Reducing our office footprint: Continuing the discussion from Landscape Architecture Magazine

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Reducing our office footprint: Continuing the discussion from Landscape Architecture Magazine

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    Hi there,

    If you’ve read the article in Landscape Architecture Magazine’s May issue, I’m glad to know that you want to continue the discussion!

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on what role landscape architects have in leading office footprint reduction in the design industry. How can the profession as a whole ‘get on the same page’ to take meaningful action to preserve the environment?

    In my research I’ve uncovered the reality in many LA offices: at the end of the day, cost is the deciding factor. So when does the health of the planet and the oath landscape architects take to protect it become more important than the lowest bid?

    Mark Lerch

    What oath? I attended school and I had to to pay a boat load of $$$ to take the exams. I don’t remember taking an oath. Did you? I worked in a landscape architecture office in 2004-2007. The principals bought “company” cars. One was a Ford Expedition and the other a full size pick-up truck. I was dumbfounded. I thought landscape architects would make more environmental choices but Bush offered a big tax break for vehicles over a certian GVW. They went with the biggest car because of the tax break.

    Daniel Jost

    I think its important to stress that many of the actions landscape architects can take to reduce their office’s environmental footprint actually save money.

    You can remove a few light bulbs in an office that was designed to have more lighting than is necessary or install a thermostat that cuts back on air conditioning and heat wasted during hours when nobody is in the office. You can cut back on the amount of drawings you are printing at full size. The list goes on… See my article in the May issue of Landscape Architecture for more ideas- I don’t feel like retyping the whole thing here.

    Does anyone have any other examples of changes you’ve made that cost little or actually save your office money? Any changes that have been particuarly well received or not well received?

    Roland Beinert

    I haven’t read the article yet.
    In the dry western states, it can sometimes be fairly easy to heat and cool a building passively. A lot depends on the design of the building, of course. In the first office I worked in, cooling the place was just a matter of opening doors and windows in the early morning and closing them before it got hot. There was no humidity in the air in Reno, so this worked fairly well. There was no air conditioner, but we were never uncomfortable in the summer. It wasn’t just that we were used to it, either. We got plenty of comments about how cool it was by people coming into the office for the first time. The problem was heating the building in the winter, because it was downstairs and got very little sun.
    At the second office I worked in, I never bothered to try passively heating or cooling, since I probably would have been laughed at by my coworkers. But I did try it in my apartment. It took some experimentation, but I finally realised I could cool it in the summer by opening the windows during the day, then closing them before I went to work and keeping the door to the south facing kitchen closed during the day. It worked fairly well, and I never needed an AC. The building wasn’t even designed for passive heating and cooling.
    I admit this works best in areas with very little humidity, but there are probably strategies for it in other parts of the country. Otherwise, our ancestors would have boiled or frozen, and we wouldn’t be here. I also admit it works best in a building designed to do it. In some cases, this sort of thing would probably have to be supplemented by heating and air conditioning. Even if that is the case, every little bit that you can passively heat and cool takes some of the load off the heaters and AC’s. Once you have a strategy, it’s not too much more complicated than switching on a AC.

    Phil Doncaster

    Hi, unfortunatly, until clients decide they want to go green and help preserve the environment then the hands of most design firms are tied.


    I would actually echo what Andrew stated in the first part of his reply. I’m also not sure if this issue isn’t merely a diversion from the more important and meaningful issues regarding the practice.

    I’m not sure where landscape architects fit into ‘office greening’ when our palette is primarily outdoors. Also, I would agree that our work, collectively, is more impactful than ‘changing a few light bulbs.’


    I really appreciate all of these responses. Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts. I agree that some of these ‘smaller’ actions like lighting and energy conservation are just the tip of the problem, and may be diverting LA’s from thinking about those crucial impacts in design and materials selection. Whereas it could be construed as Andrew mentioned as a double Mc D’s combo with a diet coke- I also see the other side to that. Where a firm is claiming to install sustainable landscapes, yet do not address their own personal impacts in their daily practices. It seems ass-backwards to me that way too.

    I wonder how many LA’s go into the profession being ‘sustainably’ bent, and how many come in with other focuses. I used to think that everyone had a sensitivity around minimizing their impact on the environment, and after meeting different people in the industry, there sure is a wide variety of interests, with fewer than I thought actually addressing sustainability in a meaningful way in their firm.

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