How do I get a job at a sustainable design firm (when things improve)

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums SUSTAINABILITY & DESIGN How do I get a job at a sustainable design firm (when things improve)

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 21 total)
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  • #175140
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    My first job after college was at a small residential design/build firm specializing in native plants, stormwater harvesting, and permaculture. None of the larger firms that practiced sustainable design (Conservation Design Forum, Biohabitats, etc) were interested in me. After I got laid off the first time, I thought I had a better chance with the larger firms given my experience, but they were looking for someone with a masters degree or much more experience than I had. I eventually found a new job, but it was really just because they were desperate to hire me and I needed something. None of what I learned at that first job was seen as valuablein my new job. Now I’m laid off again, and I figure this is an opportunity to learn something that might make me more valuable to the firms I really want to work for. I’d like to go back to college, but probably won’t be able to afford it. Is there something else I could learn cheaply that might help me get my foot in the door if and when things improve? What do firms specializing in sustainable design look for?

    #175160
    David J. Chirico
    Participant

    Listed below is all personal experience:

    How are your computer skills? Knowledge of AutoCAD, Microstation, Photoshop, PowerPoint and recently Sketchup has been a huge leg up for every job I have accepted. Although, nowadays it seems its not as hard to come by, and almost a given with every resume. You can download Sketchup from Google for free. Become a master of it, especially with the grading package, large scale models and Photoshop combinations for presentation drawings. Add the work to your portfolio.

    How good are you with construction documentation? I have come across many people who have wonderful skills for planning, but lack the ability to detail and communicate how a plan gets built. If you have this experience already, no doubt you know it’s a great asset.

    Lastly, are you licensed? I am preparing for the exam now. In my state it’s 3 years before you can sit for it, I hope thats not the same for you. If you become licensed you are just as marketable as someone with a masters degree who is not licensed.

    Hope this helps,
    Dave

    #175159
    nca
    Participant

    Roland-

    What area would you like to work within the larger firms? I would assume there to be a larger scientific and analysis component than design and visualization at most of these types of firms whereas design and visualization skills are much more important at places like EDAW, Design Workshop, etc.

    #175158
    David J. Chirico
    Participant

    LEED, yes good point. Looking at the requirements tho, if I read it correctly, you have to have exposure to LEED projects OR work in a sustainable field to get LEED Green Associate. LEED AP+ require you to have worked on a LEED project. So there are different tiers now. Interesting stuff.

    https://www.gbci.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=90#2

    #175157
    David J. Chirico
    Participant

    I read about most of that but I didn’t see the part about eventually taking the exam every two years. Do you have a link to that information? Seems excessive…

    #175156
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    My CAD skills are ok, but I’ve never really had any need to use sketchup or photoshop since I graduated. This is mainly because the firms I worked for are so small (three LA’s each including me). I’ve downloaded sketchup to my own computer, but haven’t had a chance to use it in a work setting. I think the program I enjoyed using the most in college was GIS, and I’m thinking about taking a class in that to refresh my skills and have something new to put on my resume.
    Most of the documentation for construction was done by my bosses. I had more exposure to it than some entry-level people, I guess. Are there classes for that sort of thing?
    I have all the study materials for the LARE. I need to see about getting my study group started again, I guess. In Idaho it’s two years of experience, so I can take it when I’m ready.

    #175155
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    I’m still at a point in my career where I don’t know what exactly I want to focus on. I like design work, but restoration work intrigues me. I like working on a variety of projects, anyway. You’re right that the science and analysis is more important for these types of firms, especially in the beginning of projects. Of course, design and visualization are never really unimportant to any LA firm.

    #175154
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    I’m glad you mentioned that. I didn’t know about the rule changes. I’ve had the LEED reference manual for a while, but I’ve been dragging my feet on studying.

    #175153
    nca
    Participant

    This LEED stuff sounds like a (not so creative) way for the organization to squeeze a few more nickles out of everyone involved. I honestly don’t see the direct benefit of becoming LEED certified besides a possible pay increase from your employer which ultimately boils it down to a marketing device. I know this has been discussed before though.

    #175152
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    I actually agree. There are other certifications that seem more relevant to landscape architects. The Sustainable Sites Initiative will be coming soon. Permaculture has a lot of good ideas that landscape architects would find very useful, and there is a way to get certified in it. Unfortunately, so few employers have heard of permaculture that it wouldn’t get anyone a pay increase.
    Maybe the real advantage of LEED is that it forces different design professions to work together on the common goal of sustainable design. But we really should be taught to do that in college and tested for our understanding of it in the LARE. There’s really no reason why landscape architects, architects and other professions shouldn’t be taught side by side. But instead a lot of universities have landscape architecture programs in one city and architects in another.

    #175151
    David J. Chirico
    Participant

    Any planner, developer, or contractor worth his or her salt should already be doing most of the things outlined by LEED. Someone put it in perspective for me that LEED is useful as a method of quantifying the things we already do. I can’t really argue with that logic.

    #175150
    nca
    Participant

    I can definitely see the value in the quantifiability aspect, but in taking a slightly closer look I wonder how much actually applies to landscape architecture. From what I’ve seen, LEED is currently oriented around building design with very little attention shown to site development, which is kind of dumb. On the other hand, Roland I think is spot on with regard to the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI) which should be through its final draft? by now, though I’m not sure it will have the same kind of clout if not wholly embraced as LEED. LEED is also issuing their ND (instead of the current NC option for LA’s) which will focus on Neighborhood Development, but then you need to wonder how much at that scal is actually controllable with regard to site location, etc. Still, I agree that LEED and SSI is a step in a positive direction for LA’s if not only to make what we do “quantifiable”, which is becomong very important in light of recent events and times.

    #175149
    David J. Chirico
    Participant

    There are a handful of credits that are directly related, but that doesn’t stop other disciplines from attempting to take credit ­čśë

    The last conference I attended I thought SSI was being incorporated into LEED. I don’t think each one will be a stand alone method of certification. Maybe that’s changed since Philadelphia?

    #175148
    Roland Beinert
    Participant

    I found another answer for my original question on another website. Here are some links if anyone is interested:
    http://designactivism.net/archives/26
    http://designactivism.net/archives/40

    #175147
    nca
    Participant

    Thanks Roland.

    I think there are some good points the writer makes in that article regarding sustainable design and the private sector. i think what e’ve all been getting at in the past couple weeks with alot of the more active discussion topics is the quantifiability (excuse me for perhaps over using this word lately) of landscape architecture with special attention to sustainability. Organizations and accreditation programs such as LEED and SSI are probably on the forefront in my opinion of making what we do less of an add-on item and more of a requirement. This, I believe lead to the other conversation regarding representation of LA in congress and national and local government by means of ASLA. The difficulty I believe lies in the private developer having no incentive for environmentally responsible design and planning. I think aside from some of the monumental projects of sustainability which are fairly few and far between, sustainable design has often been disguised in everyday civil and site design, often under the nose of the developer. I’m still not sure how to answer your original question however. I would still think a sustainable design firm would look for the typical things any design form would look for; interest (particular in this case), production skill, background knowledge.

    Thanks for the link to the article. I hope my contributions have helped.

    -n

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