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From October 2014 through September 2015, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) partnered with the General Services Administration (GSA) to evaluate the performance of the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters site on the St. Elizabeth’s West campus in southeast Washington, DC, the largest federal redevelopment project since the Pentagon. This acclaimed project earned LEED Gold certification and features an extensive stormwater management system.
GSA is charged with providing workplaces for the federal government by constructing, managing, and preserving government buildings and by leasing and managing commercial real estate. Because GSA has committed to incorporate sustainability principles — including sustainable site design and management — in all of its real estate transactions, the agency was interested in studying the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters site to test assumptions, assess materials, and understand the built condition.
The collaboration followed the model of LAF’s award-winning Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, with an academic team (Professor Christopher D. Ellis, PhD and student research assistant C. Dylan Reilly of the University of Maryland) leading the research and members of the design team (Emily McCoy of Andropogon and Brandon Hartz of HOK) lending their insights. Because of the longer timeframe, the partnership provided the opportunity for a more expansive study than what is possible through the 6-month CSI program.
The year-long partnership allowed the 31-acre site to be studied through all four seasons in order to achieve a more balanced and nuanced picture of its performance. The research looked at a variety of ecosystem services provided by the site’s most notable features: 985 new trees, over 400,000 sf of green roofs, and a 2.4-acre stormwater pond. It also assessed workers’ use of and satisfaction with the outdoor open spaces, and use of alternate modes of transportation.
The researchers used temperature loggers to record and compare surface temperatures on areas of conventional black rubber roof, sedum green roof, and green roof planted with tall grass. They also compared native plant species and average site surface temperatures to those at a traditional office landscape. For the two courtyards, they used time-lapse photography to quantify the number of people using the space and determine the most common uses. They also observed commuter traffic to document the modes used and conducted a survey of employees to determine their satisfaction with the outdoor spaces.
The products of this collaboration are a Landscape Performance Series Case Study Brief and an internal report for GSA that discusses performance, provides recommendations for site management and maintenance, and suggests areas for further research.
LAF was proud to be part of this important study and will continue to pursue opportunities for longer-term research partnerships to evaluate the performance of exemplary built landscapes.
Tum Suppakittpaisarn, a Doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is conducting a visual preference survey of urban stormwater management strategies. He is working under the supervision of Dr. William Sullivan in the Department of Landscape Architecture.
Landscape Architecture professionals, professors, and students (18 or older) are invited to complete a short survey to rate images of landscapes from seven cities across the United States. The images depict different ways of dealing with flooding and rain water. The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete.
We appreciate your participation, supporting important research for the profession!
By C. Dylan Reilly, MLA Candidate, University of Maryland
Imagine rising in a translucent elevator above a wooded, stone courtyard when suddenly a bald eagle swoops by, carefully watching for its prey. Imagine walking onto a green roof and disturbing a napping doe, which promptly leaps safely to the ground. Imagine looking up from a babbling fountain surrounded by yellow flowers to see and hear a screeching red tailed hawk. These almost primal experiences in the built environment are characteristic of the new U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The landscape encourages these experiences through its incorporation of vegetation from different Maryland regions, like the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Blue Ridge.
Last fall Dr. Christopher Ellis asked me if I would like to work with the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and the General Services Administration to evaluate the performance of this stunning landscape. As a graduate student finishing my first semester I was thrilled to have the opportunity. I come from a geology background, so it was an obvious fit. Through the course of the project I have spent countless hours reading case studies for precedent and pouring over scientific articles to understand how to develop rigorous metrics. During this process it quickly became clear how interdisciplinary landscape performance is. As researchers, we need to be able to identify the endangered species flying over our head as much as we need to know how to measure ambient air temperature.
At the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, we are looking at a variety of metrics, including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and courtyard use. We are also observing how different surfaces on-site either contribute to or mitigate the urban heat island effect. To do this, we deployed a series of eight inexpensive temperature loggers, seven on different surfaces and one to measure ambient air temperature in a courtyard.
One of the most exciting temperature comparisons is between the green roof and the black rubber roof. At over 6 acres, the green roof is the third largest in North America, and we hypothesize that its heat island and stormwater benefits are significant. As we analyze the temperature data, we will pay close attention to timing because the magnitude of the urban heat island effect is greatest on clear summer nights.
Some of the most exciting parts of our study are those metrics that involve on-site data collection, case study precedent, and review of scientific literature. Looking back at LAF’s formative A Case Study Method for Landscape Architecture published in 1999, it is impressive how much work LAF, design firms, and their research partners have done in the past 15 years to make case studies a viable way to advance the practice of landscape architecture. As someone just entering the field, landscape performance is an exciting place to be, and I look forward to working to develop more rigorous ways to measure and value designed landscapes.
Research Assistant C. Dylan Reilly is working with Dr. Christopher D. Ellis, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences & Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic performance of the landscape at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and its research initiatives will be well-represented at the upcoming Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Conference March 24-28 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
LAF will present during four Concurrent Sessions, give updates at the CELA Board and Administrators Meetings, and host a meet-and-greet for the 2015 CSI Research Fellows and Landscape Performance Education Grant recipients. The program also features a number of presentations from LAF program participants and grant recipients, speaking about their experience and findings.
Research from and about LAF’s Landscape Performance Series, Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, and Landscape Performance Education Grant program will be part of four sessions:
Concurrent Session 3 - Wed, 3/25, 3:40-5:00 pm
Landscape Performance in Design Education
Presentations: Accelerating the Adoption of Landscape Performance in Design Education
Arianna Koudounas and Heather Whitlow, Landscape Architecture Foundation
Integrating Landscape Performance Strategies into Design
Kenneth Brooks, Arizona State University
Analysis to Site Design: Landscape Performance and the Design Studio
Aidan Ackerman and Maria Bellalta, Boston Architectural College
Concurrent Session 4 - Thur, 3/26, 8:30-9:50 am
Evaluating Social Performance Through Practice-Based Research
Panel with: Skip Graffam, OLIN
Victoria Chanse, University of Maryland
Arianna Koudounas, Landscape Architecture Foundation
Concurrent Session 5 - Thur, 3/26, 10:40am-12:00 pm
Presentations Based on 2014 CSI Research and an Evaluation of Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs
Presentations: Quantification of the Benefits of the Lincoln Road Streetscape Revitalization
Ebru Ozer, Florida International University
The Social Life of Cool Urban Spaces: Learning from Sundance Square Plaza
AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Sammons Park
Taner R. Ozdil, PhD, James P. Richards, and Justin Earl, University of Texas
Performance Measurement: Cross-disciplinary comparison on definition,
framework, metric and method
Yi Luo, PhD, Texas Tech University and Ming-Han Li, PhD, Texas A&M University
Concurrent Session 10 - Fri, 3/27, 4:15-5:35 pm
Measuring Landscape Performance: Metrics, Methods, and Tools
Presentations: Keeping it Real: Striving for Accurate and Appropriate use of Tools to Measure
Mary Myers, Temple University and D. Smith
Landscape Performance of Built Projects: Comparing Landscape Architecture
Foundation’s Published Metrics and Methods
Yi Luo, PhD, Texas Tech University and Ming-Han Li, PhD, Texas A&M University
Landscape Performance Metrics and Methods: A Discussion of What to Measure
Jessica Canfield and Katherine Leise, Kansas State University,
Bo Yang, PhD and Chris Binder, Utah State
Evaluating Performance: A Guidebook for Metric and Method Selection
Heather Whitlow, Landscape Architecture Foundation
How well do constructed landscapes live up to the lofty goals established by design professionals? And how do we know? Former CSI research assistant and University of Oregon graduate student Andrew Louw is investigating this topic for his masters thesis. He is both trying to understand the role of post-occupancy evaluation (POE) within the landscape architecture profession and exploring the use of a digital data collection method for POEs.
Though environmental, social, and economic performance goals are often identified during the pre-design and design stages of a project, most projects lack effective post-construction monitoring and observation to determine if, and how well, the project’s design goals are being met. LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program was born out of a need to encourage and support design firms in assessing performance and documenting the benefits of sustainable landscape projects. CSI is now in its fourth year, and leading firms are increasingly investing in in-house research. Yet little is known about the use of and perceptions towards post-occupancy evaluation within the profession as a whole.
Louw believes a method known as Facilitated Volunteer Geographic Information (F-VGI), which is already used widely in the design process, may be well-suited for post-occupancy landscape performance analysis. The technology increases the capacity for analysis by crowdsourcing data collection to users, has relatively low cost, offers the opportunity for longitudinal study, and could be more objective than traditional methods since there is less chance for bias from volunteers.
Louw is evaluating Facilitated Volunteer Geographic Information (F-VGI) as a tool for POE by comparing it with traditional approaches like direct observation and intercept surveys. Using a LAF case study site, Central Wharf Plaza in Boston, he also sets out to develop a framework for using Facilitated Volunteer Geographic Information (F-VGI) for evaluating landscape performance.
Landscape architecture practitioners and others interested in landscape performance are invited to participate in Louw’s study by taking the following survey:
Please share the link with others!