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Onsite at the Frontier Project with CSI's K-State Research Team

By Jessica Canfield, Professor and Elise Fagan, MLA Candidate, Kansas State University

Case Study Investigation (CSI) Research Fellow Jessica Canfield and Research Assistant Elise Fagan recently spent a week onsite at the Frontier Project in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Located east of Los Angeles, in the Inland Empire area of Southern California, the Frontier Project is a non-profit demonstration facility, which showcases a variety of Green technologies and sustainable design practices, including a LEED Platinum building, water-efficient gardens, a green roof, and a rainwater harvesting system.


csi-ksu2Collecting irrigation data onsite

While on site, Jessica and Elise met with project Landscape Architect Claire Latané from EPTDESIGN, who gave them a guided tour of the Frontier Project’s landscape, explaining in detail all of its sustainable features. Claire also discussed the project’s history, and provided an in-depth overview of the design and implementation process, while illuminating some valuable lessons learned. In collaboration with Shelley Cirrito, the Public Affairs Representative of the Cucamonga Valley Water District, they were able to collect data on the irrigation system, as well as the number of visitors and educational programs offered by the Frontier Project since its opening in 2009.

csi-ksu1Elise and Claire sift through project records at EPT Design in Pasadena, CA.

The researchers also spent a day at the EPTDESIGN office in Pasadena. Claire arranged for team K-State to give a presentation to the in-house studio staff (and remotely to Irvine staff) about LAF’s Landscape Performance Series. Jessica highlighted the Case Study Briefs and CSI program, and discussed her methodology for identifying and quantifying landscape performance benefits (developed from her participation in CSI-2011).  Many great questions and discussion points came about afterwards in a collaborative dialogue, focusing on how landscape performance could and/or should be incorporated into the design process.

While in LA, the K-State team met up with Barry Lehrman, the CSI Research Fellow from Cal Poly Pomona, who took them on a guided tour of the Pomona campus and the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, as well as to various sites around downtown Los Angeles. It was a great opportunity to exchange stories about landscape performance, and to share insights about the Case Study Investigation processes.

The visit to California not only gave the K-State team great clarity about the design and implementation of the Frontier Project, but it offered them opportunity for an engaging dialogue between practitioners and other academics about the future of landscape performance.

Professor Jessica Canfield and student Research Assistant Elise Fagan are participating in LAF’s 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and working to quantify the landscape performance benefits at three project sites.

Teaching Stewardship in Childhood Education

By Mark Storie, BLA, Byoung-Suk Kweon, PhD, PLA, and Christopher D. Ellis, PhD, PLA, ASLA

csi-umd1Our Case Study Investigation (CSI) research team at the University of Maryland is currently investigating landscape performance benefits of K-12 school environments. One site that we are studying is the Willow School in Gladstone, New Jersey. Teachers at the school actively look for ways to use the landscape in their class for teaching.

School hallways are probably one of the best places to view the evidence of environmental education. During our school visit, we had the opportunity to meet with second grade teacher Peter Parker who gave us a brief tour of his classroom and explained how his class uses the campus landscape and sustainable features in subjects like history, science, and English. Looking at the student work that was featured throughout the classroom and hallway, we could see just how involved his students are in actively studying the landscape.

Every year the second grade science class conducts field observations of the school’s constructed wetland pond. csi-umd2These findings are compiled and displayed in the hallway just outside of the classroom, showing students the increase in numbers and varieties of wetland fauna over the last 9 years which helps to shed light on the health of the wetland ecosystem.

In the English class, Mr. Parker’s students learn the functions of the school’s wastewater system while writing short descriptions of how the system works. Diagrams accompany the written descriptions to help students visualize how the system functions through each step in the process.


In the history class, students uncover the history of the land by excavating 1-foot grids, much as an archaeologist would do when uncovering a historical site. Over the last 9 years, Mr. Parker’s students have compiled an impressive collection of artifacts, some dating back to pre-colonial times. Students are able to view these artifacts and make conclusions about how the land had been used previously. According to Parker, when students gain a historical perspective of the school’s site, they begin to ask deeper questions about how our culture’s relationship with the land has changed over time.

csi-umd4All students at the Willow School have opportunities to engage with the landscape. Each grade level takes part in the school’s community vegetable and fruit gardens which provide the school’s cafeteria with fresh local produce. Recycling programs in the school provide roughly 280 pounds per year of nutrient rich compost that is incorporated into the community garden.

Evidence of active engagement can also be seen in the hallway. Outside of every classroom students place their outdoor boots which are often times covered in mud on rainy days. Looking down the hallway at all the boots from the many classrooms, one can see just how many students are actively engaged in the landscape.


Professors Byoung-Suk Kweon and Christopher D. Ellis and student Research Assistant Mark Storie are participating in LAF’s 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. Their case studies will quantify the benefits that school landscapes have on school children, teachers, staff, their surrounding communities, and the enivornment. 

Piecing Together the Performance of Streetscapes

By Yue Zhang, MLA Candidate and Pamela Blackmore, BLA Candidate, Utah State University

csi-usu1USU's CSI Research Team: Pamela Blackmore, Yue Zhang, and Professor Bo Yang

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once proclaimed, “I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets.” We likewise have developed an appreciation for great streets in our research which has focused on four top-notch streetscapes. They are not merely the linear corridors that connect destinations. A well-designed street improves recreational opportunities, promotes the surrounding economy, provides art and social spaces, saves energy for the city, improves public safety, and helps solve stubborn environmental problems. It is intriguing to see the impact a street has on surrounding communities.

csi-usu2South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri (Image: Design Workshop)

With the power that streets have, many parties must be involved in the design. The evaluation of a streetscape also becomes an intertwined, multi- disciplinary effort. This process becomes one massive jigsaw puzzle, with everyone bringing a piece. However, unlike a traditional puzzle, the pieces do not come prepackaged. Collaboration becomes essential as we hunt for pertinent data. The Case Study Investigation (CSI) program is not merely student-faculty research; instead, it is a team effort of the design firm, client, users and visitors, government agencies, the research team, and LAF (and the list goes on…). As you can imagine, having discussions with everyone that contributed to an incredible design is exhilarating! Many people bring valuable pieces to the puzzle table.

Once we’ve found the pieces, analyzing them is the most challenging, yet rewarding part. It is this stage where the performance benefits become apparent. The projects are not analyzed against some standard set for all. Instead, a project is deemed successful based on the original objectives the design set out to fulfill.  This analysis is taking evidence-based design to a new dimension, and we are learning new methods to gauge the quality of our own work.  This is the reason we will never approach design the same way again.

The information we’re generating can be used as evidence to justify landscape improvements everywhere. It is exciting to participate in this research, which is preparing landscape architects for the future. There are some holes in our puzzle, due mostly to time and data constraints. We will closely watch future LPS Case Study Briefs in anticipation that participants will find new methods and techniques so that everyone can see the complete picture!

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Pamela and Yue reflect on the CSI research process and what they've learned by participating in CSI.

Professor Bo Yang and student Research Assistants Yue Zhang and Pamela Blackmore are participating in LAF’s 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. They are documenting the performance of four streetscape projects in Colorado, California, Missouri, and Iowa.

Setting the Stage to Evaluate Performance: Chatham's Eden Hall Campus

Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus will be the first sustainable university campus built from the ground up and the home of the university’s new School of Sustainability and the Environment. As part of the 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, researchers at Chatham are working with designers at Mithun to collect baseline data and setup research protocols to evaluate landscape performance over the long-term.

The research is led by Molly Mehling, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Sustainability, working with student Research Assistant Kaitlyn O’Neill and collaborating with faculty from a number of disciplines. The research team will collect background and baseline information, outline the expected landscape performance benefits, and develop protocols that Chatham can use to measure them over time.

csi-chatham1Eden Hall Campus Phase 1 (Mithun)

The Eden Hall Campus encompasses 388 acres in Richland Township, about 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh and Chatham’s main Shadyside Campus. The Master Plan for the site, which incorporates state-of-the-art sustainable technology rooted in the principles of permaculture, biophilia and integrated watershed planning, was done by Berkebile Nelson Immenschuh McDowell (BNIM) and Andropogon Associates and approved in June 2011. Mithun is providing architecture, landscape architecture and interior design for the first phase of the campus (~100 acres), with construction slated to start this summer.

csi-chatham2Rendering of New EcoCenter (Mithun)

The Phase 1 landscape will incorporate SITES best practices and advanced green infrastructure systems such as raingardens, constructed wetlands, composting toilets, geo-exchange systems, food production and aquaculture systems. The design will preserve and protect soils and support habitat for forest, meadow and agricultural areas. Rainwater catchment and treatment will reduce potable water needs for the project, and wastewater will be treated and dispersed on lot, with reuse of appropriate elements as fertilizer and soil enhancement. Phase 1 also includes 18,000 sf of classroom, office, library, café, lab and gathering space. Each building is designed to meet a combination of Living Building Challenge, Passive House, Net Zero and LEED Platinum ratings.

While the CSI program typically focuses on quantifying the benefits of built landscapes, this collaboration is being used to test and develop guidance for those at the stage in the design and construction process in which there is a completed design that has not yet been built. As part of their CSI work, Molly and Kaitlyn will develop a set of guidelines for designers, clients, academics, and other stakeholders who want to set up longer-term research to evaluate a project’s performance. LAF is thrilled to be part of this collaboration and to help set the stage for years of innovative research on the benefits of landscape at this model campus for sustainable learning and living.

LAF Receives NEA Art Works Grant for CSI

artworkslogo-f3kThe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is one 38 national, regional, state, and local nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Art Works grant in the Design category.

LAF is recommended for a $25,000 grant to support the Summer 2012 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded student-faculty research teams with leading practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Ten research teams will participate in the Summer 2012, and the NEA grant will fund half of the $5,000 stipend paid to the student Research Assistant on each team.

“We are thrilled that NEA is investing in this research to show the environmental, economic, and social value of exemplary design,” said LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch, ASLA.

The NEA received 1,624 eligible applications for this round of Art Works funding. The 788 Art Works grants total $24.81 million and support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. Visit the NEA website for a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support.