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Urban Green Space and Mental Wellness

May has been designated as National Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness about the importance of mental health to overall human health. Many factors contribute to mental health and wellness, including biological factors, experiences, and lifestyle, but the built and natural environments that surround us also play a critical role.

tkf-mental-wellness3Our friends at the TKF Foundation have worked with researchers Kathleen Wolf, PhD (University of Washington) and Elizabeth Housley, MA (OurFutureEnvironment.org) to produce Reflect & Restore: Urban Green Space for Mental Wellness, a research brief that draws on four decades of research.

The report is chock-full of evidence about the benefits of green space for mental wellness — from lowering stress to creating a stronger sense of community to reducing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. The research brief underscores why even small bits of nature in the city are so important.

“The key message, confirmed by literally hundreds of studies, is that across all age groups, and in diverse cultural groups, there is a recurring positive response to small scale, often unremarkable, natural settings in cities. Some responses, such as mood change or a sense of relaxation may be personally felt, while other reactions, such as reduced blood pressure or cortisol levels, are happening at the subconscious level.”

Landscape architects are paramount in creating many of these green spaces, defined in the research brief as urban landscapes, gardens, parks or any private or public spaces where natural elements are key components. We’re checking and adding to make sure that all of the research cited is part of our Landscape Performance Series Fast Fact Library, where you can find over 120 statements of landscape benefits derived from published research addressing a range of environmental, economic, and social impacts. 

Grantors Continue Their Investment in CSI

LAF has received two grants to support the 2014 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. The 2014 program features 7 research teams working to evaluate the performance of 21 landscape projects, ranging from the Atlanta Belt Line Eastside Trail to the Monticello Visitors Center in Virginia.

driehausfoundation-207wFor the second year in a row, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation has granted $10,000 to support the study of three Chicago-area projects. For 2014, these will be Palmisano Park/Stearns Quarry, Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, and the Morton Arboretum’s Meadow Lake Restoration.

artworkslogo-f3kFor three straight years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has supported the CSI program with an Art Works grant, increasing the 2014 award amount to $30,000. The additional funding will go towards the production of two video tutorials on specific methods to evaluate performance. The NEA received 1,515 eligible applications for this round of Art Works funding. Of those, 886 are recommended for grants totaling $25.8 million. LAF is one of only 51 groups and organizations throughout the country recommended to receive an NEA Art Works grant in the Design category.

Landscape Performance at CELA

The Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Conference gets underway in Baltimore later this week, running March 26-29.

cela2014This CELA conference is the first to feature a Landscape Performance track with sessions that “explore the impact of landscape projects of various types and scales through the observation and measurement of environmental, economic and social benefits.” A total of 18 presentations and panels will be part of this track.

LAF will present during two Concurrent Sessions, serve as a Research Funding Workshop panelist, host a meet-and-greet for CSI Research Fellows and Landscape Performance Education Grant Recipients, and give updates at the CELA Board Meeting and Administrators Meeting .

Research from and about LAF’s Landscape Performance Series and Case Study Investigation (CSI) program will be part of four sessions:


Concurrent Session 1- Thurs, 8:00-9:30am

Presentations Based on 2012 and 2013 Case Study Investigation (CSI) Research

Presentations:    A ‘Texas Three-Step’ Landscape Performance Research: Learning from Buffalo
                              Bayou Promenade Klyde Warren Park, and UT Dallas Campus Plan
                              Taner Ozdil, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington

                              How Does It Change After One Year? A Comparison of Benefit Composition of
                              LAF’s Published Case Studies in 2011 and 2012
                              Yi Luo, Texas A&M University

                              Park Seventeen Residential Roof Garden: Landscape Performance and
                              Lessons Learned
                              Ming-Han Li, PhD, Texas A&M University

                              Assessing Residential Landscape Performance: Visual and Bioclimatic
                              Analyses through In-Situ Data
                              Bo Yang, PhD Utah State University


Concurrent Session 2 - Thurs, 11:00am-12:30pm

Waterfront Ecologies: Opportunities and Challenges of Assessing Site Performance

Panel with:          Kristina Hill, PhD, University of California at Berkeley
                              Mary Pat Mattson, Illinois Institute of Technology
                              Aidan Ackerman, Boston Architectural College


Concurrent Session 3 - Thurs, 2:30-4:00pm

Landscape Performance Series Case Study Review and Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Prospects

Panel with:          Heather Whitlow, Landscape Architecture Foundation
                              Mary Myers, PhD, Temple University
                              Bo Yang, PhD, Utah State University


Concurrent Session 4 - Thurs, 5:00-6:30pm

One Project at a Time: Measuring Social Performance for LAF Case Study Investigations

Panel with:          Katharine Burgess, Landscape Architecture Foundation
                              Elen Deming, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
                              Taner Ozdil, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington

Vectorworks to Estimate Landscape Performance

By Doug Robb, MLA Candidate, University of Toronto

As landscape architects, we are faced with the challenge of situating our designs within a broader ecological and climatological context. A design proposal must invariably contend with the active forces of its environment, however these forces (such as rainfall, flooding, heat gain, wildlife migration, etc.) can be incredibly difficult to model through conventional CAD and BIM software. The strategy of simulation modelling is often employed, whereby multiple design iterations are compared and contrasted based on a standard rubric. Yet this form of exploratory design can be time-consuming, and is often problematised by the dual expectations placed on landscape architects to quickly represent their creative vision whilst simultaneously ensuring its performative functionality.

The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is continually looking for new tools and methods to evaluate landscape performance. LAF asked me to investigate how Vectorworks Landmark software could be used to estimate the performance of a given design. 

For landscape architects, the greatest strength of Vectorworks Landmark lies in its ability to handle a wide variety of filetypes, and to modify these external files through the built-in Site Planning tool sets. These tool sets are analogous to pre-defined CAD blocks which cater specifically to the require- ments of landscape design, from an extensive library of plant material and irrigation heads to site modifiers and grading tools. When used in tandem, these features allow a designer quickly to import a survey shapefile, modify the topography through massing models, hardscape, or planting, then begin to calculate site metrics such as runoff, cut and fill, and shading.

vectorworks-waterflow

vectorworks-reportFor example, the Hardscape Tool Set can be used to assign different materials and classes to different components of a drawing. The software can then calculate site statistics, such as ratio of hardscape to softscape, site permeability, and potential runoff by “Creating a Report” and selecting from the preloaded lists of site metrics. Using this straightforward process, peak runoff rate can be calculated using the Rational Method. Vectorworks’ built-in libraries of blocks and calculation tools make quantitative landscape analysis easy and relatively straightforward. 

Currently, Vectorworks Landmark is a powerful tool for landscape architects to assess the impact of their designs upon the environment. In the words of Carl Steinitz, this design-led approach to project evaluation is useful for conducting site analysis and generating project metrics, however it is a somewhat limited strategy for generating future design possibilities. It would be tremendously useful if the rigorous analytical functions of Vectorworks Landmark were better able to foster a decision-based approach to landscape design. For instance, a number of possible design outcomes could be generated by limiting certain variables such as site permeability or shade cover. This feature is partially available through the intelligent Massing Model tool set, which allows for data-driven design by appending building data and code requirements to flexible massing models, however an equivalent for landscape performance is not readily available. This process would not only provide landscape architects with a wider range of design alternatives, but also encourage a more participatory design process with non-specialised stakeholders, such as environmentalists or community groups. 

While Vectorworks Landmark may not have the full capabilities offered by more specialized programs such as ArcGIS or Photoshop, its “jack-of-all-trades” approach to file management and site design makes it a powerful tool for the simulation modelling of multiple proposals within a single program. I believe this fast and flexible workflow is an invaluable tool for landscape architects who wish to efficiently test the environmental repercussions of their designs. In this sense, Vectorworks Landmark allows for the rapid prototyping of landscape futures as part of both a creative process, and an analytical device.

2014 CSI Firms and Projects Announced

A total of 21 projects – submitted by 14 design firms, one organization and one institution – have been selected for LAF’s 2014 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded faculty-student research teams with leading practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects.

Participants from each firm will work with the 2014 Research Fellows to evaluate the performance of one or more built projects and produce Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs. Projects are selected based on design innovation, availability of baseline information, potential for quantified performance outcomes and the firm’s commitment to the research collaboration.

The selected projects represent a wide variety of typologies, locations and climates. The various public parks include several prominent brownfield reclamations, as well as plazas, streetscapes, creek restorations, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Learning environments include three university campus sites and two exemplar public schools designed to encourage student appreciation of the sciences. Among the selected projects, several have been recognized with SITES and LEED certifications, while others were awarded national research grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce.

The 2014 CSI program kicks off in March. Starting in the fall, look for the resulting Case Study Briefs from these participating firms and projects:

  • City of Charlottesville and the Nature Conservancy
    Meadow Creek Restoration
  • EDSAchattanooga-500w-m1tHargreaves' Chattanooga Renaissance Park
    NOVA Southeastern University
    Pompano Beach Streetscape
  • Hargreaves Associates
    Chattanooga Renaissance Park
  • Jacobs/Ryan Associates
    Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy
  • Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect
    Buffalo Public High School 305, McKinley High School
  • Morton Arboretum
    Meadow Lake Restoration & Permeable Main Parking Lot
  • Perkins + Will
    1315 Peachtree Streetatlantabelt-500wPerkins + Will's Atlanta Belt Line Eastside Trail
    Atlanta Belt Line Eastside Trail
  • PWP Landscape Architecture
    Nasher Sculpture Center
  • Raymond Jungles, Inc.
    1111 Lincoln Road
  • Rhodeside & Harwell
    James Madison University College of Integrated Sciences & Technology
  • Rick Manning Landscape Architect
    TREE Neighborhood, Eco Village at Ithaca
  • Rios Clementi Hale Studios
    Pete V. Domenici Courthouse
  • Site Design Groupcavalliere-500wSmithGroupJJR's Doc Cavialliere Park
    Henry Palmisano Park
  • SmithGroupJJR
    AT&T Performing Arts Center
    George “Doc” Cavialliere Park
  • Michael Vergason Landscape Architects
    Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center/Smith Education Center at Monticello
    Plaza at Sundance Square
  • Wolf Lighthall
    Cornell University Nevin Welcome Center