Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Landscape and Sustainability

The new Sustainable Sites Initiative from ASLA and The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is a wonderful step in the right direction for sustainable landscapes. In the world where LEED is dominant, the true essence of landscape is sometimes forgotten in a push for drip irrigation and native plantings, it is a positive step to see. In addition, the Cascadia Chapter of the USGBC is offering a companion to the Living Building Challenge entitled the Living Site and Infrastructure Challenge.

The push for formalized sustainable strategies is laudable and necessary, as it seems to drive more sustainable design to assign points/globes/whatnot to a project that to merely design the way we are supposed to. I am equally puzzled by the response to the Sustainable Sites Initiative in this months editorial 'Completing the Puzzle' from Metropolis, December 2007 by Susan S. Szenasy:

"I’ve always thought of landscape architects as advocates for nature, proponents of healthy outdoor living who respect the local flora and fauna as well as human needs and cultures. But all too often I’ve been disappointed by their superficial knowledge of these things—or worse yet, their cavalier disregard for them. This new initiative has the potential to put landscape architects, though they come late to the discussion on sustainable design, at the very heart of our ongoing dialogue on ways to integrate the powers of nature with our equally powerful

Hmmm. i'm missing something here? I believe this is a product of the innate 'quietness' of Landscape Architecture as a profession - as there is a long history of landscape architects at the forefront of sustainable design... perhaps we are just too nice.

1 comment:

  1. We need to back up on our understanding of sustainability. Although LEED and new urbanism may dominate, they are most often promoted as new or greenfield development. The most sustainable actions are those that rehabilitate existing communities and buildings rather than destroying more land or leaving city centers to decay. Historic buildings are made of materials with relatively low energy added while new construction uses steel, vinyl, etc that requires vastly more added-energy as well as transportation and dumping of the older materials into a landfill.
    Sustainability also applies to our unique community cultures and history. Wind mills and solar panels are sexy right now but may not be appropriate or even most efficient on existing urban buildings. Most often urban density makes the existing utility infrastructure more efficient than these sexy upgrades.
    Historic preservation jobs are also more sustainable than regular construction jobs--higher paying, on-going and stable, local, skilled work.
    Let's save our land for high quality food production and encourage the sustainable building folks to do restoration instead.


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