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BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

New technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of the most-used construction material.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Concrete in the 21st century promises to be a more sustainable material, and given the nine billion metric tons used globally each year, it must be. Portland cement, the binding agent in ordinary concrete, has a very high carbon footprint, resulting in just under one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) released for every ton of cement produced. With 4.2 billion metric tons of the binder used each year worldwide, cement production is responsible for nearly 8 percent of total global carbon emissions. The high lime content of ordinary portland cement contributes about two-thirds of cement’s CO2 impact through the process of limestone calcination. The other one-third of CO2 released is from combustion of fossil fuels.

Technologies to improve the carbon footprint of concrete are currently in the early stages of development, but some, including carbon sequestration in concrete and substantial reductions of cement using energetically modified cement, are now commercially available. Concrete surface products for paving and walls to scrub air pollution, as well as new self-healing concrete products, are also worth investigating. We have heard about some of these innovations for a decade or more in the research community, but many are finally being brought to market—some more quickly than others. Europe is ahead of the United States in the adoption of these technologies, largely because of more rigorous clean air and carbon reduction initiatives.

New technologies in any field can take a long time to move from the laboratory to the marketplace, but (more…)

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BY TRENT OKUMURA, ASLA, AND MICHAEL TODORAN

How to specify complex paving patterns to deflect urban heat from solar exposure.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

Designers are challenged by climate change as they attempt to mitigate urban heat, but among the biggest factors are the thermal properties of the very building materials they use in new developments, not least their paving surfaces. The material and color of paving make a critical difference in either contributing to or neutralizing heat gain brought by the sun (as do roofs, which typically involve simpler, monolithic material choices). Darker paving creates a hotter microclimate but lower glare, and lighter paving creates a cooler microclimate and higher glare. The sweet spot in specifying paving lies in brokering a balance between thermal and visual comfort.

The crucial metric is solar reflectance (SR), which is a measurement of (more…)

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BY KATARINA KATSMA, ASLA

Sandra Clinton’s landscapes don’t stand out. They belong.

FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

Sandra Clinton, FASLA. Credit: Bob Devlin.

“I’m a plant scientist first,” says Sandra Clinton, FASLA. She is quick to clarify it’s not the only thing that defines her work. “I’m an aesthetic designer. I design for what I think works together and what I think will survive.”

It’s the literal combination of landscape and architecture that Clinton, the president of Clinton & Associates in Hyattsville, Maryland, says defined her interests early on. “My entire childhood was spent watching my mother garden this incredibly intense garden.” Her mother, she says, was in an unspoken annual competition with the next-door neighbor for best landscape. While her mother focused on plants, her neighbor—who was an engineer—favored structures and pavement, and by the time Clinton reached the age of seven he would let her help with construction. “To me, you have to have the structure work and you have to have the plants work. My job is to make them work in proportion and combination and in concert with each other.” (more…)

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BY DANIEL TAL, ASLA

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When it comes to new technologies, small investments can lead to big returns.

FROM THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

As at many small firms, five years ago, the technology in THK Associates’s office mainly consisted of hand-drawn plans, some 3-D modeling, Photoshop, and CAD. Now, the firm is incorporating drones, 3-D printing, and virtual reality into many of its projects. Thanks in large part to Jon Altschuld, ASLA, a landscape architect and project manager at the Denver-based firm, THK is an example of how small firms can integrate new technologies into practice with little overhead.

On a number of recent projects, the firm used drones to collect 3-D terrain data and turn it into high-resolution aerials. Using an application called Maps Made Easy, Altschuld can automate the flight path of the firm’s Phantom 4 drone in as little as 15 minutes. The drone snaps a series of photographs that are then uploaded to Maps Made Easy’s cloud server, (more…)

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BY ALEX ULAM

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Nelson Byrd Woltz gets super technical at Hudson Yards.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Until recently, you wouldn’t have wanted to go strolling at any time of the day near Hudson Yards, the two gigantic superblocks located on the far West Side of Midtown Manhattan. There was little street life there and almost no nature. Barbed-wire fences and concrete walls lined the streets and concealed the large, sooty pits packed with commuter and Amtrak trains. Indeed, everything about the place was man-made, even the hilly landscape surrounding the train yards below. Walking around was disorienting because the walls cut off view corridors and limited access to Midtown Manhattan and the adjacent Hudson River Park.

Now this formerly desolate expanse is being transformed by a $25 billion private real estate development, which the Related Companies, the project’s developer, is touting as the largest private build-out in the United States and the biggest in New York City since Rockefeller Center. In place of two gaping holes in the city’s fabric, there will be a 28-acre neighborhood with offices, apartments, and more than 100 stores and restaurants. In a sense, this development, where a projected 125,000 people will live and work, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The finished and installed concrete cistern. Image courtesy of Concreteworks.

The finished and installed concrete cistern. Image courtesy of Concreteworks.

Hired to design the atrium courtyard of a San Francisco spec office building that features a canted glass roof that channels rainwater, David Meyer of Meyer + Silberberg Land Architects got a few simple instructions from the building’s architects at Pfau Long Architecture—the most interesting of which was to “do something with the water” that the roof would corral into a cascading stream, dripping into the atrium.

But that simple request kicked off a high-wire adventure that saw a three-ton concrete rainwater cistern installed in the courtyard, pushing concrete fabricators to their limits.

Meyer turned to the specialty concrete fabrication firm Concreteworks to manufacture the cistern at 270 Brannan, built by developers SKS. Meyer’s most important request? The cistern had to be one continuous piece. After delays from the general contractor, Meyer says, (more…)

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BY BETSY ANDERSON, ASSOCIATE ASLA

A stormwater retrofit makes space for a new park on Puget Sound.

A stormwater retrofit makes space for a new park on Puget Sound.

From the September 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

A ferry ride away from Seattle, Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula is a deeply lobed fjordscape whose 216 miles of shoreline have provided the perfect laboratory for development of so-called end-of-pipe stormwater solutions: space-saving treatment occurring at the bottom of the watershed, near aging municipal outfalls. These stormwater retrofits were most recently tested in Manchester, a close-knit village piled up at the peninsula’s eastern edge. Here, a former gas station site was recruited to treat 100 million gallons of polluted stormwater each year, before it enters Puget Sound.

Tucked between homes and businesses and adjacent to a busy swimming beach, the half-acre parcel now known as Manchester Stormwater Park inspired the project team—a cadre of Kitsap County staff plus engineers and landscape architects from Parametrix, N. L. Olson & Associates, and GeoEngineers—to take a multifunctional approach. “People really wanted a green space here,” says Jens Swenson, ASLA, a landscape architect for Parametrix who led the hardscape, lighting, and plant design for the park.

The green space was hard-won. Funded by a million-dollar grant from (more…)

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