Today’s cities are designed for cars, and cars only. One hundred years of automobiles have transformed the way that our cities function and are laid out. Highways are cut through older and declining neighborhoods, downtown office buildings have been demolished for surface parking lots, and cities have become less dense and sprawl further and further into the countryside.
If we rethink our cities in terms of scale, we can work to design a diversified transportation network. Dense areas with greater numbers of people lend themselves to either smaller vehicles, such as bikes (and our feet), or shared vehicles, such as buses or trains. Areas with more open space and fewer users more easily accommodate larger numbers of cars and the requisite parking. Thus, thought of as a continuum of scale, from the far suburbs to the dense city centers, we begin to organize a network.
Greenways, bike lanes and sharrows (shared lane markings) are some of the myriad ways that we, as landscape architects, are working to diversify the transportation network in our cities. Even within these design typologies, we think in terms of scale. Greenways serve as larger regional connectors (the highway for bicycles and pedestrians), bike lanes are designated lanes on larger streets, and sharrows tend to be used on low traffic neighborhood streets, where safety is not as much of an issue.
In addition to specific facilities, as we work to diversify the system, multi-user Complete Streets strategies help to make our urban areas more accessible. Complete Streets emphasizes streets and sidewalks that accommodate all users: people in cars and buses, bicycles, wheelchairs, and pedestrians. Streets begin to be designed with designated bike lanes, flush curbs for accessibility and integrated bus drop off areas. Whereas, in the past, the street would have been designed to maximize traffic flow and parking, we are now looking at traffic calming strategies to protect pedestrians, and we are willing to reduce parking if it means gaining areas for outdoor dining, street trees, green infrastructure and bike lanes.
This in turn, brings us back to the topic of scale. As parking is reduced, and roadways and traffic velocities are reduced in urban areas, biking and bike shares, carpooling and park and ride facilities start to make a lot of sense. Again, as we move inward from the far reaches of the city, we transition from larger, more space intensive modes of transport, to smaller ones better adapted to dense urban areas. We leave you with an interesting quote, perhaps more appropriate for more densely urban areas than our own, but interesting all the same:
“The city needs a car like a fish needs a bicycle.”
The bicycle as we know it has been around since 1885 and has changed very little since that time. Yes, materials and construction have improved, but the basic diamond frame of the bicycle has stayed virtually the same. During the end of the nineteenth and into the beginning of the twentieth century, the bicycle took the world by storm.
For more than 20 years, bicycles have changed the way cities function. Its development marked the first time that people could move about freely, without relying on train schedules or the mood of a horse. It led to major changes in the city, as the first paved roads were advocated by pro-bicycle organizations. In fact, the rules of the road and even the pneumatic tire had their beginnings with the bicycle. However, in the early parts of the twentieth century, the golden age of pedal transport started to come to an end with the mass production of automobiles.
So why do we treat bicycles and cars in the same way? Bicyclists are expected to share the road with cars. It is not because cars and bikes are the same – anyone who has ended up riding their bike on a narrow shoulder of a state highway will tell you they are not. It is because the laws of the road were largely established for bicycle safety, and then adapted to cars.
Today we have traffic signals, and lane striping has made busy streets less of the free-for-all that they would have been in the early twentieth century. But the rules are virtually the same.
Thus, for the casual rider who suddenly decides that February’s “Shift Your Commute” challenge is a great opportunity to get on two wheels, the rules are simple: Riding a bike on the street means following the same rules you would in a car. Signal when you turn. Stop at stop signs and lights. Have a front and rear light on your bike. Ride in the same direction as traffic.
Here is a summary of Missouri Bicycle Laws as provided by MoDOT:
Wendell Berry has a knack for distilling big ideas into small points and making a big point with a small idea. This quote from his 1990 collection of essays, “What Are People For?” cuts to the heart of why we might want and likely need to grow a little food of our own. Many people are engaged in small scale alternative forms of agriculture, from tending herb gardens to raising urban chickens. These small acts of agriculture are an important step forward to a more sustainable and ultimately more secure future. They may seem insignificant, but we should never underestimate the power of how little things aggregate to form big movements. Alternative agriculture is about participation.
Not everyone wants to be a farmer. True, but we would also suggest that providing some part of our own dietary needs is critical to our health, hearts, and social structures. Not everyone wants to be a mathematician or novelist, but we as a culture aspire to the idea that everyone should be able to read, write, and do basic math. Should growing a little food or raising some chickens be any different? We all must eat food; shouldn’t we know a little something about growing it?
Cities can be difficult places to grow food. While St. Louis has a wealth of open land in urban areas, we are also plagued by low population density and an often contaminated land base. As opposed to cities like Seattle that have waiting lists for spots in their community gardens, urban farming proposals in St. Louis are often met with a healthy dose of skepticism, most often questioning who will be the people that will do the work. This is certainly a fair question.
While a lot of attention has been given to ‘urban’ agriculture, it is important to remember how many people in our country also live in suburban, peri-urban, and rural areas. In many cases, small acts of agriculture might be more easily incorporated into the landscape of these non-urban areas. With less soil disturbance and more land area per dwelling unit, the suburbs may be the perfect place to participate in small scale alternative forms of agriculture. Wendell Berry also suggests that an average family of four can grow a good portion of their annual dietary needs on 2400sf of well managed land. Outside of the city, this is but a small portion of the average suburban back yard.
The places we grow food should be as beautifully designed as the food grown in them. This is an especially important point for those of us in the design profession. More than appearances, the beauty of design in alternative agriculture might be found in how these places work, both ecologically and socially. As more people begin to participate in alternative forms of agriculture, we need to find new ways to collaborate on projects that cross between social work, environmental justice, landscape architecture, nutrition science, civil engineering and water management, botany and ethnology, not to mention cooking! Get out and grow something.
During this time of year, peace and serenity are often on people’s minds as we give thanks for the many blessings we share. This is also a time of healing – not only physical, but emotional as well. Landscape architects are tasked with creating beautiful and functional spaces in which people live, work and play. But we also create spaces that foster healing – spaces that engage all five senses and provide a deeper level of engagement. Spaces that mend.
At Ranken Jordan’s new Pediatric Specialty Hospital, SWT Design worked with hospital staff to create a sensory garden in which children could go to recover from debilitating injuries and illnesses by allowing them to experience the great outdoors. When designed well, sensory gardens are a valuable resource for a wide range of users. Unlike traditional display gardens that are in many cases observed from a distance, sensory gardens draw visitors to touch, smell and actively experience the garden with all senses.
Sensory gardens have proven therapeutic values for individuals with special needs, much like those patients at Ranken Jordan Pediatric. The site features a challenge path, an interactive spray ground, playground units, a butterfly garden, imagination garden, rose garden and various themed sculptures throughout the property.
A space does not have to be designated as a “sensory garden” for people to recognize the benefits they offer. Landscape architects carefully choose materials, both for the hardscape and landscape, for all projects in order to blend together a space that offers people a dynamic experience.
The old saying goes: Stop and smell the roses… This holiday season, as we give thanks, remember to take a few extra moments while walking through the park or driving down Main Street. You may find yourself getting a little extra out of those spaces that you enjoy every day.
SWT Design makes substantial efforts to consider the environmental, economic, and social impacts of each of our design decisions. As designers, it is not only our responsibility to evaluate the impact of change on a particular site for our clients, but it is also just as critical to consider the effects and potential opportunities for change at larger scales. Cities wrestle daily with urban issues such as decline, revitalization, infrastructure and sustainability, making it important to consider opportunities that address these issues at multiple scales. Each project, client and site is an opportunity to encourage big-picture thinking and challenge the existing patterns of development in our communities. Remember, every design decision and alteration we make on the built environment has a compounding effect on the community, region and world. Design projects allow us opportunities to address the needs of the site and our clients, as well as to set examples and create catalysts for change. Creation of policy, incentives and a clear framework assist in guiding development in cohesive and consistent directions.
SWT Design approaches projects with an understanding of these larger influences and strives to present opportunities for positive change with regional outcomes. As urban designers and landscape architects, we actively practice “thinking big and starting small” with projects’ measurable improvements extending beyond the sites’ boundaries to regional systems, watersheds, ecologies, infrastructure and the environment.
As the average population is aging, demand for healthcare services continues to rise throughout the world. And with healthcare professionals already in short supply, this dramatic increase imposes added pressure on healthcare providers while creating a more highly competitive market. As a result, healthcare systems are rebranding and restructuring to offer greater efficiency, facilitate growth and increase public outreach.
SWT Design has been successfully designing within the healthcare industry for years, helping healthcare systems strengthen their identity, campus design, and overall patient experience. Design professionals play a vital role in facilitating smart change and evolution for healthcare systems as they battle these industry shifts and prepare for a future model of healthcare. As designers, it is critical to consider all patrons of healthcare from recipient to caregiver. The design of hospitals, clinics, and all healthcare facilities needs to simultaneously meet the needs of the patients, families, physicians and coworkers demanding complex design solutions.
Site planning and campus design of these various facilities can assist in solving issues of brand, experience, efficiency and outreach. SWT Design assists health systems in creating spaces in which all patients can have a comfortable healing experience. Though our design and site planning influence will not directly solve the overall crisis facing the industry, the outcomes of our designs make significant impacts in the everyday lives of patients, families, physicians and coworkers, while continuing to educate on the therapeutic value of the outdoor environment.
Grow Native! is a program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation that helps protect and restore biodiversity by increasing conservation awareness of native plants and their effective use in developed landscapes. By building partnerships among private industry, non-profit organizations, government agencies and landowners, Grow Native! aims to significantly increase the demand for and use of native plants. Grow Native! provides individuals, organizations, schools and government agencies with information, education and training materials that help them discover and use native plants. Grow Native! also offers professional memberships and businesses marketing materials that help “grow” sales.
In this month’s edition of “Outside In,” we featured our commitment to enhancing the profession of landscape architecture by supporting universities and their students through our Internship Program. As a sign of our growth over the past year, we were fortunate enough to host two student interns this summer from the Sam Fox School at Washington University. One of our student interns, Mikey Naucas, came to us looking for more exposure to the profession. His last full day with us is on August 3, and as Mikey tells us, the experience has certainly lived up to his expectations.
Mikey earned a B.S. in Architecture from Washington University and is currently the first student to be considered for a dual MLA + MArch degree from the Sam Fox School. Prior to SWT, Mikey gained more than six years experience working for an architecture studio. He brought that tacit knowledge with him to SWT Design, making the transition from architecture to landscape architecture somewhat natural – so why the switch to landscape architecture? “As an architect, I was always interested in outdoor design,” said Mikey. “Those design interests aligned with the built environment as a whole and my work turned to site design. The dual degree has allowed me to fully explore both sides. Embedded in the discipline is ecology, systems integration and the built environment which architecture can sometimes ignore. You can’t avoid it in landscape architecture.”
During his three months with SWT Design, Mikey acknowledges that the people and environment of the studio are just as important as the work itself, and feeling engaged from the beginning contributed in large part to his success. “Folding into project work was an easy transition for me,” said Mikey. “The unfamiliar side was those things that make landscape architecture so complex.”
Looking forward, Mikey is eager to work on as many diverse projects as possible.
Too often do we forget that planning for future development – the process of analyzing what we have now, what we want and how we are going to get there – involves much more than producing a set of graphics showing generic building footprints and street trees. To be successful, a final master plan must be the result of a comprehensive process, one that identifies opportunities for economic development, preserves a community’s character and guides future growth. In the end, a master plan is a road map for the future.
In many cases, master plans are used to generate excitement, raise funds or create awareness. What is the cause – is it for change, or out of necessity? Regardless of the reason, we develop these plans to set a framework, establish a strategy and provide a common vision. The process takes into consideration the environmental, civic and economic impacts that come with growth.
The outcome is a living document from which key stakeholders have:
- A consistent point of reference from which all decisions are made
- Predictability in budgeting and planning
- Opportunities for economic development
- Potential for resource optimization
To remain viable, a master plan must be flexible and dynamic. It must be able to respond to change as well as guide it.
Successful campus planning and design hinges on the context and culture upon which the existing campus was built – the current layout not only speaks to history and heritage, but also provides the design team with a framework for future growth. By definition, a campus is traditionally the land on which a college, university, hospital, business, or related buildings are situated. Regardless of whether the campus is a university, hospital, or a corporate entity, a successful campus design can either supplement an existing identity or provide an altogether new brand and image.
From a planning point of view, the design team must not only create and maintain the plan, but also be cognizant of the process at play: thinking about the activities required to create a desired goal on some scale. This thought process is essential to the creation and refinement of a plan, or integration of it with other plans – that is, it combines forecasting of developments with preparation of scenarios of how to react to them.
As part of the process, the design team must keep the end user in mind. As with any planning effort, particularly in the context of a campus, it’s important to remember that the experience can be different for each user, be it a student, faculty, corporate executive or visitor. To be successful, the plan has to incorporate design features that will satisfy a diverse group of users. Therefore, planning and design at the campus scale requires the design team to play multiple roles – part visionary and part sociologist, part artist and engineer, part economist and politician. It’s important to work with clients to develop viable long-term plans that both guide and encourage change, providing the necessary tools to bring about changes that benefit generations to come.
SWT Design’s Co-Founding Principal Jim Wolterman has received one of the highest honors in our profession – The American Society of Landscape Architecture has elevated Jim to the Council of Fellows, recognizing him for his contribution to landscape architecture and the community in leadership and management. Over the years, Jim’s knowledge and dedication has cultivated SWT Design into a world leader in sustainability and high design, making it one of the most sought-after landscape architecture firms in the Midwest. Jim’s leadership philosophy focuses on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit – three pillars that measure economic sustainability to include social, environmental and financial measures for sustainable growth.
The designation of Fellow is conferred on individuals in recognition of exceptional accomplishments over a sustained period of time. Jim and 32 other Fellows-elect will be formally recognized this year at the 2012 ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo in Phoenix. Congratulations Jim!
LANDonline, June 12, 2012, Article
This month’s guest blogger is Felipe DeNarvaez. As an intern, Felipe had the opportunity to participate in the Arch competition and several other smaller projects.
During the third and final year of my graduate studies at Kansas State University, I wanted to explore how America can view subdivision development while implementing sustainable best practices. My Master’s Report/Thesis was titled “Nelson’s Ridge Subdivision – Conservation Approach to Rural Subdivision Development”
America’s rural landscape and character is replaced every day by “placeless” neighborhoods with limited emphasis on conservation efforts. This was the focus of my year-long thesis studies during my final year of graduate studies at Kansas State University. The report intended to demonstrate the benefits of applying conservation design principles to the development of a subdivision in rural Kansas.
A 132 acre tract of land, currently known as Nelson’s Ridge, was planned and designed for a subdivision development just outside of Manhattan, Kansas. My Master’s Report was to show the developers how alternative sustainable design principles can be applied to the site without compromising the housing units and project costs. After completing a thorough inventory and analysis of the site, I explored two preliminary design schemes which included a contemporary approach and a neo-traditional approach to site design. Each approach was compared to the preliminary plat designed by a local engineering company. They were compared and analyzed in terms of demonstrated design principles and their economic feasibility. Design principles included cluster development, water conservation, green infrastructure, sense of community/diversity, and economic viability. The final master plan for the subdivision educated developers, homeowners, and the public about design alternatives for subdivision development as well as provide important insight into the benefits and limitations of implementing conservation principles to rural subdivision development.
The final master plan included 281 residential units (single and multi-family housing), more than 10 acres of shared community green space, 57 acres of preserved natural open space, miles of walking trails and a community center with pool, café, and patio used for community events. A 10 acre lake was created to reduce stormwater runoff into a nearby creek and wetland and also served as an amenity for the residents of the community. Of the entire 132 acres dedicated to the developments of the subdivision, only 26 percent was developed while over 60 percent was preserved as open space.
This fall, the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) will begin construction on its first of many Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Volume Reduction Green Infrastructure Pilot Program projects. These pilot projects will serve as a solution to reduce the volume and rate of pollutants in stormwater runoff before they enter the sewer system, and eventually into our creeks and rivers. Constructed over a five year period, these projects are created through a partnership between MSD and the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), one of St. Louis City’s economic development authorities.
SWT Design, along with M3 Engineering, was commissioned to help design the best management practices, or BMP’s, for the project. These BMP’s consist primarily of bioretention basins that use plant material to filter pollutants and improve stormwater quality. Before stormwater moves through these basins, sediment is collected through the use of forbays. These forbays are hard-bottomed, which allows maintenance to remove the sediment twice a year. The plant material used was chosen for its ability to withstand periods of heavy runoff as well as be aesthetically pleasing to the residents of the community. These areas also serve as an educational tool for the public, as well as a way to promote involvement and participation from the community members. The first of these pilot projects will be at the corner of Clinton Street and 14th Street.
While these BMP’s vary in scale from site to site, they all work to reduce the amount of stormwater contributing to the combined sewer overflows. Some projects have more extensive planting design while others are designed with minimal planting and maintenance requirements. Each project, however, is intended to serve as improvements to the community.
To find more information on MSD’s CSO Volume Reduction Green Infrastructure Pilot Program, please visit www.stlmsd.com
On April 27, 2012, the US Army Corps of Engineers officially welcomed the public to the grand opening of its new visitor’s center located at the confluence of the White River and Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. On hand for the ceremony was Colonel Glen Masset, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District. Colonel Masset recognized Ted Spaid and Klaus Rausch of SWT Design for their integral roles on the project team and their commitment to delivering a sustainable landscape design.
As part of the Recover America Act, the Corps recognized the outdated and ill-equipped condition of its existing visitor’s center, and took action to build a new facility on-site that would serve as a cultural destination and local area icon. As a result, the final master plan provides the public access to educational exhibits and unique habitats, encouraging greater appreciation of the region’s natural resources and ecological systems.
Encompassing more than 9.5 acres, the intent was to preserve and protect many of the existing site features and native landscape, while designing a state-of-the-art facility nestled into a sustainable site that serves to be educational and recreational, provide wildlife habitat and improve stormwater management. The new Dewey Short Visitor’s Center incorporates cutting edge bioretention and stormwater filtration practices, integrated throughout the enhanced and designed native Ozark landscape, indicative of the region, including Oak Savanna, Rock Glade, Bird Meadow, Cedar Glade and Native Woodland exhibits.
This month’s guest blogger is Klaus Rausch. His experience in urban design and landscape architecture covers site design, planning of urban developments, streetscape design, commercial and institutional site design, intensive and extensive roof garden design and implementation and environmental impact statements.
Landscape architecture is a life-long journey of observing, learning and sharing the fundamental principles of life and appreciation of natural landscapes and their capability of supporting human life styles.
Landscape architecture is a fairly young profession in comparison to others in the design field and engineering industries.
A first glimpse into the profession provides little insight of what this design field entails, and the complexity of the science, design and engineering of human outdoor built and natural environments.
My first introduction to landscape architecture was designing urban spaces; organizing hardscapes and landscapes for the function and beautification of urban outdoor spaces.
With my first footstep into this design profession, it quickly became apparent just how highly interdisciplinary this professional field is. Architects, engineers, lighting designers, horticulturists, biologists and hydrologists are many of the disciplines with which a landscape architect has to communicate, and, in order to cooperate, we must have a fundamental understanding of those professional fields.
As important is the study and understanding of the natural environment and processes within these systems, being highly balanced and self-controlling is quickly becoming a lifelong learning experience and a resource for design principles in the landscape architecture profession and within our personal life styles.
Very soon the understanding of these professional fields, the natural environment and ecological networks will transform the landscape architect’s life into one of high-awareness where every decision we make will impact our professional and personal lives.
Therefore, sustainability becomes a life style – and with growing professional and personal experience the world is being observed and seen through a different set of lenses, where we take a much more holistic view of urban and natural environments, how much they are interconnected and how heavily we rely on and benefit from these natural ecological systems.
Outdoor spaces in urban environments are a very important part of our lives. They provide connections, green spaces to regenerate us from our busy lives, add to the daily experience of our environment and provide a scene of identification within the community. Art and sculptures within these outdoors spaces add an important level of interest, promote pride, and contribute greatly to identification with our home towns.
The St. Louis Zoo South Entry is a great example of how art is integrated into the landscape while enhancing the arrival experience. Within safe pedestrian areas located away from parking spaces at the south entry, visitors enjoy artful sculptures of various animals along a meandering path nestled into the themed, native landscapes. Children and adults can view, touch and engage the sculptures and experience their integral details. An elephant bull sculpture is the focal point of the arrival experience, surrounded by other animal sculptures of the African savanna. These include a gerenuk feeding on a tree, a gazelle, a female lion with her cubs and warthogs with their piglets. Along the path, a cobra and mongoose closely watch each other, while a caracal and a bearded fox relax in the lusher part of the themed landscape.
At the Southeast Missouri Hospital – Nature’s Landing, a flock of 85 corten steel geese is “taking off” to form typical V-flight patterns and fly across Broadway Boulevard to land in the lake of the adjacent Capaha Park. Visitors and patients can enjoy the sculptures, the themed natural landscape and the views of the lake from an overlook nestled into the sculpture garden, and from hallways in the hospital and patient rooms. The sculptures have become an integral part of the hospital and its commitment to excellent health care by utilizing all resources for the healing process, as well as an integral source of identification for the community and an entry feature to the downtown development of Cape Girardeau.
Artwork and sculptures can also enhance smaller outdoor spaces at offices or private residences, providing daily experiences and stimulation for our senses. A great example is the court yard between the two design studios at SWT Design, providing wonderful views and inspiration during work hours. Three clay sculptures are incorporated into an outdoor space that serves as seating, recreation and contemplation area with native plantings, and also helps with storm water management of the campus.
This month’s guest blogger is Carrie Coyne. Carrie has been with SWT Design since 2001 and is a very active park user.
The parks in St. Louis are one of this City’s most valuable assets. I lived in an extremely park poor community for three years and while I was there I fondly remembered the City parks of my youth. When I found out I was moving back to St. Louis I couldn’t wait to find a place within walking distance of a park. That, I’m happy to say, is not hard to do in this town. However, I did one better and now live across the street from Tilles Park. The park view from my living room window is like an ever changing work of art. In the spring I watch redbuds flower, in the summer I smell the sweet blossoms of the linden, in the fall the maples provide golden hues that light up my apartment, and in the winter snow covers the pine trees that dot the hillside.
As a landscape architect in St. Louis I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of planning efforts in many City parks including my favorites, Forest Park and Francis Park. Walking through these parks (as well as many of the parks I have yet to work in), finding the secret, sacred, quiet places, and watching nature change, is one of my favorite things to do.
The City’s website says it has “111 parks covering 3250 acres”. That’s a lot of land to cover. I guess I better get walking!
Proper planning, the development of detailed specifications and thorough monitoring are key elements in successful tree protection efforts. These three steps, outlined below, can provide landscape architects and their clients the best chance of tree survival during and after construction.
Proper planning is the first step in successful tree protection. Trees should be mapped prior to planning. Compromises and adjustments can be made to a plan to protect trees that have been located and assessed. Doing this early in the planning and construction process can be cheaper, easier and more effective at saving trees than if the trees are addressed later. Trees and tree root zones should be avoided if possible. However, if a tree is mapped prior to construction, modified construction techniques can be specified to protect root zones and improve tree survival chances.
Second, to prevent root damage, construction activity needs to be diverted away from the root zone of the tree. Tree protection specifications can dictate the installation of tree protection fences to limit construction activities around trees to remain. Signs identifying the tree protection zone should be attached securely to the fences identifying the root zone as a critical zone where no construction equipment, debris or construction activities can occur. Tree protection specifications can also define corrective pruning to remove all branches that will likely conflict with construction activities. This prevents ripped and broken branches. Proper trenching and root pruning methods should be utilized when encountering roots at the edge of the protected root zone. Specifying these methods will prevent ripping and tearing of roots. Tree protection specifications can also identify fines if trees are damaged or root zones are compromised.
The final step landscape architects can employ to protect trees during construction is the monitoring of tree protection and construction activities. Regular site visits during construction, field verification of tree protection fencing, and regular contractor meetings are important to ensure success. Specifications and expectations should be clearly reviewed prior to and continually during construction so the contractor keeps tree protection in the forefront of his mind.
Ultimately, the elements of planning, detailed specification development, and monitoring, can lead to successful tree protection efforts, happy clients and healthy trees.
We all know that native grasses and forbs do more than add beauty to our landscapes. They can reduce maintenance costs, conserve water, help preserve soils, and add habitat for wildlife. These facts are fairly easy to “sell” to a client.
What client doesn’t want “pretty wildflowers” that save them money?
What is not as easy to “sell” is the concept that installing native landscapes by seed and getting them successfully through an establishment period is a long term commitment with gradual pay-back.
One of our biggest challenges as landscape architects is to help educate our clientele, our contractors and the public about some of the facts of native landscape establishment: site preparation is critical, timing is everything, and patience is required.
The proper amount of time should always be allowed for site and soil preparation. It should never be rushed. Some sites may take up to a year or several months to prepare properly.
Planting of native seeds must be completed at the appropriate time of the year. The general contractor and sub-contractors must be coordinated at the onset of a project.
A well established maintenance plan should be followed for a minimum of three years post construction. Clients need to anticipate this cost.
Finally, client and public expectation for instant impact should be kept realistic. This is often best done through imagery, visual examples of maturing native landscapes, graphic interpretation and educational signage. The earlier we can help our clients, contractors and the general public understand the issues above the more successful our native landscape establishments will be.
Once a SITES project becomes certified, the commitment is not yet complete. Part of SITES is integrating long term care and maintenance into the design process and planning ahead to ensure that the best management practices for the site’s long term health have been allowed for from the very beginning. This includes a monitoring component to help keep tabs on a sites performance and look for issues before they arise. This allows potential problems to be identified and addressed before they become a serious issue. The biggest component of this is the site maintenance plan that is a requirement of any SITES project. This plan is an integral part of the SITES documentation and addresses how to maintain a site in the most environmentally and economically responsible manner. It ensures that all of the sustainable features integrated into a project remain functioning as well or better after 20 years as they do on day one.
For example, permeable paving, commonly used to reduce a site’s impact on stormwater runoff, needs to be maintained in a certain manner to remain functional over time. The maintenance plan allows for identifying these special needs early in the design process so that they can be planned for over the long term maintenance of the site. It then provides a road map for the site that can be followed by operations and maintenance personnel as a one stop reference for all things pertaining to the up keep of the SITES project, even if they weren’t around during the design and construction of the project, all the critical information they need to maintain the site is there in one simple document (well, maybe not so simple, 300 pages for one of our pilot projects, but one document anyway ).
The Sustainable Sites Initiative or SITES™ as it’s abbreviated, as many may know is a developing rating system that someday soon will go hand in hand with LEED and address sustainable design issues that go beyond an efficient building and extend out into the landscape creating truly “sustainable” sites. Recently SWT Design has had the opportunity to participate in the pilot phase of the SITES rating system. (www.swtdesign.com/sites/ about SWT’s participation, and the official SITES webpage: www.sustainablesites.org)
SITES will in many aspects of a project pick up where LEED leaves off. There are far too many elements addressed by SITES to mention them all here so I will mention a couple examples that illustrate how SITES works with and builds upon LEED to improve our environment through providing a means to gauge the level of technical and creative expertise that is put into the design and creation of the “outside” of our built environment as LEED presently does for the “inside”.
The first, deals with efficient use of water in the landscape. LEED sets the bar fairly high when compared to the highly manicured, and in many cases over-irrigated, landscapes that we have become accustomed to seeing throughout our built environment. LEED gives credit for reducing irrigation water use by 50% and points if no potable water is used for irrigation. Achieving these credits is no small accomplishment.
SITES sets the bar a bit higher requiring all projects to achieve, at a minimum, a 30% reduction as a prerequisite for being considered as a SITES project. In order to gain credit under SITES a project must then further reduce water use by 50% or 75% or plan to use no potable water altogether. An additional credit is available for projects that use no potable water even during plant establishment. The creative landscape architect can achieve this through many means including use of appropriate, adapted plant materials, irrigation technologies, proper planting time, and of course education. Just because a landscape isn’t bright green in the heat of summer (and using lots of water!) doesn’t mean the plants have died or have been neglected. If well thought out this “resting stage” of many native plants can be used to create a very attractive landscape.
The second is sourcing of regional materials. LEED gives points for sourcing either 10% or 20% of a projects materials from within a 500 mile radius. Both extraction site for the raw materials and the manufacture location must fall within the 500 mile range. SITES tightens the reins further by establishing higher percentage requirements for where materials are sourced for a project, 30%, 60%, and 90% for the different point levels. This further encourages the use of regionally available materials and in many cases can also reduce costs associated with material transport. SITES also differentiates materials into categories based on typical availability. Depending on material category the range falls between 50 and 500 miles. Soils and aggregates for example must be harvested and processed within 50 miles of the project location and plants must be grown within 250 miles. In the case of manufactured products such as site furniture the radius is 500 miles just as it is for LEED.
This month’s guest blogger is Zach Snovelle. Zach has been with SWT Design since 2008 after being our intern in 2007.
Having had the opportunity to have been heavily involved in the process of documenting SWT’s two SITES pilot projects over the last couple of years (our own campus and that of one of our clients, Novus International) has been extremely rewarding for me. The process has really raised my awareness to issues of sustainability and environmentally conscious design and all of the tremendously detailed and technical effort that must happen “behind the scenes”. The SITES rating system looks to integrate both the technical and functional aspects of an environmentally sustainable site design with the human side of the equation, raising awareness of environmental issues and at the same time providing opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of a sites visitors and daily users.
Being not that far removed from my college education (coming up on 4 yrs now) I can say with relative clarity that my academic experience in no way prepared me for the level of technical rigor and multifaceted understanding of site design that was required to create a project worthy of the SITES rating system. There was a very steep learning curve along the way (from the technical aspects of the project) and many thousands of pages of reading…….the SITES guidelines and specifications document that provides an outline for the requirements of the rating system is around 250 pages long alone, and that’s not counting all the referenced resources that support each credit or the high level of understanding that many of the credits assume one already has (anyone who’s studied for LEED certification can appreciate this)
The process of documenting these SITES projects has also raised my awareness of many issues and hurdles that exist today in sustainable site design. Particularly the lack of a common knowledge base when it comes to matters of sustainable design and construction methods. Also of paramount importance is excellent communication with all parties involved on a project from client, to design team, to contractors, became exceedingly clear as the documentation process proceeded over the last two years. The communication process must begin on day one and continue throughout the project, it must be a two, no, three dimensional process between designer, client, and contractors.
SWT Design is the construction manager for the Novus International Headquarters campus master plan project. This project has been a very challenging, yet rewarding, experience due to many factors. SWT Design was intensely involved in coordination of all components of the project from design inception, City permitting, sub-contractor commissioning, project management, weekly meetings, field observation/reports, financial management and ongoing site maintenance reviews. The Novus International Headquarters Campus is a pilot project for The Sustainable Site Initiative (SITES).
SITES is changing the way landscape architects and site planners approach a project development from design to implementation while considering site sustainability. As for every project, a dedicated team effort, including the client and the contractor, was vital for the success of this project. Not only are the designers required to change their typical approach to a project, the landscape contractor also needs to modify traditional methods of construction.
For a successful site, within the guidelines of SITES, contractors will be required to use regional materials, turn-off motorized equipment when not in use, reduce irrigation use, keep all waste materials on site and eliminate hauling to a landfill. Those are just a few of the many new approaches a landscape contractor will need to utilize when trying to meet SITES project’s requirements. Construction of the Novus International project is complete and we are approaching the first full season of grow-in. SWT Design has been making monthly site visits to ensure all the elements of the project along with SITES guidelines are being implemented and will continue the ongoing site maintenance review for twenty-four months post construction.
I have been a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) for several years and have recently been getting more involved in the St. Louis Chapter Executive Committee, serving as President for the 2009-2010 term. It has been a very rewarding experience as I better understand what benefits exist for members (it is much more than receiving a very cool monthly magazine) and as I have grown as a leader in my local profession. There are local chapters in each state and National ASLA is headquartered in Washington DC. Compared to other professional societies, ASLA is a small group consisting of approximately 16,000 members nationally.
In my opinion, the main reason to be a member of ASLA is to promote and advocate landscape architecture. The National Chapter extensively advocates for landscape architects throughout the United States in several different ways. All local chapter leaders meet in DC once a year and then again at the National Convention. At these meetings, the current chapter president and president-elect discuss various critical topics that pertain to the practice of Landscape Architecture. While in DC, each local chapter’s leader spends a day, coined Advocacy Day, meeting with their respective senators and promoting the profession of landscape architecture.
The national organization also promotes landscape architects by supporting local chapters and building relationships with other societies within the design industry and national environmentalist groups (EPA, Department of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, etc.). The national organization’s efforts make local chapters and members aware of larger funding opportunities and current legislation and encourage members to participate and act on behalf of the profession.
Please check out asla.org to find out more information about landscape architecture.
On May 22, 2011, a massive tornado tore through the City of Joplin and affected this many lives in Southwest Missouri. One of the major structures destroyed by the tornado is the Mercy Hospital. Only a few short weeks after the event, SWT Design was commissioned to help re-build a new hospital for the community of Joplin. As soon as I heard the news, I knew I was going to work on this project. I was personally familiar with what this community was going through because my house was impaled by a tornado on New Year’s Eve 2010.
I was watching previously recorded Purdue basketball on my DVR and before I realized it, 3 trusses were missing from my roof, a majority of our belongings were in the rear yard, 3 mature trees were down in the street, and only 1 window remained unbroken. Fortunately, no one on my street suffered injury (including my family and dog). However, the complete and utter shock of the event changed me forever. It took about 4 months to rebuild our house and it has taken even longer to get resituated within the house. It was a very exhausting experience, and we are blessed to recognize the one-year anniversary of the event. This made my desire stronger to help out the community of Joplin by re-creating a sensational community hospital facility. I am excited to be a team member on a great project to help re-build the City of Joplin.
A critical component to any good site design is first understanding the property that is being acquired. Analyzing the existing conditions and regulatory requirements is critical during the due-diligence phase of design. Often overlooked is the existing ecology that is both a part of, and adjacent to, the site. Recognizing site drainage patterns or how existing trees could shelter a proposed building or interact with other future site features plays a critical role in successful design.
Our best projects are when we are involved at the early stages of land acquisition and preliminary site design. We often find that if our client has a preliminary building footprint size and parking needs, we can quickly inform the design team of potential impacts of grading and disruption to existing site features. Questions like: How much land do we need? Can we preserve open space and existing trees? How will the storm water runoff be managed? along with many others can be tested prior to detailed site design through quick site plan studies. Our services are often employed much too late and after the project’s building has been sited and storm water infrastructure determined. This provides challenges that possibly could be avoided with careful site planning and preliminary studies. Costly underground storm water basins, excessive solar heat gain, unintended removal of trees, excessive disturbance of natural habitat, and unsightly infrastructure are few of the adverse effects of poor planning. The Sustainable Sites Initiative is providing a framework for site planners to consider when selecting a piece of property and developing a site. Guiding principles such as regenerative design, minimizing harm to the site, human wellbeing and impacts on the triple bottom line are very relevant in today’s economy and heighten eco-sensitivity. We are excited about being on the cutting edge of these important decisions and continue to help guide our client’s in a thoughtful engaging design process from the very start.
This month’s guest blogger is Jay Wohlschlaeger. Jay has been with SWT Design since 1998 and works on many of SWT Design’s park and recreation planning projects including Sugarcreek Park in Des Peres, MO, Oakland Park in Oakland, MO and Margaret Atalanta Park in Webster Groves, MO.
Like many people, I read Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods” with lots of head nods in agreement as I reflected back on all my days spent following creeks and exploring in the woods. As I was reading and nodding I thought, as a Landscape Architect, and a parent who takes our kids to parks regularly, that I was reading about other children, not mine. Unfortunately reality set in earlier this spring while at the park with our four year old son, Charlie. We had been on the playground, our standard with which all parks are judged and remembered, and I saw someone playing a disc golf hole nearby that extended back into a small woodland area of the park. I suggested we walk back into the “woods” along the golf path and see what was starting to bud and pop thru the leaf-covered woodland floor. When we were about ten yards from breaking the tree line Charlie stopped, looked and me and said, “Dad, we can’t go in there, wolves live in the forest, and they will get us.”
When he said that it dawned on me that while we had been getting out of the house and spending time in parks we had not spent much, if any, time experiencing the nature within parks. Our park experiences had been man-made playgrounds, athletic fields, and structured outdoor events, and apparently their nature lessons were coming from the Brothers Grimm.
At SWT Design, we work with communities to identify opportunities for active and passive recreation where appropriate, creating parks for the entire community, and including these amenities is just the beginning. Incorporating them into the park experience with trails and interpretative signage and developing programming around them such as scavenger hunts, identification games, or educational sessions will encourage users of all ages to reconnect with nature. Indian Camp Creek Park and the Des Peres Park Lake Improvements are two built examples of this blending and incorporating natural amenities into the overall park experience.
While we still enjoy new playgrounds with the kids, we also explore the ever changing experiences within the passive areas of the parks as well. We have even made trips to the amazing local preservation and nature centers including Shaw Arboretum and Powder Valley to spend time simply walking and exploring. While we have discovered many wonderful sights and sounds on these outings we have yet to meet a “big bad wolf,” but we will keep looking.
Walkable communities have been shown in numerous studies to positively impact three of the nation’s hottest topics: the environment, the economy, and the heath crisis. Walkable communities show an increase in the overall health and active living of residents, as compared to similar socioeconomic status individuals living in neighborhoods that are not walkable. A community that is conducive to walking means a typical increase of 35-45 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week for residents and helps combat childhood obesity. Environmental benefits include reduced car emissions and fuel consumption, and a focus on developing a green alternative transportation system within the community. Economic impacts range from higher property values and property tax rates, to increased profitability for local retail and commercial businesses.
SWT Design recognizes the importance of walkable park systems as catalysts for and components of successful walkable communities. We explore opportunities for walkable connections within community wide parks master plans and bike and pedestrian facility plans. Working with the end users, we meet with residents and staff to identify off-road links to parks, residential neighborhoods, retail, and civic destinations within the community. We look at walkable service areas for parks to identify what areas of the community are currently within a walkable distance of existing parks, as well as those areas that are not, and should therefore be a focus of future park development. These recommendations are then incorporated into each plan and provide city leaders with a record of community desires and the documentation necessary to plan and acquire funding for implementing pedestrian and bicycle connections.
Challenge walks and wellness loops can be used to motivate individuals throughout their therapeutic journey. Wellness loops can create a physically challenging activity within a larger therapeutic garden.
SWT Design has designed several of these types of loop trails to provide challenging situations for a variety of users. At Ranken Jordan Pediatric Hospital (St. Louis, MO), SWT Design developed a challenge walk to motivate pediatric patients with severe physical disabilities. At this facility, the patients, with staff support, use the walk to experience real world challenges, varying paving textures and slight elevation changes. Patients are encouraged by the meandering nature of the path and periodic whimsical sculpture and bronze critters. At the Little Lighthouse (Tulsa, OK), a developmental center for children with special needs, SWT Design designed a wellness loop to facilitate their annual MiniLaps fundraiser celebrating the milestones that each child has met during their time at school. Not only does this loop allow for large parade-like events with many supporting families and spectators, but also provides a path for daily therapy and circulation.
Studies show that patients heal more quickly when exposed to nature. SWT Design is involved with many health care facilities working to improve their campus master plans, site circulation, and the incorporation of wellness gardens. A wellness garden is defined as an outdoor space specifically designed to provide therapeutic opportunities for patient/nature interaction. These gardens can be courtyards, roof-top gardens, or simply outdoor spaces surrounding a health care facility. These wellness gardens include features for both passive and active recreation, and encourage both restful and challenging experiences.
Though intended to assist the patient through their healing journey, these gardens provide a form of respite for facility physicians, staff, and employees. Exposure to the natural environment can add inspiration and a sense of calmness to an otherwise typical healthcare workplace. SWT Design purposefully designs wellness gardens to serve multiple purposes. Facility staff benefit from organized outdoor spaces for group gatherings, celebrations, lunch breaks, and simply convenient access to fresh air. Wellness gardens can also provide an opportunity for exercise during the work day. A wide variety of vegetation can provide colorful interest throughout the seasons and can be a visual connection to nature from facility windows.
There’s more than meets the eye at Des Peres Park Lake. The lake, which was renovated in 2009, is not only enjoyed by visitors (they just held their Youth Fishing Derby June 25), but it also serves as a state-of-the-art storm water management facility and is an integral part of the St. Louis regions’ budding sustainable design movement.
Des Peres Park Lake was developed using the Metropolitan Sewer District’s new sustainable regulations and educates the community about the importance of sustainable design; native ecologies; the benefits of aquatic and mesic vegetation related to water treatment, purification and conservation; and wildlife habitat enhancement.
All site design elements were developed with a focus on education, including: seating areas constructed of large natural boulders for gathering; special paving marked with native animals tracks for discovery; a boardwalk engaging the water’s edge for exploration; and a native plant palette to aid water infiltration and beautify the lake. Interpretive signs are also strategically placed around the lake to educate on aquatic plants, fish habitat and storm water runoff.
Improvements and reshaping of the lake’s edges allowed for the relocation of ecologically insensitive rip-rap, installation of native vegetation to treat overland flow and provision of enhanced animal habitat. The new edges of the lake are now lined with boulder seating walls and fishing perches so visitors can engage the lake and natural habitat. The use of forebays, (small pools located near the inlets of the lake) as water treatment and sedimentation control was also a new concept in the region.
The Des Peres Park Lake project received a 2010 St. Louis ASLA President’s Award of Excellence and a 2011 Central States ASLA Honor Award.
As Marine Week St. Louis’ premier volunteer project, Operation Brightside’s Demonstration Garden and Learning Center is getting a full week of work from 20 members of the United States Marine Corps. Marine Week is a celebration showcasing the unique characteristics of America’s Corps with more than 60 events across the St. Louis metropolitan area. This is the third annual Marine Week, with former events held at Boston in 2010 and Chicago in 2009.
The completion of Operation Brightside’s Demonstration Garden and Learning Center will mean helping many urban residents better connect with nature and cultivate environmental stewardship among city residents. SWT Design was commissioned to design the Demonstration Garden and Learning Center as an inspirational and ecological garden that incorporates art, ecological habitats and sustainable design education opportunities.
The outdoor classroom will showcase natural urban ecosystems and regional materials. The design incorporates low impact development techniques including porous asphalt, pervious concrete, permeable paving, a rain garden, bioswales and native tree and wildflower plantings along the nature walk. When the Demonstration Garden and Learning Center comes to fruition, its goals are to: teach conservation techniques so residents value and protect resources, teach sustainable landscape techniques that save money and resources, foster environmental awareness and cultivate environmental stewardship and provide a natural habitat for beneficial wildlife in an urban setting.
By the end of Marine’s week in St. Louis, they will have planted 2,764 perennials at the 12,600 square foot garden. The dedication of Operation Brightside’s Demonstration Garden and Learning Center will take place at 1 p.m. Friday, June 24.
Get ready for some changes in the ways SWT Design is communicating. Don’t worry, we’re not turning off our phones or shutting down our emails, but we are jumping into the world of social media.
The first and perhaps most obvious change is that of www.swtdesign.com. You will find our sectors more clearly defined across the top of the page, our featured projects more visual with photo galleries of our favorite aspects, our updates more current with frequent posts about SWT Design news, and our people section a little more telling-you’ll learn a couple things about our staff that you didn’t know before.
Follow SWT Design and share your feedback via social networking with the SWT Design LinkedIn Company Page and the SWT Design Facebook Page. Connect with us and our employees on LinkedIn and like us on Facebook for the latest on conferences, sustainability tips, photos of various projects’ progress and more.
We’ll also be sending news straight to your inbox with a monthly newsletter: SWT Design: Outside In. Newsletters will show you featured projects, employees and tips pulling from SWT Design’s experience working with the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™).