Sustainable Sites

Viewing 13 posts - 16 through 28 (of 28 total)
  • Author
  • #151724
    Alan Ray, RLA

    this is supposed to be a forum for landscape architects, at least it used to be.

    did that get changed ?  does everyone get a trophy now?



    Linda Ashby

    Thanks ida. Alan, come on now. Mark said it, Play Nice. Stick to the issues.

    OK LEED. Is it arbitrary? The benchmarks are taken from existing standards from an array of municipalities, associations, agencies, etc. – or local regulations per the project’s location, whichever is most stringent. Hardly arbitrary. Maybe sometimes not the most stringent science out there, which can change quickly. Maybe not one’s preferred science/standards. But the grounding is based in accepted standards determined by municipalities and various industries, it’s not arbitrary. LEED also provides an opportunity to challenge those standards, in the greater sense.

    Now what, unfortunately, is arbitrary is the claims too many in landscape architecture make about the outcomes of projects without evidence. Let me be clear, I am NOT disputing the values of our profession – I am talking about the way we communicate them. Making mere claims that we improve habitat, improve water quality, boost property values without having valid evidence to back those claims leaves us vulnerable. That’s why I say more dollars need to be invested in landscape research. Research will grow and fortify our industry far more than any rating system, even if research proves our assumptions (claims) wrong. The rating system is one way to inspire more research.

    LEED, as all rating systems, is a test or experiment. A means of defining the ill-defined (sustainability). It is not without flaws, it is not perfect, and it is susceptible to poor design decision making (the bike rack example). It exists because it adds a layer of accountability to decision making that didn’t exist before – on part of the clients, design teams, contractors, building managers, and so on, making talking to one another more acceptable and possible than before. As any new system, it takes some degree of incentive to attract users – and the suggestion that clients’ will buy in merely for a plaque is silly, the incentives are more inclusive and lucrative than that. It takes a critical mass of users to start making widespread progress toward the goals, then the results can be measured and determined if it works, how it should be improved, to determine if the “experiment” is worth the investment. So far, the results are mixed depending on what study you look at – it may be safe to say that the more (reasonable) implements that are in place (ie the higher level of certification achieved) the more favorable results (energy reductions etc) will be the result. Not all levels of certification perform the same.

    LEED and other rating systems exist because a door was left open for their existence. A lot of people concerned about carbon, energy, water, habitat saw room for a different vision for land development, and they did something about it. They put condensed resources in the hands of decision makers, even if a project does’t pursue certification there exists a set of targets and suggested pathways for building the environment more sensitively. What LEED can do for schools is, I think, the entire program’s most significant contribution. Much of what LEED sets forth is subject to human intervention and abidance by the “rules of sustainability.” Select a building site near two bus lines – great intention but if society doesn’t accept it, it won’t make an impact. Put lights on sensors but an employee can flip a light switch and override the good intention and there go your energy savings.

    SITES is in its infancy and hasn’t reached a critical mass to test its value. Since it embodies so much of what landscape architecture is by definition, it may not catch on to the extent of LEED. It may “arm” other professionals of the built environment with enough checkboxes that clients and design teams may feel they don’t need an LA on a project. Or it may empower more LAs and creat greater opportunities. Or it may fizzle out. But what it won’t do is tell any landscape designer how to design.

    Of course the green industry makes money. That a non profit or a movement makes money and generates jobs does not mean that profit is its sole reason for existence.

    Finally, my question to you all is that if a rating system brought architects, engineers, contractors, clients, building managers, and others together at the table, why would you not want to be included? Rating systems are likely not going away any time soon. Are you not hurting our profession by not taking your place at the table and working toward and using your voice to improving the system?

    Linda Ashby

    ASLA’s standard ‘me too’ strategy of copying the architecture profession for lack of any original ideas”

    So true.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    Well, How did I live without them all these years??? I guess the same way I have lived without  asla  for decades….

    Still not interested in the opinions of interlopers in my profession arguing the merits of unnecessary programs…

    Alan Ray, RLA

    It was a simple question.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    well said…

    you know. the greenest building is the one already built…

    Soo Wai-Kin

    Totally agree with your statement.  LEED does have certifications that take into account TI work only.  

    The argument that new programs and certifications is not germane to our profession because some of us managed to carve out a career without any certifications beyond state licensing is either not interested in how the LA profession is progressing or is feeling pressured to learn design concepts previously thought be under under other disciplines.  

    I am not old school by any means but as a long as I can remember, anytime when LAs professes their profession, that common response is never reassuring.  How did our centuries year old profession, who designed great scenic highways and byways, universities, national parks, and metropolitan urban spaces continue to incite the common response, ‘can you design my yard’?

    Nothing against the residential practitioners, who I have great respect for their great patience in dealing with homeowners but we all know that LAs today are as diverse in their scope of work and even more more so with their expertise.  We have lost the basics (road design, horticulture) but gained great insight in public design, regional environmental issues, and site restoration.  

    LAs may only be involved in 4-5 credits in the LEED system, SITES  on the other hand is trying really hard to provide a platform where LAs work is truly displayed, acknowledged and celebrated.  This is very important to the vitality of our profession, as we have moved away from designing roads, scenic byways and luxury homes to addressing more regional issues  such as droughts, habitat fragmentation and site restoration.  

    Wasting hours at a LEED meeting is not a good introduction to LEED, but LEED/SITES or any new flavor of certifications increases the awareness of our profession.  When LEED is applied as intended, it is apparent that LAs do deserve a place at the table at the project kickoff meeting and not after the whole design team has moved on.  

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Our profession exists within our current society. Our profession is made of the current people within it and not by what is written about it or of the people that were in it in the past  It is not separate. Many in our profession seem to think that it is populated with droids from a past culture who are separated from today’s society and values and need the profession to re-program them.

    Anyone working in this profession from residential to regional either already understands the values and needs of today coming into it or they will quickly begin to realize and adapt if he or she is going to succeed at it. I have a hard time believing that those who came into it decades ago have not stayed in tune to a large extent with changing culture and values.

    If an outsider only knew about our profession by the conversations we have within it, they would think that 95% of us want to tear up the world and rebuild it with invasive exotic plants, create demands on resources, pave the rest, and displace wildlife. Then they need to pay homage to the 5% who are enlightened enough to try to straighten the other 95% out.

    I don’t think our profession has a problem in this regard. I don’t have a problem with some green certifications and standards as long as they are not required anywhere and everywhere.

    I designed a residential landscape on a project that got LEED Gold.  I had no training in LEED and it was very simple to meet the standards for the landscape. The project barely made it through permitting for environmental reasons from the get go. The ironic thing is that It was stuffed up against the minimum setback to a wetland on what was a borderline buildable lot for that reason.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    I’d be honored to do anyone’s yard…..

    I have more opportunity to promote and educate individuals about what landscape architecture is by working in residential than all the commercial, institutional,

    educational, parks and recreational and urban design projects combined

    And believe me I’ve done a lot of all those in the pas 40years of practice, including 12 years teaching in the local community college.

    So, anyone that discounts doing someones’ yard is totally out of touch with the practice. I get much more challenge to do my best work for residential clients….what’s the difference? basically, commercial clients are only interested in budget and deadlines. Don’t bother explaining your design concept, is in in budget is the main criteria as it seems. By contrast, my residential clients are interested in every detail. This makes me give them my full attention. Also, it’s rare that I actually meet the owner in commercial work. The third party client is usually an engineer. Do you think they care about your cool design idea?

    I also don’t see any of those agencys including asla promoting my profession.

    I think I have done more individually than they have. After all, why is the general public still unaware what we do after all these decades?

    Soo Wai-Kin

    Blanket statements such as ‘basically, commercial clients are only interested in budget and deadlines’ is not accurate as we all know, every project, owner and client is different.  I’ve had plenty of commercial owners that reversed their VE efforts for a better project, ie decrease spacing, better specimen trees, non rectilinear swale design, varying materials in the landscape, more trees despite singnage visibility concerns.   

    At the end of the day Alan, I’m trying to convince you that the our ‘good’ designs ARE adopted as standard practice because the marketplace has adopted LEED as a selling point for properties and leasing. ASLA promotion of our profession on the other hand….  

    Soo Wai-Kin


    I agree that LEED is nothing more than good design.  What LEED has done is substantiate that our good design is a selling point and the marketplace has finally come around to our design ideas as part of a standard regiment.  LEED adoption is not ding our profession but a plus and we should continue to educate home and commercial owners alike that maybe one day we can all go native and provide more sustainable designs that stand the test of time.  

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The only time that I have found it to be a “selling point” has been for trying to sell commercial projects to regulatory boards. I have not found it on the radar screen of clients because they are interested in it for environmental reasons.

    The project that I mentioned above was for the personal residence of an architect who thought it would give him a marketing advantage to have designed a certified house and to live in it.

Viewing 13 posts - 16 through 28 (of 28 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password