Every year the Alexandria Beautification Commission canvases the city looking for properties and projects that represent the best beautification efforts in Alexandria. Beautification includes improvements to a community encompassing landscaping, architecture, and sustainable environmental practices creating a healthier community and higher quality of life. Landscape architects Gabriela, Matt and Susan attended the awards ceremony on […]
Every year the Alexandria Beautification Commission canvases the city looking for properties and projects that represent the best beautification efforts in Alexandria. Beautification includes improvements to a community encompassing landscaping, architecture, and sustainable environmental practices creating a healthier community and higher quality of life. Landscape architects Gabriela, Matt and Susan attended the awards ceremony on September 27 where three LandDesign projects were presented with awards by Mayor Allison Silberberg and members of the City Council.
LandDesign’s Washington, D.C. Office – Excellence in Sustainable Design Award
LandDesign accepted the award for our Washington, D.C. office, an adaptive reuse space located in Alexandria.
With its ivy-covered walls, urban garden and green roof, LandDesign’s office has become a well-known and appreciated building in the community. The green roof has many benefits including reducing energy costs with natural insulation, creating peaceful retreats and absorbing stormwater. The green roof and garden both provide the benefit of reducing the heat island effect (urban areas that are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities). The garden also has an environmental and social impact on LandDesign and the local community, as a variety of plants in the garden provide vegetables and herbs as well as food and cover for insects and birds.
The addition of a beehive in 2014 has provided pollination for flowers and crops in our garden and the community. Approximately 30 lbs. of honey is harvested each year, which is used in the office kitchen and shared with our neighbors and friends. Recently, Gabriela gave a garden tour and class to the Da Vinci preschool group – a great opportunity to educate the children with a sustainable and hands-on experience.
Matthew Maury Elementary School – Excellence in Sustainable Design Award
Matthew Maury Elementary has a strong academic learning environment, with a staff that is committed to making sure everything they do leads back to the students’ success.
The landscape design of the playground contributes to this goal in many ways, intertwining academic success with students’ social and physical environment. Once eroded from lack of adequate stormwater facilities, the playground now includes a multipurpose turf field and court, play space, bio-retention facilities and a learning garden with an amphitheater and pathways lined by vegetable and flower beds.
We are proud that Matthew Maury Elementary engaged with our collaborative partner, REAL School Gardens, to make this learning garden the first REAL School Gardens endeavor in the Mid-Atlantic, helping students become more engaged through hands-on outdoor learning. This project was a measure of true collaboration among the City of Alexandria, the school board and the local community, with a large portion of the budget coming from donations and tireless fundraising efforts by the non-profit Maury Schoolyard Initiative.
Alexandria Renew Enterprises – Green Practices in Beautification Award
AlexRenew is dedicated to sustainability and the expansion of public education and outreach opportunities, leading to a desire to design their facilities to match their vision statement “Environment and People—the Best of Both!” After working with Alexandria Renew Enterprises on several other landscape architecture and greening projects, we jumped at the opportunity to provide landscape architecture for the Environmental Center, a six-story Energy Star certified building on track to achieve LEED Platinum status.
LandDesign’s planting design includes a native landscape that provides habitat for wildlife and reduces maintenance and environmental impacts on the community. We added an indoor living green wall to help filter air, improve efficiency and provide a calming view. The signature main entrance features an integrated water fountain that highlights one of AlexRenew’s key products – reclaimed water. Surrounding the building and fountain are park spaces open to the public, including green park space on top of the parking garage and an artificial turf soccer field on top of the Nutrient Management Facility treatment tanks. The trail that leads to the field will ultimately connect to the wider Alexandria trail network, further servicing the employees and greater community.
Brian Forster Joins LandDesign as Director of Civil Engineering in Orlando
LandDesign is pleased to welcome Brian Forster, PE, Director of Civil Engineering, in our Orlando office. For more than 16 years, Brian has been involved in numerous high profile projects in the Central Florida region. His expertise includes the design and construction of residential, hospitality and entertainment projects. “Brian’s experience working in a multidisciplinary […]
LandDesign is pleased to welcome Brian Forster, PE, Director of Civil Engineering, in our Orlando office. For more than 16 years, Brian has been involved in numerous high profile projects in the Central Florida region. His expertise includes the design and construction of residential, hospitality and entertainment projects.
“Brian’s experience working in a multidisciplinary environment, providing civil engineering leadership and local land development knowledge, will drive success for our clients and projects,” stated Ray Waugh, PE, Managing Partner.
Brian enjoys bringing together engineers and landscape architects to help guide clients through the entire development process – a true nod to our successful collaborative nature. He believes that it’s easy to work hard when you love what you do and the clients you serve. As a testament to his design leadership, Brian was awarded Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) Southeast 2016 Top 20 under 40 recognition.
What matters to Brian:
- Being the best husband and father I can be matters.
- Loud music matters.
- Loving my job matters.
- Serving my client matters.
- Problem solving matters.
A Walkable City is a Better City
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Intrinsic to the success of cities and the quality of life they offer is how people move within them. For the past century, the car has been the central consideration in the design and planning of our urban areas. Increasingly, however, the car-dominated planning era […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Intrinsic to the success of cities and the quality of life they offer is how people move within them. For the past century, the car has been the central consideration in the design and planning of our urban areas. Increasingly, however, the car-dominated planning era is behind us, as city dwellers are more frequently walking, biking and using public transit to get around. It’s time for city planning and design to catch up with this new trend. That is why Arup Group, a leading international consulting firm of planners, designers, and engineers, is making the case for walking. “From 70 years of practice we know that a walkable city is a better city and that the more we walk the better the city is in every respect,” declares Gregory Hodkinson, Chairman of Arup Group.
Arup’s recent publication, Cities Alive: Towards a Walking World, shines a light on the impact walkability has on the success of a city. This new report analyzes research and trends in city design to show how walkable cities can improve the local economy, the environment and personal wellness. Highlighting 50 drivers of change, 50 benefits of walking, 80 international case studies, and 40 actions that city leaders can take to inform walking policy and design, the report aims to inspire action and aid cities in improving city walkability.
Benefits of walkability
A walkable city has a multitude of benefits. The report demonstrates the significant social, environmental, economic and political benefits of walking and highlights the opportunities available for cities to embrace walking. Here are just a few of the 50 benefits discussed:
- Social benefits: The health benefits of walking are perhaps the clearest, including reducing the likelihood of obesity and chronic disease, as well as improving mental health and happiness. Walking also provides other social benefits, including an opportunity to foster social interaction, reduce crime, and strengthen community identity.
- Environmental benefits: Walking provides an active means for people to mitigate and address local and global environmental concerns. From noise and air pollution to heat island effect, a shift from car-dominated design to pedestrian walkability mitigates a range of environmental concerns. Pedestrian-focused design also allows reclamation of underused road space. Space previously reserved for cars can be shifted towards green space that better addresses community needs, provides wildlife habitat, and functions as stormwater management.
- Economic benefits: Businesses and property owners can also benefit from more walkable places, with research showing that pedestrians spend approximately 65% more than drivers (p.55). Walkability has been proven to boost prosperity, support local business, promote tourism, and encourage inward investment – attracting investors and private companies that in turn feeds higher employment, property values, and more (p.55). Furthermore, investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects. Cycling and walking are estimated to provide up to $11.80 in return of investment per $1 invested.
- Political benefits: Walking is increasingly a political agenda item as cities fight to reduce car congestion and pollution while striving for a safer, healthier, more vibrant community of residents and visitors. Promoting walkability addresses sustainable development and city resilience to climate change, while also encouraging inclusiveness and equality.
How walking is changing the city
Car culture is in decline in many parts of the world, including North America, Japan, Australia and European countries. This cultural shift, especially among the millennial generation, is in part due to a change in priorities, where car ownership is no longer a status symbol. In fact, a renewed focus on health and sustainability has caused many to shun cars in favor of walking, cycling and public transit. The 2008 recession made it difficult for many people to afford cars, and the general move toward more flexible employee commuting arrangements has made it easier to get around without owning a vehicle.
Planning efforts to reduce vehicular traffic in favor of more active modes of transport have already begun to show positive results. In particular, an increased prevalence of walking has forced us to design public spaces and streetscapes that are appealing at a human scale. Cities are realizing that in order to encourage walking, routes must be safe and entertaining, which has led to an increased attention in the design of public plazas, green spaces and corridors. Shifting the design focus to walking, access and mobility for people of every age group, income level and ability has also received renewed attention, connecting all parts of the city.
Many cities are taking active steps to encourage more walking among residents and visitors, several of which are already experiencing the wide range of benefits that come from creating places for walking. To show what can be achieved, the report outlines 80 case studies, including improved wayfinding systems, open street events, pocket parks and traffic calming measures that exist today.
Footbridges, such as the one in Rocinha, Brazil, are one strategy to connect communities previously divided by highways, waterways or other impediments. The footbridge, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, connects Rio’s largest favela, Rocinha, to a new sports facility as well as to the surrounding community in an attempt to provide walkable connectivity to an area once divided by a busy highway. Projects such as The Goods Line (in Sydney, Australia) or the High Line (in New York City) similarly connect multiple neighborhoods while keeping pedestrians separate from vehicle traffic. Crossings of pedestrian networks with other transport networks and natural barriers are often the biggest barriers to overcome on foot. Footbridges are a simple option to maintain safe connections and bridge previously divided communities.
Small parks, called parklets, and other nodes of activity also encourage walking by activating streets and enhancing the pedestrian experience. To ease this process, the Department of Transportation in Los Angeles recently initiated “People St” Do it Yourself Street Regeneration Initiative. This program essentially offers DIY urban design kits to create pedestrian plazas, mini-parks and bike parking that is intended to re-appropriate any of the 7,500 miles of street within the city. One project that sprung from the initiative, Sunset Triangle Plaza, closed a portion of the street to vehicular traffic, using treated pavement and large planters to delineate the new pedestrian space, and brought movable furniture and public programming to an underserved area. These innovative public spaces encourage exploration by foot and promote community interaction. Public plazas also inject art and culture into the city, strengthening a neighborhood’s identity.
Improving the wayfinding and signage of a region also promotes walkability simply by making street navigation easy. Signage created by Applied Wayfinding at Brighton, UK combines on-street wayfinding with an iPhone app containing 3D illustrations and searchable content, to help navigate the city. Such maps incentivize walking and make it easier for people to choose walking as a regular daily mode of transport – a public health benefit and an advantage for local retailers that experience an increase in footfall.
By the shifting the focus from cars to people, and placing walking back into the center of urban design, we can create cities that are healthy for people, the environment and businesses. Arup’s comprehensive report proves how walkability is central to the economy, environment and personal health of the city. View the full report here.
Continuous Growth Matters
At LandDesign, we believe that supporting the growth of our people will ensure the continued growth of our firm. To support this growth, we have identified new opportunities to recognize rising leaders in each of our six offices through the creation of new leadership roles and job promotions. The contributions of the following individuals […]
At LandDesign, we believe that supporting the growth of our people will ensure the continued growth of our firm. To support this growth, we have identified new opportunities to recognize rising leaders in each of our six offices through the creation of new leadership roles and job promotions. The contributions of the following individuals to their respective offices have played a key role in maintaining LandDesign’s reputation for providing high-quality services for our clients and supporting our overall mission to create places that matter.
Congratulations to the following individuals:
Urban Design is Affecting Our Brains
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Design affects the brain. We know this intuitively, as we get frustrated when poor wayfinding causes us to get us lost or we feel renewed after a run in the park, but only recently are we starting to understand how and why. Our immediate environment […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Design affects the brain. We know this intuitively, as we get frustrated when poor wayfinding causes us to get us lost or we feel renewed after a run in the park, but only recently are we starting to understand how and why. Our immediate environment can prompt both negative and positive effects and it’s becoming evident that the way spaces are designed can exert a strong influence on our behavior. This is especially important in cities, where mental health problems caused by overstimulation, isolation, and loneliness, are particularly high. To alleviate some of these city stressors, we turn to urban design.
City dwelling and mental health
Many factors contribute to mental health and wellness, including biological factors, experiences, and lifestyle, but the built environment also plays a critical role. While mental health and happiness can be difficult to measure, cities are associated with higher rates of most mental health problems compared to rural areas. City dwellers have an almost 40% higher risk of depression, over 20% more anxiety, and double the risk of schizophrenia, in addition to more loneliness, isolation, and stress — including chronic stress, such as gridlock traffic or work demands. Good mental health is critical for both individual well-being and overall human health, but it is under-prioritized in the design of our cities.
Contributors to positive mental health
Urban design has the potential to help support mental health. Urban conditions like pollution, noise, crime, and overstimulation can be reduced with appropriate planning. The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH), an independent research collaborative, is working to increase the body of knowledge and awareness of strategies to support better mental health in cities.
The center highlights the importance of mental health, stating that “good mental health can improve our enjoyment, coping skills, and relationships, our educational achievement, employment, housing and economic potential, help reduce physical health problems, ease healthcare and social care costs, builds social capital, and decrease suicides.” UD/MH has developed a set of policy recommendations, called the Mind the GAPS framework, which encourages city planners and developers to create spaces with the following attributes: Green, Active, Pro-Social, and Safe.
Access to green spaces and nature is continually linked to improved mental health, reducing depression, and improving cognitive functioning. The experience of nature is an antidote to the stressors of urban living. Incorporating street trees, views of nature, and community gardens are all ways to reduce stress. Increasing community walkability and bike-ability, as well as providing good public transit, ensures opportunities for people to be active, which is also linked to improved mental health. Dedicated spaces for sports fields and tennis courts provide active space, as do walking loops in parks. Collectively, green space and active space should be weaved throughout the urban fabric.
Creating social places that encourage interaction is one of the most important opportunities for promoting good mental health. Designing cities that enable human connection helps combat loneliness and feelings of isolation. Social interaction builds self-confidence and fosters a sense of community and belonging. Mixed-use development, which blends shops, offices, and residential spaces into a single neighborhood, is one design approach that sparks interaction among individuals. Design elements as simple as street benches promote conversation, and the creation of open spaces allows for informal meeting spaces for groups. The perceived safety and security of a space is also a component of how people feel. Proper wayfinding and minimized traffic congestion reduce anxiety and help improve feelings of security.
To learn more about the relationship between urban design and mental health, the Urban Realities Laboratory at the University of Waterloo is using tools to conduct psychological research on the streets of cities. From 2011 to 2013, they conducted studies in New York City, Berlin, and Mumbai in which participants were monitored for their psychological state while being lead through city streets. Wristband sensors measured stress levels and emotional states while participants were shown different styles of urban aesthetic. The study showed that many aspects of the urban environment exert a strong effect on our emotions and influence our attraction to particular areas of the city. For example, long, featureless facades caused passersby to become unhappy and bored, while respite from the crowding and noise of the streets, such as green space or a quiet courtyard, produced psychological restoration.
Urban design in action
Some architects and urban designers have already put this research into action. For example, the Trust for Public Land has several urban greening initiatives underway, such as those in Chicago and Los Angeles, which recognize the importance of green space to promote mental health.
In Chicago’s Northwest side, one recent project transformed nearly three miles of unused rail line into an elevated trail. The 606 integrates the community with green space and provides an alternative, uninterrupted commute through the city. This 2.7-mile trail acts as a community connector between four neighborhoods and six ground-level parks. This alternative transportation corridor provides commuters with a less hectic travel and gives low-income neighborhoods spaces to connect to nature and thrive as a community.
In South Los Angeles, a 16 square mile area of concrete alleys is being converted into safe, green, community spaces. The Green Alley Master Plan creates a network that improves community walkability and green space to serve one of the most underserved communities in the region. Both projects highlight the potential urban design has to alleviate city stressors and create livable cities.
While more research is needed, there is already clear evidence that proper urban design can promote good mental health. Given the importance, we need to make positive mental health a priority in urban design. Understanding the effects of urban environments on mental health is the first step in helping to create saner, happier cities.
LandDesign Expands – New Boulder Office
The latest addition to our western expansion is officially open! Brent Martin, PLA, has relocated from our Washington, D.C. office to lead the Boulder, CO office as Managing Principal. This move actualizes our commitment to bring LandDesign’s 40 years of experience and expertise to the region and to support the growth and development of the […]
The latest addition to our western expansion is officially open! Brent Martin, PLA, has relocated from our Washington, D.C. office to lead the Boulder, CO office as Managing Principal. This move actualizes our commitment to bring LandDesign’s 40 years of experience and expertise to the region and to support the growth and development of the Intermountain Region as a whole.
Brent has been key to LandDesign’s national growth over the last 20 years. He brings design knowledge in resort-style communities, mixed use developments and urban design. Currently, Brent is working with our collaborative partner, 505 Design, on Peña Station NEXT, a sustainable and connected futuristic neighborhood in Denver, CO.
Emily Sexton will join Brent as a designer in the Boulder office. Emily joined LandDesign in 2014 and has played a vital role in growing our Dallas office. She grew up in the Denver area and brings knowledge of Colorado planting material and understanding of the region that will be a huge benefit to the growth of the firm.
People Matter: Leadership Promotions
LandDesign has built its nearly 40-year reputation on high-quality client service, a passion for the work we do, and talented people who make the process fun. Last month, some 25 leaders of LandDesign gathered to discuss the firm’s growth and how to deliver on our brand promise: Great people, working for the best […]
LandDesign has built its nearly 40-year reputation on high-quality client service, a passion for the work we do, and talented people who make the process fun.
Last month, some 25 leaders of LandDesign gathered to discuss the firm’s growth and how to deliver on our brand promise: Great people, working for the best clients, creating meaningful and impactful places. Fulfilling this promise includes creating new and exciting opportunities for people to advance their careers, and consistently building leadership from within to transition the firm to the next generation.
“From the day LandDesign was founded, it was intended to be a firm that transcended generations; one that was about ideas and inspired by ideals,” explains President Rhett Crocker. “The talent, expertise and ability we have in our offices today is the best I’ve ever seen. That’s exciting.”
From last month’s gathering, several people were elevated to senior positions at the firm.
Meet the newest generation of emerging leaders at LandDesign.
Brian Dench, Managing Principal (Dallas)
Brian joined LandDesign in 2012 to establish the Dallas office and direct the firm’s civil engineering services there. His areas of expertise include managing entitlements, land planning, civil design, permitting and construction phase services for land development projects.
One of Brian’s most meaningful projects was the Discovery at The Realm, a luxury multi-family development in the Castle Hills community in Lewisville, Texas. “The client’s vision was to create an urban oasis that challenged the status quo of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It was accomplished through a focused effort by a wide range of design and construction professionals working together in a collaborative environment.” Completed in 2016, the project has already won several awards.
Brian’s passion is promoting the use of LandDesign’s unique collaborative landscape architecture and civil engineering design process to tackle difficult design challenges. “Creative, buildable, and cost efficient designs are achieved when both practices are working in tandem. The value added to our projects and ultimately our clients cannot be overstated.”
Heth Kendrick, Principal (Dallas)
Heth is a career-long LandDesign employee, beginning in the firm’s Charlotte office as an entry-level landscape architect in 2001 following his graduation from Auburn University. In 2014, he relocated to Dallas to join Brian in growing the office while developing the firm’s landscape architecture practice there. It is where he counts one of his most meaningful projects.
Alexan Henderson, a rental community development, represents the new office’s first proposal for landscape architectural services that did not involve a pre-existing relationship. “It was the first project the Dallas team grew from a handshake over breakfast into a relationship that continues to grow into additional developments and design opportunities today.”
Heth is passionate about the firm’s collaboration of landscape architects and civil engineers to create great designs. “This is what makes our firm distinctive, and I enjoy telling everyone I can about the unique design relationship and my talented colleagues at LandDesign.”
Eric Pohlmann, Principal (Charlotte)
Eric joined LandDesign five years ago as a designer. His emphasis includes urban design, master planning, community redevelopment, form-based codes, multi-family, office, and commercial development.
The Kingsley Town Center in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and LPL Financial’s new campus nearby are memorable projects that Eric helped to lead from master plan to completion. “The clients for both projects were great at pushing boundaries and wanting to ‘do the right thing’, which in turn challenged us to create something very unique and special.” These projects illustrate LandDesign’s strength in creating an idea and ensuring that the decisions made along the way follow through on that vision.
Speaking of illustration, Eric’s passion for hand drawings and renderings in an increasingly digital profession allows him to create a strong vision and tell a unique story that makes the client sit back and say, “Wow, that’s it!” That kind of powerful ideation is at the core of LandDesign’s brand. “I’m really looking forward to continuing to be a part of pushing the creative boundaries of our design and graphic capabilities, idea creation, and the end deliverables for our clients.”
The talent, expertise and ability we have in our offices today is the best I’ve ever seen.
Dawn Cagle, Director of Financial Services (Charlotte)
For nearly two decades, Dawn has had a front row seat to the firm’s growth. She’s spent nearly her entire accounting career at LandDesign, joining the firm in 1998 as a payroll coordinator. “I’ve worn many different ‘hats’ at LandDesign, from payroll and employee benefits to project accounting and more, giving me a great understanding how LandDesign operates from both a financial and project management perspective.” Her legacy accomplishment was transitioning LandDesign to a new a project management/accounting software system in 2006 that is still in use today, and ensuring the firm’s processes evolve with the software to gain optimum efficiencies.
Ashley Clark, Director of Strategic Development and Communications (Charlotte)
Upon entering the workforce, Ashley wanted to find a career path that would keep her engaged in the profession while capitalizing on the communication skills she had honed through her leadership within the American Institute of Architects and in school. At LandDesign, she has found that place. “I am so fortunate to have a position that allows me to sit at the intersection of communications and strategy for an incredible design firm. The opportunity to be an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying.”
Ashley rejoined LandDesign as marketing manager in 2013 and has been an integral part of the firm’s corporate rebranding and the development of a strategic plan process to support firm growth since. Today, she is responsible for leading the development of firm-wide marketing, communication and strategic initiatives, and strengthening the LandDesign brand both internally and externally. “It’s been rewarding to return to the firm and be part of building a team and the tools that serve LandDesign and its goals” she says.
“LandDesign has built its nearly 40-year reputation on high-quality client service, a passion for the work we do, and talented people who make the process fun,” said Crocker. “We have been fortunate to experience great success and growth with this model, and these future leaders will ensure our vision continues.”
Dallas Office Nominated for 2017 Best Places to Work
Open floor plans, an abundance of natural light, foosball games, watermelon eating competitions, outdoor fire place gatherings, beer:30s, a writeable surface wall – just a few of the items you’ll find in our Dallas office. A true testament to the culture and atmosphere our colleagues have cultivated over the years, led by Brian Dench, […]
Open floor plans, an abundance of natural light, foosball games, watermelon eating competitions, outdoor fire place gatherings, beer:30s, a writeable surface wall – just a few of the items you’ll find in our Dallas office. A true testament to the culture and atmosphere our colleagues have cultivated over the years, led by Brian Dench, PE, and Heth Kendrick, PLA, both Principals of the firm.
With a tight-knit group and a new dig, we felt there was no better time to put our office up for the test. Out of more than 500 applicants, we are excited to announce our Dallas office has been nominated as one of the 101 companies to be seen as the Best Places to Work in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex by the Dallas Business Journal for 2017.
To ensure accurate results, the Dallas Business Journal utilizes Quantum Workplace, a third-party software company, to survey employees from each company. After they receive all their data, it is time to crunch the numbers. Quantum Workplace evaluates the responses and provides this information back to the Dallas Business Journal. In honor of the Best Places to Work program’s 15th Anniversary, we were pleasantly surprised by a hand-delivered notification of our nomination from the Dallas Business Journal, Frisco RoughRiders. Mascots Daisy, Deuce, Ted E Bear and Bull Moose.
We’re now looking forward to attending the Best Places to Work 15th Anniversary event held September 21st at the Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco where we will find out our ranking out of all nominated companies. Stay tuned!
Where Should We Plant Urban Trees?
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Cities are generally both warmer and more polluted than non-urban areas, as paved surfaces absorb heat, leading to increased energy consumption, and vehicle and human activity produces waste and airborne particulate matter. These have huge negative consequences for human health, but a dense urban tree […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Cities are generally both warmer and more polluted than non-urban areas, as paved surfaces absorb heat, leading to increased energy consumption, and vehicle and human activity produces waste and airborne particulate matter. These have huge negative consequences for human health, but a dense urban tree canopy can help reduce these risks. The role trees play in making cities livable is well documented, and the increased recognition of the multiple benefits provided by trees has helped spur active planning and management for a healthy urban forest. But where to plant so as to provide the most benefits while efficiently using resources?
A recent study, “Where to plant urban trees? A spatially explicit methodology to explore ecosystem service tradeoffs,” a collaboration between the SUNY Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, and The Davey Institute, and published in September 2016 by ScienceDirect, aimed to determine areas of high-priority for future tree planting across Baltimore, Maryland. The study explores strategies for tree planting by comparing the benefits and tradeoffs of five different planting scenarios. Each scenario focused on optimizing the benefits provided by trees, especially the role they play in mitigating heat island effects and removing air pollution. Developed to meet the city’s Baltimore Sustainability Plan goal of establishing 40% tree cover by 2037, the findings will be used by the city to develop a strategic planting strategy.
To learn more about the study, I spoke with Ethan Bodnaruk, environmental and geotechnical engineer at Atlantic Testing Laboratories, and co-author of the study (other authors include C.N. Kroll, Y. Yang, S. Hirabayashi, D.J. Nowak, and T.A. Endreny). Ethan previously worked as a research and teaching assistant at SUNY Department of Environmental Resources Engineering while receiving his Masters of Ecological Engineering. Here’s what he had to say.
In your study, you explore the benefits of urban tree planting. What are these benefits and why is a healthy and maintained urban tree canopy important?
We might not often think about all the things trees do to make our cities more enjoyable and beautiful places to live. They shade our urban surfaces like pavement that would otherwise soak up a lot of heat, and they further cool the local environment through evapotranspiration. It’s like they act as mini air conditioners when they “breathe in” carbon dioxide and “exhale” water through their stomata. Trees play an important role in efforts to reduce stormwater runoff that can pollute our local water bodies. Trees also remove small amounts of air pollutants either through direct gaseous uptake or by deposition of particles to leaf surfaces, known as dry deposition.
Trees, of course, can also provide food to us humans, as well as food and shelter to a variety of wildlife. There are too many benefits of trees to list, and many are very hard to quantify such as those related to aesthetics or beauty, stress reduction, and other cultural services. So it’s important to maintain our urban forests, and as some have pointed out, urban forests and urban green spaces can be the primary day-to-day experience of “nature” for many city dwellers.
In the academic literature, the concept of ecosystem services captures and describes the benefits of trees. Ecosystem services are organized in broad categories of cultural services, provisioning, regulating, and supporting services.
Why did you choose Baltimore, Maryland as your area of study?
I chose Baltimore for many reasons. One is that there was a lot of previous research done there on a broad range of related topics through the National Science Foundation’s long-term social ecological research (LTSER) project in Baltimore. For instance, much research had gone into quantifying the city’s heat island effect, quality of urban streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and exploring social and environmental inequalities. Our research partners at the US Forest Service had also focused on Baltimore in the past. Finally, Baltimore has a sustainability plan that includes a goal of establishing 40% tree cover by 2040, so that goal provided a useful constraint or parameter for my tree cover modeling work.
Tell me more about your methodology. How did you utilize i-Tree models and other available resources?
I utilized i-Tree models that quantify the air pollution removal performed by trees, avoided health outcomes due to reduced pollution, and estimates of the monetary value of the avoided health outcomes. The health outcome side of things is calculated from an EPA model called BenMAP, which stands for Benefits Mapping. Another i-Tree model estimates temperature and humidity across Baltimore based on land cover (proportions of trees, asphalt, short vegetation, etc.) given the recorded weather conditions from a weather station. By then changing the land cover (adding more trees) I could investigate the location-specific effects of tree cover on temperature and humidity. I then wanted to find priority locations for tree planting based on these pollution and temperature effects (more on that later).
You can imagine that a lot of data is required as inputs to these models. The US Forest Service completed an urban tree canopy assessment project in which high-quality aerial imagery was taken and processed to create land cover maps rich in data. This high-resolution imagery quantifies different types of land cover such as trees, grass, and different kinds of impervious surfaces. It was very important for our work, as well as spatially explicit US Census data, which provides information not just about overall population, but where people live and basic demographic data such as age. This type of data is needed for the health benefits. We also utilized other land cover data from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD). Estimates of fine particulate pollution (called PM2.5) and ozone were also obtained for Baltimore from the EPA.
You mention in the report that your main goal is to determine areas of the city where planting should be prioritized, and existing tree cover should be protected or maintained. What factors did you consider to determine which areas to prioritize?
Really the main goal of the work is to create a tool that communities can themselves use to determine priority areas for planting, weighing and considering a wide range of factors. My work was a first step in creating the first few pieces of such a tool and testing it out.
In this initial work, I focused on the air pollution removal and temperature mitigation (cooling) effects of trees. So we wanted to look at where trees can remove the most air pollution, where they can best reduce air pollution burdens for people in particular, and locations where trees are most needed to reduce extreme temperatures.
One consideration was to be aware and explicit through the modeling itself that there can be a big difference between where the hottest and most polluted locations are versus where people who can experience the benefits of mitigation are. That’s why we needed Census data to know where people are, and also demographic data because we know that the elderly and very young are more susceptible to extreme heat, for instance. Also, we experience heat stress through a combination of temperature and humidity so I used a metric that combines these (the heat index) to explore priority locations for tree planting.
Your report detailed five different “priority planting “scenarios. Can you briefly describe them and the different benefits they explored?
I created different planting scenarios that:
Maximized air pollution removal,
Maximized human benefits of air pollution removal,
Prioritized plantings based on locations with the worst heat index (combination of temperature and humidity)
Prioritized plantings based on a combination of the worst heat index, population size, and relative risk due to age (elderly and very young)
Prioritized plantings based on a combination of the previous point plus the modeled effectiveness of trees in reducing the heat index.
One point I wanted to make was that tree planting priorities could be very different even using the same model and general ecosystem service depending on how you set it up and what exactly is the focus, for instance, air pollution in general or air pollution in populated areas.
Which tree-planting scenario proved to be most beneficial to the city?
This is a very difficult question to answer for many reasons, including the limitations of our models, data, and the subjective or multi-faceted nature of the values and benefits associated with trees.
What we were aiming for is to create tools and approaches that city planners and other people can use to explore planting schemes based on multiple priorities and metrics. Where high priority locations overlap across several different metrics or priorities, we could say synergies are present. In locations where they do not, there are tradeoffs between different services or priorities. We want to use science and mathematical models to supplement local knowledge of where we need more green space, where issues of concern can be addressed, and so forth.
What results were unexpected and what factors may have altered your findings?
One thing that was surprising was that there were very few air quality monitors in Baltimore, so much of the data we used was interpolated and otherwise estimated using statistical techniques. I would have thought in a city its size with known industrial pollution sources there would be many more monitors that could capture the spatial variations across the city. This lack of monitors led to data that we knew underestimated peak pollution and predicted only very small differences in pollution levels across the city. This fact led to consider other locations with more robust data for future work, such as New York City.
The urban core of the city generally showed to be the area where trees had the highest monetary benefit of pollutant removal, however, these areas often have limited available space for tree planting. What strategies could increase planting in this area?
In terms of modeling where new potential tree cover could go, I used the simplification that impervious areas such as buildings and roads would not be replaced by tree cover. To a certain extent, this makes a lot of sense because people would laugh at a model that says to tear down buildings or get rid of roads to obtain more benefits from trees. We basically assumed that any land with bare soil or grasses could potentially be turned into tree cover.
Downtown areas are of course mostly buildings and roads so there is not much of what we defined as “potential plantable” area either according to the assumptions used in the model or in real life. But for future work, we wanted to utilize map-based data that includes estimates of how much paved surface area could be removed and replaced with trees. We generally know that removing impervious surfaces where and when possible and replacing them with green space is good across many different types of ecosystem services. It’s often possible to squeeze some trees into parking lots, or remove portions of sidewalks for trees.
Of course, local communities and people who have direct experience in their locale would know much more about such “potential impervious plantable” areas than a modeler who doesn’t live in the area. So that’s why we ultimately want to gear the tools toward the people who can use them combined with local knowledge.
What further work would you hope to study in order to supplement your data?
There are many avenues for further work. In the paper, I summed it up this way: With further development including consideration of additional ecosystem services, disservices, user input, and costs of tree planting and maintenance, this approach could provide city planners, urban foresters, and members of the public with a powerful tool to better manage urban forest systems.
In what ways do you hope your work will impact the future?
I hope this work will continue to raise awareness about the importance, and benefits of, green spaces in urban areas. One encouraging story I heard about the impact of i-Tree models in Baltimore was that engaged citizens and community groups used the models and their results to get a larger urban forestry budget. Results that indicated benefits of trees significantly outweighed the costs of planting and maintenance went a long way in the tight fiscal environment that many cities face.
To learn more about the research presented here, download the entire study on ScienceDirect. To see what else Ethan is researching, including topics of composting, science and spirituality, visit his blog at www.ethanbodnaruk.com.
Josh Orndorff Joins LandDesign as Director of Civil Engineering in D.C.
We are excited to announce that Josh Orndorff has joined us as the Director of Civil Engineering in our Washington, D.C. office! Josh brings over 16 years of experience in the Washington metro area managing public and private infrastructure and development projects. His areas of expertise include the design and construction of residential, multi-family, commercial, […]
We are excited to announce that Josh Orndorff has joined us as the Director of Civil Engineering in our Washington, D.C. office! Josh brings over 16 years of experience in the Washington metro area managing public and private infrastructure and development projects. His areas of expertise include the design and construction of residential, multi-family, commercial, industrial and mixed use projects.
Josh’s passion is utilizing collaborative design practices to make “yes” the answer. His experience with all stages of the development process, from site selection to bond release, allows him to anticipate potential conflicts and develop strategies to keep the project moving forward. He believes that great design inspires us to create more. On the weekends, you can find Josh playing in a baseball league and building a tiny house along the Shenandoah River.
What matters to Josh:
- Pragmatic problem solving matters.
- Relationships matter.
- Collaboration matters.
- Getting your hands dirty matters.
- Beer and laughter matter.
Six Civil Designers Walk into a PE Exam…And Pass!
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern Work, Study, Sleep. Repeat. This is what a group of our civil designers took on in preparation for their Professional Engineering exams. Recently, Paul Benton, Barrett Blackburn, Kate Goodman, Dan Melvin, Aly Moniaci, and Gurveer Uppal from our Charlotte office took the dreaded eight hour exam. Ultimately, their hard […]
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern
Work, Study, Sleep. Repeat. This is what a group of our civil designers took on in preparation for their Professional Engineering exams. Recently, Paul Benton, Barrett Blackburn, Kate Goodman, Dan Melvin, Aly Moniaci, and Gurveer Uppal from our Charlotte office took the dreaded eight hour exam. Ultimately, their hard work paid off as they successfully passed their exams, making them eligible for the designation of Professional Engineer in the State of North Carolina following four years of experience. While the process may have been rigorous and challenging, passing the PE exam ultimately furthers each designer’s professional career, providing the authority to advocate at the highest level for the design of infrastructure and environmental factors. Congratulations to all of you! Read below to learn more about these talented individuals.
Paul Benton graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree. He began his career working at LandDesign, and has been with us for three years. Paul has been involved in a variety of projects addressing multimodal needs in dense urban environments. His passion for non-motorized and active transportation transfers to his personal life, as a daily bike commuter, a co-chair on the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals, North Carolina chapter, and a vice chair on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicycle Advisory Committee. Obtaining professional licensure has been a personal and professional goal of his for years now. With the exam under his belt, Paul can further his career designing urban infrastructure and promoting active transportation methods.
Barrett Blackburn has worked in the Civil Engineering industry for nearly six years. Of that time, he has been with LandDesign for almost four of them, working to ensure proper infrastructure and environmental conditions for projects while designing spaces that matter. Barrett graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. In his free time, Barrett enjoys the outdoors with a variety of activities including fishing, golfing, hiking, and camping.
Kate Goodman attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Architecture, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Kate has worked as a Civil Engineer for five years, working with LandDesign for two of them. Having these years of experience, Kate has officially earned the title of Professional Engineer. Kate says, “It is a great accomplishment and honor to be recognized by the state and country as a registered engineer to design infrastructure for my community.” But for her, passing the Professional Engineer exam meant much more than recognition. With relatives in the industry, Kate says, “I am proud to carry on the legacy of engineers in my family.”
Dan Melvin has been with LandDesign for two and a half years, working as a Civil Designer. He has been involved with site design and coordination of land development projects, including urban mixed-use, multifamily, single family subdivision, and commercial developments. Dan graduated from Florida State University with his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree. Music is a big part of Dan’s life. He enjoys playing the guitar and discovering new artists. In addition, he enjoys spending time outdoors, especially running around Freedom Park and snowboarding on Sugar Mountain.
Aly Moniaci has been a Civil Designer for LandDesign for just over a year. She attended Texas Tech University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree. With three and a half years of experience in the industry, passing the PE exam was always a goal of hers. “It means that I can continue to excel in the career I enjoy doing every day, and continue to learn and take part in exciting and innovative projects.” Aly enjoys running and exploring. One of her favorite pastimes is two-stepping to Texas country music.
Gurveer Uppal graduated from the University at Buffalo with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering degree. He has been working in the field for almost four years, and has been with LandDesign for nearly two of them. Gurveer works on all stages of project design while utilizing AutoCAD Civil 3D and other software to plan and design for the sites’ development. When he is not designing, Gurveer likes to travel and stay active. He also enjoys going to football games and tailgating.
We congratulate all these talented individuals for their hard work and achievements! We look forward to their continued success, ensuring that LandDesign creates places that matter for years to come.
Designing a Better Lifestyle for our Employees: LandDesign Recognized as Healthiest Employer
By: Alexis Rosamilia, HR Generalist LandDesign is in the business of creating places that matter, places that contribute to peoples’ health and happiness. One of our priorities in HR is to design a wellness program that contributes to and facilitates the health and well-being of all our colleagues. Recently, LandDesign was recognized by Charlotte […]
By: Alexis Rosamilia, HR Generalist
LandDesign is in the business of creating places that matter, places that contribute to peoples’ health and happiness. One of our priorities in HR is to design a wellness program that contributes to and facilitates the health and well-being of all our colleagues. Recently, LandDesign was recognized by Charlotte Business Journal’s Healthiest Employers of Greater Charlotte for our commitment to wellness and our above (national) average wellness initiatives. With our wellness score exceeding the national average, LandDesign was awarded 4th place in the mid-size business category (100-499 employees).
Wellness is more than just exercise and diet, it’s everything that contributes to our daily happiness. At LandDesign, we incorporate the social, emotional, financial, physical, and nutritional components that people need to be well-rounded and content with their lifestyle. A successful wellness program begins with listening to the most important asset: the employee. We listen to their needs and their feedback. Our approach is simple – go directly to the source (our employees) and ask them what they want. What type of program would benefit them the most? And most importantly, what do they want to learn and takeaway from such programming? After all, a wellness program can only be as successful as the people it supports.
There are many components that make up our program but I’ll highlight two of the more prominent ones. The first one being to foster social connectivity within our culture. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a new place with new people. But how great does it feel when you find the person sitting next to you values the same things you do? We give our employees the autonomy and the resources to promote and participate in various activities inside and outside the office. Why? Because it encourages them to get together and establish non-working relationships with each other. We have bike riders who ride together, runners who run together, musicians who play together, foodies who lunch together, adventurers who explore together, humanitarians who volunteer together, and that’s only to name a few.
Another component of our wellness program is community engagement. We are lucky to be a part of a culture that loves to give back. At LandDesign, we participate in various volunteering efforts around our offices to engage with the community. We even offer 8 hours of paid time off for employees to use towards volunteering efforts. Even when our employees are not physically volunteering, they can still consistently participate in a charitable effort through Plus3, an innovative social platform that hosts our wellness clubhouse. The system converts points assigned to logged wellness activities into currency which is then donated by LandDesign to charitable organizations. The program adds another layer of linking community engagement with wellness; and as a nice bonus, we found that the charitable factor acted as an additional incentive for our employees to participate. During hard times, you always wonder, what can I do; I want to help but how? We essentially gave that power to our employees. A way to help get involved with a good cause by doing what they already do so well, by being healthy.
It goes without saying, but you cannot have a successful wellness program without the support of the leadership team. We are extremely thankful to have a leadership team that embodies wellness in their own daily lives and finds the value in promoting and participating in wellness initiatives throughout the firm. All of our wellness initiatives are 100% funded by LandDesign.
We have come to a point in time where employees are seeking more than just a competitive salary. They are seeking flexibility of a job, positive work culture, supportive management, social connectivity, a robust benefits package, community engagement, and other great initiatives that we are able to provide. At the end of the day, we work for a company that values wellness and understands that it is not simply a physical component, but rather a balance of physical, social, emotional, financial, and nutritional components. Feeling connected to ourselves, our culture, our team, and our work is what we aim to cultivate within our wellness programming.
Performance Metrics for Sustainable Landscapes
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot. Today’s landscapes are asked to perform much more than functional or aesthetic services: they filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve human health, and more. As projects become more complex, and clients aim higher to meet today’s climate challenges, the […]
By: Stephanie Marino, LA Designer. Originally posted on DeepRoot.
Today’s landscapes are asked to perform much more than functional or aesthetic services: they filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve human health, and more. As projects become more complex, and clients aim higher to meet today’s climate challenges, the use of performance metrics is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Why Use Data?
While the design of green space and lush plantings seems inherently ecologically beneficial, quantifying the actual value of those benefits is a little more complex. This barrier makes it challenging as we advocate for high-performing landscapes. Meanwhile, the drawbacks of initial cost and maintenance are seen as barriers to the development of more green space. This is where landscape performance metrics are valuable; using data to estimate the positive benefits of design elements and ensuring a landscape performs to the anticipated standards. Data allows us to quantify the benefits of a designed landscape and provides hard evidence for a client trying to balance a project’s budget, schedule, and demands.
Using performance metrics enables designers to show a design’s value and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions. As a landscape architect, I’m increasingly asked to provide performance targets for my designs. Whether I’m advocating for installing a green roof, providing a space for social engagement, or planting more trees, data helps clients understand the long-term value of these decisions, and align our visions. Landscape architects must be able to speak to a design’s performance, which is where data becomes crucial to support a claim. Being able to make rough performance calculations, and having evidence to support decision-making in the infancy of a design, is crucial to the successful implementation of a design vision.
This newfound need to quantify and measure the impacts of design decisions has brought about collaborations and research that is transforming the practice of landscape architecture. Many resources are now available to quantify the likely results of a project goal and determine the value of a landscape. The development of peer-reviewed methods of evaluating environmental impact has emerged, and a number of case studies, toolkits, and resources are available to help better define how to achieve sustainability.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is the first comprehensive rating system for the design, construction, and maintenance of sustainable landscapes. The rating system provides a wide-ranging set of guidelines needed to measure the performance and the value of sustainable landscapes.
Applicable to projects varying from 2,000 square feet to over 200 acres, the program aims to ensure that landscapes are planned, designed, developed, and maintained in a way that either avoids, mitigates, or even reverses the harmful impacts on the environment. SITES advances best practices in landscape architecture and ensures clients that their project has achieved field-tested standards for sustainability.
The Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Landscape Performance Series is another online resource for quantifying the value of the landscape. With over 100 case studies and dozens of toolkit calculators, the Landscape Performance Series aims to transform the way landscape is considered in the design and development process. Bringing together innovations from research, industry, academia, and professional practice, the website is a handy place to find precedents, explore metrics, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) also provides a number of sustainable design resources, including toolkits and guides. The toolkits are broken down into environmental, economic, and social models. The resources are a compilation of the available assessment tools, checklists, and modeling software for a variety of projects and project goals. ASLA has also compiled 40 case studies, which highlight the transformative effects of sustainable landscapes. These tools are aimed at putting sustainable design theory into practice.
Recently, I have become increasingly involved in performance metrics, delving deep into the available resources and even receiving SITES AP credentials. Being able to pull from existing resources and project examples has made the process more manageable, as I try to more fully integrate performance metrics into my practice. Data allows me to evaluate my design decisions, and make sure I’m proposing the best solution for my client.
New metrics and guidelines are helping to better define the benefits of sustainable landscape design, allowing designers to test their methods, become better practitioners, and speak authoritatively about the environmental benefits of sustainable landscapes. They also ensure that projects perform to the quality the client expects. As practitioners we have a unique opportunity to both utilize and advance this important work, creating landscapes that provide clear sustainable performance, and, eventually, elevate the practice as these metrics create new standards.
People Matter: Dale Stewart
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of a firm-wide partnership with REAL School Gardens. The organization is a labor of love for LandDesign Partner Dale Stewart who is creating a lasting and positive impact on two of the most compelling issues that […]
Two weeks ago, employees from LandDesign’s Charlotte office built a learning garden for Idlewild Elementary School, designed as part of a firm-wide partnership with REAL School Gardens. The organization is a labor of love for LandDesign Partner Dale Stewart who is creating a lasting and positive impact on two of the most compelling issues that matter today: education and the environment.
I think the kids are our future.
Even before Dale was a father of four with two grandkids and more on the way, environmental stewardship projects that benefit children have long held a special place in his life. “I think the kids are our future.”
It all began 30 years ago with a competition by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to create a new wilderness camping experience for its summer program. LandDesign won the competition, in part by deftly determining the location of the undisclosed 2,000-acre site. “I think they were impressed, in part, by our sleuthing skills.”
The new camp, which now serves 300 kids a week, typifies Dale’s passion and LandDesign’s mission. “This is one of the places we’ve helped create that truly matters; to our community and to the kids who go there and the memories they create for a lifetime.”
Land Stewardship Matters.
Early in his career as a civil engineer, Dale developed an attitude of servant leadership, focusing his community involvements on advancing environmental stewardship, from member of the first board of directors for the Catawba Lands Conservancy to the board of the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. Later, he was involved in the creation of the Catawba River District (CRD) that sought out and enticed developers to create sustainable projects. “Our goal was to spur land development that was more respectful of the natural environment.”
When the recession hit, the CRD organization pivoted from development to environmental education, transforming to the Green Teacher Network. Working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, they created learning gardens and orchestrated teacher workshops. “The idea was to engage kids in an experiential education that got them out of the classroom and gave them exposure to how food actually grows, and to inspire teachers to use the gardens.”
In July 2016, the organization merged with Washington, D.C.-based REAL School Gardens, a nationally-recognized nonprofit that creates learning gardens at low-income elementary schools and provides teachers with the resources to incorporate the outdoor classroom into their overall curriculum to improve academic achievement and lift up poor performing schools. Dale is now on the national board of REAL School Gardens and serves as board chair for the Carolinas Region.
Community Service Matters.
At about the same time, LandDesign began offering a new benefit of one paid day off a year for employees to give back to the community and, as a firm, chose to partner with REAL School Gardens to deploy all of its assets, from design expertise to sweat equity.
At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter.
The firm’s skill-based pro bono support includes designing the outdoor garden classrooms and working closely with REAL School Gardens’ design/build team, to providing office assistance, event support and social media development.
Last month, employees from the Charlotte office joined other volunteers for a day-long “Big Dig” at Idlewild Elementary, a high-poverty, high achieving neighborhood school of 1,100 students that was recently named the best magnet school in the nation. The outdoor garden they built will help Idlewild students for years to come learn how to grow vegetables and eat nutritionally while supporting the school’s STEM and language arts curriculums.
Dale views LandDesign’s partnership with REAL School Gardens as a legacy project for the firm. “At LandDesign, we apply our skills and knowledge in service to both our clients and the community to create places that matter. That means not just turning dirt and building the next project, but creating successful schools that improve the quality of life for an entire community.”
Long term relationships and mentoring staff matter.
Beyond his social good, Dale is a soft-spoken, yet powerful, force for creating relationships and people that matter for LandDesign.
Your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and community.
“One of the things I’m pretty proud of in my career, and encourage our staff to aspire to, is cultivating long-term client relationships.” He points to his association with the Harris family and Crescent Resources that, over 30 years, has produced projects such as Ballantyne and Phillips Place, a groundbreaking project in the mid 1990s that was among the first true mixed-use developments. Currently, his work with Crescent Resources and Lincoln Harris includes a 1,400-acre regional development involving one of the last greenfield sites in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.
Dale shares the wisdom he’s gained from his 40-plus year career to help others at the firm mature in theirs. “You can make a perfectly good living by sitting in your office all day and turning out plans. But, your sense of satisfaction in your career is going to be greatly enhanced if you become engaged in your industry and your community. Not only will you be making the community a better place, but you’ll meet and forge relationships with a lot more people you may never have met otherwise.”
New Intern Class Kicks Off Their First Week with a Design Charrette
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is what our newest class of interns took on as they started their first week at the Charlotte office. After some introductions, a tour of the office, and a trip around surrounding Charlotte neighborhoods, the […]
By: Emma Davis, Marketing Intern
New people, new office, new project, and for some, a new city. This is what our newest class of interns took on as they started their first week at the Charlotte office.
After some introductions, a tour of the office, and a trip around surrounding Charlotte neighborhoods, the interns went right to work on a current project in the Design District of South End. The intern class was split into two teams, each composed of seven individuals of varying fields. From civil engineers and landscape architects to urban planners and marketing majors, the interns had to bring their skills together to create a final product.
Within a three day span, the interns were responsible for creating an identity for the site, analyzing the site inventory and surrounding area, and generating detailed plans for the project’s design. Each day of work was followed by a critique provided by the charrette managers and other staff members. The experienced designers gave the interns insight to the strengths and weaknesses of both the project design and presentation. From the given advice, the interns were able to focus on what they needed to accomplish in order to improve upon their initial design concept.
Thursday arrived, and the teams hurried to complete all tasks in order to give the client and designers throughout the office a clear presentation of their unique plans for the project. Site maps, vignettes, precedent photos, objective outlines, and master plans covered the walls as the interns prepared for their presentations.
The interns were eager to show off their designs and compilations. This project would be their first chance to showcase their skills to the LandDesign staff. How did they do? Jeff Mis, a charrette leader, commended the group, “These interns were fantastic to work with, and the civil and landscape designers worked extremely well together. It is a strong group we have!” The interns not only proved their ability to create exceptional products, but also their ability to work with others of a variety of disciplines.
While the charrette could have been viewed as an intimidating task, both teams demonstrated that they were up for the challenge and ready for a summer of interdisciplinary work experience with LandDesign.
To see the final charrette presentation, check out our Facebook Live post.
People Matter: Bike to Work Spotlight
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.” Bike-friendly places matter. Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means […]
Alison participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike-friendly places matter.
Bike To Work Day is part of a national movement to make America bike friendly. What does that mean? It means a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling along with creating safe and convenient places to ride and park. In honor of the occasion, meet two members of LandDesign who are local trailblazers for the bike-friendly movement and help carry the torch for our firm’s bike culture.
- Alison Peckett is a landscape designer in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. A positive attitude matters. Being socially and environmentally conscious matters.
- Matthew Weschler is a civil engineer designer in our Charlotte office. Travel and adventure matter. Complete neighborhoods matter. Freedom of expression matters.
What sparked your passion for bicycling?
For Alison, it certainly was not the repetitive bike rides around her suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac as a child! As an urban designer and environmentalist though, she’s studied the influence that innovative transportation planning can have on cities and the important role bikes play in community design. “I’m fortunate to live and work in Washington, D.C.; a city that promotes a bike-friendly lifestyle.”
Conversely, Matt grew up in a neighborhood on top of a really tall hill. “One of his favorite activities was riding to the top of my neighbor’s driveway and racing my friends to the bottom of our street. I still feel that thrill when I’m coasting down hills in Charlotte.”
What type of bike do you own?
Matt owns a Kona Dew Deluxe, a lightweight nine-gear hybrid bike with hydraulic brakes that he describes as “a nice commuter bike.”
Nothing so fancy for Alison who owns an old vintage red Schwinn road bike that is her main source of transportation. “A wise bike mechanic once told me the key to a good city bike is finding something that is dingy enough that no one wants to steal it, but also decent enough that you can use it to zip around town. Once you achieve this equilibrium, you’re golden.”
Alison also has a bike share membership (a short-term bicycle rental program). “Most mornings, I walk to a bike share, bike share to the metro station, then take the metro to work. It seems kind of nutty to most people, but it is this seamless synergy of all these modes of transportation that makes living in the city so fun.”
What is your most memorable/interesting bicycling trip?
For Alison, it was a bucket-list solo bike trip through Berlin, Amsterdam and the tulip fields of Holland. “I essentially planned the entire trip around this one single activity.” Alison was struck by the region’s biking culture where bike lanes were seamlessly integrated into every roadside and neighborhood, allowing her to navigate through several small towns to her dream destination: Keukenhof, the largest tulip park in the world where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted each year.
Matt’s most memorable bike trip is still before him. “While it’s high on my to-do list, I have yet to undertake a bike-packing trip.” In the meantime, he enjoys interesting monthly group bike rides with fun themes as a “Sushi Roll” biking tour of Charlotte’s sushi restaurants and the “Tour-de-Dough” ride to some of the city’s many fine donut shops.
How are you active in support of making Charlotte/DC-Alexandria a great bicycling community?
Matt supports car(e)free streets including volunteering for the recent Open Streets event in his Elizabeth neighborhood. The event featured local nonprofit groups, government agencies and businesses all aimed at educating the public about efforts to make Charlotte a friendlier place for people to walk and bike. “The streets were closed to all vehicular traffic, and opened up for pedestrians and cyclists to roam free. It was inspiring to meet so many people working on this critical problem.”
Alison helps organize the Potomac ASLA’s Landscape Architecture Bike Tour that takes riders throughout D.C. to experience several notable design landmarks around the district. “This is always a fun event to see the city by bike and share the importance of what we do with the larger community.” She also participates in National Bike to Work Day each year with co-workers in what she describes as “a bike gang of landscape architects rolling deep through the streets of Alexandria.”
Bike friendly communities require a welcome and supportive infrastructure, including well-connected bicycling networks, quiet neighborhood streets and shared use trails. What bike-friendly aspects of your community do you enjoy most and why?
Allison believes bikes are an indicator of the vibrancy of an urban area, and Washington, D.C. does not disappoint. “Within minutes, I can be riding through the lush forested canopy of Rock Creek Park and then suddenly be among the monuments on the National Mall.”
She is also the rare person who loves her commute to work, often joined by co-worker Lisa Biddle. “We always look forward to beautiful days when we can hop on our bikes and ride to work along the Mt. Vernon Trail; a greenway that winds along the Potomac River. No matter how your day goes, you always know it will end with a beautiful ride home, especially the approach to city with the Washington monument and Jefferson Memorial illuminated in the background. I definitely don’t take for granted that I live in a city that allows me to do this.”
Matt also commutes to work on two wheels using a bike path behind his house, often stopping to enjoy the cooler air and quiet separation from heavy traffic. Sometimes, he takes a detour on the way home, hopping on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, one of LandDesign’s iconic projects. “Even though it runs right through the heart of midtown Charlotte, it still feels like a break from the city’s constant movement.”
In her work at LandDesign, Alison is finding that more clients are realizing the value of “bikability,” including several municipalities that have strict requirements for bike infrastructure and parking. “There is a strong relationship between the urban projects we design and their accessibility by biking or other alternative forms of transportation.”
“Biking has the power to create mobility and accessibility for everyone as an efficient and affordable means of transportation. Our role as landscape architects is directly tied to this, where we play an instrumental role in helping transform cities into more socially inclusive and viable places to live.”