Information sharing and science are constantly revealing new information at a rapid pace about our global ecosystems. What do landscape architects need to know to be leaders in the 21st century and adapt our practices to respond to this evolving information and the urgent needs facing us?
Some strong comments were filed online in response to two recently published pieces. One was a note from editor Susan Szenasy in Metropolis magazine that discussed the Sustainable Sites Initiative presentation at the ASLA national conference this past October, http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/; and the other was an article by Craig Pocock in the January issue of Topos on the Carbon Landscape that raises questions about our designs as he describes how he has questioned his own. These articles, and many others, show a wide range of understanding and concern.
The PPN looks forward to being one source in the dialogue about raising the bar and finding concrete ways to measure sustainability in our work. The Sustainable Sites Initiative draft provides many best practices to pursue right now. Have you measured the carbon footprint of one of your projects? Do you look at the ecological footprint or embodied energy of materials chosen in your projects? Do you calculate the amount of water needed to maintain your designed site? Are you looking at new ways to measure the human health and social impacts of your site design? Who might have a stake in the performance of your site design and be willing to fund the cost of monitoring in your region regarding how your site design is actually performing? Are there windows of opportunity due to water quality requirements, habitat exchanges, new greenhouse gas protocols or carbon cap and trade systems in which the economic pro forma of your project could include the market value of ecosystem services (read… natural capital!)? Are we, as a discipline, committed to learn, grow and change our practice? While some of us may be on the cutting edge, there is much we still don’t know. Are we committed to helping each other and our communities understand that all designed landscapes are not automatically sustainable? Are we willing to be rigorous about how we define “sustainable”? How can we be effective leaders and challengers on this front?
Deb Guenther, ASLA, LEED AP, is a landscape architect at the Mithūn firm in Seattle, Washington. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Allegra Bukojemsky, ASLA, LEED AP, is a landscape architect at Biohabitats, Inc. in San Francisco, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.