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New LAF Program Manager

arianna-katharinePassing the Program Manager torch: Arianna and Katharine

Katharine Burgess, AICP, is entering her final week as Program Manager with LAF. Katharine has received a prestigious Bosch Fellowship and will soon depart for Berlin, Germany. She is one of just 15 young professionals selected to participate in this distinguished transatlantic initiative, which recently recognized built environment policy as an area of interest. Bosch Fellows are placed as consultants at leading public or private institutions in Germany and participate in professional seminars, where they meet and exchange ideas with key figures across Germany and Europe. We’re excited for Katharine and this opportunity and hope that she will continue to promote high-performance landscapes wherever this next stage of her career takes her. Viel Glück!

We are pleased to announce that Arianna Koudounas has joined LAF to take the Program Manager reins. Arianna comes to us from Partners for Livable Communities and brings five years of experience in program development and management, stakeholder facilitation, technical writing, fundraising, and outreach. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Philosophy and is currently pursuing a professional Masters of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at Georgetown University. Welcome, Arianna!

Sustainable Destination: Seattle - Trip Report From a City That Takes Risks

By Shannon “Miko” Mikus, Winner of LAF’s 2013 Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes

Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, suggested that, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” Seattle, Washington is a very unusual city because it does take risks, and this seems to be at the heart of its sustainable nature.

A sustainable city does more than implement curbside water infiltration and set up a complete streets program. Seattle does these things, but it does them because its people understand these actions in a wider context that accomplishes more than just supporting eco services. People in Seattle take risks and think sustainably, so sustainable things happen, proving that taking the risks is the foundation of serving a community in perpetuity.

Visiting Seattle was more than I had hoped for when I entered LAF’s Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes last year. As a father and MLA student at the University of Georgia, finding the time and means for a trip like this is a huge challenge. My small risk led to a dream get-away and fantastic educational opportunity to see some of Seattle’s top landscape architecture projects with the designers themselves.  

After arriving at SEATAC airport under overcast skies, my son, Tanner, and I  took the Link transit to the Sheraton Hotel, then walked to REI and bought rain jackets — just in case. We noted that Seattle’s comfortable walkability and biking mania, coupled with a wide variety of people, art, music, technology, and businesses, made the city feel like our hometown of Athens, Georgia on steroids. Few other cities encourage intellectual risk-taking to this degree, on this scale, mixing arts, design, business, and science while somehow binding it into a “community”.

On the second day, our distinguished tour guides Nate Cormier from SvR, Deb Gunther from Mithun, and Ken Yocum from the University of Washington showed us sites that demonstrated what Seattle is famous for: innovative streetscapes like Bell Street Park, Debbi and Paul Brainerd’s IslandWood outdoor learning school, and Richard Haag’s light touch on the lush, vibrantly green native forests in Bloedel Reserve. The guides’ intimate understandings of social, historical, ecological, and design factors made the tours revealing and meaningful. To me, this day made it clear that Seattle has been, for many decades, a place whose people revere the land and find strength in being a community and that strength allows them to take risks in defining what actions must come next.

seattle1Touring the Gates Foundation Headquarters landscape

Jennifer Guthrie and Julie Parrett started our third day in Olympic Sculpture Park, explaining the history of the park’s conception, in which Seattle families wanted to give something exceptional back to their city. The idea of giving back resonated throughout our trip. Bernie Alonzo joined us at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol) and explained that the LEED Platinum facility is located in what used to be a low, boggy backwater. When the Gates family started their charitable foundation, they chose Seattle as its headquarters, resolving to set a high standard not just for their organization’s work, but for their facility. Bernie pointed out choices that show thoughtful design and patient execution like paving design, vegetated water features, materials, and incorporating site history. 

Bob McGarvey from Northwest Playground Equipment Inc., joined us for a delicious lunch at the Plum Bistro.  We talked about American playgrounds and risky play (my Master’s Thesis subject), and discussed the landscape architect’s role in sustainable cities. As stimulating as the discussion was, I was not ready for the eye-popping display we experienced next.

Tanner loves penguins, and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo has the world’s best penguin habitat, in my opinion. Monica Lake (Woodland Park Zoo) and Jim McDonough (formerly of Studio Hanson/Roberts) showed us the unique features like the multi-stage, naturally filtered, geothermal controlled, close-loop, no waste aquarium system! These, along with superb attention to detail and program (Biscayne Group), set a new standard. Getting to touch a penguin chick made this the best zoo visit ever! Monica told us to watch for the tiger exhibit that would be starting construction next year.

seattle2Tanner, Miko, and Richard Haag, FASLA at Gas Works Park

Truly moved by the zoo experience, we followed Seattle’s hills down to Lake Union for our final tour. Since my first year at UGA, I have wanted to talk to the designer of Gasworks Park. Richard Haag does not disappoint. It was a privilege to hear him tell the stories of the teams that were built, the issues that were confronted, and the risks that were weighed on both sides. Standing on Kite Hill watching the throngs of happy park-goers, knowing that toxic waste and ancient bacteria were slowly battling beneath our feet, it struck me that Seattle is a city that “grows” people who want to do what is right on scales that affect and respect something bigger than themselves, and who take risks to strive to serve whomever will come next. That is sustainability.

My deepest thanks go to the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the distinguished tour guides, and all of the sweepstakes sponsors: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, SvR Design Company, Mithun, EverGreen Escapes, Northwest Playground Equipment, Landscape Forms, Sheraton Seattle Hotel, and IslandWood.

LAF’s 5th Annual Sustainable Destination Sweepstakes raised over $10,000 to support the foundation’s research and scholarship programs. Miko Mikus won the grand prize: a one-of-a-kind trip to Seattle with tours of 7 acclaimed landscape architecture projects led by the designers themselves. He took the trip in late May 2014.

Coming Soon: LPS Collections

collectiondetailTo bring the concept of landscape performance to new strategic audiences, promote next-generation infrastructure, and enhance the experience for the 60,000+ unique users, LAF is developing a new website to house its Landscape Performance Series (LPS) and related resources.

The new website will feature “Collections”, themed groups of LPS content curated by LAF and leading thinkers, as a new way to organize and share content. When the site goes live in November, the Collections will be fully searchable and follow the design at right. But in the meantime, we’ve put some together right here in our blog to give you a preview of this exciting new content.

So…. <drumroll>, here are our first Collections. We’ll update this list as we put together more over the coming months.

  • The Case for Street Trees
    Need to advocate for more street trees, better design tree space design, or preservation of existing trees? Here are some useful precedents and research.
  • Small But Mighty
    It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of space to have a big impact. Here we showcase some of the smallest projects in the LPS along with Fast Facts on the benefits of even modest amounts of green.

If you have ideas for themes you’d like to see addressed in the Collections, please send them to And be sure to mark your calendars for when the new Landscape Performance Series is slated to launch in November!

LPS Collection: Small But Mighty

Curated by: Landscape Architecture Foundation

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of space to have a big impact. Here we showcase some of the smallest projects in the Landscape Performance Series along with Fast Facts on the benefits of even modest amounts of green.

Case Study Briefs

centralwharfplazaCentral Wharf Plaza
Boston, Massachusetts

“At just 13,100 sf, this small plaza connects Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway with the Inner Harbor waterfront, serving some 280 pedestrians per hour. It also lowers ground-level temperatures by 10.4°F with tree canopy cover that shades 94% of the site. Pretty cool.”


asla-greenroofASLA Headquarters Green Roof
Washington, DC

The unique ‘waves’ aren’t the only thing that make this green roof seem bigger than its 3,000 sf. It is the subject of ongoing research, has hosted over 5,000 visitors, and has an extensive multimedia educational component that receives 35,000 annual pageviews.


elmeraveElmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit
Los Angeles, California

”This retrofit demonstrates that transportation infrastructure improvements can be combined with stormwater management to prevent flooding, improve walkability, and beautify the street. The street and residential properties along this one city block capture and filter runoff from a 40-acre area.”


eriestplazaErie Street Plaza
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“The City had lofty ambitions for this 0.25-acre former parking lot: create a significant public place that would become a key component of Milwaukee’s waterfront and new development in the Third Ward. The simple, inventive, and open-ended design does just that.”


Fast Fact Library

In a study of a Chicago public housing development, buildings with high levels of trees and greenery had 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes than identical apartments surrounded by barren land. The greener the surroundings, the fewer the number of crimes that occurred, and even modest amounts of greenery were associated with lower crime rates.

“The greenery in this study was trees and grass, and the research suggests the exciting possibility that small-scale tree planting and beautification efforts in barren inner-city neighborhoods could help to create safer communities.”

An analysis of the impact of greening 4,436 vacant lots in Philadelphia found that greening was associated with residents’ reporting significantly less stress and more exercise in select sections of the city.

“The vacant lots that were greened averaged just 1,800 sf in size and yet correlated with improved health outcomes.”


Research in Tel Aviv determined that the presence of trees cooled the air from between .5°F on a heavily trafficked street to 2°F in a small (.37 acre) garden. The study also found that the cooling effects could be felt up to 330 feet from the site.

“The cooling effect of small groups of trees was noticeable not only within the wooded areas but also in their treeless surroundings.”

LPS Collection: The Case for Street Trees

Curated by: Landscape Architecture Foundation

Need to advocate for more street trees, better design tree space design, or preservation of existing trees? Here are some useful precedents and research compiled from our Landscape Performance Series.

Case Study Briefs


Park Avenue/US 50 Phase 1 Redevelopment
South Lake Tahoe, California

“Streetscape improvements are part of many revitalization plans, and trees often play a big role. In this case, street trees and large planted areas complement increased building setbacks and wider sidewalks, helping to revitalize this corridor and create a scenic, pedestrian-friendly destination.”

uptownnormalUptown Normal Circle and Streetscape
Normal, Indiana

“We’ve seen many a tree go into decline after maxing out its root space, so we love that this project uses underground structural cells to give more soil volume to the 67 street trees. This is projected to triple their lifespan, saving an estimated $61,000 in tree replacement costs over 50 years.”


theavenueThe Avenue
Washington, DC

“LAF is based in DC, so we know how essential shade is for outdoor dining in the summer. Researchers counted an average of 90 individuals dining outside at any given time in summer on The Avenue’s 58-ft wide landscaped sidewalk with double rows of street trees.


Fast Fact Library

A Modesto, California study found that asphalt on streets shaded by large canopy trees lasts longer than asphalt on unshaded streets, reducing maintenance costs by 60% over 30 years.

“This research is very powerful since Departments of Transportation (DOTs) may only think of street trees as a maintenance liability.”

A study of houses in Portland, Oregon found that on average, street trees add 3% to sales price and reduce time-on-market (TOM) by 1.7 days. In addition, the study found that the benefits of street trees spill over to neighboring houses.

“In addition to public benefits, street trees provide benefits to the adjacent property owners, like the increased home sales prices documented here.”

Benefits Toolkit

National Tree Benefit Calculator
Casey Trees, Davey Tree Expert Company

“This easy-to-use online tool calculates stormwater, energy, carbon, air quality, and property value benefits for individual trees. The only inputs are tree species, size, adjacent land use, and zip code.”


i-Tree Streets
USDA Forest Service

“This free application uses tree inventory data to quantify environmental and aesthetic benefits and their dollar value, including: energy conservation, air quality improvement, CO2 reduction, stormwater control, and property value increase.”