Case Study Investigation (CSI): Measuring the Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Exemplary Landscapes



Various | Landscape Architecture Foundation


The Case Study Investigation (CSI) program is a transformative research collaboration that unites and strengthens the landscape architecture profession by matching funded faculty-student research teams with leading landscape architecture firms to measure and document the performance of their built projects. CSI teams measure the environmental, social, and economic benefits of each exemplary landscape project and document it as a case study. This cross-sector approach strategically links academia with practice and generates a body of work that showcases the value and impact of excellent design. CSI is moving the landscape architecture profession towards designing more projects with specific performance objectives, collecting performance data, and integrating landscape performance into design education. To date, 30 faculty, 35 students, and 57 design firms have participated, resulting in the publication of over 100 case studies.


The Case Study Investigation (CSI) program is a groundbreaking research initiative that bridges the gap between landscape architecture research and practice. It expands the discipline’s capacity to measure landscape performance, builds relationships between researchers and practitioners, and provides an unparalleled professional development experience. The resulting case studies become part of the award-winning Landscape Performance Series, an online database that is accessed by 45,000 annual users to find precedents, show value, and advocate for sustainable landscape solutions.

Funded student-faculty research teams are matched with leading practitioners to measure and document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Through a collaborative process, the research teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits, gather data, and document the project as a case study. Each case study includes quantified performance benefits and a Methods document showing how those benefits were derived, including assumptions, data sources, calculations, and limitations. Metrics may include:

The metrics and methods used depend on each project’s specific objectives and the availability of data. A typical case study includes a range of methods, both quantitative and qualitative, such as:

CSI is unique in that it studies each site holistically, aiming to understand its social, environmental and economic impact. While a growing number of researchers have analyzed aspects of the built environment, very few are both quantifying outcomes and studying sites from a range of perspectives. Moreover, much of the existing research does not focus on exemplary designed landscapes, instead looking at greenery more generally. CSI researchers have produced a wide range of relevant performance benefits, including:

CSI participants are selected annually through a competitive application process. Since the CSI program’s inception in 2011, 30 faculty, 35 students, and 57 design firms have participated, resulting in the publication of over 100 case studies covering a range of geographic locations, typologies, sizes, and performance benefits. The completed case studies are published online after approval by at least two peer reviewers.

CSI is transforming the profession, raising standards, and filling a critical gap in the marketplace for evidence-based landscape design. Past CSI participants have stated, “We will never approach design the same way again.” According to CSI program evaluations, 93% of particpants from firms believe that CSI is changing practice to design for and document performance, with 60% of participants stating that they plan to incorporate landscape performance into their design process as a result of participating in CSI (30% of those surveyed already do). One 2013 firm liaison reflects: “I learned that data gathering is very important. To get a sense of a project's performance, firms must remain engaged post-completion.” A CSI faculty fellow stated, “It was a real pleasure to be a part of this prestigious program. I can attest to the impact it has had on our research assistants and their understanding of performance and sustainable design in professional practice. I am confident that their participation will inform their own careers as landscape architects and will make a valuable addition to their experiences in our program.”

CSI showcases exemplary work, sharpens research skills, builds relationships between leading researchers and firms, and provides valuable professional development experience. The CSI program is highly collaborative with the goal of integrating the innovative work being done by academia and practice to advance the field’s collective knowledge of landscape performance.

"The more we say that measuring performance over the long haul is part of what we do, the more it’s going to happen."

- 2015 Awards Jury


Landscape Architecture Foundation
Barbara Deutsch, FASLA, Executive Director
Heather Whitlow, Director of Programs & Communications
Arianna Koudounas, Program Manager
Katharine Burgess, AICP, Program Manager (2013-2014)
Linda Ashby, ASLA, Program Manager (2011-2013)
Forster Ndubisi, PhD, FASLA, Vice President of Research/Information
Kristina Hill, PhD, Vice President of Education

NEA Artworks
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation