity air flow. In order to act as a wind-break for the cool winter winds of West Virginia, the WVU Solar Decathlon house included tall grasses around the structure.
image: John Wray, Team WVU / U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

During the sixth semester of my undergraduate tenure at West Virginia University, students were presented with the opportunity to earn an academic scholarship by writing a creative essay oriented around the profession of Landscape Architecture and how students and professionals explore the relationship between humans and natural environments. In this specific text that went on to win the scholarship, I focused on how the profession of Landscape Architecture is the catalyst for blurring the lines between the natural and built worlds by looking at the four elements of earth, wind, water, and fire and how they influence the design of built structures that work harmoniously with natural patterns.

Both visual and verbal pieces included in this article communicate what academic and extracurricular activities I have been involved with and how they shaped the formation of my essay. Through experience with the 2013 Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, which “challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive,” I learned valuable sustainable principles of design. Through academic studio work, I have been able to explore these sustainable principles and include them in an array of design projects. My experiences with these international competitions and studio work leads me to believe that landscape architects are at the forefront of creating varying scales of spaces that are designed with nature in mind and with the goal of improving the way people live, work, and play. This essay creatively communicates how I believe a developing landscape architect sees how design works properly with natural systems.

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Allegheny County’s Monitored Green Roof

Foreground: intensive green roof and microcosm trials image: John K. Buck, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Foreground: intensive green roof and microcosm trials
image: John K. Buck, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.

To serve as an educational model demonstrating the benefits of green roofs and the technology imbedded in green roofs, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania decided to install a green roof exhibiting four types of green roof technologies:

  1. Intensive – 8-12 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium with shrubs and plants requiring that rooting depth.
  2. Semi-intensive – 6 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium with the ability to grow plants and shrubs with that depth.
  3. Roll out mat – a pre-grown sedum mat set on 4 inches of lightweight engineered growing medium, providing instant coverage.
  4. Tray system – pre-grown sedum established in lightweight engineered growing medium trays.

By exhibiting these four green roof technologies, it is noted that the substantial additional weight of the intensive and semi-intensive systems requires close examination of the structural integrity of a roof, whereas the mat and tray systems allow green roof application on roofs with less significant weight restrictions. In addition to the visual display, monitoring systems were installed to prove the benefits of green roofs. The performance of this green roof is amazing and noteworthy to share in the scheme of green technology.

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Urban Renewal & Resilient Design at SXSW Eco

The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine image: John McNicholas via Flickr

The amphitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park, part of the Atlanta BeltLine
image: John McNicholas via Flickr

Interview with Nette Compton, ASLA

Nette Compton has served as an officer of the Sustainable Design and Development PPN for the past year, and she will be stepping up to the PPN co-chair position at this year’s ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver. Nette is actively involved in many sustainable and urban design initiatives and events through her work at the Trust for Public Land, and we wanted to highlight her upcoming session at SXSW Eco, which takes place next week, October 6-8, 2014, in Austin. Nette will be on the panel discussing “Urban Renewal and Resilient Design” on October 8. In the interview below, she shares some information about the session and why this topic is of such critical importance.

One of the reasons that we have decided to provide more exposure here in The Field about this event is to encourage other SDD PPN members to participate in outreach efforts on sustainability and resiliency aimed at groups outside of the profession. Landscape architects can raise awareness about how our profession contributes expertise and solutions for urban renewal and resilient design. We welcome contributions like this by SDD members, on talks that they will be or have been involved in on sustainability initiatives. Please share your ideas!
–Lisa Cowan, ASLA, SDD PPN Co-Chair

How did this presentation come about?

In my new role at the Trust for Public Land, part of my position entails speaking about the impact of public space on cities. As Associate Director of City Park Development, I focus on how parks can improve the livability and function of cities for its residents, from providing a place to play to landscape-scale improvements in air and water quality. The presentation’s emphasis on resiliency and creative use of urban space fit right in with my past experience at the New York City Parks Department, where I was the Director of Green Infrastructure and involved in climate and resilience planning both pre- and post-Sandy. We wanted to have practitioners from around the country as part of the discussion as well, to show how these big ideas of resilience planning for cities at the landscape scale can happen anywhere, and take advantage of a range of opportunities.

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Designing for Food Production

An overview of Lafayette Greens in downtown Detroit image: Beth Hagenbuch

An overview of Lafayette Greens in downtown Detroit
image: Beth Hagenbuch

Farmers and landscape architects approach the landscape in fundamentally different ways, though they often share similar goals for the health of the environment and the communities where they work. Since discovering my green thumb as a college student, I’ve worked in both arenas, first as an intern on organic farms in California, later as a landscape designer and contractor specializing in edible gardens and, most recently, as an environmental planner focused on zoning regulations and other big picture concerns for urban agriculture. In the middle I had a seven-acre farm of my own, raising goats, chickens and pigs in a suburban neighborhood in Athens, Georgia.

Through these experiences I’ve found that while organic farmers and environmentally-minded designers both operate from a triple bottom line perspective, they operate under very different assumptions, yielding radically different outcomes in the landscape. The tremendous interest of today’s urban populations in food production has brought the perspectives of farmers and designers to common ground—literally—and if the urban agriculture movement is to be seen as successful twenty years from now, it is important that a greater degree of mutual understanding be reached.

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Rethinking Runoff: Shrubs & Stormwater

Harrison Street Bioswale in Syracuse, NY image: Ethan Dropkin

Harrison Street bioswale in Syracuse, NY
image: Ethan Dropkin

Stormwater retention is a hot-button issue among landscape architects. It’s something that all designers need to consider and can pose challenges on specific sites as well as in larger ecological systems. As landscape architects, we strive to implement creative practices to mitigate stormwater issues.

The planted retention/infiltration practice is one familiar to us all; however, this practice comes with its own unique set of care and maintenance issues. Enter the new guide from Cornell University’s Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI): “Woody Shrubs for Stormwater Retention Practices: Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions.” This guide by authors Ethan M. Dropkin and Nina Bassuk of Cornell University includes helpful information about issues associated with stormwater, various mitigation practices, and an extensive plant list.

In the past, designers have tended to select wet site-tolerant plants for these installations; however, while bioswale soils may be wet for brief periods, they are more often very dry between rainfall events. The authors tested several plants for their wet and dry tolerance and developed a bulletin describing many woody plants that are well-adapted to these conditions of alternately wet and dry soils.

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