2030 Palette

Architecture 2030’s new 2030 Palette might just be the design tool I’ve been dreaming of – a built environment performance simulation tool that works across site, district, neighborhood, city, and regional scales. What isn’t shared yet, is the underlying methodology and data used the calculations.

If Palette is just another fancy case study browsing interface (there are plenty of those already), which is all that the screen shots and interactive tour feature, then I’ll be sorely disappointed as we desperately need a performance tool that transcends scale and integrates buildings into the larger landscape.

Once I have a chance to test it, I’ll post more. Really hoping Ed Mazria and crew have delivered. If they have, I’ll probably use Palette as the core in one or more of my studios next year.

Daylighting the Saw Mill River

The last time I was living in LA, I was working for the architecture and planning practice, EEK. One of my projects was master planning downtown Yonkers, New York. Now, five years later, the NYTimes has an editorial extolling the virtues of daylighting Saw Mill River aka Nepperhan Creek – the centerpiece of the ‘new’ downtown  a la San Antonio’s Riverwalk with a twist. That twist is a Minor League Baseball Park nestled into a bend of the Creek on the site of a former municipal parking lot known as ‘Chicken Island’. I spent several days siting the stadium (designed by others) a few feet north, or west, slight rotation clockwise, then twist the other way, until the optimum balance was found. This project is an interesting bit of urbanism that will have a positive impact on Yonkers for generations to come.

Daylighting is the term used to describe the restoration of a culverted stream by removing the culvert and exposing the water to the ‘day light’ now that streams are seen as an urban amenity. Back in the 19th and early 20th century, many urban streams were enclosed in pipes and turned either into storm drains or sewers for both sanitary and real estate development purposes. The daylighting process may require adjusting the elevation of the stream bed out of the historic valley, may be a partial restoration where some of the stream flow is day lighted and the rest remains in the culvert, or may be completely artificial with recirculated water (see the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul).

more on the project here, here, & here.

solar design – moving beyond the farm

As a landscape architect, I cringe when I see massive engineering and infrastructure projects that demonstrate no sensitivity to the site, ecology, or culture. Solar power and renewable energy projects are no exception. There needs to be a better way to deploy large scale solar energy projects that reduce their cultural and ecological impact on the landscape.

There is an interesting etymology emerging for solar power projects that have agricultural and ecological imagery. Solar farms, solar groves, solar forest, solar trees, solar ranch, and bright fields, all evoke sylvan or pastoral landscapes while the reality is anything but that in most cases. If we play this game – solar orchards, solar gardens, solar bosques, solar glens, solar dell, solar pastures, solar glades, solar forest, solar plantation, solar jungles, solar meadows, solar pastures, solar shrubs, solar trees, and perhaps solar topiaries – may all soon to join the lexicon of solar projects for better or worse.

Compared to most other forms of energy, solar farms have one of the lightest impact no mater how you slice it – EROEI, LCA, area per watt, co2e/watt or btu, et cetera. Robert Bryce got the math wrong by ignoring the baseline of fossil fuel impacts in his June NYTimes Op-Ed. Yes – solar and wind farms require large areas (if not build in urban areas), but their footprints are minimal compared to fossil fuels which require equally large areas that are usually hidden from public view – from the mines/oil fields, to processing plants/refineries, pipelines, tank farms, and then there is the area contaminated downwind and down stream that Bryce is paid to ignore. Okay, there are toxic byproducts of both thin film and silicon cell production, but again, these are significantly lower per watt then most other forms of energy production.

Yes, solar energy development may require removal of vegetation over tens of square miles (which impacts the ability to keep the mirrors clean), digging the point foundations for the heliostats (see image below) & turbines, and depletion of groundwater to keep the panels/mirrors clean. But compared to the other renewable energy systems, solar’s environmental impacts are an order of magnitude less then wind farms which sprawl over much more land, mix the atmosphere, require massive foundations and structures, and create noise problems to name just a few issues; or are several orders of magnitudes less then hydropower and most biofuels. Energy sprawl is real, but don’t blame wind or solar.

Still, this small footprint  isn’t good enough, but now there is hope for integrating photovoltaics into our cultural landscape.

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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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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 www.asla.org/sustainablelandscapes, and use these examples to help tell the profession’s story.

78 Resonable Questions to ask about any Technology

via mindfully and written by Stephanie Mills for the defunct Clamor Magazine, i.18, Jan/Feb 03.

Old news, but worth sharing as a reflection of what I’m thinking about this summer.


  1. What are its effects on the health of the planet and of the person?
  2. Does it preserve or destroy biodiversity?
  3. Does it preserve or reduce ecosystem integrity?
  4. What are its effects on the land?
  5. What are its effects on wildlife?
  6. How much and what kind of waste does it generate?
  7. Does it incorporate the principles of ecological design?
  8. Does it break the bond of renewal between humans and nature?
  9. Does it preserve or reduce cultural biodiversity?
  10. What is the totality of its effects—it’s “ecology”?
  11. Social

  12. Does it serve community?
  13. Does it empower community members?
  14. How does it affect our perception of our needs?
  15. Is it consistent with the creation of a communal, human economy?
  16. What are its effects on relationships?
  17. Does it undermine conviviality?
  18. Does it undermine traditional forms of community?
  19. How does it affect our way of scene and experiencing the world?
  20. Does it foster a diversity of forms of knowledge?
  21. Does it build on, or contribute to, the renewal of traditional forms of knowledge?
  22. Does it serve to commodify knowledge or relationships?
  23. To what extent does it redefine reality?
  24. Does it to raise a sense of time and history?
  25. What is its potential to become addictive?                  Continue reading

Paper versus Coal?

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

How many of us have this little icon of a road (or is a stream) and the pine tree as part of our email signature? Anybody know the origin of that icon?

Last fall, I taught a ‘paperless’ seminar, in that I did not print out any assignments and required that all student’s work to be submitted via email or the course website on moodle. (Okay, there was a required text book). Avoiding the use of paper and copiers seemed to be a no-brainer as a method to practice what I was preaching. Now a white paper by Don Carli has come out that compares the environmental impact of the energy needed by data farms to the embedded energy in paper and impact of clear cutting and the picture isn’t quite so clear. The reason is mountaintop removal by coal companies to fuel the power plants that power our gadgets and the web servers.

Mountaintop Removal Site in Pickering Knob, West Virginia

Again, this seems like one of those catch 22s where these is no good solution beyond ending literacy and returning to living in caves.

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