Author: Jill Bellenger, ASLA | LEED GA

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12 Eco-friendly Ways to Design an Outdoor Space

Whenever I’m designing for a green-minded client, which happens to be my favorite kind, it’s nice to have some great pieces handy for inspiration. Thankfully, commercial stores are incorporating a few amazing options, making browsing for site furnishings easier and a little more fun. Most of the pieces pictured here are high in recycled content or made of rapidly renewable resources.

1. Wood Candles, Pottery Barn (

2. Vintage Grape Crate, Terrain at Styers (

3. Alder Round Table, Brent Comber (

4. Vintage French Bistro Set, Terrain at Styers

5. Recycled Glass Lanterns, West Elm (

6. Pottery Barn Earth-Friendly Teak Dining Set

7. Willow Edging, Terrain at Styers

8. Box-weave Hurricane, Pottery Barn

9. Jute and Reclaimed Leather Rug, Pottery Barn

10. Braided Jute Rug, West Elm

11. Wildfire Acacia Table, New Makers Original (

12. Vintage Steel Bench, Terrain at Styers

Sustainability in the Sports Arena

With the World Cup 2010 officially underway in South Africa, it’s got me thinking of another country planning to host their own set of worldwide sports events: Brazil. Two of the largest sporting competitions in the world, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, , will be held there. Brazil has made it their goal to create and adopt strict environmental criteria for the design and implementation of these events, going down the list from promoting organic products all the way to neutralizing all greenhouse gas emissions. Have you ever heard of net-zero Olympics?? I’m game.

There are certainly some wacky designs out there that deserve to be shared. Here is a great set of articles all about the venues for additional reading:

Solar City Tower by RAFAA

Sweet video of the Olympic venues If you scroll down a bit, you’ll even see videos promoting the runner –up cities of Chicago, Madrid, and Tokyo.

Fouls and Goals for Climate Change at World Cup

Want Help Paying For School?

I’d like to take the opportunity to share the course of my life these past few weeks. A couple days after my last post, I discovered that I’d been accepted into a Sustainable MBA program. Hurrah! At first it was exhilarating. Then it dawned on me that I’d better get cracking on my FAFSA, among other things. For all those in school or planning on going to school, read on to get a little help on the money side of things.

First things first, check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA for short) form, now available completely online at I swear it is much less painful than it used to be, and was certainly less painless than doing my taxes this year! All you’ll need really is your last tax return handy, and some uninterrupted time in front of the laptop. The rest they really explain step by step, and even let you save to come back later.

If you’ve got the free time, searching for industry-, location-, or need-based scholarships, fellowships or grants could save a ton. Because I will be entering into the program this fall, most of these applications are going to have to wait till fall or next spring while I’ve been in it for almost a year. Whether you’re an undergrad or grad, here’s some places I looked and what I’ve found along the way:

American Nursery & Landscape Association scholarships offered through the HRI Endowment Fund

Landscape Architecture Foundation

Internship or Fellowship programs for MBA candidates

Garden Club of America Scholarships and Fellowships

Switzer Foundation Fellowship Program

Learn about other loan forgiveness programs now offered

Also check with your local Higher Education Council or DOE. There, you can find scholarships are awarded for both the state you live in and the state you’re interested in attending school.

As for the relentless search for the perfect school, The National Center for Education Statistics has a great resource for you called the College Navigator. It allows prospective students the chance to browse colleges by location, programs offered, tuition, and many others. Be sure to use this tool as an initial indicator of whether you’d be interested in the school, but also know that the site takes averages that may not hit your specific program’s tuition right on the mark. Contacting the school directly will get you the best answer once you’ve narrowed your search.

If there is anything I’ve missed, please post it here to share!

Natural Home Magazine Releases America’s Top 10 Best Green-Built Neighborhoods

Image: Mosier Creek, OR

The editors of Natural Home Magazine have compiled a comprehensive list of what they agree to be the best examples of green neighborhood designs. While the buildings in these developments tend to be quite energy efficient, landscape designers and planners also had a huge part in the ultimate success of how they all work seamlessly together. The list is riddled with expansive pedestrian and bike paths, community veggie gardens, and eco-conscious stormwater systems and natural habitat restoration programs.

The majority of these neighborhoods have become certified in either a LEED rating system or a under a number of local green building programs. While LEED may have focused its efforts on greening building systems in its first decade or so, the USGBC has grown to encompass whole housing developments and their connectivity to local communities. It is becoming more and more unlikely for planners to design a building complex or neighborhood that falls under the “middle of nowhere” conundrum.

The connectivity of spaces is something that really draws me to these neighborhoods. In some ways it’s like going back to when the neighborhood was a multi-functional place not just to call your home, but to also do your grocery shopping, playing, and eating without using fossil fuels to get around. Places like Beacon Hill in Boston, a city that is sometimes even called “a city of neighborhoods”, where pocket parks and playgrounds provide little urban oases of green space. Philadelphia is doing their part by sticking to their Greenworks Plan, which among other targets is planning to bring local food within 10 minutes of 75% of residents by 2015, and increasing tree coverage toward 30% in all neighborhoods by 2025.

See the list here: America’s Top 10 Best Green-Built Neighborhoods

10 Ways To Keep Up the Momentum

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, right? That’s how my partner and I are looking at it these days with the economy being as it may. We’re at the point of waiting on a ton of projects to drop, so it is a great time to reassess all aspects of our lives and business. While we sat down to put together a nice long list of our priorities, I thought I’d put together another list that could apply to just about anybody in the land8lounge world. Hopefully this list of free or nearly free options keep you inspired to start something new, and perhaps propel you or your business to exciting uncharted waters:

1. Join, or even start, a Green Drinks chapter (it’s free and they’re sprouting up everywhere):

2. Volunteer for Earth Day this month, at a Community Garden, or for a non-profit in your area

3. Brush up on your presentation skills by offering to speak at an event of your choosing

4. Brush up on your marketing material or create an online portfolio (see here)

5. Enroll in a design competition, i.e. Garden Design’s Green Awards that are taking submissions until May 1:

6. Attend an LARE practice session… June is coming soon, folks

7. Find a unique building or garden you want to explore, and see if you can get a tour

8. Find a designer or firm that really inspires you and find out what makes them tick

9. Look up specialty certificate or continuing education programs, or beta exams offered for free or at a lower rate

10. Take it a step further and write about your new experience in any paper or online format, maybe even here on the site!

Is Our Flagship Publication Sending Out the Right Message?

Like many landscape designers and architects, I receive the Landscape Architecture magazine on a monthly basis. But I have to say that over the past year or so, I’ve been less inclined to read it. It’s not because the case studies or product information isn’t important to me or that it’s not relevant to the profession; it’s because there seems to be this glaring disparity between what goes on in LA mag land and the real world. Take this excerpt from a much appreciated reader in this month’s Letters to the Editor, written by Buck Pittman, ASLA of Jacksonville, FL:

“Am I missing something in Landscape Architecture? Where have been the articles and commentary concerning our profession within the worst economy since the Depression? To read our flagship publication each month, no one would guess there’s anything wrong at all – but there most certainly is… This profession is in the middle of a major reshaping because of this economy and Landscape Architecture seems to be missing it…”

He goes on to say, “I urge you to take a much bolder step toward engaging our circumstances in this most difficult time and letting us know you care.”

At first I thought, YES! This means there will be more content on what we really want. But the reality check has not come in the mail yet. The magazine may be letting the comments in but they’re not changing their approach.

What I think we would all benefit from learning about in addition to the project pieces are some real hard facts. Industry data about our profession as it relates to the economy, which sectors are hiring and which are remaining stagnant, direction for new graduates throughout the country and the world, or even a valuable section on how to create such systems as green roofs and bioretention ponds, not simply the finished product.

I believe it was ASLA that posted not too long ago that Landscape Architecture was one of the top fields to work in. Maybe it’s time to see the facts behind the figures and for Landscape Architecture to show us that they’re really listening.

Are We There Yet? Landscape Architects and LEED

Jill Bellenger, ASLA, CPH

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, can still be a bit of an enigma. Depending on who you’re talking to, landscape architects are either considered an integral part of a project’s LEED certification process, or a superfluous afterthought. And ironically, these views seem to come from some of the landscape architects themselves, as they ponder their implications in such a building-based program.

Just browsing through the LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) credit template, it certainly does appear to be heavily weighted towards a building’s interior systems. But a closer look reveals the real impact and may help increase understanding of this ‘green by nature’ profession.

Under the new LEED-NC v3, landscape architects are the primary or secondary responsible party for the majority of the credits in the Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency categories:

Site Development (SSc5.1 & 5.2) for 2pts

Stormwater Design Quantity and Quality (SSc6.1 & 6.2) for 2pts

Heat Island Effect Roof and Non-Roof (SSc7.1 & 7.2) for 2pts

Light pollution reduction (SSc8) for 1pt

Innovative wastewater technologies (WEc2) for 2pts

Water Efficient Landscaping (WEc1.1 & 1.2) for 4pts

As well as a major contributing party towards these critical areas when relating to site issues:

Sustainable Sites prerequisite

Site selection (SSc1) for 1pt

Development density and community connectivity (SSc2) for 5pts

Brownfield redevelopment (SSc3) for 1pt

Alternative Transportation – Public Transport. Access (SSc4.1) for 6pts

Alternative Transportation – Bicycle Storage (SSc4.2) for 1pt

Alternative Transportation – Parking Capacity (SSc4.4) for 2pts

Construction Waste Management (MRc2) for 2pts

Materials Reuse (MRc3) for 2pts

Recycled Content (MRc4) for 2pts

Regional Materials (MRc5) for 2pts

Rapidly Renewable Materials (MRc6) for 1pt

Certified Wood (MRc7)for 1pt

Not including the innovation and design process category or the varying regional credits for each state (a total of 10 additional points), a landscape architect has a hand in attaining up to 39 of these 90 LEED-NC points, or over 40%.

Bringing it all Together

To further emphasize the importance of site design, the American Society of Landscape Architects teamed up with the Texas-based Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 2005 to introduce a new comprehensive program based on sustainable land development and management principles. Called the Sustainable Sites Initiative, or SSI, the program is meant to be implemented whether there is a building on site or not, such is the case for parks and ecological restorations.

April Phillips, founder and principal of April Phillips Design Works based in Sausalito, CA, was instrumental in forming the SSI. She states that, “the SSI will be one of the first rating systems to consider human health and well being outside of a building. Its landscape aim is to design more regenerative sites and systems that ultimately could be net zero or better.

“[The Sustainable Sites Initiative] represents thousands of hours with input from 37 technical advisors in hydrology, vegetation, soils, materials and human health and well being. These credits were tailored to apply to any landscape…as a stand-alone system, but is also being designed to fit into the future LEED bookshelf system.”

Another big development coming from the US Green Building Council is the first LEED rating system to focus on the certification of entire neighborhoods, rather than one building at a time. LEED for Neighborhood Development, or LEED-ND, is currently monitoring nearly 240 neighborhoods through the pilot program, 61 of which have become certified as of March 1, 2010. Because of the scale of these neighborhood projects, certification is in a series of three stages, and projects may obtain a preliminary certification before end of construction.

Much like the LEED for Commercial Interiors, or LEED-CI, rating system is heavily reliant on involvement from interior designers, the LEED-ND system brings landscape designers and planners into the forefront. With credit categories such as Smart Location & Linkage, and Green Construction & Technology, this system aims to improve the way we design our communities, making them more sustainable for the future.

For more information:,, and

This article originally appeared in 3 Design Consulting’s e-newsletter, Sustainability Monthly Report. It has been updated to reflect new industry data. To subscribe to the newsletter, email with ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.

Free Online Portfolios; Saving Paper and Cash

Looking for a job in a tough economy can be a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve updated your portfolio. Luckily, with a little computer know-how, a USB full of jpgs, and a few hours to kill, you can create a nifty online portfolio without the costs of printing (and reprinting, and reprinting…).

Think of it as if you were creating a portfolio for your own start-up company. What do you look for when sifting through a prospective employer’s website? Bright, colorful images and a clear description of the projects they’ve handled can be an extremely useful and persuasive tool when you’re marketing your business, much is the same on the flip side when marketing your design skills to employers.

There are some great sites out there that can really give you a bang for your buck, or in most cases give you a bang for free:

· Mac’s iWeb ( is a there for all the Mac lovers, allowing users to create web-based portfolios and webpages to suit their individual personalities.

· Online portfolio provider Carbonmade ( has a two-tiered system. For those that want the free version, there’s the ‘Meh.’ which includes up to 5 projects and 35 images, or for a small monthly fee there is the aptly-named ‘Whoo!’ that allows users the freedom to display over 50 of their favorite projects, 500 high-res images, and 10 high quality videos.

· Using free weblog sites like WordPress ( and Blogger ( may be a little trickier to get the format you want but as long as you’re up for some creative thinking, this could be just the right fit.

See image above for an example of my work in progress at Carbonmade. After having used WordPress as well, I found the Carbonmade site quite a bit easier to create. Although I appreciated the availability of bar tabs and hyperlinks on WordPress, the image quality and clean look is what I’ve enjoyed about Carbonmade.

One of the great benefits to utilizing a web-based portfolio is the opportunity of knowing who your viewers are. Free programs like StatCounter and Google Analytics keep a record of viewer activity so you won’t be left wondering if hiring managers are taking the time to check out your masterpiece. And believe me, they will. If you provide them with a simple web link, as opposed to a document that’ll most likely be a huge file, this creates an ease of use that hiring managers appreciate.

What has been your experience with online portfolios? Now it’s your turn to tell me your success (or not so successful) stories. What other portfolio websites would you recommend to other landscape architects ready to share their work?

LEED for Neighborhood Development: The New Kid on the Block

LEED for Neighborhood Development: The New Kid on the Block

Jill Bellenger, ASLA, CPH

Forget about keeping up with the Jones’, it was the Green’s that dominated residential trends in 2009. With about two dozen pilot projects now certified at various levels in the LEED for Neighborhood Development as of December 2009, the future of neighborhood design and planning is looking even greener.

In a way, it’s an attempt to return to the days before the automobile ruled the road and became the most influential component in city and regional planning. Way before it was possible for a New Yorker to sample fruit from South America, spices from India, and fish from the Pacific Ocean without leaving their town. The LEED-ND program is championing the effort to revive concepts of community connectivity, living and purchasing locally, and working where you live.

Whether you call the East coast or West coast home, or somewhere in between, there are LEED-ND neighborhoods taking shape somewhere near you.

The Yards, located in southeast DC along the Anacostia River, is the district’s newest riverfront destination. Earning its LEED-ND Gold certification and currently in development, The Yards is a 42-acre mixed-use neighborhood complete with retail, restaurants, housing, office space, and parks. And it’s all within walking distance of some of D.C.’s biggest landmarks, like Nationals Ballpark and Capitol Hill.

“We are thrilled to be included in the LEED ND program and were very happy when we achieved our Stage 2 Gold certification,” says Ramsey Meiser, Senior Vice President of Development at Forest City Washington. “We believe this accomplishment will be helpful as we market The Yards to our office, retail, and residential users.”

The Mueller neighborhood in Austin, Texas is the largest of the certified LEED-ND projects, at 704-acres comprised of residential, retail, and the first hospital in the world to receive a LEED Platinum certification, all located on the site of the former Austin airport.

In a recent press release, Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president, CEO & founding chair stated, “LEED for Neighborhood Development goes beyond individual green buildings and focuses on community-wide design and development. By achieving stage-2 LEED Silver certification for its plans, the Mueller community has designated itself as a community leading the way for the development of smarter and healthier communities throughout the U.S., saving families money while nurturing their health.”

Catellus Developing Group joined the City of Austin to manage the development of Mueller. “Sustainable design, whether in stores, offices, homes or parks, must incorporate environmental, economic and lifestyle considerations in order to be successful in this day and age,” said Greg Weaver, managing director for Catellus. “These considerations are plentiful throughout Mueller as it exists today, and we’re just getting started.”

Affordable housing is also raising the green standard with neighborhoods such as the Benedict Park Place in Denver, Colorado, earning its LEED Gold certification. The neighborhood is an award-winning residential complex that succeeds in connecting working-class residents to downtown Denver, midtown and other neighborhoods while providing a safe and sustainable atmosphere.

“The LEED-ND Pilot program has proven to be a very rewarding process for us that was complementary to our development of affordable housing,” says Ryan G. Tobin, Esq., Development Program Manager at the Denver Housing Authority and the Owner’s Rep for Benedict Park Place. “It has served as a resource and framework by which we have embraced and will continue to utilize in our planning efforts now and in the future.”

In a statement from USGBC, Meghan Bogaerts explains, “USGBC is very pleased with the results of the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) pilot program, which has provided us with a wealth of information about the pilot system’s real world application over the last few years. The soon to be released LEED-ND 2009 rating system, which is posted publicly on our website, is undeniably stronger than the previous version because of the invaluable feedback we received from pilot project teams.”

With regards to what the future will hold for the program, Bogaert continues, “We expect to open project registration for the rating system in 2010, and have already received a steady stream of inquiries from project teams eager to register. Moreover, 2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year as we develop additional resources for project teams and local governments, enabling them to accomplish their sustainability goals through LEED for Neighborhood Development.”

For more information on these and more LEED-ND certified neighborhoods:,,

This article originally appeared in 3 Design Consulting’s e-newsletter, Sustainability Monthly Report. To subscribe to the newsletter, email with ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.

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