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Sustainability at Home: CSI Takes Its First Look at Private Single-Family Residences

By Pamela Blackmore, BLA, Christopher Binder, MLA Candidate, and Bo Yang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University

Over two dozen project types are featured in the Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs, representing landscapes from public parks and streetscapes to plazas and even zoos. Yet, despite such a prolific range, none have documented one of the most widespread and accessible applications of sustainable design for both the general public and the professional landscape architect: the single-family home. This summer, our Case Study Investigation (CSI) research team is helping tackle this new and exciting territory by investigating three privately-owned, single-family landscapes created by the firm, Design Workshop in Aspen, Colorado.

Cascade Garden: Reinventing a Landscape with Minimal Disturbance

Can a landscape architect transform a residential lot into a completely different space without destroying existing plant material, disrupting the soil, or waiting years for new, young trees to establish? The site design for this property accomplishes exactly that by utilizing a number of simple but effective techniques that strive to create a new landscape that retains the economic, environmental, and social benefits of the landscape that had been there for years. Our investigation sought to quantify these benefits through innovative methods that include assessing the value of retained or transplanted trees, determining the advantages of siting the new home on the old home’s footprint, and understanding the habitat and water quality effects of deepening rather than expanding the pond.

Riverside Ranch: Restoring Nature and History

Restoring this brownfield site from an industrial asphalt dump to a functional wetland ecosystem was no easy task. To complete the property with a quad of historical and accurately refurbished buildings dating from the 1800s was even more challenging. While restoration was the driving principle in this design, an equally important goal was to establish trout habitat. To determine how successful the design is in creating a veritable ‘fisherman’s paradise’ we explored the streams, ponds, and riparian zones created on site, delving into questions of water quality and habitat suitability.

Capitol Valley Ranch: Creating Microclimates with Natural Energy

This high-altitude landscape was conceived of as a series of outdoor living areas that take advantage of passive solar heating and sun/shade relationships to transition seamlessly with the interior of the home, a sort of modern take on the classical indoor-outdoor relationship of the quintessential Italian villa. The primary challenge for the research team in quantifying the relative success of this design approach was measuring the various factors (temperature, wind speed, relative humidity) that contribute to human comfort levels. Our approach began with selecting 66 individual points around the property at which to measure each environmental factor, then monitoring each point three times throughout the day in order to understand which areas are most comfortable during peak use times in the morning, afternoon, and evening. After gathering the data, the team assembled the information into a GIS that plotted the relative comfort of each point on a physical map of the property, allowing for a thorough bioclimatic analysis of the landscape.

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Veteran Research Fellow Bo Yang, returning Research Assistant Pamela Blackmore and newcomer graduate student Christopher Binder are participating in LAF’s 2013 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and exploring new methods to document the performance of three private residences in Aspen, Colorado.

New LAF Website Goes Live!

Yes, you are in the right place — assuming that you were looking for the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s website, that is. After an intensive 6-month design and development process, our new website is finally up and running! LAF sends out a huge thank you to TOKY Branding + Design whose knowledge, creativity, professionalism, and patience kept the whole process on track and were essential in developing this amazing resource.

We hope you like our new look and streamlined structure. Best of all, this powerful new infrastructure supports our latest initiative, the Landscape Performance Series, which, with your participation, will become a hub for dialogue on sustainable landscape solutions.

The new components we’re most excited about include:

Please add your comments to the content, or drop us a line at laf@lafoundation.org to let us know what you think.

We’re still adding content and troubleshooting, so we appreciate your patience over the next few weeks. Keep checking back as we continue adding resources to the Landscape Performance Series and information on past scholarship winners and projects.

LAF Events at the ASLA Annual Meeting

This year, LAF has a number of activities planned to increase awareness about our programs and their impact. Our 25th Annual Benefit atop the NEWSEUM promises to be a one-of-a-kind event. We’re offering a number of ways you can learn about our new Landscape Performance Series and how it can help you show the value of sustainable landscape solutions. And we’re debuting a new website and our Conversations with Leaders in Landscape videos, including a chance to participate by visiting our Expo Hall Booth. If you’ll be in town for the conference, we hope that you’ll join us for one, some, or all of these events.benefit-2009people434x358

Top Story! LAF 25th Annual Benefit
Fri, Sept 10, 7:00-10:30pm
Join us for an unforgettable evening atop the NEWSEUM, where we’ll recognize the 2010 Olmsted Scholars, launch the Landscape Performance Series, and debut LAF’s new website and Conversations with Leaders in Landscape videos. Proceeds support LAF’s research and scholarship programs.

LAF Booth at ASLA Expo Hall (#2155)
Sat, Sept 11, 9:30-5:00pm
Sun, Sept 12, 9:30-5:00pm
Stop by our booth to learn more about LAF, see our new Landscape Performance Series and website, meet the 2010 Olmsted Scholars, and register for our Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes. If you choose, come prepared to share your thoughts on camera for potential inclusion in LAF’s new Conversations with Leaders in Landscape videos.

Landscape Performance Tools Education Sessionexpobooth
Sat, Sept 11, 11:00-12:30pm
Don’t miss this session, which provides tools and ideas to help you quantify the benefits of projects and increase your impact. LAF’s Barbara Deutsch and Heather Whitlow, Deb Guenther of Mithun, and Beth Meyers of the University of Virginia present Landscape Performance Tools: Metrics for Culture and Environment. Panelists will use case studies to illustrate the value of metrics in showing environmental, social, economic, and aesthetic benefits of high performing landscapes.

Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes
Sun, Sept 12, 4:30pm
Join us in the ASLA Expo Hall as we announce the winner of the week-long trip for two to the unique Anvaya Cove community in the Philippines, valued at over $8,000. Entrants need not be present to win.

Conversations with Leaders in Landscape: New Videos Available

ss-videosdmitchellCheck out the first six videos in our new Conversations with Leaders in Landscape initiative. These videos kick off the Landscape Performance Series and feature 21distinguished leaders in the profession discussing landscape performance and sustainability.

LAF sends special thanks to AHBE Landscape Architects for their editing and technical support services, and to HOK and Landscape Forms for their help in filming the interviews.

We’ll be  collecting footage for future videos at our Expo Hall Booth (#2155) during the ASLA Annual Meeting Sept 10-13 in Washington, DC. Stop by to share your insights and stay tuned for more videos.

You can access the videos from our Conversations with Leaders in Landscape page or see them on LAF’s Vimeo page.