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Landscape Performance in Design Education: LAF Takes the LPS to the Academy

The Landscape Architecture Foundation is known for its scholarships and support of education that multiplies the effectiveness of landscape architects. Now LAF is helping to introduce landscape performance into design education. This fall marks LAF’s first coordinated effort to bring the concept of landscape performance into the classroom as we work with faculty at the University of Washington and the University of Virginia to educate landscape architecture students on the importance of quantifying landscape’s ecological, economic, and social benefits.

In today’s climate of downsizing, budget reductions and program cuts, providing proof of performance to the decision-makers who impact policies, programs, investments, and land development must be a critical part of design education. Students need the skills and knowledge to quantify and communicate objective data in order for landscape solutions to compete in this burgeoning evidence-based market. 

That is why LAF has teamed with Associate Professor and Director of the Green Futures Research and Design Lab Nancy Rottle at University of Washington, and Associate Professor Kristina Hill, PhD at University of Virginia to pilot methods to integrate landscape performance in university curricula.

UW’s Sustainable Urban Landscapes: Landscape Performance graduate seminar incorporates a classroom-based pilot of LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) initiative. With the assistance of two Summer CSI Research Assistants, Pam Emerson and Delia Lacson, students in the course will work with local firms to develop methods to quantify benefits and document high performing landscape projects to produce LPS Case Study Briefs. Potential projects include Hubbard Homestead, North 40 at Brightwater, Washington State University LID Center, Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park, Red Ribbon Park, and Magnuson Park. Watch for these case studies and more later this year.

At the University of Virginia, Professor Hill teaches that landscape performance is crucial to pursuing and evaluating successful design. In her Sites and Systems course, students will use the LPS this fall to review metrics that can be used to predict and/or determine levels of performance in designed public spaces. Students will also evaluate and propose other metrics based on their ability to measure diverse variables, such as aesthetic experience or walkability. Watch for new tools and calculators in the Benefits Toolkit in December.

LAF shares a vision with these talented professors of enhancing landscape design education, and ultimately leading the profession to routinely set and design for specific performance objectives, collect performance data, and document work. We thank Nancy and Kristina for taking the lead in this important movement, and for joining us in helping to prepare students to adapt to the future environment.

Contact LAF if you are interested in working with us to integrate landscape performance into your coursework. For more on this topic, look for LAF, Nancy Rottle, Kristina Hill and other CSI Fellows at the LAF Benefit, October 30 in San Diego, and the CELA Conference, March 28-31 at the University of Illinois.

Landscape Performance Series at 1 Year

It’s been a year since the Landscape Performance Series (LPS) was officially launched at LAF’s 2010 Annual Benefit by representatives of Founding Partner, the JJR/Roy Fund. Since then LAF has worked hard to build the LPS content and spread the word about this amazing resource. 

lps-launch-checkThe LPS is officially launched, Sept 10, 2010.We’ve personally introduced the LPS to over 2,000 people through 35 conferences, special events, and webinars. These include education sessions at major national conferences like the 2010 ASLA Annual Meeting, Greenbuild, CELA, LABASH, and the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, along with a host of local and regional events. While initial outreach has focused on the landscape architecture profession, soon we’ll be expanding efforts to target allied professions, nonprofits, and federal and municipal agencies. Look for our upcoming presentations at the ULI Fall Meeting, 2011 ASLA Annual Meeting EXPO, and 2011 Cities Alive Green Roof & Wall Conference.

lps-honorawardThe LPS receives an Honor Award for Communications, April 15, 2011.The extensive outreach paid off in the form of a 2011 Honor Award for Communications from the Potomac and Maryland Chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects. To date, the LPS webpages have been viewed 56,000 times by 8,000 unique users.

The Case Study Briefs now number 18 and are the most popular LPS content. Among them, Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel, Yale’s Kroon Hall, and the Menomonee Valley Redevelopment are the most visited, while Cavallo Point is the most discussed. Our collections of Benefits Toolkit tools and Fast Facts have more than doubled since launch, and we’re working to expand the Scholarly Works to include materials from both students and faculty.

lps-casestudiesThe growing collection of LPS Case Study Briefs.Even more LPS resources are coming this fall. Our summer Case Study Investigation (CSI) initiative, which matched firms and faculty-student research teams, generated 25 new case studies and a wealth of information on methods and tools to quantify benefits.

To mark the LPS’s one-year anniversary, we’ll be rolling out one new case study per weekday leading up to LAF’s Annual Benefit in San Diego on Oct 30. Visit the LPS Case Study Briefs landing page to see the latest or get our daily announcement via Facebook.

We also want to hear from you. How are you using the Landscape Performance Series? Have the resources helped you make the case for sustainable landscape solutions? Who else needs to learn about landscape performance? What would you like to see more of? Please share you thoughts in the comment area below or by e-mailing

New LAF Website Turns 1!

oldhomepage-spring08LAF homepage, Spring 2008It’s hard to believe that only a year ago LAF had an outdated web 1.0 site, valiantly chugging along though clearly well past its prime. Enter TOKY Branding + Design, and after an 6-month design and development process, voila — new look, structure, and exceptional functionality.

Since its launch, the new LAF website has had over 53,800 visits and 33,600 visitors from 152 countries. Not surprisingly, the Landscape Performance Series  (LPS) is our most popular content (54,400 pageviews), followed by the Leadership in Landscape Scholarships (42,100 views), and Olmsted Scholars Program (17,800 views).

newhomepage-aug11LAF homepage today

In the spirit of the LPS Case Study Briefs, here are some before-after photos to serve as a reminder of just how far we’ve come.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore all of our new features, here are some highlights:

  • Searchability - You can search across the entire LPS by Performance Benefit or use the additional search options within each of the four components. Our scholarship pages let you access the growing archive of past winners.
  • Interactivity - Each of the resources in the LPS has a comment area to share insights and dialog on the various case studies, tools, and reasearch. You can even share your own photos of featured projects.
  • Multi-media - Our Conversation with Leaders in Landscape videos can be watched on your computer or mobile device.

08.17.11 Designed by a Landscape Architect

img0842-sLAF staff spent a gorgeous afternoon at the Washington Monument in Washington DC, raising awareness about the landscape architecture profession as part of ASLA’s The Understory campaign, which mobilized thousands of landscape architects to plan activities across the country.

Armed with flyers and photos of the site before the award-winning redesign of the grounds, staff spoke with young people, DC residents, park staff, and visitors from across the U.S. and as far away as Australia and India, educating them on what landscape architects do and the key role they played in elegantly incorporating post-9/11 security measures in Washington DC.



Help spread the word about landscape architecture by visiting ASLA’s new public awareness website:

Landscape Performance Research: Monetizing the Value of Green Infrastructure

By Kalle Butler Waterhouse, Associate ASLA

In an era of shrinking coffers and aging infrastructure, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and American Rivers joined forces to outline a method for more accurately valuing the benefits of green infrastructure. The resulting guide, The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits, establishes a framework that gives planners, builders, and city officials the ability to choose infrastructure investments that are effective, efficient, and long-lived.

cnt-valueofgiThe guide fills an information gap that has until this point hampered widespread deployment of green infrastructure, defined here as a network of decentralized stormwater management practices such as green roofs, trees, rain gardens and permeable pavement. The Value of Green Infrastructure brings together current research on green infrastructure performance and presents methods for calculating related benefits in water management, energy, air quality, climate, and community livability.

This work extends initial research conducted in support of CNT’s Green Values Calculator, a web-based tool that quickly compares the performance, costs, and benefits of green infrastructure to conventional stormwater practices.

Working through the complex nature of green infrastructure and its benefits can be overwhelming, and a methodology can quickly become murky at best. To begin, CNT’s research team conducted an extensive literature review, much of which is in the reference section of the guide. The team then produced a report, Integrating Valuation Methods to Recognize Green Infrastructure’s Multiple Benefits, and presented it at the 2010 international Low Impact Development conference.

Working with an advisory group of outside experts in the field of green infrastructure and economic benefits of ecosystem services, the team created diagrams to represent the complex relationships of potential benefits for the five practices included in the guide: green roofs, tree planting, bioretention and infiltration, permeable pavement, and water harvesting.

gi-benefits-call-out2The research team then organized a workshop around these complex ideas. National experts brainstormed over the challenges and considerations required when working through an economic valuation of this nature. The ideas that the workshop elicited helped shape the robust layout and framework now represented by the guide, including the eight benefit sections (water, energy, air quality, climate change, urban heat island, community livability, habitat improvement, and public education) and the two-step valuation and quantification process.

CNT believes the guide is very effective in compiling the various benefits of green infrastructure and establishing a logical framework for valuation. The Value of Green Infrastructure is intended to help decision-makers begin informed conversations about the true costs and benefits of green infrastructure solutions. While the economic values it presents are based on current research, many of the estimates likely undervalue the true worth of green infrastructure. More research is needed to put more accurate dollar figures on the full range of environmental, economic and social benefits.

Download the guide at:
See the CNT Tools in LAF’s Landscape Performance Series Benefits Toolkit.

The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits was published in January 2011. Kalle Butler Waterhouse, Associate ASLA is a Design Associate with CNT’s Water program. Founded in 1978, the Center for Neighborhood Technology is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably.