We are so fortunate to be landscape architects and designers, working in a field that can have such a positive benefit to the local and global community. We have the ability to make the world a better place, but I would challenge all of you to truly rise to that challenge. The development of the Sustainable Sites Initiative within ASLA came out of this drive, and only strives to help create guidance and a common language in sustainable design. Often we may be challenged in talking to our clients and to the other disciplines on our team to convey the importance of integrative design, and to explain it in a way that others can understand and see its value. One of the great values of the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is that it has created a common language and quantifiable values for designing more sustainably. However, all of us can go much further still.
Landscape Architecture can have a huge influence on human health and well being by creating recreational and/or relaxing places; places that filter our air and water and provide respite from weather; places that can be valuable habitat for native birds and bees; all these elements make the space so much more enriching. So how do we address all the possibilities? We start with the basics: soils, hydrology, vegetation, and location. But while many of us do this, how many of us resort to designing what we know works, and resorting to the “same old - same old” and just making sure it is sexy and hopefully within budget?
We challenge all of you to learn more, to share more, and to measure your successes and failures to help inform your future designs. Through our involvement in the Sustainable Sites Initiative we have found that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. But this should not be discouraging; landscape architects and designers are experienced facilitators and collaborators. If we don’t know something, we know where to look or who to ask for the information. We know how to work with other disciplines to make the story and aesthetics stay true, and to communicate this graphically and through our designs to our clients and the public.
How fortunate we are to be in this discipline when the world is starting to recognize and be concerned with every action and its associated impact. As landscape architects, we can help protect and restore habitats, create dynamic public spaces and delightful private places, and we can do all this while going beyond sustainability and truly creating healing and regenerative places.
Hunter Beckham, ASLA & Allegra Bukojemsky, ASLA
Co-chairs of the Sustainable Design and Development PPN