LA1001 Sustainability by Design

I’m pleased to share the news that my course proposal for LA 1001 Sustainability by Design was approved for Spring 2011. This course was developed in collaboration with many of my colleagues in the Department of Landscape Architecture and with the folks in the Sustainability Minor.

From the syllabus:

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
– Albert Einstein

“The ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century’s frontier.” – Bruce Sterling


Humans face a self-inflicted crisis of growing population, depleted resources, a changing climate, and toxins in the environment. Sustainability is the definition and the application of long-term solutions to the environmental issues that our planet faces. While individual lifestyle choices play a large factor in determining the environmental impact of our society, the built environment limits and controls many of those choices. This is our future, so what can we do in the Twin Cities to adapt?
Sustainability by Design will be a civic forum to explore how the Twin Cities region will adapt to climate change, depleted energy resources, and other environmental impacts. The course will provide an overview of how cities and places are designed, how the process of design shapes the environmental impacts that result, and the possible adaptation strategies to deal with a changing climate and shrinking resources. The purpose of the course is to provide students and our guests, a forum to engage in the decision making process regarding how to adapt the Twin Cities for a changing world.
The built environment is composed of landscapes, infrastructure (roads and utilities), buildings, and a wide variety of land-uses that encompass rural and urban places. Design is the process of imagination, evaluation, decision making, problem solving, and leadership that shapes the creation of places, things, and systems. The Department of Landscape Architecture is focused on the discipline of designing and creating evocative, meaningful places that sustainably integrate ecological systems with the built environment.

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DoD Green

The power of the military to create the green economy has been overlooked by most environmentalists and advocates. A carbon free military has the potential to be the major game changer because of the research and development brilliance of DARPA combined with the almost unlimited funding that the military-industrial complex can bring to bear to deploy next generation renewable energy systems.

The New York Times discusses the strategic and tactical imperative for shifting the military from carbon based energy:

[S]enior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ship.

The Department of Defense is looking at all branches of the armed services – not just ground troop in the push to remove fossil fuels. The air force is investing in biofuels, the navy in hybrid ships and algae based fuels. Potable water is another resource that the military is researching. Continue reading

ASLA green

The latest missive from the ASLA has a rich collection of cool project links that are worth sharing with the non-members out there. It’s taken a bit longer for ‘scapers to start shouting about how green they are, but now we are!

ASLA Honor Award Recipient, HtO Park by Janet Rosenberg + Associates (JRA), Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Hariri Pontarini Acrhitects, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Landscape architects have been “Green Since 1899,” but now we have the Internet to show everyone just how green you are. ASLA has expanded a new online tool designed to educate the general public, government officials, clients, and the media about the work of landscape architects and the social, economic and environmental benefits of sustainable design. Called “Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes,” this interactive learning tool uses 20 case studies that include image slide shows, descriptions, project facts, and downloadable one-page briefs to help answer the question, “What do landscape architects do?”

The site reflects more than a year’s work of research and writing, partially supported with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Explore the case studies below, check out all the resources at, and use these examples to help tell the profession’s story.