Making a Difference in a Non-Profit Firm Format

by Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

image: Brandon S. Peters, ASLA

Around the world, disadvantaged populations face significant struggles with climate change, pollution, conflict, and forced migration. Unfortunately, this situation is not new. What IS seemingly new is the increased emphasis younger generations are putting into doing social justice and social impact work to address struggles like these. Thankfully, this seems not to be a fad but a larger realization that doing what you love while helping those most in need is an extremely rewarding endeavor.

Traditionally most firms are set up as a PC, LLC, S-Corp, or sole proprietorship, which are all considered to be for-profit. In recent years, many for-profit firms have noticed this increased staff interest in making a difference and have launched internal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives to ensure their firm is meeting certain standards for sustainability or other goals. Some also dedicate staff time for outreach activities, which might include work for organizations like Journeyman International and Habitat for Humanity, or have a small non-profit sister organization to engage in design projects within their communities.

On the far end of this spectrum, there are a handful of firms, including A Complete Unknown, that operate solely as a non-profit entity.

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A New Home Renovation Trend: Security Enhancements

A breezeway with a rolling door links the home and garage, framing a painterly vignette of columnar aspen trees. A grid of trees line the courtyard, softened by a dense planting of ferns and native shrubs.
ASLA 2021 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Highlands Retreat. Aspen, Colorado. Design Workshop, Inc. / image: Brandon Huttenlocher/Design Workshop, Inc.

While security design as it relates to the public realm and to concepts like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) may be familiar to many landscape architects, enhancing security and privacy is also an increasingly desirable aspect of residential landscape architecture.

According to the 2022 Houzz home improvement survey, security for outdoor spaces is a new focus for homeowners, who spent 25% more on home security systems in 2021 than in 2020. Outdoor security systems are now the second most frequently installed outdoor upgrade (17%), behind lighting (22%).

A recent Forbes article by Jamie Gold about this renovation trend features Ron DuHamel, ASLA, president of FireSky and a volunteer leader for ASLA’s Design-Build Professional Practice Network (PPN).

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This Too Shall Pass: Landscape Architecture and the Green Industry in a Post-COVID World

by Michael Igo, Affiliate ASLA, PE, LEED AP

Aerial photo of the ancient city of Persepolis
The Persian city of Persepolis, ordered by Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes, designed/built by artisans / image: “Persepolis” by s1ingshot, CC BY 2.0

In 1859, presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society.  He told the fable of a Persian sultan who asked his trusted sage to summarize concisely a way to describe the perpetual and ephemeral nature of human affairs.  Lincoln continued, “They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’”

I, like all of us in the landscape architecture, green, and construction industries, could have never predicted the shift towards our business during the global COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. When we braced for the worst, many of my colleagues in all AEC sectors have experienced unprecedented growth. While we are busier than ever and despite the longer hours, we need to stop, reflect, and be grateful for the position that we are in as COVID-19 has taken a substantial toll on our society. Take a moment to remember those that lost their lives suffering with this illness, their family members who grieved their loss while in isolation, first responders and front-line medical workers, grocery and box store cashiers, stockers, and delivery persons supplying us while sequestered in our homes.  Let us remember that the business that flowed towards us flowed away from local retail stores and restaurants. We need to continue to give them our continued support in business and tips for their troubles.

After more than two years of a global pandemic and coming out on the other side, we can start to think about what is coming next and how it will impact our business and profession.

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Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture

All Frontcountry site features and interpretive content at Grand Teton National Park is fully accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities.
ASLA 2021 Professional General Design Honor Award. Inspiring Journeys for All. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. HDLA / image: Charlie Craighead

New ASLA Research Report: Free downloadable resource available for ASLA members. Self-study exam available for 1.25 PDH (LA CES/HSW).

In order to lead the planning and design of inclusive, healthy, equitable, and safe environments, landscape architects have an obligation to be aware of and work in compliance with standards for accessibility. To meet this need, the ASLA Professional Practice Committee created Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture: ADA, ABA, and Other Accessibility Standards and Guidelines as a technical overview of the national accessibility standards and guidelines.

The primary focus of this document is the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards). These standards exist within a complex web of national, state, and local governmental and non-governmental organizations’ related conventions, codes, and documents. Each entity focuses on its role in supporting and achieving greater accessibility in the environment and society in general.

The goal of this overview is to encourage landscape architects and designers to employ a wide view of accessible design. This will help designers avoid missing significant, unique variations in accessibility requirements that may apply to a project.

ASLA members can download Principles of Accessibility Design for Landscape Architecture: ADA, ABA, and Other Accessibility Standards and Guidelines for free and can purchase and pass a self-study exam to earn 1.25 PDH (LA CES/HSW).

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Chris Pattillo and HALS: Challenge and Legacy

by Chris Stevens, ASLA

Chris Pattillo stands beside first, second, and third place banners for the first annual HALS Challenge, Revisiting Cultural Landscapes of Childhood, at the 2010 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in Washington, DC. / image: Chris Stevens

The following article highlights the importance of documenting historic landscapes for perpetuity. For the 13th annual HALS Challenge competition, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) invites you to document Olmsted Landscapes. 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, social reformer and founder of American landscape architecture. By documenting Olmsted landscapes for HALS, you will increase public awareness of historic landscapes and illuminate Olmsted’s living legacy. Any site designed or planned in part or in full by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., his firm, and the firm continued by his sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Junior, is eligible.

In October 2000, the National Park Service (NPS) permanently established the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) program for the systematic documentation of historic American landscapes. The mission of HALS is to record historic landscapes in the United States and its territories through measured drawings, historical reports, and large-format black photographs. The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division preserves the documentation for posterity and makes it available to the general public. The NPS oversees the daily operation of HALS and formulates policies, sets standards, and drafts procedural guidelines in consultation with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). ASLA provides professional guidance and technical advice through their Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network, thus further encouraging involvement within the profession. Each ASLA chapter has one volunteer HALS Liaison, but chapters that serve multiple states may have one liaison per state. HALS Liaisons, appointed by their chapter presidents, provide technical and other types of assistance to carry out the mission of the HALS program.

The annual HALS Challenge competition for HALS short format historical reports is a valuable tool to fulfilling the HALS mission to record historic landscapes throughout the U.S., identifying and recording sites that otherwise would likely go unrecognized. It benefits the American public by engaging volunteers across the country to produce HALS baseline documentation of significant American landscapes for inclusion in the Library of Congress HALS collection.

Christine “Chris” Pattillo, FASLA, founder of PGAdesign, initiated the first HALS Challenge for the tenth anniversary of HALS in 2010. She wished to stimulate interest in the relatively new program and to get people involved around the country. She knew that if volunteers prepared their first HALS short format historic report and learned about the HALS documentation process, they would likely complete further documentation in the future. Progress had been made in identifying cultural landscapes during the first decade of HALS, but much more work was needed to document these designed and vernacular places.

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Make Your Voice Heard: ASLA’s Federal & State Legislative Priorities

Pink cherry blossoms and the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC
image: “Spring Blossoms @ the U.S. Capitol” by jpellgen, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All ASLA members are invited to participate in the biennial Federal & State Legislative Priorities Survey. As the national voice for the landscape architecture profession, we want to hear from you on what you think are the most important policy issues. Help determine ASLA’s federal legislative agenda and state advocacy activities for 2023-2024.

ASLA works with chapters, state and federal legislators, state and administration officials, and regulatory bodies to advance policies critical to the profession. The purpose of this short survey is twofold:

  • To formulate ASLA’s federal legislative priorities for the 118th Congress
  • To provide useful data to help guide chapters’ state legislative priorities and advocacy efforts.

Take this short survey on what policy issues matter most to you.

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Improve Your Project’s Carbon Footprint

SITES-certified Fort Missoula Park in Missoula, Montana / image: the Sustainable SITES Initiative

The carbon footprint of the built environment is often understood in terms of construction, building energy use, and transportation. However, landscapes also contain enormous potential to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change.

Studies show that with concerted global action on land use over the next decade—what the United Nations is calling the decade for ecosystem restoration—nature can be a significant and necessary part of the climate solution, offering up to 37% of the mitigation needed.

The Sustainable SITES Initiative promotes sustainable and resilient landscape development and can be used for development projects located on sites with or without buildings to enhance their sustainability, implement green infrastructure strategies and improve resilience.

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Celebrating Landscape Architecture Month in Puerto Rico

by Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

ASLA 2018 Student Analysis and Planning Award of Excellence. El Retorno a la Tierra/Going Back To the Land. Las Marías, Puerto Rico. Nicole Rivera-Ramos, Student ASLA / image: Nicole Rivera-Ramos

On April 5, 2022, I had the honor of being invited to give the inaugural speech to start the celebration of Landscape Architecture Month in Puerto Rico. My goal was to share with members of the Institute of Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico the importance of supporting the profession and how they might contribute through ASLA and its platforms.

Although Puerto Rico is a United States territory, currently there is no ASLA chapter on the island. The closest professional affiliation is with the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA). The theme of this year’s WLAM celebration in Puerto Rico was “Regenerative Landscapes”—however, I did not focus on presenting a project that integrates this concept. Instead, I focused on using the concept of regeneration—giving a new use to something, or using it in a different way to improve it—as an integral part of our concept of professional practice.

The response was so rewarding that I decided to share this speech after the event, perhaps inspiring others. My Landscape Architecture Month talk went as follows:

Everybody in this room has something in common: we are advocates of improving our natural and built environments, in our country and all around the world.

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