Books – summer 2011

As I pack up my UMN office, there are piles of books that are worth sharing, before they go into a box. Here are just a few of them in no particular order:

Heat Islands: Understanding and Mitigating Heat in Urban Areas

by Lisa Gartland (Earthscan 2008)

This is a well researched and comprehensive book that explores methods of shrinking the urban heat island. It’s worth noting that Gartland provides the best explanation of albedo and emissivity I’ve yet to encounter. Where the book falls short, is it doesn’t consider going against the status quo of development and engineering practices (i.e. increasing density, or narrower streets), instead just discusses using different low albedo/pervious materials and the usual fixes.

Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning

by Timothy Beatley (Island Press  2011)

A slim volume that lays out the philosophical case for creating living cities. Doesn’t get bogged down in the technical details or process, and occasionally falls into thinking that biomimicry or a pretty garden equals a fully functioning and resilient ecosystem. Overall a good introduction to the concepts of eco-cities.

Addicted to Energy: A venture capitalist’s perspective on how to save our economy and our climate

by Elton Sherwin (Energy House 2010)

Unique among the dozens of big picture saving the planet books I’ve read over the last two years. The book is framed as a letter to a governor, which allows for discussion of policy and regulations at the state level. The author also uses examples from his personal life to keep the book from becoming too dry. Very well researched, and a good introduction for business minded folks that need the economic case made for changing their own/corporate behaviors.

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Wildlife crossing – do you want fries with that?

the NYT reports on the winner of a design competition for a wildlife overpass on i-70 near Vail CO. The winning land bridge was designed by Van Valkenberg, HNTB, and my friends at Applied Ecological Services to be as ecologically appropriate from the materials to the construction practices.

Here are pdf downloads for all the entries:

Since there are no plans for Colorado DOT to actually construct the winning design, we are left with a supersized idea that is empty of calories.

“As you fragment the habitat, the long-term prognosis for wildlife is bad,” said Rob Ament, the project manager for the group sponsoring the competition, which bestows a $40,000 award and was initiated by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and the Woodcock Foundation in New York.

Integrated Campus Modeling – the Salovich Project

I’ve been holding back on this post since mid-September until all the stars were in alignment –  we now have a website and have issued the press release, so here is my BIG news for the Fall:

I’m really excited to share that the Department of Landscape Architecture and the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota have been awarded $255,545 to develop a new curriculum focused on teaching on the integration of energy and environmental modeling of campuses.

The Salovich Zero+ Campus Design Project is investigating how to integrate energy and environmental performance modeling, using the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Campus as our laboratory. The project is a collaboration between the University’s College of Design’s Department of Landscape Architecture and School of Architecture, in association with Capital Planning & Project Management, Facilities Management, and the Institute on the Environment. Funding is provided by the Ann Salovich Fund.

Modeling the energy performance of buildings is well established and integrated into the design of all new buildings at the University of Minnesota per state law. Performance modeling of environmental factors (storm water, biodiversity, shade and ground cover, energy use in the landscape, and other criteria) are not usually considered or integrated into the creation of the building energy models. These environmental factors play a significant role in the actualized performance of the campus, and also contribute to the beauty of place. The Salovich Zero+ Campus Project will explore how to integrate the modeling of buildings into the campus landscape, and to enhance the performance of the landscape.

The Project consists of several interrelated tasks: developing a new multi-disciplinary graduate curriculum on campus modeling, hosting symposiums/workshops/student forums to increase interest into campus modeling, providing student scholarships to promote academic excellence into researching campus modeling, and disseminating knowledge about campus performance modeling

The project team is lead by Lance Neckar – Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, and Mary Guzowski – Director of Graduate Studies, School of Architecture/Director of  MS Sustainable Design program, while Loren Abraham and myself are the research fellows who will do most of the work and teach the classes. Our graduate research assistants (for 2010/2011) include Derek Schilling (MLA candidate), Elizabeth Turner (M.Arch/MS candidate), and Laurie McGinley (M.Arch candidate).

from: Condon et al, Urban Planning Tools for Climate Change Mitigation

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LA 1001 in the news

I’ve been busy developing a new course for spring, LA 1001 Sustainability by Design: Community, Place, & Environment. Last week, there was an article in the CDES Memo written by my potential co-instructor: Sarah Wolbert (it all depends on enrollment figures if I get teaching help).

Over at MN Daily, they just published an article too. My favorite quote selected by Ashley Bray, the reporter at the MN Daily piece, is:

“It’s going to be a salad bar of sustainability and design at the University.”

We’ll see about that – I certainly will aim to be the bacon bits that tie the class together. Continue reading

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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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.

student work spring 2010

This post is dedicated to the exceptional work done by my students this semester in my 2nd year MLA studio LA 8205 at the University of Minnesota. Please note that the projects shown are protected by Creative Commons attribute/ non-commercial license and posted here by permission. Click the images to enlarge.

Natalie Ross explored the milkshed of the Kemps Dairy processing plant in north Minneapolis for the 3 week mapping exercise.

Natelie Ross

Natalie Ross and Lief Peterson‘s final project explored reworking Highway 55 (Olson Highway) into a multi-modal greenway.

Woven #1

Woven #2

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