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Top 7 Back-to-School Case Studies

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down, and that in some places classes have already begun. To celebrate the upcoming schoolyear, we’ve compiled a collection of LPS Case Study Briefs on school and campus projects that showcase the environmental, economic, and social value of sustainable landscapes. Here they are, each with one key landscape performance benefit highlighted…


The Willow School - Gladstone, NJ

Engages all 250 students in an educational curriculum that includes landscape processes and ethics. When a sample of students were asked to list environmentally-friendly features of green buildings, 82% listed landscape features such as rainwater harvesting, composting, vegetable gardens, or wetlands.


Brent Elementary Schoolyard Greening - Washington, DC

Introduced 1-2 hours per week of outdoor classroom experience for grades 1-5, and 4-5 hours per week for preschool and kindergarten. Sixteen classes use the “Nature Classroom” for subjects ranging from science to art, music, and English.


TJU Lubert Plaza - Philadelphia, PA

Increases satisfaction with TJU as a workplace/university, with 81.2% of respondents saying that the presence of the plaza probably or definitely increased their satisfaction and 88% reporting to feel more positive after spending time in the plaza.


The Dell at the University of Virginia- Charlottesville, VA

Reduces sediment and nutrient loadings downstream, reducing total suspended solids by 30-92%, phosphate by 23-100%, and nitrate by -50-89% according to water sample data.


Yale University’s Kroon Hall - New Haven, CT

Saves 634,000 gallons of potable water each year by eliminating the need to use potable water for irrigation and, in concert with water-conserving plumbing fixtures, reducing the building’s potable water use by 81%.


University of AZ Sonoran Landscape Laboratory - Tucson, AZ

Reduced potable water use for irrigation during the desert establishment period (first 3-5 years) by 83%, or 280,000 gallons annually. After the establishment period, the need for potable water in irrigation should be eliminated.


Gary Comer Youth Center - Chicago, IL

  • Produces 1,000 lbs of fruits and vegetables annually. Food from the rooftop feeds 175 children at the center each day, is distributed among four local restaurants, and is sold at a local farmers market.

In Sept/Oct, look for 20+ new Case Study Briefs as we publish the products of the 2013 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program.

LPS on the Road: EDRA and Upstate New York

Over the past month, LAF has presented the Landscape Performance Series to landscape architects, design researchers and other built environment professionals across the northeast, including conference visits in Providence and Rochester.

edra44In Providence, LAF participated in the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) 44th Annual Conference, presenting on the Case Study Investigation (CSI) program as part of a panel with researchers from the University of Maryland and firm liaisons from EDSA, Reed Hilderbrand, and Sasaki. The presentation focused on the experience of these CSI participants, who worked together during the summer of 2012 to study and document the performance of three diverse projects:

The panel discussed opportunities and challenges in evaluating landscape performance. The designers from each firm spoke about their approach to researching their project’s performance, their reaction to receiving the performance data, and how their work has changed since.

Eric Kramer, of Reed Hilderbrand, explained that prior to CSI, “we talked about how projects performed, but we didn’t use those words… The value of CSI, was in part, to give us the language with which to have these conversations.” Of particular interest to Kramer were the CSI research team’s findings on Central Wharf Plaza’s effect on traffic safety: The number of accidents decreased from six in the years prior to the project, to just one in the years after completion.

Derek Gagne, of EDSA, explained how the experience of trying to gather performance data for Castiglion de Bosco led his team to incorporate performance metrics into projects from day one. The panel also discussed the larger issue of translational research as it relates to landscape architecture.

upstatenyconfLAF's Barbara Deutsch with NYU ASLA's Joy Kuebler in front of the living wall at RIT's new Golisano Institute for Sustainability.

The next week in Rochester, LAF led a half day workshop for the New York Upstate ASLA Chapter’s “No Excuses” conference. The conference focused on green infrastructure, with presentations from LAF and experts from design firms, engineering firms, and industry. NYU ASLA President-Elect Joy Kuebler explained that “our goal for this event was to provide every opportunity to equip as many landscape architects with the basic knowledge and confidence needed to become green infrastructure community leaders at a price point that was affordable – hence the name ‘No Excuses’.”

LAF’s workshop introduced participants to the concept of landscape performance, the resources in the Landscape Performance Series, and the process of evaluating performance to show impact. Each participant brought in a project and used the full-morning session to analyze it and develop a research plan to document its performance.

As Kuebler summarized, the intensive workshop covered “how to use this incredible online resource to not only inform design, but to showcase the work that high performance landscapes do.” The workshop enabled “the group to critically examine their own projects and review their environmental, economic and social performance… This was an amazing opportunity to see how the documentation of our work contributes to the body of knowledge that defends the role of landscape architecture in the built environment.”

If you are interested in engaging your colleagues in dialogue on landscape performance, LAF would be happy to visit or schedule a webinar with your firm, organization, or university. For more information, contact us at

LPS Case Studies: A Preliminary Analysis

As LAF gears up to begin analyzing the collection of 50+ Landscape Performance Series (LPS) Case Study Briefs per the $22,500 cooperative agreement with researchers at Utah State, Temple, and Kansas State University, we did a few quick in-house analyses and thought we’d share the results.

The word cloud below shows the performance benefits represented in the first 50 Case Study Briefs, weighted by frequency. Stormwater management, water conservation, social & recreational value, and educational value are the most commonly quantified benefits. The least common are scenic quality/views, habitat preservation, and air quality benefits. To some extent, the benefits depend on the type of project — for example, a schoolyard would be expected to provide educational value, whereas a private residence likely would not — but more often the benefits simply reflect what data and information is available for each project.


Participants in LAF’s Case Study Investigtion (CSI) program, which has produced two-thirds of the LPS Case Study Briefs, are charged with conducting field observations, scouring achives and public datasets, and interviewing clients and users to evaluate the performance of projects. Through their expertise and ingenuity, they have found or developed dozens, if not hundreds, of methods for determining performance benefits. Some of the most commonly-used ones described in the case study Methodology documents seem to be:

We’re excited to work with the USU/Temple/KSU researchers to conduct a deeper examination of the metrics and methods in the collection of Case Study Briefs to gain insights and develop guidance that will make the evaluation of landscape performance more accessible to all.

CELA Conference Session Wrap-Up

Last week at the annual Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Conference in Austin, Texas, LAF presented new insights on landscape performance gleaned from the Landscape Performance Series (LPS) and the Case Studies Investigation (CSI) program.

cela2013Executive Director Barbara Deutsch and Programs Manager Linda Ashby participated in four sessions, presenting alongside past CSI Research Fellows, student Research Assistants, and other colleagues. LAF’s sessions at CELA included panels on evaluating landscape performance for environmental, social, and economic benefits, as well as a panel on applying science to design for and evaluate performance. These sessions offered participants an introduction to both the LPS and CSI research programs, and a critical look at the research methods employed.

The first session introduced CSI and the concept of quantifying performance benefits. The session offered the opportunity for audience members to discuss the program’s approach, as well as participants’ strategies for quantifying specific social, environmental and economic benefits. Participants introduced their own experiences: for example, Jessica Canfield (Kansas State University) presented her CSI research evaluating the Frontier Project, a demonstration project in California which seeks to encourage visitors to incorporate energy efficient and water-wise practices in their homes. Canfield’s team studied the site’s rainwater infiltration, irrigation water needs and projected carbon emissions and analyzed attendance records and surveys with on-site employees. Canfield and others, including Mark Storie (University of Maryland), also discussed their strategies for obtaining data and the varying levels of data availability at different types of sites.

Many of landscape performance sessions focused on research methods. At the panel on environmental performance, Barry Lehrman (Cal Poly Pomona) described his experience “measuring the (not so) unmeasurable,” introducing the tools used by his CSI research team, including affordable temperature gauges and water quality meters. In response to presentations by Lehrman and his fellow panelists, moderator Kristina Hill, PhD (UC Berkeley) described the recent context for measuring landscape performance, noting that until recently many metrics were discipline-specific, leading to “very little synthesis.” She challenged those attending the session to “be critical in our reflection on these metrics” so researchers could continue to advance their strategies and obtain a holistic understanding of the benefits of landscape design.

cela-panel1Participants in CELA sessions also discussed means of communicating the concept of landscape performance benefits to policy makers, other design professionals, and the general public. Presenting in a panel on economic benefits, Dennis Jerke (Texas A&M) noted that “we have to be good communicators… and explain what the metrics mean and how the value has been generated.” Similarly, Mary Myers, PhD (Temple University) noted that comparing a project’s performance to its initial goals can be a helpful strategy for engaging clients and others in the discussion. To Myers, “the metrics should measure the extent to which goals were met” whether in terms of stormwater mitigation, improved biodiversity, economic development or public access.

LAF looks forward to continuing the dialogue started at CELA Conference and bringing the new insights to the 2013 CSI program and its participants.

LAF Awards $22,500 to Analyze LPS Case Study Briefs

LAF has awarded $22,500 in cooperative agreements to researchers at Utah State University, Temple University, and Kansas State University to analyze the collection of 50+ Case Study Briefs in the Landscape Performance Series (LPS). The researchers will conduct both a content analysis and a quality assessment to: (1) identify gaps in the benefits and methods that are being addressed, (2) identify metrics that could be used to fill those gaps, and (3) make recommendations to improve the validity and reliability of the methods used to enhance the rigor of future LPS case studies.

lps-grant-anncmnt-350The content analysis will be led by Principal Investigators Bo Yang, PhD, Utah State University and Mary E. Myers, PhD, Temple University, who will review the Case Study Briefs, create a database of case study information, identify missing or under-investigated benefits, and conduct a literature review of empirical studies to uncover available methods/metrics/tools that could be used to quantify the missing benefits. Products include a database and illustrative guide to the LPS Case Study Briefs and their associated benefits.

The quality assessment will be led by Principal Investigators Bo Yang, PhD, Utah State University, Jessica Canfield, Kansas State University, and Tim Keane, PhD, Kansas State University, who will evaluate the methods used to quantify performance benefits in the Case Study Briefs. The researchers will evaluate the methods for their technical merit, applicability in a professional context, and overall strengths and weaknesses. The team will also solicit practitioners’ input to better understand what types of data firms are capable of capturing, from what sources, and through what processes. Based on this information, the researchers will make recommendations to improve the rigor of the quantification of benefits and develop guidance on appropriate methods for future landscape performance assessments.

The research conducted as part of these cooperative agreements is expected to take about a year. The results will be published on the LAF website, presented at professional and academic conferences, and disseminated through other peer-reviewed venues.