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May 22, 2007

Sustainable Design and Development PPN Members Respond to Survey
The second annual survey of PPN members was conducted in February. Over the coming weeks, we will be presenting information on PPN member activities based on survey responses. This week, we focus on the Sustainable Design and Development PPN.

The ASLA Sustainable Design and Development PPN works to collect, advance, and disseminate information on sustainable design practice and theory within the field of landscape architecture and affiliated fields. An important focus of the group has been its advocacy for developing a standard for certifying sustainable landscapes. The Sustainable Sites Initiative is now an organizational partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden. The effort will produce a standard that is intended to complement the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification standard for buildings. The SDD PPN produced the earliest draft of the standard that is now in production.
Mark A. Robertson, ASLA, is the principal of MESA Landscape Architects in Little Rock, Arkansas. “MESA is engaged in sustainable design projects related to LEED,” says Robertson, “and that has been our general approach to practice for over 20 years.” The firm specializes in design and planning for zoological and botanical gardens, parks and recreation, interpretive landscapes, trails, sustainable practices, and private garden estates. Robertson has won multiple awards for his work on the Pritzker Family Children's Zoo in Chicago, including ASLA’s Arkansas Chapter Honor Award, AIA’s Devine Detail Award, and the University of Arkansas’ School of Architecture Alumni Award. The new children’s zoo was featured in the November 2006 issue of Landscape Architecture magazine. He also received an ASLA Arkansas Chapter Merit Award for his work on the Lorance Creek Natural Area. Robertson is a founding member, past chair, and advisory board member of the Arkansas chapter of USGBC and is on the Southeast Regional Steering Committee for USGBC. He has served on two legislative task forces on sustainable buildings and on the Little Rock Task Force on Sustainability; is a nominee for the newly created Arkansas Commission on Global Warming, representing the building industry; and is a board member for the Bolivian Conservation Fund. Robertson sees his ongoing challenge as continuing to educate clients on integrated design and sustainable design solutions, particularly those in the architecture and engineering communities.

Joanne Sender, ASLA, LEED AP, is president and founder of Design Core Ltd. in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and currently a principal with the planning and design firm David Jensen Associates Inc. The firm is working on an 850-acre development project north of Denver, using sustainable planning and construction practices throughout, including green materials for walks, bioswales, skinny streets, and mixed uses.

Jennifer McCoy (Staroska), ASLA, of Civil Resources, describes herself as a LEED-accredited landscape architect who strives to design sustainable places and educate clients on the value of sustainability. She was recently a speaker at the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association conference, where she gave a presentation on a process that brings maintenance staff into the master planning process.

Robert M. Gilchrest, ASLA, is a principal of Solaris Landscape Architecture LLC. The firm specializes in sustainable site design with emphasis on providing corporate, urban, and civic clients with unique design solutions while preserving natural resources. “Our challenge is to provide client education on the best environmental design and management practices,” says Gilchrest, “striking a balance between environmental preservation, cost-effective techniques, and visual excellence.”

Brian M. Swope, Affiliate ASLA, is the founder of Tierra Seca Landscape Design, a California firm focusing on the use of native plants in landscape design. “It makes no sense to me to import plants from faraway places and then waste precious resources (water, fertilizer) to keep them alive when our local flora is perfectly adapted to the local climate,” says Swope. He was invited to design a garden for the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in March. Included in the exhibit was a light source structure that Swope built using recycled glass. The structure was inspired by gabions but is filled with glass rocks and illuminated from within.

Lucia Athens, ASLA, heads the City of Seattle Green Building Program. Seattle was the first U.S. city to officially adopt LEED and now has 10 LEED-certified projects and more than 30 others in progress. The city recently adopted a Green Factor landscape code requiring developers to meet new landscaping requirements in commercial areas. Credit is given for such features as green roofs and vertical landscaping. Athens was recently featured in a Ms. magazine article about women in green building. She also published an article in the Winter 2007 issue of Green Building News about social sustainability at Seattle Central Library.

Will Green, ASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Rhode Island, notes that sustainable design is the focus of much of his work. Green teaches studios that examine sustainable communities, sustainable homesteads, and green materials and technologies. Sustainable designs by his students have been incorporated into a local town's comprehensive plan and led to neighborhood improvements. Green chaired the Panel on Sustainable Historic Landscapes at the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Conference in 2007. He has also presented at the Sustainable Communities Conference in Burlington, Vermont, on the topic of “Visioning for a Sustainable Community.” In 2005 he received the Rhode Island American Planning Association Honor Award.

Eleanor H. McKinney, ASLA, of McKinney Landscape Architect Inc., has taught organic gardening, directed a citywide community gardening program, and been a landscape architect for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center. As the landscape architect for Austin City Hall she employed xeriscaping, making exclusive use of native plants with low water requirements. Materials were chosen from within a 500-mile radius. She also made use of groundwater irrigation rather than potable water, using low flow emitters. Accomplishments and awards include a 2004 Sustainable Building Coalition Tour of Personal Residence; a 2004 Green Garden Award, City of Austin; a 2005 LEED Certified Award for the Carver Museum in Austin; and a 2006 LEED Gold Award for Austin City Hall.

Ann English, ASLA, is a Senior Environmental Planner with the Low Impact Development Center in the Washington, D.C., area. The center focuses on ecosystem-based water quality design and other sustainable development issues.

Margaret Robertson, Associate ASLA, is on the faculty of Lane Community College, chairs the Facilities Council, and does campus planning-related work within that council. She authored the college's first long -range strategic campus plan now making its way through the approval process.

Keven Graham, ASLA, is the managing principal of Planning Resources Inc., an interdisciplinary firm focusing on sustainable design. He has worked to develop livable communities through his planning and design strategies for downtown revitalization, community master planning, and sustainable site planning. Work on the Sustainable Sites Initiative as an officer of the PPN, says Graham, has helped him gain new insights.

If you are a member of this PPN, please be sure to participate in next year’s survey! For more information on ASLA's PPNs visit the PPN home page at or contact Jennifer Strassfeld, ASLA's Manager of Professional Practice, at


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