Hidden dangers of FOOD ‘DESIGN’
Designing for the future: a LIVING BUILDING at the MacLeish Field Station
Smith’s LANDSCAPE DESIGN over time
Spring 2013 Educating in support of environmental decisions and action
The Design Edition
+ Northampton’s storm water system + Staff spotlight: Reid Bertone-Johnson +Tasty recipes + Coastal management design and more...
Savoring the fruits of their labor Architect Bruce Coldham (left) and Smith engineering student Jake Pecht (center), both on the Bechtel Environmental Classroom Programming Committee, enjoy a moment together with CEEDS intern Renee Ricci (right) at the Fall 2012 opening reception for the new building.
[content] features 16 Reid Bertone‐Johnson: A Life for Design
22 The Making of a Living Building at the MacLeish Field Station
curriculum 14 Student Design at the Field Station
24 Planning for the Future: Coastal Zone Management on Ambergris Caye, Belize
smith events 10 Sustainable by Design...
15 Field Station Fridays
highlights 6 Breathing Room: Are you Affected by Indoor Pollution? 7 Beauty and Usefulness: How Smith’s landscape came to be 12 Planning for a Re‐design of a Century Old System
28 Soy Ahoy! Hidden Dangers of Food ‘Design’
CEEDS Design 3
[CEEDS] magazine is produced by: The Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability A special thanks to all those students, faculty, and staff who contributed to this issue.
CEEDS Interns Stefanie Cervantes ‘13 Hannah Hurvitt ‘13 Elizabeth Wright AC ‘15
CEEDS Staff Joanne Benkley Sara Kirk
Cover photo by Reid Bertone-Johnson Emil Evans (MHC)’14, Gayelan Tietje-Ulrich ‘13, and Sophia Geller ‘13 discuss potential design spaces at the MacLeish Field Station during their LSS 255: Art & Ecology class Photos at right by Sara Kirk, Joanne Benkley, and Reid Bertone-Johnson
All Rights Reserved
4 CEEDS Design
It’s in our name. This year as we all sat discussing the topic of design and how it related to the work of the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability, it became quickly obvious that like environment, design can be seen to touch nearly every aspect of our lives. The way we design our interactions with our environment not only affects whether the air and water are clean, but whether the places and spaces we live and play in are safe and healthy. For many of us, the environment is our home and work place. Their ‘design’ involves everything from where we decide to settle down, to what we put inside our homes and bodies, to the means by which we get all those goods and services. Design is all around us. This issue of our magazine addresses a range of topics on the design of our environment as defined by our student contributors. The pieces range from design experiences in the classroom to problems being faced by our local communities and discovered in our food system, they talk about design choices that continue to inform and challenge us, and underlying it all, about how Smith is empowering its students to think forward: to design and act with sustainability in mind. As always, we don’t pretend to be experts; rather, we are Smith stu‐ dents and staff who care about the way we interact with our world and each other and we want to share some of the many ways we experi‐ ence our community engaging with design. We hope that you enjoy it. Joanne Benkley, Assistant Director Stefanie Cervantes ‘13, Student Editor (CEEDS)
CEEDS Design 5
Breathing Room Are You Affected by Indoor Pollution?
ROWING UP, MY FAVORITE DAYS were those when I would come home to the smell of incense laced with undertones of original Pine Sol and Windex. My mother would be baking cook‐ ies after having cleaned the house. She had also earned herself a cigarette, smoked indoors of course. My father would come rumbling up the drive in a diesel truck and burst in the side door, typically smoking as well. Depending on the weather, my father would start a roaring fire from wood he had cut himself. It was pure bliss. Fast for‐ ward to my life now. I walk into my little apart‐ ment and typically inhale deeply, pleased with the aroma of my life. No, I can’t smell any garbage, and yes, by the smell of it, I have taken a shower this morn‐ ing‐‐ the smell of my body wash still lingers in the air. I have an unused candle that gives off a curiously strong fragrance. I have to say that I enjoy that quite a bit. How could I have known that what I was enjoying was actually the smells of indoor pollution? Fragrance has been linked to nostalgia, able to call to mind memories long forgotten. It can evoke emotion. That “new car smell,” the 6 CEEDS Design
smell of fresh paint when the house has been updated. These, along with a host of others, are fragrances that are actually red flags, meant to alert us to the dangers of toxic chemicals that linger in the spaces around us. The smell of a cleaning product is not supposed to over‐ whelm, it is supposed to smell clean. Shouldn’t “clean” also mean odorless? As an earth‐conscious individual, I use “green‐friendly” cleaners and make sure to open the windows in my space in order to bring in fresh air and clear out all of the ol‐ factory assaults that I’ve unleashed. These measures help make the design of my life healthier. Unfortunately, there are a host of in‐ door pollution issues that are just beginning to be talking about in the mainstream me‐ dia. No longer is it wise to breathe deeply when you smell clean‐ ing products. Is there a chance that all fra‐ grance of any kind should be yanked out of any living or work‐ space immediately, if not sooner? The scary things that have recently been unearthed about the damaging effects of these chemical com‐ pounds have me questioning my own space and whether I thought things through carefully enough when I made certain purchases. All I wanted was to design my surroundings to be more “homey;” to do things the way my mom
always did. I now know that pollution can exist indoors. When I think about pollution, I typically picture enormous, belching smokestacks tower‐ ing above a cityscape in my mind. I think of cars, and CO₂ emissions and dirty fossil fuels. Maybe I am the last to know, but I have been shocked to discover that the most dangerous airborne toxins are the ones that also happen to be floating in‐ visibly through our homes and workplaces. Right now. That new carpet that you love oh, so much, is giving off chemicals you have never heard of. Maybe you chose to furnish your home with dark wood of an unknown origin. Who really cares what it is made of, if it meets your expectations for design? As a population that spends, on aver‐ age, more than ninety percent of its time in‐ doors, we must learn to be more careful in choosing the items that we surround ourselves with, as they may unexpectedly contribute to our future ill health. The point is, that in order to make con‐ scious, informed decisions on how to design the space we inhabit, we must take some measures to make sure that we are not making some of the same mistakes we have made in the past. As the world evolves, so must its inhabitants. Since pollution is not limited to emissions that we can see, we must take a more active role with regards to the indoor space we create— educating ourselves about potential dangers and then paying attention to the environmental cues that can alert us to them. Some of these cues in‐ clude odors like cigarette or wood smoke, or perfume‐all obvious signs that there are poten‐ tially harmful chemicals in the air we are breath‐ ing. We can combat existing indoor pollution by remembering to open windows and regularly air out our indoor spaces. Houseplants can add a touch of color and warmth to a room even as they act to filter our air. As we update our fur‐ nishings or buy new products we can also use our purchasing power to demand safer alternatives. While some of the chemicals smells I en‐ counter indoors can still evoke nostalgic memo‐ ries, now that I’ve learned the potential dangers they represent, I’m taking steps to more mind‐ fully design a home that is safe for both me and the environment. +Elizabeth Wright AC ‘15
Major Contaminants Types and Tips to Avoid Them
Biological contaminants: To discourage mold, mildew and other moisture-loving fungi from gaining a foothold, make sure that the space that you live in has less than 50% humidity and is below 72ºF. Clean your space regularly to keep it free of visible dust and dander. Upholstered furniture and pressed wood: When purchased new, many such products emit formaldehyde, a carcinogen that can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, fatigue or even severe allergic reactions. When shopping, look for formaldehyde-free furniture and wood products to avoid these dangers. Electronics: Products made with plastics that contain polyvinyl chloride can emit phthalates, which have been linked to hormonal abnormalities, endocrine disruption and reproductive problems. Plastics also contain flame-retardant chemicals, which have been linked to neurobehavioral changes in animals. Once the chemical odor dissipates, you should be fine, but be sure to clean the area around any new electronics often. Paint: As they dry, all paints emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can cause headaches, nausea, or dizziness. Paint strippers, adhesive removers, and aerosol spray paints can also contain methylene chloride, which is known to cause cancer in animals. Whenever possible use low-VOC paints to limit exposure and ventilate the spaces well. New carpet: Sadly, there are several VOC compounds that a new rug or carpet can emit. The only way to avoid them is to either ask for a low VOC type of carpet, or to keep the windows open for a few days, preferably with a fan on. Glues and adhesives: These can also give off nasty VOCs, such as formaldehyde, acetone or methyl ethyl ketone. These fumes irritate the eyes and can also affect the nervous system. To lower your risk of exposure look for water-based, formaldehyde-free glue.
CEEDS Design 7
Beauty and Usefulness: How Smith’s landscape came to be
can expect Smith to do every day or season without fail: brew coffee at every meal, keep the library open late during exam period, and post those scary little yellow signs that say the grass has been treated every on projects across the United States and Can‐ ada. His principle of preserving the natural landscape and incorporating that into the spring. surrounding buildings and structures was a new According to the College’s 2010 Sustainability way of thinking. He used these very principles and Climate Action Management Plan (SCAMP), in his design of the national park system, several city parks, and college campuses, Smith applies about 25,000 pounds of synthetic, and 3,500 pounds of organic fertilizer including Smith. Olmsted’s vision for Smith’s landscape between the months of April and October every year, producing a wonderful landscape full of was to ensure that all the aspects of the envi‐ flowers to take pictures of but grass that you ronment came together to create a particular effect for each individual. He designed the can’t roll around in. Why does Smith spend so much time, campus such that individuals had to walk money, and energy on landscape? It goes back though open lawns and beautiful gardens as they moved from building to building. Walking to 1893, when Fredrick Law Olmstead submit‐ paths were intertwined with the landscape and ted his final landscape plan to the college. Olm‐ built structures so that users would be sted was recognized as one of the great land‐ surprised at every turn. Olmsted was also a big scapers and designers of his time, and worked
There are certain things that you
8 CEEDS Design
View of the Wilson Bulb Bank proponent of using native plants and features to make the planned landscape seem as natural as possible. He, like President Seelye, wanted the landscape to be useful as well as beautiful, and sought to create a campus that students and visitors could enjoy visually as well as inter‐ act with. Smith College has used these principles and design since, periodically updating them with the times, but overall adhering to Olm‐ sted’s original plan. In 1996, Smith issued an official statement with its Landscape Master Plan. The statement itself is long, but it essen‐ tially articulated the desire to keep beauty, tradition, and usefulness the prime directive in maintaining the landscape. Over the year’s the College has diligently used the principles of preservation, restoration and rehabilitation to
create and maintain a landscape that is pleasing to those who encounter it . Not only does Smith want to continue to adhere to the original Olmsted principles, it wants to improve upon them by increasing aspects of education, social interaction, and cohesiveness. In recent years, landscape educa‐ tion has been bolstered by efforts in the curricular enhancement program administered by the Botanic Garden. This program has enabled faculty across the disciplines to inte‐ grate natural design into their courses. A net‐ work of identification tags on trees and plants allows a regular, more informal educational ap‐ proach. The Master Plan also laid out plans for areas that would provide individuals opportuni‐ ties to socialize with others while in a natural environment. These two first aspects are CEEDS Design 9
Students Amanda Morgida ‘16 and Eliza Mongeau ‘16 enjoy a warm spring day on Chapin Lawn. making the third a concrete possibility; cohe‐ siveness is necessary in the landscape to en‐ sure a theme of natural feel and clear inten‐ tion: usefulness and beauty. There are, however, challenges inherent in maintaining the beauty and usefulness of the campus. Facilities Management and the Botanic Garden are together responsible for maintain‐ ing the grounds. Olmstead’s plan assumed that Smith would always be able to afford the labor and supply costs of maintaining the landscape he dreamed of, but the campus has grown far beyond its original scope. Smith is trying to maintain its beautiful Olmstead plan, but doing it in ways that may not be sustainable. Accord‐ ing to SCAMP, maintenance of the Smith land‐ scape requires about 2.1 million gallons of wa‐ ter each year (we currently use potable water), most of the machinery used is powered by
10 CEEDS Design
fossil fuels, and, as noted earlier, fertilizers are widely used. Olmsted never had to account for issues like sustainable maintenance or resource use as he promoted his design ideas. The pressure of maintenance and landscape cost and sustain‐ ability has forced Smith to look in a new direc‐ tion. Facilities and the Botanic Garden are con‐ stantly looking at new techniques, increasing composting, and even beginning to limit grown lawn areas. Students have also gotten involved and have established a student run community garden that uses organic farming methods on a small plot on campus. No one can be sure exactly what Smith’s landscape will look like in the future, but it is certain that it will still be beautiful and useful. + Stefanie Cervantes ‘13
Photo Credits: Stefanie Cervantes
Sustainable by Design... Over Family Weekend in Octo‐ ber, our second annual cider pressing event introduced students, their families, and passers‐by to the magic of turning locally grown apples into fresh cider. All told we pressed 36 bushels of apples donated by Clark Brothers Orchards and served over 800 cups of fresh cider.
Photo Credits: Joanne Benkley and Renee Ricci
CEEDS Design 11
Planning for a Re-Design of a File photo by Mark M. Murray / The Republican
Century Old System
Mark Lussier, with son Rowan, 6, on his shoulders and daughter Charlotte, 8, all of Holyoke, walk beside a flooded por‐ tion of Route 5 near the Northampton and Easthampton line last summer after the remains of Hurricane Irene blew through.
T IS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION that waste water from our toilets, showers, lawns, and driveways goes to a treatment plant for cleaning before being released into the Connecticut River. In reality, only the wastewater from inside our homes receives this treatment. Stormwater runoff from yards, buildings, roads, parking lots, sidewalks, snow melt, and gas stations does not receive any treatment before being released into natural bodies of water such as lakes, streams and wet‐ lands. The City of Northampton’s stormwater system is a complex network of 3,750 catch ba‐ sins and 108 miles of pipes –that runs literally right under our feet. Some of the water pipes are made out of brick and are large enough to stand in. The average age of the system is 70 12 CEEDS Design
years old, but there are areas that have not been replaced since they were built almost a century ago. Northampton also has a levy system built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940’s that protects much of the downtown along Main, Pleasant and Conz streets from the Connecticut River floodplain. These systems to‐ gether enable the City of Northampton to cope with winter storms, rain events, and seasonal flooding from the Connecticut and Mill Rivers. Recently, Northampton has been faced with the challenge of re‐designing and upgrad‐ ing its aging wastewater infrastructure. Starting last year, pressure to comply with the Environ‐ mental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act and Federal Regulatory standards began to put many towns and cities around the county to the test. These municipalities have to find the
money to upgrade, redesign, and replace their WHAT COULD BE IN THE stormwater and flood control systems in order to STORMWATER? not only meet the terms of the new standards, but also to mitigate storm damage to public and private The DPW’s stormwater system does not clean property as the number of storms per year in the or treat water before discharging it. Some of the pollutants that are commonly found in United States continues to rise. The hitch is this – our current wastewater stormwater are: • Oil, gasoline, antifreeze, heavy metals system is hugely dilapidated. It will cost Northamp‐ • Pet waste ton a projected 95.6 million dollars over the next 20‐ year period to do all the work that state and federal • Fertilizers and pesticides • Dirt and debris regulations require. In the next five years alone, the • Salt and sand Northampton Department of Public Works will • Soaps and detergents require 33 million of that total to start on the most • Leakage from dumpsters and grease storage urgent fixes. In order to deal with this seemingly insur‐ mountable challenge, Northampton is considering implementing of a new stormwater fee, which would be controlled and administered by a newly formed utility company – the Northampton Storm‐ water and Flood Control Utility. This utility would be much like a water or electric company service; they would charge a monthly fee to residents in exchange for the constant monitoring, maintenance, and repair of the city’s drainage and flood control HOW CAN WE HELP systems. This would create, for the first time, a dedi‐ WITH STORMWATER ISSUES? cated source of revenue to fund future improve‐ ments to drainage and flood control systems. Reduce the flow of rainwater and snow melt running into the street from your property: “Chicopee and Westfield are among the local com‐ munities that already bill users of their stormwater system,” noted Edward S. Huntley, Northampton’s Divert runoff from pavement, roofs, patios and pumps to grassy, gravel, planted or Director of the Department of Public Works. wooded areas of your property. The fee would be similar to the water and sewer bills that now go out. Charges would be based Use rain barrels to store extra water to use on impermeable surface area per acre, but the ini‐ for irrigation. tial estimate of $66 per month for a single‐family house could increase over time. Build a rain garden to absorb storm water. For the time being, money for the impending project will come from 20‐year federal bonds, as Use permeable pavers or pavement that there is no immediate way for the money to come allows rain and snowmelt to soak through from Northampton’s tax base. The hope is that with your driveway and walkways into the the creation of the wastewater utility, the city will ground. be able to establish the funding base for capital improvements as they are needed, and ensure that Use natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. the wastewater systems in place can meet or exceed pollution regulation going forward –with the ulti‐ Control soil erosion on your property by mate goal of having the least impact on the water‐ planting ground cover and stabilizing ways that we all live along. erosion-prone areas. + Hannah Hurvitt ‘13
CEEDS Design 13
Student Design at the Field Station
The main function of the trail we designed was to prevent cars from driving too far into the property, thus keeping the impact of motor‐ ized traffic to a minimum and helping the proposed building meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge: a sustainable, resilient building functioning in and alongside its surrounding environment. By having to reach the building via an 800‐foot wooded trail, visitors to the Field Station would be experi‐ entially grounded in the envi‐ ronment surrounding the OR THE FINAL living building. We therefore project of my land‐ decided that it was important scape studies studio to design a trail that would course LSS 255: Art & provide those visitors with Ecology, I teamed up with four moments along the way that classmates to design a trail at highlight the views and won‐ the MacLeish Field Station derful features of the forest which could lead visitors from and pasture that the Field the parking area to the Station has to offer. entrance of what is now the Our finished design Bechtel Environmental Class‐ guides visitors through a room building. section of pine, hemlock and
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black cherry forest marked by a series of choreographed moments, which include crossing one of the property’s streams over a bridge and stepping stones, providing a look at one of two vernal pools on the property, and a look‐out point, which provides a view of the pasture and mountains beyond. Our design was imple‐ mented last summer, when it was cleared and constructed by student interns. It has been satisfying indeed to see our idea realized and know that we’ve contributed in a lasting way to design at Smith. Working on this project gave the five of us the incredibly valuable experi‐ ences of navigating the demanding process of constructing a living building, and especially in staying true to the “personality” of a site throughout the design process. +Sophie Geller ‘13
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CEEDS Design 15
Reid BertoneJohnson A Life for Design
From working with the city of Northampton to managing the MacLeish Field Station, BertoneJohnson is actively engaged in helping design a more sustainable world. [Editor’s note: This profile was written for ENG 135, prior to the Fall 2012 completion of the Bechtel Environmental Classroom.]
T FIRST GLANCE, SMITH COLLEGE’S Ada and Archibald MacLeish field sta‐ tion in West Whately, Massachusetts seems like a typical college field sta‐ tion with a noble but standard mission “to foster field‐based education and research that pro‐ motes environmental study and experiential learning in a forested and agricultural land‐ scape.” However, on a chilly afternoon in Febru‐ ary, the reason MacLeish is much more than the average field station becomes clear as manager Reid Bertone‐Johnson leads a tour intended to appeal to a different group of Smithies. Gestur‐ ing toward a small clearing, Bertone‐Johnson declares the field to be “fair game” for the coursework of a trio of art students designing outdoor installations. In addition to being a ha‐
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ven for scientists, engineers and landscape de‐ sign students, MacLeish is intended to embody the liberal arts spirit of Smith itself, as well as the personal spirit and vision of landscape stud‐ ies lecturer Reid Bertone‐Johnson. “I feel like a city mouse,” laughs Lynne Yami‐ moto, the art faculty member leading this spe‐ cial studies class. And she’s right; this is not ex‐ actly the typical setting for an art class. The group walks warily up an unpaved road covered in thick, loose mud. Clods of it cake everyone’s shoes as they try not to slip. Her students point out certain features of the wooded trail and ad‐ jacent fields, bouncing ideas for projects off each other. Bertone‐Johnson interjects with ideas and suggestions of his own, clearly excited by the blending of art and nature. Photo Credit: Stefanie Cervantes
Reid Bertone‐Johnson has always been pulled—or perhaps torn—between the arts and science. As a student at Tufts University, he dabbled in photography and poetry, was a member of an a cappella group, and gradu‐ ated one credit shy of a minor in dance. How‐ ever, he majored in Geology and Environ‐ mental science. The son of two scientists, from a family he describes as “a long line of PhD’s” (“I have a lowly masters” he laments, adding with a hint of sarcasm, “I have two though.”), Bertone‐Johnson felt pressured by his parents, who were financing his education, to pursue a degree in science. Turned off by the competitive nature of the medical field, he decided on geology because it seemed like “the friendliest science.”
Even as he began working as a profes‐ sional landscape architect, Bertone‐Johnson knew he wanted to re‐enter academia. He be‐ gan working concurrently at a design firm, Dodson Associates, and the Library of Ameri‐ can Landscape History. In 2007, Bertone‐ Johnson began working for Smith College where he currently lectures for the Landscape Design Studio in the landscape studies pro‐ gram and manages the MacLeish field station for CEEDS. Bertone‐Johnson has tied his two positions at Smith together by having his Land‐ scape Design Studio class work on design pro‐ jects like the trail system for MacLeish. Other Smith classes have also made use of MacLeish’s bounty. Dance classes have been held in the fields, and soon, Smith students of all disciplines will have a place to incor‐ porate the environment into their studies. With Bertone‐Johnson’s influ‐ ence, what was expected to be a basic scientific field station has begun to incorporate the liberal arts mission of Smith College itself. As manager of MacLeish, Bertone‐ Johnson performs a wide range of tasks, from basic upkeep to overseeing the development of a new trail system and building. While giv‐ ing the tour to the art students, Bertone‐ Johnson stops to check the batteries in a time‐ lapse camera and examine progress by the construction crew. They are building MacLeish’s new Bechtel Environmental Class‐ room, where his office will soon be located. Bertone‐Johnson proudly points beyond the site to a clearing where an outdoor classroom pavilion, a wild garden of edibles, and a grove of aspen trees will be located once construc‐ tion is completed. “All the ways in which we are able to engage students in the process” of developing the new features of the center are the most exciting aspects of MacLeish for Bertone‐ Johnson. The pavilion was designed by a Smith
“I didn’t want people to be able to get the best view from the building. . . . I wanted them to have to work for it.” Bertone‐Johnson’s conflict between his career path and his personal interests did not end there. After he received his bachelors from Tufts in 1997, Bertone‐Johnson earned a Master of Education degree from Harvard Uni‐ versity in 1998 and began a five‐year stint teaching Earth Science, Environmental Science and Wilderness Survival at Amherst High School. He enjoyed working with his students, perhaps more than teaching the scientific ma‐ terial itself. However, when he met the woman who would become his wife, he found it hard to make teaching his top priority. “I learned to teach as a single man,” Bertone‐ Johnson explains, and was used to devoting all of his energy to his students. When he got married in 2003, he decided to “hit the reset button on [his] career trajectory.” Seeking a creative outlet for his natural science back‐ ground, he earned a second Masters degree in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2006.
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Reid Bertone-Johnson leading an art class on a tour of the field station. student, and it was this project that inspired the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Family Foundation to fund the field station’s classroom. According to Bertone‐ Johnson, they were intrigued by the extent of student involvement and the clear vision for MacLeish. The permaculture garden of edible plants is also a student design project. The new building will be located near the top of an incline, but not quite at the peak. The building’s large windows will face the side of the hill. Bertone‐Johnson explains that the place‐ ment of the structure away from the prime vista was intentional. “I didn’t want people to be able to get the best view from the building. . . . I wanted them to have to work for it.” This concept of “working for it” is evident in another aspect of the building’s placement. When the construction crew is finished, there will be no vehicular access to the building for guests. With the exception of disabled guests and emergency vehicles, visitors to MacLeish will Photo Credit: Nancy Cohen
have to walk a trail through the woods approxi‐ mately 800 yards long to reach the building. They will have to experience nature. When the tour group first got to MacLeish, a grinning older man walked straight up the dirt path, greeted them, and began talk‐ ing shop with Bertone‐Johnson. Bertone‐ Johnson described him as the land’s “de facto steward” during the years when Smith was not doing anything with it. He introduces himself simply as Pete. His familiar, collegial manner sug‐ gested that he was an employee, but in reality, he is a volunteer and MacLeish’s closest neighbor. To this day, Pete greets visitors and keeps Bertone‐Johnson apprised of any suspi‐ cious activity. Bertone‐Johnson maintains that one important aspect of his job at MacLeish is being a liaison between its neighbors and the college.
CEEDS Design 19
The relationship between MacLeish’s neighbors and Smith College has a somewhat rocky history. In the 1970s, Smith College pur‐ chased individual parcels of land from resi‐ dents. According to Bertone‐Johnson’s account, many of the sellers felt duped when it became clear that as a college Smith was not required to pay property taxes for the land. The people of Whately challenged the college’s right to claim tax‐exempt status on the grounds that it practices discriminatory admission procedures by only admitting women. Bertone‐Johnson notes that this is both a classic example of “town versus gown” litigation, as well as the first time Smith’s right to be an all‐women insti‐ tution was challenged in court. Smith College won the case, but to this day, Bertone‐Johnson reports that neighbors tend to be wary of Smith’s activities on the land. Bertone‐Johnson looks out for them, though. When Smith’s administrators, or as Bertone‐Johnson calls them, “College Hall,” proposed sitting the new building right in the middle of Pete’s view of the landscape, Bertone ‐Johnson pushed back. Because Pete had taken responsibility for the land for so many years, Bertone‐Johnson felt that “it really would have been a slap in the face [to Pete].” Bertone‐ Johnson succeeded, and Pete’s view remains pristine. In addition to smoothing out tensions between the college and MacLeish’s neighbors, Bertone‐Johnson has to come to terms with the destructive powers of Mother Nature. These powers are illustrated by the seemingly endless net of serpentine vines that cover the trees at MacLeish. Winding up trunks and down
“We aren’t competing with Harvard for a research field station…. For [MacLeish] to really be Smith’s, it has to be more.” 20 CEEDS Design
branches, they are al‐ most beautiful, but deadly to the trees they climb. The vines are Asiatic Bittersweet, a pervasive, invasive plant that is an enor‐ mous threat to trees all over New England. Here at MacLeish, Bertone‐ Johnson has found vines upwards of 6 inches in diameter. When asked if this seemingly unstoppable assault on the forest made him feel hopeless in a way, he pointed out that the Bittersweet problem provided an opportunity to learn about invasive species, and for students and faculty to test innova‐ tive ways of deterring their spread. Likewise, when asked what the greatest issue for future generations is, Bertone‐ Johnson r e p l i e d , “Facing environmental challenges with hope.” Bertone‐ John‐ son finds such opportu‐ nity all over MacLeish’s grounds. Toward the end of the tour, he breaks away from the trail and walks a few feet into the snowy brush. He lifts a particu‐ larly beautiful vine. Ac‐ tually, he explains, it is two vines: a native grape vine and an invasive Bittersweet. The two vines braiding around each other look like two snakes battling their way to the top of an ancient maple. Bertone‐Johnson plans on hang‐ ing this vine in his new office in the Bechtel
Reid Bertone-Johnson empties a bucket of sap into a storage container during the 2013 maple sugaring season at the Field Station.
Photo Credit: Stefanie Cervantes
Environmental Classroom. A little farther down the trail, he shows us a swinging chair hung from a tree looking out over the coun‐ tryside and the mountains beyond. Bertone‐ Johnson built this swing himself, inspired by the swing by Paradise Pond on Smith’s main campus. He tells the group about making grape jelly from the grapes at the center last year, and harvesting wild apples from a neighbor’s cherry‐picker. When asked about the strangest or most exciting occurrence at MacLeish during his tenure there, he shrugs, then adds, almost as an aside, that he once helped a neighbor save his dog from a flooded lead mine. The art students seem impressed. Immediately after the tour is completed, they begin making plans to return. Involving them with MacLeish may be Bertone‐ Johnson greatest service to the environ‐ ment. By putting students and faculty from non‐science disciplines in a beautiful, natu‐ ral setting, Bertone‐Johnson is creating a new group of environmentalists. He is giving Smith artists a chance to be inspired by na‐ ture and learn how they can incorporate it into their crafts. Nature can become as es‐ sential to their work, too, as it is for land‐ scape professionals and environmental bi‐ ologists. Reid Bertone‐Johnson’s enthusiasm for the future of MacLeish is contagious. He emphasizes the uniqueness of the MacLeish Field Station, and what it means for Smith College. “We aren’t competing with Harvard for a research field station,” he declares, adding that MacLeish is also dwarfed by the enormity of Williams College’s field station: “They have land in three states.” But the natural haven that he is building for both liberal arts and science students distin‐ guishes itself from the rest. “For [MacLeish] to really be Smith’s, it has to be more.” Like‐ wise, for this career to really be Reid Ber‐ tone‐Johnson’s, it had to be—and is—more. +Janet Burke ‘13
CEEDS Design 21
The Making of a Living Building at the MacLeish Field Station As humans grapple with the enormity of climate change, there is continuing global conversation about what actions we should and should not take. As this debate begins to filter deeper into all levels of society, designers, builders, and inhabitants alike find themselves thinking about the potential changes that can be made in the built environment. Various ap‐ proaches have already been taken from sealing up inefficient window frames to completely re‐ thinking the priorities of a building in society. One method has been to establish green build‐ ing certifications which attempt to create boundaries to define how we should or should not build. The most recent addition to this arse‐ nal of certifications is the Living Building Chal‐ lenge. The Living Building Challenge provides a “framework for design, construction and the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built environment,” and is com‐ prised of seven performance areas, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into twenty imperatives, accounting for different aspects of the building design. When the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability decided to build a classroom at the field station in Whately, Massachusetts, the design team needed to choose what route to take. With the construction of the Bechtel Environmental Classroom, Smith has decided to try to address some of the greatest issues involved in con‐ structing new buildings in an already stressed 22 CEEDS Design
and overcrowded landscape. The classroom’s characteristics are not solutions, but elements of a larger project. Below is a list of the Living Building petals (underlined) with a brief de‐ scription of the way the new Bechtel Environ‐ mental Classroom currently strives to achieve them. SITE: Located just outside a wetland buffer zone, this classroom is situated on previously disturbed land that was clear‐cut forty years ago and re‐vegetated primarily by invasive spe‐ cies. Smith is working to place nearly 200 acres of land (approximately 80% of its field station property) under conservation restriction. WATER: There are two principal waste water management plans: blackwater effluent is eliminated through the use of composting toi‐ lets that turn human waste into a resource; greywater effluent passes through a septic tank and into a leach field where it percolates through porous soils into the water table, thereby completing a closed loop water system. There is no water in the mechanical systems of the building. Water from our well is reserved primarily for drinking and hand‐washing. ENERGY: This high performance building requires very little electricity, and sources what energy it does need from a 10 kilowatt/hr array of highly efficient photovoltaic cells. The build‐ ing’s heating and cooling needs are minimized because of super‐insulation‐ the building has a 12‐inch thick double‐stud and dense packed cellulose insulated roof, and triple‐glazed kryp‐ ton filled windows. Remaining heating and
cooling needs are handled by two highly effi‐ cient single port air‐sourced heat pumps. The instantaneous water heater is set at a low 110ºF and is only used intermittently. Health: Large, usable windows provide fresh air, daylight, and views to the Holyoke Range, Hog Mountain, and Grass Hill. Mechanical ven‐ tilation systems are triggered by rising carbon dioxide levels when people enter the building. MATERIALS: The lumber comes from local and sustainably managed forests (within 50 miles). No harmful materials or toxic chemi‐ cals were used anywhere in the building. For example, instead of using PVC piping, alterna‐ tives such as recycled and recyclable HDPE were used. The College paid a one‐time $3,000 fee to offset the carbon produced dur‐ ing construction of the building. EQUITY: This classroom is a “building‐in‐ nature,” a small structure tucked into a folding landscape. Exterior spaces are open to all at all times. Tree grafting sculptures by local artist Dan Ladd, marked trails, and easy access to the surrounding fields and forest encourage interaction with the natural and managed set‐
Photo Credit: Reid Bertone-Johnson
tings around the building. None of the existing trails are officially wheelchair accessible, how‐ ever approximately 1.5 miles could be up‐ graded to full accessibility with additional funding. BEAUTY: The classroom has been used by classes in a range of disciplines such as dance, biology, and Jewish Studies– embodying the multidisciplinary philosophy of a liberal arts education. The two tree columns that grace the multi‐purpose room are harvested from the property, thus recalling the acres of forest just outside. Student engagement and projects animate the slowly unfolding landscape.
As evidenced by petals such as equity and beauty, design is a blurry concept. Actual physical structure is important in facilitating these goals, but the realization of them depends on our investments and actions. This building is part of a Living Building Challenge, which inspires us to remain mindful of the de‐ sign imperative as we program and use our building +Emma Brown ‘13 and Clarissa Lyons ‘13 More information about the Living Building Challenge can be found at: http://living‐future.org/lbc CEEDS Design 23
Planning for the Future Ambergris Caye, Belize is in danger of putting its natural resources at risk as a result of tourism. Can a Coastal Zone Management Plan help? Photographs by L. David Smith
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n Fall 2012, students in the capstone semi‐ nar for the Environmental Science and Pol‐ icy major were asked to develop solutions to real‐life environmental problems faced by the community of Ambergris Caye, Belize. My partner and I proposed a renewable energy farm on the Caye, and, although fossil fuel‐free electricity is important, I realized afterwards that there were more serious, even life‐ threatening issues that we had missed as a class. I decided to take on a special studies pro‐ ject during my last semester at Smith in order to further explore the issue of development. Ambergris Caye is a small island off the northern coast of Belize. The Mesoamerican reef, the largest barrier reef in North America, lies just off‐shore. On the island, there are man‐ grove forests, lagoons, and turtle nesting sites; all of which add ecological, cultural, and eco‐ nomic value to the island and country. Taken together, these features have made the island a popular tourist destination. Unfortunately, the increased demand for resources is straining the local ecosystems. The island only has one small town, San Pedro, which for a long time housed most of the locals and tourists. Recent increases in tourism and workers to support those tourists have re‐ sulted in an expansion of the town and creation of suburbs, and have led tourists to the pristine white beaches further from town. The rate of 26 CEEDS Design
development and lack of planning during this process has resulted in many new hotels and resorts being built in areas that were once dense forests and important nesting sites for turtles and other local fauna. Not only has this development led to a loss of biodiversity, but competition for pristine views have led to plans for further development in areas of great cul‐ tural and historical value, such as World Heri‐ tage Sites and the Bacalar Chico Marine and Wildlife Reserve on the northern part of the is‐ land. There are major threats to the island, its inhabitants, and the neighboring reef as a result of this rapid and unsystematic development, including sedimentation, ground water deple‐ tion, and loss of open space. Sedimentation from Ambergris Caye is a hazard to the nearby barrier reef; when amounts of waterborne sedi‐ ment are too high it can kill coral tissue and dis‐ turb the delicate balance of life on the reef. Ground water depletion is already of concern to the island because many residents, hotels, and resorts get the water they use for flushing toi‐ lets and showering from wells. The spike in de‐ mand for these purposes has already led to a decline in the water table. The increased num‐ ber of structures and hard surfaces has com‐ pounded the problem by making it difficult for rainwater to be absorbed back into the ground and recharge the aquifer. Not only is there a shortage of water, but the salinization of fresh water can occur when increased usage disturbs
The eastern shore of Ambergris Caye is highly developed with hotels, resorts, and private homes for vacationers. All of the developments require docks and piers since it is almost impossible to get to northern part of the island by land.
the equilibrium pressure of salt and fresh water, thus rendering the whole aquifer unsuitable for even those needs it currently meets. In my search for answers to these prob‐ lems, I spoke with all sorts of people from real estate agents on Ambergris Caye to the Director of Planning and Sustainability for the city of Northampton. I discovered that many areas, es‐ pecially islands, have had these same problems and have created “coastal zone management plans” to combat them. According to the state of Massachusetts, these management plans are intended to prevent coastal hazards, such as threats to public safety, property, and environ‐ mental resources. I used these same principles to establish a “Coastal Zone” for Ambergris Caye; a first step to creating a long‐term plan for the island. The proposed coastal zone for the Caye encompasses an area where most of the current development sits; it is about seven miles long and 800 feet inland from the shoreline and starts just north of San Pedro. I used current zoning codes as a baseline for my proposed plan. Some of the major changes include in‐ creasing setbacks for structures and creating a vegetation buffer, so that runoff can be ab‐ sorbed and buildings have a natural protective barrier during storms. I also propose a decrease in structure density in order to decrease the number of impervious surfaces and allow rain‐ water to percolate back into the aquifer. In addi‐ tion to these suggestions, I am also recommend‐ ing that basic services, such as electricity and
drinking water, be provided on site where possi‐ ble. For example, electricity could be generated with solar, and water could be obtained from above‐ground rainwater catchment systems. These regulations would only apply to the proposed “Coastal Zone,” but I am also pro‐ posing that the island reclassify or remap the area outside this zone. Development on the Caye seems likely, so to keep it sustainable over the long term it should be limited to this small area, which still has undeveloped lots. The land outside of this zone consists of dense forests, mangroves, and freshwater lagoons, all natural resources that provide services to island inhabi‐ tants, such as storm protection and wildlife habitat. The environment of Ambergris Caye is a haven of natural beauty– the very thing that at‐ tracts tourists to the island. Why would anyone want to destroy it and replace it with a built en‐ vironment of luxury resorts? Although my pro‐ posal is not a complete Coastal Zone Manage‐ ment Plan for the island, I believe it can be very beneficial as residents work to address the cur‐ rent mode of development, even at this small scale. My plan certainly leaves many things, such as piers, docks, and transportation unad‐ dressed, but it does begin to name unplanned development as the major problem it is, and provides some starting guidelines for the com‐ munity. +Stefanie Cervantes ‘13 CEEDS Design 27
Soy Ahoy! The Hidden Dangers of Food ‘Design’
here is usually a point in most peo‐ ple’s lives at which they attempt to make a lifestyle change and begin making more of the “right” choices when it comes to food. Often this leads people to a diet of more whole food, meat substi‐ tutes, and fruits and veggies. During my childhood, my family often ate, without question, whatever we purchased ‐whether in a can, box or pouch. As a result, I learned to take food labels at face value. When I went through my vegetarian phase in my teens, I ate enough soy and veggie burgers to offset the carbon footprint of an entire herd of livestock many times over. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to think about what the ingredients were that kept my soy burgers, snack cakes, boxed pastas and canned veggies so fresh for extended periods of time. It was food as far as I was concerned—it had a pic‐ ture of food on the cover, didn’t it? That used to be enough for me. It wasn’t until college that I learned to question how our food is designed. It was then that I became aware of some of the many hidden ingredients that manufacturers use to prepare our food– addi‐ tives to make processed food taste better, lower fat content, or produce an expected tex‐ ture. My first foray into more informed eat‐ ing began as a result of reading an article about dangerous chemicals in food I’d always considered healthy. In it, the reporter detailed how a food and agriculture nonprofit found 28 CEEDS Design
that most non‐organic veggie burgers currently on the market are made with the chemical hexane, an EPA‐registered air pollut‐ ant and neurotoxin. To my mind this takes food processing to a whole new level: to pull out the unwanted components of the soy‐ bean, namely the oil, and to then give the soy a more “meaty” texture, the soybeans are given a hexane bath. Cornucopia Institute sen‐ ior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys says, "If a non‐organic product contains a soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein, you can be pretty sure it was made using soy beans that were treated with hexane" (Mother Jones 2010). And if that isn’t bad enough, it turns out that we consum‐ ers can’t rely solely on product labels to stay in the know about what is in our food and guide our choices. According to current label laws, products like the soy burgers described above that are labeled ‘made with organic ingredi‐ ents’ may still contain hexane; it is only when it is labeled “organic” that you can be sure that they’ll be hexane‐free. Whether these types of chemicals acci‐ dentally enter the food chain or are purpose‐ fully added, there seems to be a safety issue here. One way I’ve started to deal with this uncertainty is to question every claim made by food manufacturers. I’ve also started to make more of my own food from scratch. Now that I know a little bit better what to look for, it is becoming much easier to make more in‐ formed, healthy choices along my journey. +Elizabeth Wright AC ‘15
Homemade Quinoa Masala Burgers*
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 30 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients ½ cup quinoa dry (cook to package instructions) 1 baked sweet potato, skin removed 1 egg slightly beaten or 1 T flax seed mixed with 2 T water A few springs of fresh cilantro, chopped 1 small onion diced 2 inch piece of ginger, minced 1 garlic clove, minced ½ t sea salt ½ t garam masala ½ t curry powder ¼ t mustard seed ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper melted coconut oil for brushing burgers Photo Credit: Elizabeth Wright
Instructions Preheat oven to 400ºF Combine all ingredients and mix in a large bowl Form mixture into 8 patties Place patties on parchment paper on a large baking sheet Brush top of burgers with a small amount of coconut oil Bake for 15 minutes, then flip burgers and coat with coconut oil again Bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown
*Recipe is from http://foodbabe.com
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There are many ways to get involved with environment, design, and sustainability issues here at Smith. Stop by CEEDS and talk with us about how you can take part in the growing movement. We are happy to answer questions about what is going on and how you can get connected ‐ to relevant classes within the Five Colleges, student orgs, faculty resources, research opportunities, community organizations, and more… CEEDS is open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 4:00pm Wright Hall room 005, garden‐level OR visit our website at www.smith.edu/ceeds