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2016 CSI Projects and Firms Announced

LAF has selected 15 high-performing landscape projects for its 2016 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded faculty-student research teams with design practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary landscape projects.

Participants from each firm will work with the 2016 CSI Research Fellows to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic performance of the selected projects. The resulting Case Study Briefs are published to LAF’s award-winning Landscape Performance Series database of over 100 projects.

This year’s cohort comprises a range of project typologies, including three waterfront parks, a stormwater treatment facility, an EPA Region headquarters, a stream restoration, and several landmark urban parks. The 2016 projects will add unrepresented geographies — namely Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, and Canada — to the Landscape Performance Series.

The 2016 CSI program kicks off in February and runs through early August. The resulting Case Study Briefs from these participating firms and projects will be published in the fall: 

  • phippsconservatoryAndropogon's Phipps Conservatory

    2D Studio
    Fairview Environmental Park, Montgomery, AL

  • Andropogon
    Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA
    University of Pennsylvania - Shoemaker Green, Philadelphia, PA
  • BNIM
    EPA Region 7 Headquarters, Lenexa, KS
    Swope Campus Parking Lot, Kansas City, MO
  • HNP Landscape Architecture
    Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner Landscape, Auburn, AL
  • hto-parkJanet Rosenberg + Associates' HtO ParkJanet Rosenberg + Associates
    HtO Park, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Kansas City Water Services Department
    Middle Blue River Basin Green Solutions Pilot Project, Kansas City, MO
  • Mia Lehrer + Associates
    Vista Hermosa, Los Angeles, CA
  • Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
    Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NY
    Corktown Common, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • PFS Studio
    Sherbourne Common Park, Toronto, ON, CanadarailroadparkTom Leader Studio's Railroad Park
  • Psomas
    South Los Angeles Wetland Park, Los Angeles, CA
  • SWA Group
    Shenzhen Bay, Shenzhen, China
  • Tom Leader Studio
    Railroad Park, Birmingham, AL

We look forward to working with the firms and learning more about these amazing projects and their impacts!


2016 CSI Research Fellows Announced

Six faculty Research Fellows have been selected for LAF’s 2016 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches faculty-student research teams with design firms to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits and produce Case Study Briefs for LAF’s Landscape Performance Series.

csi-graphic-v2Research Fellows lead the CSI collaboration, work with firms to identify measurable impacts of select projects, develop evaluation methods, and oversee the case study production process. These select faculty members receive an honorarium and funding to support a student research assistant.

The following LAF Research Fellows will lead the five 2016 Case Study Investigation teams:

  • Charlene LeBleu, FASLA, AICP, Auburn University
  • Howard Hahn, RLA, ASLA, Kansas State University
  • Nicholas Pevzner, University of Pennsylvania
  • Kelly Shannon, PhD, University of Southern California
  • Jane Wolff and Elise Shelley, University of Toronto

We look forward to working with this distinguished group! The 2016 CSI program gets underway in February and runs through early August. Research teams will document the performance of 15 exemplary projects. Stay tuned — next week, we’ll announce the projects and firms selected for participation.

LAF Research Initiatives Win Two 2015 ASLA Professional Awards


Two of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s signature programs have been honored with American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2015 Professional Awards, which recognize top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications, and research projects from across the U.S. and around the world. This year, ASLA received 459 entries for these prestigious awards.

The Landscape Performance Series received the 2015 Award of Excellence in Communications, the highest honor in this category. The Landscape Performance Series was developed to build capacity to achieve sustainability and transform the way landscape is valued in the design and development process. Redesigned and launched in 2014 as, this unparalleled platform showcases the measurable environmental, social, and economic benefits of landscape and has become a go-to place to find design precedents, show value, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions.

                                   “It’s a living document essential to our profession.”
                                                              — 2015 Awards Jury

LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program received a 2015 Honor Award in Research, co-presented by ASLA and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches faculty-student research teams with leading design practitioners to measure and document the performance of their built projects as Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs. To date, 30 faculty, 35 students, and 57 design firms have participated, resulting in the publication of over 100 case studies.

                       “The more we say that measuring performance over the long haul
                                    is part of what we do, the more it’s going to happen.”
                                                              — 2015 Awards Jury

“We are thrilled to see our research programs achieve this level of recognition in the profession.” said LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch, FASLA. “Our work to promote landscape performance is changing the way landscape architects practice and the way others understand and appreciate the value of landscape solutions.”

The awards will be presented at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago on Monday, November 9 at McCormick Place. The complete list of award winners — along with project information, images, and criteria — can be viewed at:

Ecological Succession and Plant Choice

By Wes Griffith, BSLA Student, and Chris Sass, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky

While participating in LAF’s 2015 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, many themes came to the surface, but one stood out to us as an area directly addressable by landscape architects. That theme is the issue of ecological succession and plant choice. Ecological succession describes how ecosystems change over time, sometimes in a predicable manner, but not always. So how do we as landscape architects begin to address ecological succession through our sustainable designs and planting plans?

One of the first goals to help landscape architects think about ecological succession should be to set a long-term management plan that dictates how a landscape will be managed, including removal of invasive plants, the addition of native seed or plants, and the social dynamic of the site. Such goals were addressed in one of the projects we studied, the Lower Howard’s Creek Corridor Management Plan, which considers ecological, social and economic integrity.

A long-term management plan is necessary because succession occurs over a long time period. How long is long-term? Well for example, the second growth forest at Lower Howard’s Creek has been re-establishing since the late 1800s and we are just now starting to see some mid-successional species as early successional species are beginning to be replaced. Species such as Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) and foxtail (Seteria spp) are being replaced by oaks (Quercus spp), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) and Riparian Wild Rye (Elymus riparius). So how long is long-term? Definitely longer than our current 25-year project lifespan. This reminds me of the Iroquois maxim stating we need to plan for the seventh generation if we are to truly achieve sustainability.

The Coefficient of Conservatism (CoC) is a tool we can use to plan for ecological succession. CoC numbers range from 1 to 10, where lower numbers indicate a wider range of plant tolerance and higher numbers indicate a much lower range of tolerance. The later successional species mentioned above exhibit a higher CoC number, meaning they require a more specific habitat and exhibit a lower tolerance range. While it may seem like the right thing to do, using higher CoC plants in our initial planting plans is probably not the best idea. Unless we are certain — or make certain through costly amendments — that the specific habitat requirements are there, the higher CoC plants will not make it very long, and we will have wasted the plants and the opportunity. We see this mistake often in our profession. For example, a planting plan may call for Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), which in many areas is endangered or threatened and has a high CoC. It is tempting to plant, but will this plant not only survive, but thrive and reproduce in a new planting area? Probably not unless the habitat is within its tolerance range.

Using the CoC, we can plan plantings by assessing the stage of succession we are designing. Higher CoC numbers will require very specific tolerance ranges and habitat types, while lower CoC numbers will be much less fussy in the landscape. Looking through some of the project planting schedules for the sites we studied, we noticed that the CoC values of plant species ranged from 1 to 10, the minimum and maximum numbers. The question becomes: What have we designed for? A highly established landscape that is fairly stable? Or one that is just beginning to establish itself at the early seral stages?

Maintenance plays an important role in how we begin to plan for successional landscape designs. We have found maintenance to be an issue at two of the sites we studied. Both college campus projects, Northern Kentucky University’s Norse Commons and the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture Alumni Plaza, used native plants, and unfortunately some of the planted species have been outcompeted.

In all, as a profession concerned with sustainable approaches, we should think beyond the 25-year mark and aim more for the century mark and beyond. Let’s be more like the Iroquois and plan for seven generations.

Research Assistant Wes Griffith and Research Fellow Chris Sass are participating in LAF’s 2015 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and working to evaluate the environmental, economic and social performance of three sustainable landscape projects in Kentucky.

Landscape Innovation Paving the Way... But Not Without Some Roadblocks

By Neive Tierney, MLA Candidate, University of Texas at Austin

The three projects I researched as part of LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program all share a common story: They are progressive landscapes featuring innovative components, which caused the projects to run into barriers during construction. These obstructions arose because each project was the first of its kind in its surroundings.

Houston’s Bagby Street Reconstruction is an example of a landscape architecture project that became a catalyst for political change. The project’s extensive use of rain gardens and the designers’ decision to reduce the street width and increase pedestrian area diverged from the traditional stormwater management systems accepted in Houston. Making such a radical change to something as institutional as street design did not happen without some serious push-back from various stakeholders.

In order to move the project along, the Mayor of Houston and her staff became involved and played a large role in the completion of the project. At the Bagby ribbon cutting ceremony in 2013, the Mayor released a Complete Street Executive Order which called for changing the way streets are designed in all of Houston. The Bagby Street Reconstruction is a compelling example of landscape architecture’s influence on environmental progress. Both the client and design team were willing to take the difficult path to execute the design intent. Although this meant that the project took longer to implement than planned, its ultimate success resulted in widespread acceptance of this kind of stormwater management throughout the whole city. The design team is currently working on a similar project on the neighboring Brazos Street.

bagby-raingardenBagby Street rain garden (Image: Design Workshop)

The park at the George W. Bush Presidential Library (GWBPL) is a true example of designing with nature in mind. The design intent was to set up the perfect conditions where native ecologies could effectively “work” on their own. The first task was to establish a vital and living soil. Finding a sufficient amount of healthy soil for a project of this size was impossible, so the design team had to construct their own. With the assistance of a team of soil consultants, 65,000 cubic yards of soil were repurposed for the site. Each specific ecosystem and plant community required its own soil type. Constructed soil had to be treated like the brown gold that it is. Every precaution was taken to protect soil from overheating and becoming compacted before it was used on the site.

Another crucial component of the GWBPL landscape is the native plant material. The project is composed of large swaths of vegetation types native to the Dallas area, such as blackland prairie. Ironically, local plant vendors generally did not sell these types of native plants and as such, sourcing plant material for the 15-acre park was no easy task. Plants were sourced from vendors in neighboring states, and many of the grasses were planted from seed. The outcome of this initial obstacle is that the demand from the GWBPL was so great that it changed the kinds of plant material now available in the region, with vendors now selling more native plants.

belo-recycled-waterIllustration of Belo Center water system (Image: Ten Eyck Landscape Architecture)

The Belo Center for New Media is a facility on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Most of the campus is composed of more traditional plantings with turf lawns and many historic oak trees. Irrigation techniques are different depending on the section of campus, but the majority of campus is irrigated with potable water from the City of Austin. The courtyard landscape at the Belo Center uses a highly innovative water system. Air conditioning condensate is collected and run through a planted fountain that cleans water and circulates it back to the site for irrigation. In addition, all rainwater from the roof of the Belo Center is harvested and stored in on-site cisterns.

The sophisticated water system was difficult to implement and, in fact, did not work as planned until recently — years after the project’s completion. So many parties were involved in constructing this system that the design team had to make educational diagrams illustrating which group was responsible for each part of the system. These diagrams were posted at important locations around the site during construction. The delay in getting the system operational resulted in a much larger potable water demand than the design intended. However, starting this year, with all the problems corrected, the landscape will only be irrigated with recycled water, making it the first landscape on campus to not use any potable water for irrigation.

The innovative qualities of these projects required additional work from their design teams, but this extra effort led to projects with significantly higher environmental performance . By researching and documenting these projects through CSI, I have a clear example of the power behind innovative design. The inventive qualities of landscape architecture can not only result in a successful project; they can catalyze environmental improvements throughout entire systems.

Research Assistant Neive Tierney and Research Fellow Allan W. Shearer, PhD are participating in LAF’s 2015 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and working to evaluate the environmental, economic and social performance of three innovative landscape projects in Texas.