Center for Sustainable Landscapes Achieves SITES Platinum Certification

by Richard V. Piacentini, President and CEO, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The sustainable landscape at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Phipps showcases renewable energy technologies, conservation strategies, water treatment, and sustainable landscapes to an audience of nearly half a million visitors every year. / image: Denmarsh Photography, Inc.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is the first project worldwide to be certified at the Platinum level under the Sustainable SITES Initiative® (SITES®) v2 Rating System.

Previously certified as a Four-Star project through the pilot version of SITES in 2013, the CSL is a 24,350-square-foot education, research, and administration facility on a 2.9-acre landscape. Recognized as one of the greenest projects in the world, the building is located on the campus of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is net-zero energy and net-zero water, producing all of its energy renewably and managing all storm and sanitary on-site. In addition to SITES, the CSL has also met three of the highest green building standards: The Living Building Challenge™, LEED® Platinum, and WELL™ Platinum certification (a rating system designed to advance health and well-being in buildings). We decided to pursue certification under SITES v2 to make sure that we were still focused on and promoting the highest level of sustainability related to the landscape.

Utilized daily as Phipps’ education, research, and administration hub, the CSL serves to increase awareness of the interconnection between people, nature, and the built environment, and to promote sustainable systems thinking. With a design that seamlessly integrates into the guest experience at Phipps—a 125-year-old institution with nearly 500,000 annual visitors—the CSL is uniquely positioned to showcase renewable energy technologies, conservation strategies, water treatment, and sustainable landscapes to a broad audience.

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A Renewed Focus on Community Design

by the Community Design PPN leadership team

ASLA 2018 Student Residential Award of Excellence. Baseco: A New Housing Paradigm, Manila, Philippines. / image: Julio F. Torres Santana, Student ASLA, Yinan Liu, Student ASLA, Aime Vailes-Macarie, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

ASLA’s Community Design Professional Practice Network (PPN) is the forum for landscape architecture issues in housing and community design, policy, planning, and design. This forum is dedicated to sharing information and building awareness of how landscape architects contribute to the development of livable, walkable, sustainable, and inclusive communities.

Landscape architects serve a vital role in the creation of strong, vibrant communities by placing emphasis on the importance of the public realm while fostering environmentally sustainable patterns and methods. Whether the context is rural or urban, the landscape architect is uniquely qualified to design the built environment to respond to natural processes and patterns. Our voice and experience in context sensitive design during the community planning process is key to providing the link between our colleges in planning and engineering. We have created policies to support livable communities, developed sustainable stormwater systems, designed and constructed parks and recreation areas, supported native ecosystems habitat and led public involvement processes to support sound decision-making.

Our goal is to empower landscape architects to establish stronger roles as community design leaders. Learn more about Community Design on the PPN’s newly updated webpage.

Meet the Community Design PPN Leadership Team

In addition to a chair or co-chairs, many PPNs, including Community Design, also have larger leadership teams that include PPN officers and past chairs. Most leadership teams hold monthly calls to keep track of progress on PPN activities, and all PPN members are welcome to join their PPN’s leadership team. To learn more, see ASLA’s PPN Leadership Opportunities page.

The Community Design PPN is looking to grow its leadership team—if you are interested in becoming more active in the PPN, please contact the PPN’s Chair.

In this post, we’d like to introduce the Community Design PPN leadership team through their answers to the following questions:

  • What is a community design? How do you define / describe what you do?
  • How do you as a landscape architect add value to community design projects?

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Proposed Rule Changes to National Register Nominations

by Helen Erickson, Associate ASLA

Moore Square in Raleigh
ASLA 2013 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Elevated Ground: A 300 Year Vision for a 220-Year-Old Square, Raleigh, NC. Christopher Counts Studio. / image: Christopher Counts Studio

At the beginning of March, the Federal Register announced that the Department of the Interior is proposing changes to the rules that govern the nomination of properties to the National Register of Historic Places. While the changes claim to “implement the 2016 amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act,” they reach far beyond the intent of that legislation in limiting the existing public process and other safeguards for historic landscapes.

Three aspects of the proposed rules are of special concern:

  • It would give more weight to the objections of larger property owners over the weight of a simple majority of property owners in objecting to listing historic districts. This would in turn have an unfair negative impact on those owners of smaller historic properties who would not be eligible for the historic property tax advantage.
  • It would give Federal agencies unilateral control in determining what properties are eligible for the National Register by eliminating the role of the Keeper of the National Register in Section 106 consultations.
  • It would permit a Federal agency to eliminate consultation with State Historic Preservation Offices and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices if so desired.

These changes will negatively impact landscape professionals who work in the area of historic preservation.

More detailed information on the proposed rule changes has been shared by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Public comments on these proposed rule changes can be submitted until April 30, 2019, 11:59 PM ET.

Helen Erickson, ASLA, is a member of the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) Subcommittee of ASLA’s Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network (PPN).

Florida Adaptation Planning Guidebook

by Emily Henke, PLA, ASLA, APA

Urgency of adaptation planning diagram
Adaptation planning follows four major steps, with multiple opportunities for public involvement and comment. Landscape architects that like big picture thinking already have skills to support this process. / image: Emily Henke

Generally misunderstood as a bunch of tree huggers, many landscape architects have intrinsic skills that are surprisingly well suited to assisting in all steps of adaptation planning. Maybe you are the type of landscape architect that appreciates plants and what they can do for urban environments but aren’t obsessed with individual species. If you find yourself frequently looking at the big picture, more interested in understanding and improving the relationship between humans and their environment, then you will find adaptation planning a natural extension of your skills and interests.

While the guidebook discussed in this article describes steps that are currently being taken in Florida, the concepts are applicable to any coastal area that experiences flooding. Many local agencies around the country already complete Hazard Mitigation Plans that capture a wide range of disaster types, which may include hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, and sea level rise.

Florida is currently experiencing a variety of physical effects related to sea level rise depending on a local community’s specific geography. Some communities, like Miami, are already experiencing “nuisance flooding,” that is, floods that occur at high tides and/or king tides, which are not during storm events (also known as “blue sky” flooding). Cities like St. Augustine may only experience flooding as they coincide with disaster events, like Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Places like Escambia County that are not expected to experience significant flooding even with disaster events for 50 years have the tools of adaptation planning at their fingertips to make long term decisions about where to locate critical infrastructure that may have a 75-year lifespan, like a power plant or wastewater treatment facility. In this way, the adaptation planning process is designed to be flexible to accommodate this varying timeline of anticipated effects.

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Taking Action to Defend Historic Landscapes – McKinley Park Case Study

by Douglas Nelson, ASLA, LEED AP

Rose Garden
McKinley Park Rose Garden / image: Douglas Nelson

Historic parks and landscapes are regularly viewed as opportunities for one good development idea or another. As landscape architects we must defend historic landscapes. The first step is to ensure that they are recognized as historic by their managing public agencies. We will look at a current threat facing McKinley Park in Sacramento. It is California’s second oldest urban park and is under threat by the city that is supposed to be its steward.

Is that an old, tired landscape in need of redevelopment, or is that a cultural landscape with historic significance? That would seem to be a simple question, but, as is too often the case, parks, often historic parks, are seen by some as open land waiting for a good idea. Think of the Metropolitan Museum in New York’s Central Park, or the proposed Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park. While these may be worthwhile institutions, using valuable and historic park lands may not be the best way to manage parks.

In Sacramento, California, historic McKinley Park was selected as the best location, not for a cultural institution, but for a sewage holding tank that is more than an acre in area and 40 feet deep. Sacramento is one of only two cities in California that has a combined stormwater and sewage system. That means heavy rains can overload the system and flood, with sewage, various neighborhoods including those around McKinley Park. No doubt this is an important infrastructure project, but why in the park? While the city gave many technical reasons, in reality it came down to being the easiest and cheapest solution. But to do this, the city turned a blind eye to the fact that this park, the city’s oldest, is an important historic resource. At a minimum, the city should have recognized it as such.

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Internship Reflection

by Anna Stachofsky

Design concept for the Burton Station Commemorative Park
An internship with Virginia Beach’s Planning, Design and Development Division included concepts for the Burton Station Commemorative Park / image: Anna Stachofsky and Planning, Design and Development Division, Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation

Last year, Anna Stachofsky served as an intern in our Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation’s Planning, Design and Development Division, where I work as a Senior Planner and had the privilege of being her supervisor during her six month stay. Anna will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture and a Minor in Communications. Anna is hands down the most dynamic young professional in our field that I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with, and I am happy to now introduce her reflections on her internship here on The Field.
– Elaine Linn, PLA, ASLA, Landscape—Land Use Planning Professional Practice Network (PPN) Chair

During the spring and summer of 2018, the Ball State University Centennial Class of 2019 for Landscape Architecture left campus in pursuit of the infamous professional internship. Seeing as I had an 8-semester scholarship that I needed to stretch across a 10-semester degree, I decided I needed to get as much professional experience as I could—an entire semester of it, to be exact—in order to save some school money and get a mental break from a very taxing degree path.

I had a fairly unique internship experience: I traveled to the Virginia Beach area in August of 2017 to visit some good friends and network with local professionals. One visit led to another, and before I knew it, I was making arrangements to move to Virginia for an entire semester. Over the spring and summer of 2018, I managed to intern under both the private and public sectors of landscape architecture. My work week consisted of training with the Planning, Design and Development Division of Parks & Recreation three days a week, while interning with a private planning firm on the other two days. Comparing and contrasting these experiences proved invaluable to me and allowed me to explore my own strengths and preferences as I prepared to transition into the fully professional realm of landscape architecture.

Whether you are a future intern, a current intern, or maybe a professional who is considering hiring an intern of your own, I believe there are universal beliefs, values, and attitudes that are true of any design profession as far as internships are concerned. Recognizing these internship truths can help you prepare for an internship, acclimate to an existing internship, and recognize the mindset of incoming interns to any design office. Through reflecting on my experiences, I intend to share with you five major takeaways I derived from the overall internship experience.

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Strategies in Implementing Green Infrastructure Design

by Aqsa Butt, Associate ASLA, SITES® AP

Wetlands
image: Aqsa Butt

Aqsa Butt, Associate ASLA, SITES® AP, is pursuing her Master of Arts in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. This blog post was inspired by her literature review for her Foundations of Public Policy and Planning class, where she reviewed articles and publications that address the topic of stormwater runoff and sustainable solutions. The purpose of the literature review was to address current gaps and limitations in knowledge and practice of sustainable strategies around stormwater management.

With the growing population density in the U.S., our nation’s waters are experiencing significant problems due to heavy reliance on grey infrastructure. The issue persists due to increased population growth and climate change. Federal regulations, such as the Clean Water Act (CWA), have relied on cities to manage their aging grey infrastructure without any control over private parcels that generate significant source of pollution by overland runoff, also known as non-point source pollution. The recent enactment of the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act is a significant step forward in influencing cities to implement green infrastructure (GI), but is that the only limitation in implementing this sustainable practice?

Resource and cognitive barriers such as lack of funding, lack of awareness and knowledge, as well as fear of new strategies create reluctance in adopting GI strategy. Though there are many cost and ecological benefits associated with GI strategies, they are undervalued due to limitations of use and absence in market value. Fear, attitudes, and perceptions also create reluctance in adopting new sustainable practices.

What are some strategies that can help influence cities to use GI strategy in managing stormwater?

A Community Participatory Process

Implementing a community participatory process will elicit stormwater objectives, meet regulatory requirements, and provide amenities valued by the community.

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Gambling on Green: A Playground Renovation in Las Vegas, Nevada

by Lauren Iversen

Kindergartners play on completed labyrinth made from donated pavers and painted by students. / image: Lauren Iversen

We are delighted that Lauren Iversen has shared her story about a low budget, heartfelt playground renovation with us. Lauren is currently an MLA student at the University of Washington. She received her BLA from Iowa State University, then worked as a second grade teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada through Teach for America Las Vegas Valley.
– Amy Wagenfeld, Affil. ASLA, Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network Co-Communications Director

Under my wide brimmed hat, with sweat dripping, I added paint, stroke by stroke, to the long wall. My legs burned sitting on the decomposed granite roasting in the hot sun. I sipped Cool Blue Frost Gatorade, hunger dissipated by 110° heat. A giant cottonwood shaded the playground in the afternoon, but at midday there was nowhere to hide. I looked behind me. Pavers in bright pink and green lay scattered about. Soon I would have to muster the energy to dig up the remaining pavers, wincing at the first attempt to lay a labyrinth. Next to the pavers, the newly planted Desert King fig reflected bright green fruit, leaves wilted trying to send all its efforts in the heat to its future. “Will these figs be around when the kids come back for school?” “Will I ever finish painting this wall?” Why did I get myself into this mess?”

In the 2017-2018 school year I found myself leading efforts to reimagine a field that had succumbed to sand from the desert heat. Working as a second-grade teacher with a BLA, a culmination of timing and tenacity led to a moment that morphed into an actual plan to build the playground. With my background, I embodied the role of designer, fundraiser, project manager, and community advocate. So, how do you build a playground without any money? In the end, the WHY was more important than HOW; therefore, it got done.

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The Fifth Shanghai Landscape Forum: Sensation

by Dou Zhang, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP BD+C, SITES AP

Past Shanghai Landscape Forum events
Past Shanghai Landscape Forum events / image: Sasaki

[活动预告与报名] 第五届上海景观论坛——感知

上海景观论坛是由Sasaki, AECOM 和 SWA 三家设计公司于2017年联合发起的主题性景观行业分享盛会。随着SOM, ASPECT Studios, HASSELL, TLS等多家国际性景观公司的加入逐渐壮大。论坛以”开拓新的实践,以催化设计创新、影响政策变革;提升公众对于景观重要贡献的认识;倡导景观行业,使之汇入社会进步的主流推动力“为使命,旨在提升景观行业的影响力,并推进行业的可持续发展。其主题覆盖景观设计行业及相关领域的方方面面。往届论坛已成功吸引设计师们就生态复育在中国的实践和挑战,景观中的文化遗产,景观与基础设施等话题交流与分享。

The Shanghai Landscape Forum is a themed sharing event initiated by Sasaki, AECOM, and SWA in 2017. The forum expanded with participation of SOM, ASPECT Studios, HASSELL, TLS, and many other international landscape companies. It aims to pioneer new practices that result in design innovation and influence policy transformation, raise public awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contributions, bring landscape architecture into the mainstream by advocating for the profession as a driving force for social progress, and build a more sustainable tomorrow. The forum covers all aspects of the landscape design industry. Previous forums have successfully attracted designers to exchange and share topics such as the “practice and challenges of ecological rehabilitation in China,” “landscape cultural heritage,” and “landscape and infrastructure.”

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