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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 lps@lafoundation.org.

Case Study Investigation (CSI) Wraps Up

csi-v2158x129LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) Initiative offically ended on Aug 12 with presentations from the 10 faculty-student research teams. The program generated 25 new Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs, dozens of detailed, replicable methods to quantify landscape benefits, and new insights on exisiting research, tools and calculators.

Publication of the new Case Study Briefs will coincide with the 1-year anniversary of the Landscape Performance Series. Starting Sept 10, LAF will publish one case study each weekday, culminating at the LAF Annual Benefit where the 10 Research
Fellows will be recognized. Stay tuned for the official roll-out schedule.

The Summer 2011 CSI program was a pilot for a new collaborative model to document the document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects and develop methods to quantify benefits. Here are some of the reactions from CSI participants:

csi-millenniumpark “This is such a powerful model — LAF Research Fellow, Research Assistant, and Firm participant(s).”

“CSI engages more people in actively thinking about how to determine, study, report on, and promote landscape performance, rather than just passively agreeing it is a good thing.”

 “The greatest strength of CSI is its potential to bridge the gap between academia and the professional world. Educating about landscape performance is a critical component of good landscape architecture curriculum, because that is csi-southparkultimately what we want to achieve as designers.”

 “I think the CSI program will just keep getting better and better, and more influential, and that means very exciting things for the field of landscape architecture.”

This fall, LAF will pilot another variation of CSI with faculty and students at the University of Washington: The goals and approach are being incorporated into an upper-level MLA graduate seminar course, linked to a landscape performance studio.

CSI: The Evidence is Mounting

LAF’s 10 teams of Case Study Investigation (CSI) academic researchers and firm practitioners have been engaged in fast-paced data gathering and analysis to document the performance of important landscape projects in the U.S. and abroad.

csiprogressIn July, members of the Texas A&M team traveled to Chicago to conduct an in-depth, two-week study of Millennium Park, defining and calculating its social, economic, ecological and sensory benefits. Chicago has been a center of CSI activity, with three teams (including universities of Washington and Michigan) working with firms and/or projects there.

Utah State’s research team traveled to New Mexico to analyze post-occupancy data from two of Design Workshop’s “Legacy Design” community developments. In Los Angeles, SWA is lending support to the University of Southern California team in documenting the Cheonggyecheon River restoration project in Seoul, South Korea. From Seattle to St. Louis, and Denver to New York and Philadelphia – great works of landscape architecture are being documented through this collaborative effort, spearheaded by researchers at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Kansas State, and Temple University.

Although the research continues into August, preliminary findings appear far-reaching. Many teams are documenting increases in biodiversity, often in urban areas, that result from incorporating native plant species into landscape design. Innovations in harvesting, purifying and reusing stormwater are being reported in a format meant to inspire and inform Landscape Performance Series users. Often, teams’ analyses of data collected in post-occupancy evaluations, coupled with field observations, provide in-depth perspectives on landscape performance and implications for sustainability through landscape solutions. The evidence is mounting to support these other unique landscape performance benefits:

  • Job creation, educational and skills-training opportunities
  • Microclimate management to offset the urban heat island effect
  • Local economic revitalization
  • Flood protection
  • Reductions in carbon emissions and toxins
  • Public safety through reductions in crime and accidents
  • Public health through improved air quality and pedestrian accessibility

This growing community of LAF landscape performance experts – currently 10 landscape architecture faculty members, 12 student researchers, and practitioners from 22 firms – are generating compelling evidence that demonstrates the critical role landscape solutions play in sustainable design and project construction.

Case Study Investigation (CSI) Underway

LAF’s new Case Study Investigation (CSI) initiative kicked off this week with orientation webinars for participants. This unique program, which runs from June 1 to August 15, matches LAF-funded faculty and student research teams with design firms to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects.

A stand-out cast of Research Fellows will lead the ten teams, using their expertise to guide the production of Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs and develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits. LAF-funded student research assistants work with the faculty and firms to gather data, information, and images to produce the case studies.

csi-v2158x129Participating design firms include AECOM, Andropogon, Conservation Design Forum, Design Workshop, Hoerr Schaudt, HOK, JJR, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Millennium Park, Inc., SWA, and WRT. These firms provide the case study narrative for their projects and identify known or likely performance benefits. They also give the research teams access to key project personnel, clients, stakeholders, and information.

Projects to be documented include Chicago’s Millennium Park, the Kresge Foundation Headquarters, South Park Streetscape in Los Angeles, Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, and the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden.

The CSI program is highly collaborative with the goal of better integrating the innovative work being done by academia and practice to advance our knowledge of landscape performance. By investing in this research, LAF hopes that CSI can be a key impetus in moving the landscape architecture profession toward routinely collecting performance data, designing every project with specific performance objectives, and integrating landscape performance in design education.