April 2008 Newsletter
Landscape Architects and Engineers Working Together to Deliver the World's Largest Sustainable Park
by Gregory Tuzzolo, ASLA, LEED® AP
The Orange County Great Park (Great Park) (http://www.ocgp.org/) in Irvine, CA is moving forward rapidly with plans for the largest sustainable park yet, encompassing 1,347 acres of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The park aims to serve as a model, “demonstrating the best sustainable practices today so that everyone visiting the park can discover the joy of environmental and cultural stewardship.” The park features a 2.5 mile canyon, a new lake and waterfall, an orange orchard parking lot, and hundreds of acres of restored habitat. 

Sustainability by Design 

The Great Park Design Studio, led by the office of Ken Smith Landscape Architect, has been working with sustainability engineers from the New York office of Buro Happold to develop a sustainability master plan as part of the overall master planning process. Buro Happold is currently developing an energy plan to maximize efficiency and minimize the carbon footprint of the park, and a waste plan to direct the flows of waste materials towards compost, recycling and reuse. 

The sustainability features for the Great Park include a Sterling Dish solar power system, a “Biodryer” for accelerated compost processing, bio-diesel production for park vehicles, and a “Farm to Fork” business plan to bring locally produced, organic food to the park for concessions and farmer’s markets.

 Overall view of Orange County Great Park

 Landscape Architects and Engineers Working Together to Deliver the World’s Largest Sustainable Park

Image courtesy of Orange County Great Park Corporation

Delivering a Sustainable Park 

With the help and input of the design team, Buro Happold has developed an innovative design tool, called a Sustainability Management System (SMS), as a strategy to manage and assess the ongoing design of this ambitious project. The SMS looks at the Great Park in terms of five “flows” — energy, water, nature, materials, and people. It then examines the flows against the specific context of sub-regions of the park as well as park-wide themes, such as lighting, furniture, and streetscape conditions. At each design submission, reviewers use the SMS to check for the presence of certain features, techniques, details and materials that fall within the goals set out in the sustainability master plan. Items that require revision are noted and the final comments are distributed to the design team. The SMS, which is published after each design phase submission, will serve as a record document of the decisions made regarding the inclusion or exclusion of sustainability systems.

Similar to the more generic LEED rating system, the Great Park SMS is a systematized tool for assessing the progress of incorporating sustainable practice into the design of the park. The SMS, however, is customized to fit the particular size, scope, and project structure of the unique Great Park, and is designed to be a growing and changing document that flexes with the refinements that occur throughout the design process. Buro Happold hopes to work with Sustainable Site Initiative to use the Great Park as a case study and potential testing ground for the Sustainable Sites rating system, which is now under development. (See related article about the Sustainable Sites Initiative.)

Gregory Tuzzolo, ASLA, LEED® AP, is a Landscape Architect in Brooklyn, NY. He can be reached at greg@ tuzzolo.com.
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