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.
by Michael Igo, Affiliate ASLA, PE, D.WRE, LEED AP, CID
Whether it’s a fender-bender, a prescription co-pay, or a tree branch falling on our house, insurance is a part of our daily life and economy. The insurance business has been around for millennia. As landscape professionals, we often equate irrigation with an insurance policy against drought. But, when we actually apply the basic principles of insurance to irrigation, we see that the current system of water allocation for landscapes is faulty.
Consider a landscape owner deciding to install an irrigation system: they desire an “insurance policy” to avoid the risk of plant death during drought. The money paid to an installer could be considered the “insurance premium” to deliver water to the landscape. However, if we take a closer look, the real insurer is not the irrigation installer—it is Mother Nature paying out in freshwater supplies!
In the diagram below, we have a situation where the landscape irrigation owner, “the policyholder,” is paying a “premium” in the form of money, but the insurance company, Mother Nature, is not receiving these premiums and is constantly paying out in the form of water. In this case, the policyholder’s actual cost to the insurer is zero. This underscores the reality that most land developers do not pay the environmental cost necessary for Mother Nature to sustain her resources for all.
by Michael Igo, Affil. ASLA, PE, D.WRE, LEED AP, CID
In the age of awareness of climate change, we often hear the terms “100-year storm,” “500-year tides,” or “25-year drought” thrown around. Intuitively, we tend to think that a 100-year storm occurs once every 100 years. However, this is only partly true, as there are key phrases missing from this notion: a 100-year storm will occur once every 100 years on average and based on past data.
The use of an X-Year event derives from what is known in mathematics as the exceedance probability, or the likelihood of an event being greater than a predefined parameter in a given timeframe. Statistics of past data (storms, tides, earthquakes, etc.) are used to create charts based on size and the probability of occurring.
Water conservation is an important topic in landscape architecture, as its professionals are stewards of the built and natural environment for society. Without a balanced water supply, drinking water, sanitation, ecological balance, and safety cannot be secured for our existence. Thus, when we speak of water conservation, what we really mean is freshwater or domestic water conservation.
Furthermore, some of the areas of water conservation discussed below are not only about water quantity conservation, but also water quality conservation in our natural surroundings. The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true in water conservation in the sense that not only does saving and using less water in landscapes reduce the quantity of water consumed, but it also prevents poor quality water for reuse or filtering site water from being reintroduced into the environment and conserves existing precious clean freshwater for domestic uses and for habitats.
When a site is altered from its natural or previously disturbed state, the patterns of rainfall runoff and infiltration are also altered. Natural areas that were once reliant on ample infiltration can be deprived of recharge from paved and developed sites by sealing off underground soils from the atmosphere or just by increasing the velocity of water movement across a site such that runoff does not have time to infiltrate. High velocity, unmitigated stormwater flow can cause erosion of valuable land areas, transport sediment that could fill in and cause eutrophication of natural water bodies, cause damage to sites and structures downstream, and serve as a massive heat exchanging liquid as rain falls on, passes across, and carries away the latent heat trapped in urban pavement—polluting otherwise ecologically-balanced freshwater supplies and habitats.