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ecology+design strategies to solve complex problems

Inaugural E+D Symposium Publication


PENN STATE SPONSORS The College of Arts and Architecture Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Department of Landscape Architecture Institutes of Energy and the Environment Ecology Institute of the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences PA Water Resources Research Center Center for Human Ecology

THE HAMER CENTER The mission of the Hamer Center for Community Design is to encourage building community through building knowledge. It fulfills its mission through engagement in three inter-related activities: Teaching, Research and Service. Made possible through a generous endowment from the Hamer Foundation, the Hamer Center for Community Design was founded in 1998 to facilitate impactful, thoughtful community design. Welcoming discourse and collaboration among Penn State researchers and designers, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups, the center strives to encourage building community through building knowledge. Much of the extension effort of the Hamer Center for Community Design is channeled through research groups and outreach initiatives as well as through academic studio partnerships.

This publication is available in alternative media on request. The University is committed to equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment for all persons. It is the policy of the University to maintain an environment free of harassment and free of discrimination against any person because of age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or political ideas. Discriminatory conduct and harassment, as well as sexual misconduct and relationship violence, violates the dignity of individuals, impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission, and will not be tolerated. Direct all inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy to the Affirmative Action Office, The Pennsylvania State University, 328 Boucke Building, University Park, PA 16802-5901, Email: aao@psu.edu, Tel (814) 863-0471. U.Ed. ARC-138 MPC 151701







Keith Bowers, Biohabitats Chris Barnes, SCAPE Thomas Price, Conservation Design Forum Panel Discussion Topic 2 Student Reactions + Video



Dr. David Orr, Oberlin College Dr. William Braham, University of Pennsylvania Dr. Kristina Hill, UC Berkley Panel Discussion Topic 1 Student Reactions + Video

Dr. William Mitsch, Florida Gulf Coast University Steve Apfelbaum, Applied Ecological Services Dr. Wu Hong, Penn State Panel Discussion Topic 3 Student Reactions + Video



Andy Cole serves as the ecologist within the department of landscape architecture, bringing ecological understanding into the landscape architecture curriculum such that students’ thinking and their designs are enhanced. He teaches the foundational ecology course, a plant identification class, and seminars ranging from restoration ecology to watershed stewardship. Cole makes himself available to the various design studios in order to assist students in applying ecological principles to their designs. He is a wetland ecologist by training, though he also has a wildlife biology background. His research interests lie with restoration ecology as it applies to damaged landscapes, usually wetlands. Cole has a long-standing interest in the creation of wetland ecosystems and their developing characteristics and function. He is also interested in how design decisions impact site and landscape ecology. His current projects include assessing riparian characteristics of two state parks in a region that might be affected by shale gas development, developing natural resource condition assessments for two small units of the national park system, and looking at micrometeorological aspects of schoolyard wetlands.


In the movie “Network” (1976), the character Howard Beale leans out his window and yells “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” I can’t say the genesis of E+D: Ecology & Design (and this symposium) began quite this way, but it’s as good an analogy as any. Personally, I must rewind the clock many years to where I saw a professional landscape architect show how his firm “improved” a cypress swamp by removing the cypress trees. As a wetland ecologist, that incident convinced me that we ecologists need to work hand-in-glove with those who design and manipulate the landscape around us. Never one to rush such things, it took more than a decade before I realized the need to develop what we in the department of landscape architecture at Penn State call E+D: Ecology & Design. E+D is an approach to design that implicitly brings ecology into the design process right at the onset—instead of when it’s far too late to have any meaningful input. As of this publication, E+D is in its infancy. Our first foray into the public arena was our November 2017 symposium—the results of which have been nicely gathered into the volume before you. Our goal for this symposium was simple: bring together the best scientists and designers who practice ecological design into one room for a day and allow them to inspire both science and practice. We looked for those people whose work exemplified the very idea of mixing ecology and design and we hoped they would help us to educate the Penn State community on the importance of our nascent effort and to help grow E+D. Not to brag or anything—but our day exceeded our wildest expectations. We offered each presenter the opportunity to share a short reflection on their ideas of ecological design, and those are included here. We also asked three interdisciplinary pairs of graduate students to reflect on the approach E+D was taking and how it might impact their work. I think you’ll see from all the reflections that ecological design as promised by the mission of E+D is becoming more important than ever. We are not the first to try and explicitly incorporate ecology into design, but we are making a determined effort to teach our students the value of the approach, to include the philosophy in our research efforts, and to continue to try and educate other professionals and the general public. I hope that you will agree that this publication helps push that effort forward. And keep your eyes out for more developments as our efforts take flight!

Andy Cole, Ph.D. Director, E+D: Ecology & Design



The Plan

To introduce E+D to the wider Penn State community, the inaugural symposium was hosted on November 1st, 2017 in the Jury Space of the Stuckeman Family Building at Penn State. Our goal was to assemble internationally recognized academic and industry leaders who employ ecology + design strategies to solve complex problems and discuss and debate issues central to ecological design. For this symposium, the discussions were focused around three central questions: TOPIC 1. W  hat are key ecological principles that should be considered in physical design, and how are they (or how should they be) manifested in built work? TOPIC 2. What are useful collaborative strategies to bring together ecological science and physical design? TOPIC 3. How could (or how does) research help us test the theories and design strategies through performance assessment of built projects? For each topic, three speakers delivered a brief TED talk style presentation, and then engaged in a panel discussion with the audience.

The Speakers

Dr. David Orr, Oberlin College Dr. William Braham, University of Pennsylvania Dr. Kristina Hill, University of California, Berkeley Keith Bowers, Biohabitats Chris Barnes, SCAPE Tom Price, Conservation Design Forum Dr. William Mitsch, Florida Gulf Coast University Steven Apfelbaum, Applied Ecological Services Dr. Hong Wu, The Pennsylvania State University To view each speaker’s talk, please visit https://www.youtube.com/user/StuckemanSchool/




TOPIC 1: 8



What are key ecological principles that should be considered in physical design?



David Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College. He is the founder and visionary of the Oberlin Project which is a joint effort to create a thriving, sustainable, and environmentally friendly community in Oberlin. His career as a scholar, teacher, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur spans fields as diverse as environment and politics, environmental education, campus greening, green building, ecological design, and climate change. He is the author of seven books and co-editor of three others. He has been awarded a Bioneers Award, a National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation, a Lyndhurst Prize awarded by the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Benton Box Award from Clemson University for his work in Environmental Education. He received a B.A. from Westminster College, an M.A. from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania.



FRAMEWORK FOR THE FUTURE Dr. Orr launched our day with a challenge, and he reflected in real time that the dire need for ecological design as a “re-making of the human presence on the planet” was inextricably linked to the state of democracy and self-governance. Orr identified three converging crises: (1) the present and growing threat of climate change; (2) a global shift away from the clear and convincing preference for democracy toward acceptance of military rule; and (3) the state of American democracy in 2017. As noted in the organizers’ opening remarks, this symposium was not the first of its kind. There had been at least two gatherings since the 1990s that brought together great thinkers and practitioners from ecological sciences and design disciplines who had recognized the need to declare the importance of joined forces. The proceedings and publications that emerged from such meetings have provided an essential cornerstone for continuing the conversation and bolstering the commitment to cooperation and shared strategies. However, Orr widened the lens of our gathering to suggest that the conversation about ecological design must consider social issues, specifically issues of governance. He claimed that our ability to tackle and ultimately solve the imminent crises that we face as humanity are rooted in our ability to see non-linear and unpredictable systems. Recognizing the complexity of that charge, Orr posed the following points to guide the effort:

1. Ecological design should strive to calibrate through design the potential for shared peak performance of human and “natural” systems. 2. Good design solves multiple problems by causing no new problems, tending toward resilience, and certainly not crossing irreversible thresholds. 3. Don’t believe in accidents. When something goes awry, efficiency demands that we recognize the logical working-out of the rules embedded in the system. 4. Although this strategy might “test your politics, your morality, your ethics, and certainly your ingenuity and intellect,” consider whether the solution to a crisis might also be embedded in the system. 5. All design is political, so try to avoid claiming to be apolitical. Sometimes, solutions require that we be radical and certainly not nonpolitical. 6. Ecological design curriculum should include a course on the politics of design. 7. S  ystem design is a challenge that requires taking ecological design up to scale and at extended timelines that honor the complexities, difficulties, and future-borne consequences of the actions we take today. Dr. Orr commissioned us all to synthesize these complex challenges by considering how one would design an ecological republic, and perhaps that is the grand gesture to be solved by the next generation of great thinkers and practitioners committed to ecological design. Perhaps they will strive for and achieve a society that centers the goals of human betterment, fairness, equity, and conviviality through a more ecologically-resilient designed world.

—E+D Editors



William Braham is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he previously served as Chair, and is currently Director of the Master of Environmental Building Design and of the Center for Environmental Building + Design. He has worked on energy and architecture for over 30 years as a designer, consultant, researcher, and author of numerous articles and books. He recently published Architecture and Systems Ecology: Thermodynamic Principles for Environmental Building Design, in three parts. He also co-edited Energy Accounts: Architectural Representations of Energy, Climate, and the Future, Architecture and Energy: Performance and Style, and Rethinking Technology: A Reader in Architectural Theory. He is currently working on a project called The City Always Writes in the Plural: Narratives of Urban Self-Organization. William received his B.S.E. at Princeton University and his M.Arch, Ph.D. Arch at the University of Pennsylvania.



CITIES ARE GROWN IN SOIL It is natural for designers to reach for positive principles from ecology, to try to emulate the conditions we observe in healthy ecosystems and to attribute any problems to the disruptions of human activity. Writing from the heart of the anthropocene, the second part of that observation may be self-evident, but we have to be careful with the analogy between human design and natural ecosystems. While systems theory teaches us that they operate by similar principles and push toward similar goals, they can be as different in mechanism and intensity as photosynthesis and a coal-fired power plant (even though the one is based on the other). Cities are arguably the engine of human civilization and intensified fuels are the fuel, but they now outcompete almost every natural ecosystem, extracting all available resources and returning only degraded waste. Many of the best design practices inspired by ecosystems focus precisely on reducing extraction and minimizing waste, on making cities cleaner and more efficient. In a wealthy, growth-oriented economy there are abundant opportunities for both practices, but these are not enough. They may even lead us to miss the deep drive for power and prosperity that inspires complex systems to innovate and overcome any apparent obstacle to their expansion. In effect most of the greater efficiencies we achieve in cars, buildings, and infrastructures only accelerate urban growth. The most challenging lesson of ecosystem theory is the constantly shifting tradeoff between practices that increase power for individual households or institutions and those that enhance the prosperity of the system as a whole. Sometimes they align, but when they don’t, we see exactly the kind of

political opposition that has accompanied every environmental achievement. Much of that is inevitable—pitting the short term interest of individuals versus the future interests of a society or the biosphere. The principles designers need from ecology must make that future prosperity visible and palpable. For me, the most inspiring aspects of the event were the multiple accounts of soil and landscape restoration. In case after case, a promising connection was made between human interests and the healthy activity of the micro-organisms that make soil work. In one case, a more intense form of grazing yielded a more productive prairie, in another a restored wetland cut infrastructure costs and cleaned a lake. If the micro-organisms that did all that work were nano-robots, we would be lauding their creator and trying to get in on the IPO. However the secret was not one particular organism, but the balance of practices at large and small scales that allowed those organisms to prosper. It seemed that as the soil went, so went the ecosystem. The simplest reflection on the day that I can offer was my realization that cities are actually grown in soil. Not that there are seeds for highways or office towers, but that almost every form of prosperity we value can be traced upstream to the soil in which originated. Or to put it the other way around, that the success of human civilization derives from both the cultivation of soil and its concentration into urban arrangements.

—William W. Braham University of Pennsylvania



Kristina Hill is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Hill studies urban ecology and hydrology in relationship to physical design and social justice issues. Her primary area of work is in adapting urban districts and shore zones to the new challenges associated with climate change. She was a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Virginia before going to California. She was honored as a Fellow of the Urban Design Institute in New York and has conducted research in Stockholm, Sweden, as a Fulbright Scholar. She received her MLA and Ph.D. for Landscape Architecture from Harvard University.


RESPONSIVE ECOLOGICAL DESIGN My perspective on ecological design has really shifted over the last twenty years, as I’ve learned more about the predicted impacts of climate change. I’d like to use this reflection to consider that shift, and make a brief argument for why we all need to make it. Over the past several decades, the primary goal of ecological design was to mimic the underlying processes associated with pre-development landscape conditions to support the animals and plants that have been characteristic of North America. Environmental planning and laws already eliminated the worst pollution that had severely limited the quality of air and water in urban areas before 1980. Our goals shifted to supporting biodiversity by challenging conventional urban design. This change was reflected in the 1998 special issue of Landscape Journal, which focused on ecological design. For example, while we knew we couldn’t bring a native forest back in a city, we believed we could re-design the hydrologic systems of a city to perform more like the hydrology of a forest. We could cool streams with shade, filter and infiltrate more rainwater runoff, and try to optimize the spatial configuration of the remnant patches and corridors of native habitat. We also knew it was important to use the art of design to reveal all of these processes and patterns to the people who live in these landscapes. One of the primary goals of ecological design became to help people associate cultural meaning

to landscape performance, using what Joan Nassauer called “cues to care,” and what others called “eco-revelatory design.” We were asking questions about what it means to be human in a world we share with other species, even as urbanization alters more and more of that world. We knew we could build better, healthier cities that would be more biologically diverse, and help to make that culturally resonant. Things looked good, until about 2005. There’s a term in systems ecology for what happens when the trajectory of an ecosystem —meaning trends in the quantitative variables that describe that ecosystem over time— changes in ways that exceed the resilience of the system: it’s called a regime shift. Human beings, particularly in the United States, have put so much waste carbon dioxide into the air that the atmosphere and oceans are moving into a new regime; a new system state. Under these new conditions—which are predictable using the basic laws of thermodynamics—the planet’s ecosystems will most likely enter a very different era of species movement and extinctions. From a geological perspective, this isn’t the first time. But it’s the first time we’ve tried to sustain a large human population through a major climate shift like this. For instance, we’ve never had coastal cities during a rapid phase of sea level rise; the last similar phase was about 8,000 years ago.


The oldest cities date back only 5,000 to 7,000 years. In the relatively new City of Seattle, I helped make habitat for a cold-water fish—the Chinook salmon. Salmon are much less likely to come south of the Canadian border in a warmer world, if they survive at all. Rainfall patterns are already changing, producing storms that drop more water on cities because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. All of our work on green infrastructure will be challenged by these future storms. At the same time, summers are likely to be drier and hotter—a time when moisture is needed the most for the growing season, and for other human uses. There is no question that human actions are producing a regime shift. Even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide today, the ice sheets of Antarctica are already melting, and won’t stop. We’re committed to sea level rise, everywhere on the planet, to an average of about ten feet— although we don’t know how quickly that will happen. Recent research suggests we could have that drastic coastal change by 2100, or if we’re lucky, a century later. But it’s coming. Every new paper out of Antarctica shows that previous models underestimated the amount of sea level rise we will face. Even if we invent a machine to pull carbon out of the air faster than we put it in, our coasts are going to flood. When it comes to coastal “sustainability” (a term for protecting what we have now) and “resilience” (which is defined in ecology as the speed of recovery from a temporary disturbance) we’re in a new world. Our challenge isn’t sustainability, it’s adaptation. Adaptation during an era of political and territorial conflict won’t be a science and technology-driven process alone, it will be a house-to-house effort to find the best in our nature, to avoid being manipulated by people who want to wring the last conceivable profits out of a failed carbon economy. Design has a critical role to play, by focusing people’s attention on our shared values and common goals.

What is ecological design in this new context? What will its most important principles be? Design is a cultural act, as others have said before me. As we adapt to a changing world, our challenges are primarily cultural challenges. We’ve known the science for decades, and we have creative options we can synthesize into building new urban districts—mixed-use developments that float, surrounded by an armature of landforms, or are terraced away from the water. Understanding landscapes as three-dimensional volumes, without limiting ourselves to seeing patterns in horizontal space alone, is the key to working with water. We can do it, and share our strategies with countries that are even more exposed to rising seas and more dependent on international investment. No country is an island in our international economy, and no one can “climate proof” themselves without considering the fate of others. Design can communicate our resourcefulness, and reinforce it. We need to be brave enough to make new investments in infrastructure and in new urban districts that will touch on all of our shared resources. Design can help us remember to expand our compassion for human beings and living creatures different from ourselves. That’s how we will affirm what we already know is beautiful about being human, and learn more about who we are within the ecological systems that are changing. (continued)



In my view, “ecological” design is design that engages explicitly with time and the diversity of life. We are facing an extreme amount of change in a short time, which causes turmoil. Our principles need to prioritize the emotional experience of loss and change by revealing the beauty of change in dynamic systems. Our work on ecosystem function has to prioritize strengthening underlying processes, and be more flexible about which species will make use of the corridors and patches we organize in space. We’ll have to change our focus on “native” species to define species as “transitional” and engage in more human-assisted migration. And just as the term “diversity” has been applied to both relationships within human communities as well as within non-human communities, human territories will be “transitional.” We will need to assist people in their migrations as resources become excruciatingly scarce in other regions of the world, or we will give up a critical dimension of our humanness out of fear.

the same time. We’ve learned this from public space and memorial design as well. But we need to bring this art, these cultural acts, into a context of hydrological performance in order to have the courage and resourcefulness to adapt roads, airports, houses, and everything else that will be affected by flooding and by drought. There may be new disease ecologies to adapt to as well. This transition era is going to require a knowledge of ecology as it includes epidemiology, geomorphology, and hydrology to support functional design. But most of all, ecological design will require us to re-organize our knowledge of ourselves. We need to use ecological design to tell new stories about what it means to be human, in a world that’s changing irreversibly.

—Dr. Kristina Hill UC Berkeley

Principles for ecological design that deals explicitly with time can come from the ecological studies of patch dynamics and landscape ecology – not to re-establish pre-development conditions, but to maintain fundamental corridors like river systems, and connect new coastal habitats along the shore. Site-specific principles should also come from the design of memorials, which taught us that art and design can expand our human capacity for compassion. Design can also help by inventing and revealing the beauty of change, and helping people cope with joy and grief at


ORR—Kristina and Bill, you come from very different cities, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and my talk is about politics and political failure. There’s the first warning given to a US President about climate change, it was in 1965, to Lyndon Johnson, and so when Nicholas Stern, the British economist described climate change as the largest market failure in history, long before it was a market failure, it was a massive political failure. And this is to both of you, what’s the role in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and Pennsylvania and California of political leadership on these issues: urban redevelopment and response to climate change? BRAHAM—I was all set to ask the question, not answer one, but the... I would have to say, Philadelphia, possibly characteristic of many cities, we spent a little while looking at carbon action plans from cities around the country. Every city has one. It’s kind of a necessary thing to pass the football onto the next generation, but in terms of this bigger question like what


are the impacts, I saw Philadelphia’s plan, which I think is probably fairly typical, they did a, I call it a first order analysis, what’s going to be flooded? This is pure sea level rise, none of the secondary things. What’s going to be flooded? What agencies will have to adapt in some way? And the happy conclusion of this thing was like, “Well Philadelphia’s actually going to be pretty well off.” And you look at them and you think about of all of things, many of which you’ve just mentioned, all of the things that are secondary effects from that kind of dislocation that happens that weren’t accounted for, and the one that pops up even more strongly for me because Philadelphia is, I always say, hurricanes come up and down the East Coast. Philadelphia doesn’t usually worry about this because we have New Jersey. And in fact the same thing is true for sea level rise, that huge areas of the Eastern seaboard will be severely impacted. Philadelphia does happen to be just a little bit higher, so at least for near

term ones, but what about all those economic refugees? What about people who do finally concede? I was going to ask the question the other way and maybe let you answer both of them, which is... I’ve heard these warnings for decades. The direction is increasingly clear, and yet at almost every level, people are very good at, I’ll call it adapting, but literally swallowing the information and continuing to do more or less exactly what they do. I just got a call from a college roommate or email from a college roommate saying, “You know I’ve never made good real estate decisions and I had recently bought a piece of land in St. Croix.” And I didn’t know where this was going, and literally he wanted to know what to build now. And I was like, “Well are you going to flip it? Why are you building there?” But literally he’s done the research. He’s like this kind of thing will float, and this kind of thing. We adapt so readily to the terror of this that I used to hope for small disasters, not disasters, but small disruptions in order to inspire people to make change more quickly. But I don’t see us collectively responding to that level of threat. HILL—Well I think many of us realize the United States is an outlier internationally in our inability to do meaningful regional planning because of our constitutional—speaking of things you would change about the constitution, the amendment that protects property rights for

the property owner. If you think of it in typical property right sense as a bundle of sticks, in the United States, we give almost every stick to the private property owner and we retain very few for the public. So in California around the San Francisco Bay Area, if every home is worth a million dollars, and that’s kind of where it’s gotten to now, it’s so insane, because they haven’t built at higher density, every little single-family piece of junk home built in the 1970s is worth a million dollars. Rents are very high. They’ve gone up 50% in the last five years, in some communities 100%. Every structure is a cash cow, and so people are attached to those cash cows and trying to figure out when to sell. They’re waiting for a signal of some kind that’s a money signal, and until that money signal comes, they’re not going to sell or make a change. So we have to find ways for that money that they’re making now off of rent or in equity to be available to them to transition and adapt. That’s the only way that I have been able to think about this. Let’s say you don’t have a rental unit at your home, but you have a backyard. If we provide people with a modular accessory dwelling unit, that’s all allowed by law because it’s a modular thing that’s been approved, they get rent from that and they can keep some of that rent to prepare for this adaptation. Well if we get out of the National Flood Insurance Program and start going out in the private market with other (continued)



kinds of insurance instruments, we may be able to put a dollar back for every thousand in home value into the home owner’s pocket and put a dollar into an adaptation fund if we can reduce the cost of insurance because California’s a net payer into the National Flood Insurance Program from which we get few benefits. At least so far we haven’t had the catastrophic flood for a long time, like 100 years. So people are looking at how to restructure insurance, how to restructure rents and the economics of home equity, to move in an adaptation direction, but there has to be a signal. And the governors of California, whether it’s republican or democrat, have created so many new laws that are so aggressive on climate change, I’ve never lived in a state where you can live in an urban region and have to actually pay attention to what the state is doing in a positive way. Like you’ve got to track state legislation and know what’s coming ‘cause it’s going to be really progressive and interesting. I’ve never lived in a state like that before, so that’s novel and I think that is real leadership and we see elected officials from the Bay Area trying to lead on this and just not yet knowing how to talk about adaptation as a value proposition, because you can’t talk about it as just a hair shirt. You can’t get reelected by saying this is all bad. You have to say, “Here’s how we can thrive “economically as we adapt,” and those ideas need to come from the design community. ORR—Just to add one thing to that, for those of you who are students, there was a time in U.S. politics, not all that long ago, when democrats and republicans came together on a whole set of issues pertaining to environment. So we formed in 1969 with a republican president, the Environmental Protection Agency. We passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and if you go back and look at these statutes, they were republicans and democrats who both agreed. And some things happen and they collectively, I won’t get into this now unless it comes up in Q and

A, but some things happened that began to intervene, and the way we regarded the balance between our role as citizens, our collective role in the political world and the things that bind us together, and our role as consumers, we’re obviously both, but the balance shifted to give priority to the individual and individualism is where we say, or the market is where we say I, me, and mine, but the political arena is where we say ours and us the longterm future, and those pronouns shifted dramatically from the late 1970s to the present. So Kristina talks about the priority given to individual property rights, that was part of it and that part of American political cultural individualism was magnified over the course of three or four decades, and if you follow the causality, I’ll mention the Chicago School of Economics was a big part of this, Milton Friedman and so forth, but it doesn’t work very well if you compare the pictures, for example, she showed of housing in Amsterdam and the proper use of wealthy people as carbon absorbers or whatever it was, but we don’t do that that much in the United States. It’s a major effort to begin to overcome this centripetal force of individualism. BRAHAM—I had one comment because I think turning this around is perhaps the most useful thing we can do. It is easy, in fact I think I’m quoting you, it’s easy to become pessimistic when faced with this, whether you say it’s foolish to be optimistic, but what we’re looking for is ways to be hopeful and to take the positive view or to look for the thing that designers could do, and I spend most of my time, not dealing at the policy level, but dealing at the individual client level. I mean how do you convince somebody to do something when they look at what their neighbors are doing. And the things that I’m mostly worried about, health has been the thing which changes people from doing exactly what everybody else does to thinking more critically about it. It sounds terrible to say it this way, but there are tremendous opportunities with all of the disasters that we see unfolding. Architects, (continued)


in particular, go where the work is. You lose how many thousands of acres and thousands of homes in Northern California. Somebody has to rebuild those somewhere, and people’s tendency is to try and just rebuild and insurance companies are set to help people rebuild what they’ve done, but those are the moments of real opportunity. Same thing in Florida. We didn’t see huge change after Katrina in New Orleans despite lots of people saying, “Why are you continuing to support this pattern of settlement below sea level?” One could make a change, but I do think that this is where thinking ecologically about design allows you to move in critically at those opportunities. I don’t say it’s easy to find ways to persuade people to do something different, but I think there is no better opportunity than moments of crisis. AUDIENCE MEMBER—I was thinking, Kristina, when you were talking about the floating homes, of the Ma’dan marsh people in the Tigris and Euphrates and extreme poverty versus extreme wealth. But, I was wondering about how you see what happened, for instance, in San Francisco on the Embarcadero when infrastructure fails, where there’s no money for infrastructure to rebuild bridges and highways, how it’s going back, like in Buffalo—the last couple of The New York Times have had articles on the benefits of not having money to rebuild highways so that they go back down to the local communities and how it’s rebuilding the cities because they’re rethinking traffic patterns. Can anybody talk about that particularly?


HILL—I mean the example of the San Francisco Embarcadero is that after the earthquake, Loma Prieta, in the ‘80s, whatever it was, ‘89—they didn’t rebuild a waterfront highway. And similarly in Seattle, they’ve taken down a waterfront highway that they decided not to rebuild in part because of costs as seawalls are being rebuilt and so on. San Francisco is now planning to spend four to five billion dollars on replacing its seawall. Four to five billion dollars. And because the city’s property is worth so much money, the whole region’s property, they’re able to raise money to be able to do that. But of course not everyone will be. There are counties that have long shorelines along San Francisco Bay and not much money. There are many places in the country where there’s a long shoreline and not much money. I would say that if you look at metropolitan gross domestic product or gross metropolitan product, which is referred to in the US economic census data, you can kind of guess whether a place would be able to adapt with expensive coastal structures or whether it’s going to have to retreat. If you don’t have a lot of money in a small community in a coastal area, you’re not likely to be able to muster the capital to do something big and heroic on the shoreline. So we’re really going to have different trajectories for different concentrations of wealth, and urban areas will be able to do things differently than small towns and rural communities. I think after an event when not being able to rebuild can be a really good thing because it makes you rethink. It’s one of the few ways to

get out of what’s called path dependency where you keep doubling down and doubling down on existing investments because it’s just so much money you can’t leave it on the table, like sewage treatment plants, or bridges, highways, but we are seeing interesting examples of people moving to different technologies. The bridge between Seattle and Bellevue, the 520 Bridge, is a floating bridge, and we may see ourselves doing other kinds of floating bridges, and floating roadways, and floating structures, floating tunnels because we have to change our path dependency. We still need the connectivity—that’s critical—but maybe we’ll do it a different way. ORR—One related point: we’ve been told for decades by people and politicians that we couldn’t afford to make the transition to renewable energy. It would be too expensive. But if you take all the costs that we’re now paying for damages, whether Katrina, or Sandy, or Hugo, whatever, and put those costs in the right ledger, they’re in the block called “climate” and the cost of climate change. And I think the point I’d like to make is, in economic terms, they said you can’t afford it, but you can’t afford not to, that we’re going to pay for climate stability whether we get it or not. We’ll pay one way or the other. It’ll be disaster relief or front-end investment. We could pay now and lower our longterm cost or we can pay incrementally as it goes. So this fits into the current dialogue about a tax cut for the wealthy, the current tax legislation. So when you hear

these things, make sure you put it into current context. $1.5 trillion is being talked about as a tax break for people who probably don’t need it, and that money comes out then of public revenues and so forth. One other thing I would say is this, in 1994, Newt Gingrich at the time was Speaker of the House and he canceled an organization offered at the federal level called the Office of Technology Assessment, and the Office of Technology Assessment worked to, or at the request of congresspersons and people of the senate, to do studies of various kind of technology options and then come back with very well done systematic studies of what this technology was, what it would cost, what it would do, and so forth. That was canceled. It was a little bit like going very rapidly down a road and turning off your headlights. Our forecasting capacity in the federal government has been impaired, so most of the information from Kristina and Bill is from private organizations or scientific agencies that operate outside the federal budget, pretty much, and their budgets are now being cut. So just to comment. And back to all of you. AUDIENCE MEMBER—Thank you for a really interesting set of talks this morning. I really appreciate y’all’s time for coming to State College to present. Based on the presentations, I noticed there was this consistent theme of addressing landscape and systems flows ecologically based on this contrast of capital and how it’s also had its equivalent exchanges of flows and how our representation of (continued)


capital also impacts how we make spaces environmentally and socially. So my question is, is it the responsibility or—and this is a loaded question—is it the responsibility of the designer to also figure out ways to decouple capital from ecological systems so they can work in parallel as much as they’re working in series with one another to let these systems evolve and create different opportunities or zones of safety over the long term? BRAHAM—I’m going to use an old professor’s trick. So what do you mean by decouple? I mean I do mean that seriously. Are you talking about spatially separating or somehow protecting­— AUDIENCE MEMBER—Systematic decoupling. Well there’s spatial decoupling where you can talk about setting up these limits where capital is either limited in its application in a particular territory, in which case it’s allowed to become fallow and become something else so you have this sort of emergence of a different sort of ecology that is a new nature, if you will. Then you also have this notion of decoupling it financially, so there are no direct impacts, potentially re-informing the ways in which insurance systems work, the way in which construction is informed and guarantees... BRAHAM—So you’re talking about setting land aside or protecting it by some legal mechanism. AUDIENCE MEMBER—In some form, yes. BRAHAM—It’s funny. So, one, that is an active practice. A variety of different environmental organizations do that—raise money in order to specifically do that with typically more highly valued land, but as you were talking, what was occurring to me was the degree to which that simply happens as, using your words, as capital sort of moves on. And you reminded me of, I don’t know if you know Kim Stanley Robinson, who’s a science fiction writer, has done more to imagine potential futures of climate change. He’s just written a book. It’s New York 2140, imagining it after 10 or 15 feet of sea level rise. Anyway, he made an observation


in there which was, in his imagined world, New York had remained as a center of economic activity even though Denver had begun to rival it, and you can imagine all kinds of different futures if you’re writing fiction, but his broad observation was centers of prosperity move around the world and what they leave behind are exactly what you’re describing. And he said it’s in areas after prosperity has moved on, and you can point to almost any other city in the world, almost every city has had its moment of prosperity, a few currently, New York being one. And he said it’s after the prosperity has moved on, after capital has moved on that regions discover bioregionalism. They look around and realize these are the assets we have, these are the potentials that are there, and I made sort of an offhand joke, but I took a group of students on what I call the Rust Belt Tour, discovering that, in fact, every place that was listed as being at the Rust Belt, everybody was busy finding ways, not just to make do, but to reinvent themselves. So I think I would agree completely, and again it’s sort of in this category of what are the opportunities for change? So one is disaster, we don’t wish disaster on anybody, but the other is this condition after growth, which it’s hard for us to look at positively because we live in a culture in which growth is so incredibly highly valued, but there are huge pockets, and maybe this is some of the divide that we’re thinking about politically between areas that are growing and areas that aren’t growing, and I do think it’s those areas that are not growing that have huge potential for that kind of thinking. ORR—Just one tangential comment. There are 7.4, give or take, billion of us on the planet now. Population trends are upwards, the upper projection being for the UN around over 10 billion. That’s one comment. Second comment is that with all the people on the planet and ecosystems now changing dramatically, sea coastlines changing dramatically, we will see massive migration. I think this, in Kristina’s words, is already kind of baked into the future, we’ve already decided this without consciously

deciding it. So people will be retreating back from sea areas, leaving areas that are too hot, or storms are too big, or whatever happens, but we will see massive human migration, and so the costs of this are going to be... Our mindset is to think about the economic costs first. I think we ought to also consider the effects of psychological trauma of people being forced as refugees leaving. The Detroit City Council, for example, a number of years ago, began to realize the future of Detroit is going to be like this, downward, it’s going to be more U-shaped. People will be coming back to Detroit, and Cleveland, these “Rust Belt” cities, but the next time that they come back, they’ll be coming back as refugees perhaps more than as opportunity-seekers, but there’ll be a massive human migration. And we’re not ready for that yet. Again, I’ll go back to sounding like a Johnny One-Note, but we have no organization capacity to handle this level of human migration and resettlement. We’ve been dismantling the governmental capacity to deal with these issues, both in foresight and in being able to help people in need. You saw that very clearly with the current situation in Puerto Rico, but we need to begin to rebuild a collective capacity, both to foresee and to react to this. HILL—Back to the decoupling part of what you were asking about, I think, I try to approach that by saying, “Is there an expensive version of what I’m talking about and is there an inexpensive version of what I’m talking about, and how could that be done some place where there isn’t much capital?” I think that, well there is a distortion. Because of international investment in real estate over the last 20 years, there is an incredible amount of distortion in the real estate market, especially in cities identified as good investments: New York, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco. All of these global cities that are targets attracting international investment, and they’re building unoccupied luxury apartments because those are seen as investments, not someplace you’d actually live. So that’s distorting cities. So that’s

distorting the kinds of buildings that we build. I’d love to find a way to harness it while it’s there and make some things that could actually be proto-typical, but what I’m hoping is that doing things like digging a hole and making a mound, that’s something people can do who have very little capital, but a fair amount of labor. And that’s the spectrum we have to think about as designers. What could be done locally with a certain amount of labor and what can be done in our economy when we redirect the fire hose of capital to make something positive happen? And when I look at organizations, like there’s a group in the UK called Practical Action, they’re really, really good at looking at what’s happening on the ground and what people can do with local resources. I would study what their projects are like and try to find some bridge, some crosswalk, between what they’re doing at the local scale and what we’re talking about doing in cities and see if there’s some experiment we can do with capital and all of the burdens of building code that we have that might be translatable, might be something that could work for someone else or skills or approaches they developed that we could use. I think we need to look across the spectrum of how much capital is involved in these projects versus labor and see what’s an innovation that could come out of it. AUDIENCE MEMBER—Thank you. So your talks were all very large in scope and sobering in content I think. Many of us, both from a design and ecology perspective, work at a fairly small scale, fairly up close to things, I mean I’m like a behavioral ecologist so my work doesn’t really touch on climate, but do you have advice for those of us who work more up close in these systems or how we can make our work relevant to, conversant with these bigger scale problems so that we’re not just like straightening the picture frames in a house that’s on fire? HILL—Well, I mean I think we’ve all been talking about ecosystem services now for about 20 years and thinking about how to frame the



things we do in local systems in terms of the benefits of those systems, and in some places like California, here we are, we’re looking at our forests burning and thinking, “Well where can carbon sequestration happen if it’s not going to be in trees?” And of course wetlands are the obvious alternative. So when I talk about local wetland restoration projects in the San Francisco Bay, I talk about flood protection, the wave energy reduction benefits of wetlands, but I also talk about carbon sequestration in a kind of global climate treaty context and point out that trees are not a very good investment for carbon sequestration at this point in landscapes like California. I don’t think you get the same amount of fire here that we’re getting, but one way to think about it all is try to think of it as a bigger picture, and also when you think about species migrating. It seems pretty clear species will do the short-term best thing, which is to go up in elevation, or move towards north-facing slopes, but there’ll need to be riparian and ridgeline quarters that go north in latitude in our hemisphere. So how can local projects contribute to what actually in the end has to be a kind of new railroad system of how species will migrate, and that’s local, and it’s regional, and it’s continental in scale. I think of the effort in the ‘70s to conserve wetlands, we could have a new effort to conserve northfacing slopes because that’ll be refugia here in the Appalachian System, cove forests and


north-facing slopes of other kinds for a species to persist as long as possible in this region and then move north. ORR—That’s a great question and what Kristina said is pretty good advice. I would add to that this: when E.O. Wilson in his book Half-Earth, recently a year or so back, described the human condition, and it didn’t deal much with climate change or as much as it might have, but when you look at the whole pattern of things, it’s pretty clear we need everything that she’s talking about, so people working on small-scale projects need to do it with a large-scale view, and there are some very practical nuts and bolts kinds of things to do. I mean I’ve been focused on building for the last ten years or so, but I think that we need to politically come together around a national land use plan. We need to inventory species. We need to be able to see that landscape plan or national ecological inventory. People have talked about this for years. This is nothing new. Howard Odum talked about it a long time ago, and before he died, Howard Odum wrote a little book with his wife called A Prosperous Way Down. I wish he hadn’t used the word down, but they were talking about how do we maintain prosperity, and decency, and a social fabric when for the first time in human civilization, that fabric is going to be frayed by massive warming. And it is coming at us. The numbers on the slide that’s still on

the screen are irrefutable, so we need to begin to ask congresspersons and representatives to begin to come together around a different public consensus. We need a national landscape inventory, ecological inventory, we need the tools at the national level to respond at the scale where the problem is going to hit us, and that doesn’t say, “Stop doing what you’re doing and do national stuff,” unless that’s your thing, but somebody, we as citizens, need the tools to begin to respond now to not what is a regional or local problem, but what is now a global problem, and I think do all the things and for all of you young people, the students in the audience, you have a great opportunity to hone the skills that you’re going to need. But keep thinking big. This is something we’ve got to think, I don’t like the word think out of the box, but we’ve got to think big at this point, and that has been part of our history. And I would end this with saying go back and read the National Environmental Policy Act. It was a brilliant piece of legislation. It did not have teeth in it, but it’s some of the best words ever put in US legislation. Begin to think what do we do collectively now, and the trouble is, again, that we’ve become so individualistic and let the market decide all these, markets do lots of things, but they will not protect the longterm unless we regulate them in ways that they have to protect the longterm. This is the political arena.

BRAHAM—I’ll just add one thing. One, I think the question is sort of what I mostly live, or work, because you’re not an architect if you’re not working in a building. To take your metaphor which was apt, so if the building’s on fire, you shouldn’t be adjusting the pictures. You should go find another building. And I was once presenting a program that we teach at another university and a colleague came up and said, “Do you really think you can teach students to think at both scales at the same time?” And I said, “No, you’re absolutely right.” You can’t do both things. So you think at the bigger scale in order to clarify what projects are worth working on. And in my world, you can do the most perfect net-zero water waste everything building, if it’s in the wrong place, you’ve just wasted it. And that can be both physically the wrong place, the wrong client, the wrong time, anything. So being clear about what you’re contributing to it because sustainability is becoming less and less of a fashionable word, but there are no sustainable buildings. There are only buildings that are more or less efficient parts of sustainable economies. So there is lots of important work to be done, I think, at that scale, but again, you want to make sure that the house isn’t burning, the house you’re working on isn’t actually burning at the time.


STUDENT REFLECTIONS The anthropogenic impacts of cities range from local to regional and global scales on the biosphere, despite cities’ relatively small area on the planet’s surface. Furthermore, the urban population is continuously growing. Despite their negative impacts, cities are viable centers of human habitation and progress with the potential to generate human well-being and create positive externalities. In this sense, they should be considered for reversing the trend of carbon dioxide emissions, climate change, sea level rise, shallow groundwater, poverty, social inequities, among other environmental and social problems. Cities are the center for political decision and action. Indeed, Dr. Orr argues for ecological design as a political act towards protecting the environment in the long-term. It is necessary to better understand the systems, natural and human, in order to overcome the major crisis we are facing—whether it is political, environmental, or social. Dr. Braham claims that ecological principles, as self-organization and balanced resource flow and exchange, should provide the necessary integration between the human built environment and its urban systems to


the natural cycles. Dr. Hill evidences that an unstable environmental period is imminent and that design oriented towards ecological aspects brings innovation to adapt, to rescue territories and assets, humankind and ecosystems. A sound ecology may not be achieved without considering urbanization as the key driver for ecological change. Therefore, cities need to be reconnected to the biosphere with a new and bold praxis for ecological balance, social justice, and civility. The social-ecological urban perspective should be made visible, as cities impact vast areas of functioning ecosystems for consumption and waste assimilation beyond their borders. The social and ecological systems are intrinsically interconnected and design can enhance and balance its relationship to transform and protect the future.

—Clarissa Ferreira Albrecht da Silveira, PhD Student in Architecture, and Paula Neder de Araujo Brito, Master of Science Student in Landscape Architecture

“Build our values and our governing institutions in ways that we are really proud of, that work over the long term.” —Dr. Orr “Human and technological evolution are totally embedded in and depend on the natural systems from which they emerged.” —Dr. Braham “If you know from a geological perspective in terms of climate change in a particular sea level rise, that you are in the last couple decades of a stable 10,000 year period, what would you do?” —Dr. Hill




TOPIC 2: 36



What are useful collaborative strategies to bring together ecological science and physical design?



Keith Bowers is the founder and president of Biohabitats, where he built a multidisciplinary organization focused on regenerative design; the blurring of boundaries between conservation planning, ecological restoration and sustainable design. Keith is also the founder and partner of Biohabitats’ sister company: Ecological Restoration and Management, Inc. His work has spanned multiple scales from site-specific ecosystem restoration projects involving wetland, river, woodland and coastal habitat restoration to regional watershed management and conservation planning, to the development of comprehensive sustainability programs for communities and campuses throughout the country. He is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and is a professional wetland scientist. He received a B.S. in Landscape Architecture from West Virginia University and an honorary degree from the Conway School of Design.


EVERYONE TO THE TABLE Our conversation and my reflections on the efforts we have made in this arena led me back to Peter Drucker, a popular business guru from the 1980s. One of his central insights is that culture eats strategy for lunch—a culture that supports and rewards collaboration, recognizing its benefits, will achieve integrated designs organically and more easily than teams following strategic directives that aren’t rooted in a culture. Unfortunately culture is harder and slower to change. So even as we discussed the strategies we use to blend the two, I reflected that great results depend on a cultural paradigm shift that could unite the disciplines. We know that having trained ecologists at the table early in the process is necessary to rich collaborations. But we also need to be sure we understand where the two see the world and design challenges in different ways. First among these is the dynamism we expect from our work. Landscape architects, of course, are trained to anticipate how landscapes will change over seasons and develop over time, in a somewhat predictable manner. Ecologists are allergic to definitive predictions, instead preferring to speak in conditional probabilities and identifying needs for more information. The changing and dynamic nature of ecological processes shapes the entire perspective they bring to a project. Communicating across these

different perspectives is a skill that comes with experience. The second major cultural difference I see between ecologists and designers is about the nature of place, especially from the point of view of user experience. In design we are taught that form follows function, but in ecology we look at processes that lead to function that lead to composition that lead to structure, which in turn, cycles back to process. Marginalizing processes makes it easier for landscape architects to render the user experience into essential principles that may or may not be tied to the underlying ecological framework of a place. Ecologists, on the other hand, tend to keep a keen focus on the ecological processes and functions that are a result of the climate, physiographical and biological character of a site.


We are all accustomed to altering our language according to the discipline and background of our audience, but designers and ecologists use some of the same words in ways that are similar enough to cause serious trouble. I’ll give a brief tour of some of the stickiest examples. “Ecology” is perhaps the most obvious. Ecologists tend to use a precise definition of the term – it is the sum of relationships between biotic and abiotic elements in an ecosystem. When landscape architects talk about creating “new ecologies,” they are using language in a very different way. Ecologists mean genetic change within a species via natural selection when they speak of “evolution.” Having the potential to evolve, for example, means securing enough genetic stock that inbreeding depression doesn’t occur for that species over generations. But designers might describe a design’s capacity to adapt to change as evolution—a use that is far from its technical meaning to scientists. “Rewilding” might be the latest, greatest example. Ecologists often take Michael Soule’s definition from the mid-1990s when they talk about restoring areas large enough to support top predators. Landscape architects use it across a spectrum of intensive ecological restoration to messy urban gardens. Finally, it’s important to understand the role of information and inquiry in scientific training, and that element is one aspect of science that can be injected into the design training of students at E + D. The ecology of a place is the sum of relationships between organisms and their environment. The scientific approach used by ecologists includes hypothesis testing, and there is much to be learned on both sides of the E + D relationship from science. Although the terms ‘science’ and ‘science-driven’ get overused, e.g. to describe the simple monitoring efforts, real science that compares outcomes based on changes to a variable develops in a culture that maybe foreign to designers.

to evaluate projects; and we need to pool our resources to find the best solutions out there. Some of these challenges can be addressed by purposeful collaboration between private companies and like-minded universities and research institutions. Others would benefit from third party support, such as grantors that explicitly require collaborations that bridge not only disciplines but also sectors. E + D is uniquely positioned to foment this sort of communication and cross-training, which would better prepare its students to face the challenges of design that are emerging now and will only intensify over the next 50 years. In response to these felt needs, Biohabitats recently created Bioworks, an intra-disciplinary practice dedicated to integrating robust research into the practice of ecological restoration and conservation planning. Our goals are threefold. One, to develop hypotheses and embed applied experiments into all of our work, thereby establishing a rigorous foundation for collaborative research with universities, research institutions and non-government organizations. Two, team with these same organizations to pursue funding to jointly research cutting edge solutions to some of our most pressing problems in achieving successful outcomes for ecological restoration. And three, to widely share this information in a practical, easily accessible way with the thousands of practitioners that are toiling day-to-day in the rivers, wetlands, woodlands and fields across the planet.

—Keith Bowers, Biohabitats

We need practitioners informing experimental designs; we need researchers working with us



Chris Barnes is a Registered Landscape Architect and Senior Associate at SCAPE. Chris works on a range of projects at multiple scales and brings to each project an ability to develop concise solutions to complex site challenges. Chris is the Project Manager for the New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center Campus Master Planning projects and Red Hook Waterfront Development project. Prior to working at SCAPE, Chris worked as a project designer at a multi-disciplinary design firm in Beijing, China and as a Project Manager at Thomas Balsley Associates in New York City. His previous work includes the renovation of an urban plaza in Washington DC, several high-density residential communities in Asia, and a winning competition entry for an expansive mixed-used waterfront near Shanghai. Chris earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University.


BARNES E+D REFLECTION At the Ecology + Design (E+D) inaugural Symposium a diverse group of Academics and Professionals took part in an exciting conversation regarding design and the complex environs in which we work and study. As a representative of SCAPE, a landscape architecture and urban design firm, I presented an outline of our firm’s approach to design. This approach supports and acknowledges the necessity for interdisciplinary collaborations. This applies to all our work and is an essential component in our philosophical approach to every built landscape, planning effort, and research project. Similarly, throughout the day lecturers from varying backgrounds all touched on a theme of “transdisciplinary competency.” It was encouraging to hear professionals from an array of backgrounds and expertise echo the same shared urgency for collaborative processes in design through the lens of their respective fields. A second theme that emerged was climate change. David Orr gave a stirring warning on the current state of climate change and its ever-increasing effect on the environment. In his call to arms, he expressed a dire urgency, that we as educators and practitioners must work together to do more to effectively address climate change. This sentiment echoed by all participating lecturers is that there is

an expressed need of a transdisciplinary approach rooted in collaboration, shared knowledge, and responsibility to address the complex issues. There is a relevant quote from Lawrence Halprin, “Change has become the essential element of our time” that was referenced in my presentation. I think this is becoming increasingly more relevant to design. Temperatures, sea levels, rainfall, and populations are changing at unprecedented rates, leaving us to realize that the baselines and benchmarks of the past may not be the indicators of the future. One simple example of this is the migration north of USDA hardiness zones. With data and mapmaking technology improvements, we can trace a northward creep of southern zones with the increase in temperature. This northern climate migration has brought with it more invasive animal and plant species. In the most extreme cases pushing a new understanding of the term “native” species. As we look towards the future as designers, it is important to understand projections and relationships. To confront these challenges at SCAPE, we have codified a collaborative design approach founded in the aspects of functionality, dual purpose and performance based; social dynamics, including community, culture and the value of stewardship through education;


and environmental impact, along with ecological revitalization. Put simply, we believe interconnected relationships of ecology, function and community are paramount to any successful project. This can only be achieved through multi-disciplinary dialogue and integration critical to comprehending the interconnected complexity of a place or region. To exemplify this approach, a brief case study of SCAPE’s Living Breakwaters project was presented. The Living Breakwaters project is an array of breakwater structures planned for the neighborhood of Tottenville, Staten Island. SCAPE was commissioned by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to lead the design process with a strong coalition community feedback, agency coordination, and a constructability assessment. The project was guided by three key goals: reduce risk, enhance ecological function, and foster social resilience. Each of these goals involve overlap and coordination across a diverse group of professionals and stakeholder groups. To address risk reduction, SCAPE engaged with a team of engineers and scientists to translate data and modeling into a physical breakwater design that reduces beach erosion and attenuates waves in storm events. To enhance ecological function, the shape and surface features of the breakwaters are inspired by the physical characteristics of the Raritan Bay environment. Ecologists identified target species in the bay and worked with the designers to simulate critical habitat features. The result is the creation of “reef street” habitat features. Further enhancements include individual bioenhancing concrete amor units and tidepools in place of traditional stone units. Ultimately, the layout and design of the breakwaters balances ecological and functional aspirations of the project. This was achieved through an iterative design process testing breakwater parameters, utilizing data and digital modeling tools to evaluate the performance of each break water configuration.

Additionally, the project aims to foster social resiliency and inspire a new generation of shoreline stewards, as well as demonstrate how to live and adapt to climate change with sea level rise and increasing storm frequency. Throughout the process, the team has worked closely with members of the community to create a design that benefits the community while positively affecting regional ecosystems and resiliency efforts. The project links in-water infrastructure with on-shore education and outreach, to help increase awareness of risk and bring local school curriculum to the waterfront. The Living Breakwaters project is an excellent example of how designers can begin to implement resilient principles through a diverse project team of professionals in order to address complex climate change issues. It is important that we begin to envision public spaces, infrastructure, and ecological systems all working in concert. These should not counter act each other. As landscape architects, it is important to work to revive ecological systems within the contemporary urban places we live. We cannot re-create this habitat in our current state, but we can aim to foster healthy ecosystems and bolster animal habitat in our designs and development strategies. We should work to reconnect communities with the natural systems that surround them. The traditional realm of landscape architects must be expanded beyond familiar and increasingly outmoded ways of thinking about environmental, urban, and social issues as separate domains; landscape architects must advocate for the synthesis of ideas from various disciplines that blend and merge native natural ecologies, contemporary program, and performance and functional demands with the urban environment. It is only through an iterative and transdisciplinary approach that we can address the complex challenges ahead. —Chris Barnes, SCAPE



Thomas is a principal partner at the Conservative Design Forum where he has worked since the summer of 2000. Prior to joining CDF, Tom had spent the previous decade working for the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) as a civil hydrologist and Senior Engineer in the Natural Resources Department. Over the years, Tom developed a strong reputation throughout the region as a highly proficient hydrologist and one of the leading proponents of sustainable water resource management practices. While at NIPC, Tom co-authored a manual on stormwater best management practices and conducted routine seminars that, at the time, were utilized as one of the primary stormwater educational resources around. Thomas received his B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin Madison with a focus in Urban Hydrology, Stormwater Management, and Rainfall Runoff Modeling.


CULTURE MATTERS It was an honor to be invited to the Penn State Ecology + Design Symposium. It is events like this that help to reinforce the importance of Integrating ecology, engineering, and design. I suppose the theme of these reflections is cultural integration. It may have been Keith Bowers from Biohabitats that first uttered the word culture during the session but I suspect we were all thinking about it. There are many ways to think about the importance of culture.

Integration of design cultures In too many cases, the various science and design disciplines – engineering, ecology, landscape architecture, and architecture-work in silos and, as a result, have developed their own perspectives and vocabulary. To help integrate these cultures, it is essential that the disciplines work closely throughout the course of a project from the very early stages of programming and design. Equally more important is to integrate these cultures into the educational process through programs like the Center for Ecology+Design. The center has the opportunity to create work and study environments that foster relationships between the design, engineering, and ecology fields. It is generally understood that work produced

by the engineering and design fields can have a profound effect on the ecology of our planet yet the consequences are often still not fully considered. Further, the ecological fields often do not consider the perspective of the design fields when studying and restoring natural systems. In our age of specialization, we need more opportunities to understand the perspectives outside our areas of specialization. By integrating study, classwork, and special projects across the disciplines, students will have the opportunity to understand the vocabulary and perspectives of the other fields and, perhaps even more importantly, understand how cross-disciplinary thinking can improve the longevity, adaptability, and performance of our designs.

Integration of corporate culture into the design process One of the points I tried to highlight during my talk was the importance of early coordination with the owner and their facilities staff. When we as engineers and landscape architects attempt to integrate ecological design principles into the design of places that we live, work and play, improving the health of our ecosystems may not be at the top of the owner’s list of priorities. Thus, it is essential that we frame


the benefits of this design philosophy from the perspective of the owner’s cultural and business reference points. We need to help them understand how incorporating these principles is in their best interest by improving resiliency and performance, reducing costs, and improving customer/employee experience and productivity. (While also being good for the planet.) However, it is equally important to acknowledge and highlight necessary difference in maintenance regimes and required training for facilities staff and/or landscape management contractors. Integrating the owner and facilities staff fosters an understanding of their corporate culture, allowing the implications of design alternatives on maintenance requirements to be incorporated into the decision-making process.

Development of a culture of ecology Although improving, the general public often does not understand ecology and why it is important to integrate ecology into design. In many cases, the public only thinks of ecology in the context of broad open spaces and rural areas of the country. We as design professionals (including journalists), need to better communicate the need as well as the inherent beauty of incorporating ecological principles and processes into the urban environment. We need to develop an ecology aesthetic and renew an appreciation for engineering elegance. Once the public develops an appreciation for an ecological aesthetic, they will begin to demand it.

—Thomas Price, Conservation Design Forum


Price—Chris, I was intrigued by some of the constructed structures for the coastal areas— they’re really just precast concrete structures and you’re seeing those being colonized within the coastal zone there. Are there any issues because they’re made out of concrete in terms of pH and different things? Barnes—I was actually talking to Keith about this right before the chat, there are a lot of companies that are doing this and it’s kind of a lot of proprietary blends, or it’s a pH add mixture to a traditional concrete mix. Rather than—I’m not sure if it’s still purlin and it’s just an add mixture or if it’s actually replacing—but essentially what I understand is that it lowers the pH and actually the growth fortifies the concrete over time. So it’s not biodegrading it but it’s actually fortifying it and accruing more armor mass over time. And I think that’s the purpose but then, I mean there’s so many of these things. There’s the mattressing unit I showed you, the actual cubes that I showed you, the tide pools. They have wave attenuating devices which are these big precast off shore things that they drop like the tetra—pods on those. So there’s a lot of applications for this and I think it’s just, with the control of the shape and the modulation you can kind of get the optimal habitat where it might be. A traditional stone structure will still perform


right, but it’s just kind of a better performance I think over time and strengthening over time. Audience Member—This question is for Keith. With the Galveston State Park project how hard was it to balance the recreational use with the ecological side of the design? Recreation by nature is a highly impactive land use, so how hard was it to balance those when you were designing? Bowers—Actually, it wasn’t hard at all. There were program requirements for a certain amount of RV sort of camping space, and then other program requirements for overnight either camping on platforms or some kind of structure. And then of course the daily use they get every day there, right? So in looking at replacing the infrastructure on there, all those program needs were met in conjunction with the ecological work that we were doing. So it didn’t, it didn’t really become hard to do. In fact you know, you can almost imagine as like a big jigsaw puzzle and then all of a sudden it begins to come together. And it worked.

Barnes—I was just going to say sometimes those are critical to the success of the place, right? This relationship. Bowers—Right. Audience Member—This question is for Keith, but the others could chime in. We’re in the (education) business, and you made a great case for the culture differences that exist between different disciplines that work together, design and ecology. This place is about producing the raw product that you hire, and I’m curious as to your insights and all the panel’s insights on thinking in E and D terms, what do we need to do better so that when the raw product gets to your door and that hire, that there’s less of a cultural distinction?Bowers—Yeah, that’s a great question. In fact I have, well, at least one Penn State grad in my office that I asked about his time here, in the LA program, and he basically said, well, I didn’t even know what an invasive species was. We didn’t talk at all about ecology. And this was what, 15 years ago, Kevin? 20 years ago, right right. So I know that it’s changed over time and basically I guess, when we see people coming out and are looking to hire we want somebody with an undergrad either in the sciences or design, and then a grad or PhD in the opposite. Right? So they have that

dual sort of background. Now, in sort of, to answer your question. If in an undergrad or even grad, they get a combination of that as part of that program, that’s even better. Right? And so the idea of how can you really make it an interdisciplinary program where they are getting as much science as they are landscape architecture, or as much biology as they are architecture? And either you know, undergrad or grad, that would even be more ideal. Price—I guess just to add a little bit to that, I think the fact that you’re even starting this program is a great step in the right direction. And so that you know, very early on in school they are being exposed to those points of view in terms of the science way of thinking about things versus the design side. I think they clearly can learn from each other. And so the earlier that happens in the beginning of school, that’s key. Bowers—I actually do have one more thing and it seems to me that we’re turning out a lot of students that are great behind the computer but don’t have much experience out in the field, right? And so the more we can get out in the field and learn about things by being out in the field versus behind the computer, the better off we are. (continued)


Barnes—I would say from a designer perspective, we’re obviously looking for people that have that narrative or that story and like there’s a clear concept and that translates across the disciplines. It isn’t just a design concept, but it is forward thinking towards the end and the implementation and you can kind of trace that concept through. I think that’s really important. And then moving forward maybe it’s projects interdisciplinary within the school and it’s kind of mimicking what we do in reality, right? Cause we don’t work alone, we would make no money, we would have no clients. So I don’t know if there’s a way to mimic that structure with actual projects, and then each student would have a specialty that could somehow be translated into a cohesive story. I think would be really powerful. Price—To add one more thing on that is you know, we’ve talked a lot about design, we’ve talked about science, but we haven’t talked about business. We all work for businesses and so having them understand what (are) the financials that drive many projects and how things get done, I think is also a key component. And planning, too—regional planning—I mean there’s just so many different fields that we work across and work with. And so, I agree that you can bring those into interdisciplinary studies.


Barnes—Public engagement, volunteering. It’s activists, or just proactive stance that is apparent, is a huge plus. Audience Member—So thinking of our intention of designing for ecological performance and looking specifically in shore land areas, we are usually considering a better scenario after design if you’re looking for ecology. But after I saw that table with positive and negative impacts, I was thinking of the threshold. What is the minimum we have to design for to have a regenerative performance site design and not only a “better than before” scenario? Price—Yeah, I think that’s a great question. To some degree we’ve always kind of focused on making a project so that it’s less bad, and really what we need to be focusing on is how to make it better. And so looking at making our site so that it actually holds more water than it held before or that we are reusing the water on the site that’s either collected from rain water (I didn’t really talk much about that but a lot of what both us and Biohabitats do is collecting water and reusing it), and so the degree that we can close the loops on projects is going to get us much closer to that regenerative design. Bowers—Some of the sort of language that’s used around sustainability these days is net zero water and net zero energy. And we don’t

talk about biodiversity and how we can have net positive biodiversity in these projects. And even from a water standpoint we’re talking about using all the water in a very efficient way, but we also don’t talk about the water that’s needed in the ecosystem around our building and downstream from our building. And so, how do you bring all that, how do you bring sort of a more regional process oriented approach to this idea about urban ecology and sustainability and buildings within a city? And I think that’s something we’re still all working with and trying to understand better, because we’ve got real things like property boundaries and ownership, and all the sort of business end of it as well, but I think it’s really important to begin not only expanding our horizons but begin to expand our clients’ horizons even though we may not get there the first one, two, three, four times. Hopefully those kinds of ideas will begin to sink in. Barnes—The idea of net zero is great, right? I think that’s easy. But everything is within a system. So we have to over perform, I think that’s what you were saying. But when it comes to ownership I think it’s up to cities and municipalities. I think somehow public parks can become this battleground. The parks are performing—whether it’s a place of refuge or they’re storing storm water in a heat wave; it’s a place, an oasis you can go to. They’re doing that a lot with public libraries in New York City, but just how do we take this public infrastructure and make it (perform) double duty? And then, in the private sector, when everyone’s beholden to net zero maybe that’s good enough but probably not. But it’s a step forward. I see the public spaces as kind of this battleground. Audience Member—Good afternoon. Thank you so much; really inspiring. So I have a question that kinda picks up a little bit on what David Orr talked about this morning with how we’re making priorities. And you know, for me it’d be great if the wonderful work you’re doing becomes the norm. We don’t have to feature it at talks anymore because this is just what we do. So I guess my question is how much do you

do—I want to say almost like post occupancy analysis of the benefits both economically, to the client, to the community, to the individuals who occupy, live, operate, attend‑whatever uses they’re doing‑because to my mind all these are places I’d want to be, I think most people would want to be. I think that should make a difference in the bottom line. You know hitting on all those areas that David referred to, instead of trying to favor one over the other can it be the old triple bottom line, everything’s better. So hopefully you get the idea of my question. Price—It’s a great question and under LEED for the architects and for the buildings, there’s commissioning right, that happens where they’re making sure all the systems are functioning properly and so at least when they get occupancy or very early occupancy we know the systems are working. There really isn’t the equivalent for sites in terms of any sort of commissioning process. And in fact the GSA was working with Andropogon. There’s actually a white paper that’s available now, where they were looking at the need for commissioning for sites because you know, we design these things but sometimes they’re working, maybe sometimes they’re not and I was also working with the GSA doing some monitoring of a couple of different projects and one of those was a border facility crossing. They had this just amazing water recycling system. Million gallons worth of storage collecting all the water from the surfaces, and then all these really sophisticated controls in terms of managing that water for irrigation. And one sensor went out and this prevented the pumps from operating because they need protection for the pump so they don’t run dry. And so they had this system that wasn’t working at all, and so I think that that is an area that we really need to be spending more time on: following up from post occupancy and at least the commissioning on a site level to make sure these systems are working. And at some level that’s happening. You know, the Kresge foundation I mentioned, they did a lot of post occupancy, mostly on kind of the employees but also some of the systems (continued)


as well. And then the Landscape Architecture Foundation has their case study program that is also done, is doing some of that as well. And some of it, you know it’s not always hard data but they are doing some level of monitoring and so we just need to be doing more of that. It’s just, you know finding the money. It costs money to do that. And that’s the challenge, and particularly it’s private where we, you know we give them, hand it off to them. Bowers—Well, to answer your question it’s not enough. We don’t do enough of that, right? And hopefully the next group of speakers talking about research and monitoring, we’ll hear some more on that which would be great. So there’s two avenues that we take. One is just from a sort of carrot and stick standpoint, from a regulatory perspective. We’re required many times to monitor the projects that we work on and the time span, you know, is different for every project. Some of them are going on 10 to 15 years now, in terms of that monitoring effort. So they’re pretty expansive. Other ones, in other projects, there is no monitoring done because there isn’t the funding or the time to do it. We made sort of an intentional decision about two years ago to start an internal practice within Biohabitats which we’re calling Bioworks.


Which we’re out now forging relationships with research institutions and academic institutions to fund, help fund and join sort of practitioners with researchers to answer a lot of those questions, answer a lot of questions we have on the projects we do that we just—again because of a time and funding standpoint—we don’t have the capacity to do that. So I think the more we can do that type of sort of organization and working, collaborative working together, the more we’re going to be able to find out about these projects and their effectiveness and their impact and what we need to do in the future. Audience Member—My question is regarding the issue of time. So imagine a major U.S. city like San Francisco is envisioning a new master plan, based on title San Francisco and then in a year I mean, so if you consider everything from like the reasons behind existing short term-ism from technical to political and economical and all the issues of feasibility, productivity, but it’s upon you to decide what would be that number? So for example, is it like San Francisco 2100 or you know, what would that number be? And is this, is other studies about optimal considering all aspects, advantages and disadvantages, optimal year that we should you know, tie to our master plans?

Bowers—Yeah, I mean I’m not aware of an optimal year. I guess the more we learn, the more accelerated we hear that the whole climate change and sea level rise impacts are becoming. And so I think the time horizons that we’ve been asked to look at are 50 to 100 years out, more or less. But to start planning for those now. I think that’s shrunk to like 25 to 60 years out and so we see that beginning to shrink in terms of that sort of time horizon. And if you think about design and you think about the life span of design, we’re always trying to design for at least a generation if not a couple generations, so a 25 to 50 year design life span. So we need to be thinking about that right now in terms of what’s going to happen in the next 25 or 50 years and how is our design going to either respond to that, impact it, or the whole idea of resiliency behind that. Barnes—I would say in New York City we’re working with the department of design and construction looking at the mayor’s office of ORR. Storm recovery basically submitted guidelines or developed guidelines for climate change and impacts and kind of a baseline we can all agree upon to start working towards. And it basically stops at 2100. And the study right now is looking at capital projects and

facilities around the city. The useful life of those projecting to the future and basically, how do you make recommendations for mitigation for those things at that time? So from the purposes of that study that we’re working on, it is the useful life of the structure and trying to define what the intended useful life of the structure is. But it’s kind of, again, the idea that I was talking about of shifting baselines, where the second you draw that line in the sand you’re planning for something in the future that’s fluid, right? It’s not static, so even the future projections we have, we have to build in adaptability or the ability for change even within those projections. So it’s hard to put a time stamp on something that is so fluid, and something that we can’t even really agree upon the severity of what it’s going to be. So if I’m making a master plan for San Francisco 2100, whose 100 year flood projection am I using? And what percentile am I looking at? And then what adaptability am I building into that structure, to where we’re not in a situation where we are today where we’ve planned for levels with our infrastructure 100 years ago. And here we are now, we’re having to basically rebuild, but how do we build in that adaptability from the onset? So I would say it’s hard to put a year to it. That (continued)


not might be the best way to look at it, but I don’t know. Audience Member—So first of all, Keith, we at Penn State would like to talk to you about doing some of those landscape performance assessments because one of the things that we hope E+D will accomplish is to develop strategic partnerships with practitioners. So I’m looking at all of you and saying, let’s talk. But I have a question, too. Which is that all of you are practitioners who are implementing projects and you all have strategies of collaboration between designers and environmental scientists, and it’s part of your m.o. You probably just think, well, that’s what we do. But it would be helpful for us as we try to develop E+D, for you to actually articulate what is the optimal, and it may be what you do or it may be blue skying a little bit, forgetting about bottom lines and that kind of stuff–what is the optimal collaborative strategy you think for designers and environmental and social scientists to be working together? How should it be done? Bowers—I’ve been doing this for 35 years, I don’t even know how to articulate it because that’s what we just started doing, right? And it’s just become so ingrained, at least in Biohabitats,


that we’re just a mixture of design and ecology that we just do it every day and don’t even think about it, you know? Audience Member—How does a project work though? Like how do you start it and do it? Bowers—Right. Okay, so if you get down to the nuts and bolts you assign a project manager and that project manager for any project in our firm could be a landscape architect, could be an engineer or could be a scientist. Unless somebody has to stamp a drawing that is legally required then we have to put an engineer or a landscape architect on that team, but they don’t necessarily have to be a project manager, right? So that is based on both experience, skill set and timing of who we assign. And then there’s project teams put together that are a mix of ecologists and engineers and landscape architects and GIS or whatever we need on that project. And then on top of that, we’re almost always collaborating with another firm or several firms. So very, very rarely do we ever do a project anymore where we’re the only ones working on it. So, we collaborate with a lot of other landscape architecture firms out there because we don’t do traditional landscape architecture. We collaborate with a

lot of other engineering firms out there, we collaborate with a lot of other environmental firms out there that have specific expertise in the ecosystems, habitats that we’re working in that we may not be able to address. So there’s a collaboration internally and there’s a collaboration externally there. And then, I think another important question, which goes back to the earlier question about training that is really important is a couple things. One is that designers, landscape architects and engineers need to get out in the field and do field work with the scientists. They need to be out there and learn what that’s all about and actually participate in that and become steeped in how that’s done. On the contrary, scientists need to sit down and help write specifications and get on the computer and do CAD and understand design parameters, because if you’re still even in the same office and one’s doing this over here and the other’s doing that over there and you’re really not integrating it, then it’s hard to get that sort of blend that you’re looking for. The other thing is I think I had up there is conference together. And that means that you go to each other’s different conferences, hang out with their tribes. So you have ASLA, you have Urban Land Institute, you have AIA, you have the American Planing Association all for designers and planners and geographers, but you need to get scientists to those and vice versa. You might have Society of Wetland Scientists, Society of Ecological Restoration, Conservation Biology Society, you need to get designers to those conferences, and Ecological Society of America, get them there and talk about what they’re doing, present and go to those kind of conferences. So that helps that process, too. So there are some sort of tactics or strategies that you can begin to employ, but I keep going back to that whole culture thing. Like if you’re not building a culture where that is expected and that’s just ingrained in what you do, then it’s not going to work either.

component. If as you’re working, the engineers are working with the landscape architects at colleges every day and vice versa, you learn to think like they think. And so the line between engineer and landscape architect in colleges starts to get pretty blurry within the office. And then I think just when you’re starting a project and you’re working with the architect and the others are outside your office, it’s just the earlier the better. Beginning a project with a one or a two day workshop where everybody’s in the room, everybody’s formulating the ideas for what the project’s going to be and what the components are, and everybody can weigh in in terms of the implications of different decisions rather than waiting until later on.

Price—I just would second the culture


STUDENT REFLECTIONS As the first of hopefully many ecology and design partnerships under the new E+D Center, we seek to set a precedent for student research-based design within the Center. At the E+D symposium, Keith Bowers advocated for early and close collaboration between ecologists and designers in order to bring about meaningful project results. Our partnership began during the planning stage of Sarah’s thesis research, and we intend it to extend through the completion of Lucy’s ecologically grounded design project in 2020. We intend our collaboration to unite Sarah’s research results and Lucy’s design education. The purpose of Sarah’s research is to investigate the relationship between soil and pollinator foraging on surface mines for the purpose of forming a recommendation for restoration. Establishing wildflower meadows on inactive surface mines would benefit pollinator communities by adding nutrition to the landscape as well as improve mine lands by increasing biodiversity and soil quality, thus paving the way for eastern deciduous forest succession in the Appalachian region. In addition to improving restoration efforts


on surface mines, the recommendation could be applicable in maximizing any area for pollinator habitat by determining which soil amendment should be used to obtain a greater abundance and richness of pollinators, especially in other disturbed ecosystems such as urban soils. Without designers to implement such a recommendation, the results of this research may have less influence. The second phase of the collaboration is Lucy’s capstone design project, in which restored pollinator habitat on impaired soils will be a key component of the design. We are delighted to team up and apply ecological research to design so that our graduate work may have greater impact on restoration of impaired landscapes.

—Sarah Rothman, Masters of Science in Ecology student, and Lucy Rummler, Masters of Landscape Architecture student

“Culture eats strategy for lunch.” (quoting Peter Drucker) —Keith Bowers “As we move towards the future we really have to rethink in terms of adaptability.” —Chris Barnes “It is really important to have that collaborative process and [clients] engaged so they understand the implications of that high level of performance.” —Thomas Price




TOPIC 3: 60



How could (or how does) research help us test the theories and design strategies through performance assessment of built projects?



Bill Mitsch is Eminent Scholar and Director of Everglades Wetland Research Park, and Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management at Florida Gulf Coast University ever since 2012. He is Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University where he taught for 26 years and is Founding Director of the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. His research and teaching focus on wetland ecology and biogeochemistry, wetland creation and restoration, ecological engineering and ecosystem restoration, and ecosystem modeling. He has contributed to over 600 publications, reports, abstracts and books, including five editions of the popular textbook “Wetlands�. He received an M.E. degree and Ph.D. in environmental engineering sciences from the University of Florida.


MITSCH E+D REFLECTION One of the most difficult aspects of combining ecology and design is the spatial and temporal aspects involved with determining success. Bill Mitsch brought those issues to bear in his talk at the E+D symposium. Bill Mitsch began by understanding that his audience was “…anxious about combining fields that often don’t talk to each other.” He then made the point that ecological engineering had almost the same discussion 20 years ago—“… why don’t we all get together? Why can’t we join these fields”? He remarked that ecological engineering was really the third leg of ecology. There is theoretical ecology, applied ecology, and then a third field, that feeds from those two, of the design, restoration and creation of ecosystems. He then said that ecological engineering will test the theories that we have in ecology. He continued by asserting that ecological engineering was not gardening, even though he felt that much of what we do in restoration was gardening and zookeeping. He then brought up the term “self-design” as the means for restoring or creating ecosystems. “The USA’s a little slow in catching on to ecological engineering. I don’t know why,” he

said. He then paraphrased Tony Bradshaw’s famous statement that “…restoration of a disturbed ecosystem is the acid test of our understanding of that system. What he was basically saying is that, when we start restoring and creating ecosystems, we’ll really know whether our theories are right or wrong.” Bill continued with a plea for people to try and publish not only their success stories, but also their failures, as the latter is where we often learn more. Bill then described his seminal research system, the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at The Ohio State University. He developed this wetland site specifically to test ideas on the design and function of created wetlands and spent the better part of two decades conducting groundbreaking research there. He felt that many ecological questions need to be addressed at a larger scale than we typically use, thus making a wetland study site ideal for this purpose. “You don’t get answers in one or two years. And you don’t [always] get answers in little tubs called mesocosms…,” he noted. Bill has since moved south to Florida Gulf Coast University and is working on a similar system, also at scale, called the Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park, Naples, Collier County, Florida.


He then moved to his next point, which he called almost as serious as climate change—the nutrification of our planet. “We have literally saturated all the good farmland areas of the world with nutrients far above what’s required. We continue to do it every year, there’s no stop to it…” He noted that it was largely due to only two elements - nitrogen and phosphorus. He brought up two examples of the problem, spending time discussing the Everglades and then northwestern Ohio. Both areas are fraught with excess nutrient issues and Bill is suggesting large-scale wetland creation/ restoration to try and help solve the problem. For the Everglades, he’s suggesting another 100,000 acres of created wetlands to treat the nutrient issues. For Ohio, he reminded us that there used to be a 1,000,000-acre wetland called the Black Swamp that is largely gone and some restoration of that area – perhaps again 100,000 acres - would do wonders to help solve the issues of nutrients moving into Lake Erie. Finally, he remarked that “…ecosystem restoration and creation are not easy. They require attention to Mother Nature…she’s the chief engineer”. Then pay some attention to “…Father Time. These projects just take time to reach their potential, and there’s no speed button that you can push to make a restoration quicker. Time is the essence.” Bill made it clear that restoration questions will really be answered over long times and over large scales. These are not time and spatial scale with which humans are most comfortable but we need to begin to design with a view that ecology isn’t just assessed in a year or two, but over decades—or longer.

—Dr. Andy Cole, Penn State



Steven I. Apfelbaum is a Senior Ecologist and founder of Applied Ecological Services, a firm that has been a pioneer in sustainable ecological planning and design for more than 35 years. Steve is recognized nationally for his inclusive, creative approach to ecological design, based on a solid underpinning of ecological research and proven science. In 2001, Steve contributed the ecological guidance to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Conservation Plan (today called Greenseams). Subsequently, he was the ecological content provider for the Menomonee River Valley Sustainable Design Guidelines. He is the developer of the Stormwater Treatment TrainŠ concept and has designed hundreds of green infrastructure projects using this foundational approach. For the past seven years, Apfelbaum has been a guest lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design on the subject of coastal ecology.


THE ROLE OF SCIENCE INFORMING AND MEASURING DESIGN During our day together, we heard about landscape architecture projects that were informed by science to varying degrees, and where “informing” may have followed a perfunctory series of explorations to better understand particularly dynamic future systems, such as coastal environments. We also learned in the case of most design projects that while the best intentions may have started with some level of being “informed by science”, that follow-up measurement of project performance has been lax at best. In other words, we have learned little on the actual performance of the projects against a rigorous set of measurable design and performance criteria. Every project that falls short of framing up performance measures and that is not judge-able in the future is a lost investment for all disciplines to learn. We also learned that where we don’t have data to substantiate performance, speculation, misinformation, and contrived mythology results. Without rigorous testing, we run the unfortunate course of a misguided and misleading future. We also learned of fundamental research over many years (e.g. wetland bio-filtration and cleansing; and landscape and fluvial hydrology in a changing watershed/landscape context; or sea level rise patterns and dynamic projections). We also learned that the measurements taken on some projects may provide very little in the way of future guidance because no standardized measurement systems, reporting procedures, and an easily accessible process of sharing is available for the majority of projects being designed and constructed on the planet. Even the best intentions within ASLA have generated a project data base with what may be representative and indicative of the above challenges, but as a resource this doesn’t appear to be particularly

useful in its current presentation to the design community. Principles need to be extracted in an on-going way from performance-based projects by an interdisciplinary team of scientists, planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, economists, and others. The principles need to be prepared in the language understandable by each of these disciplines. Further development of the project reporting procedures, and standard guidance for each project to be documented and evaluated is needed for the principles to be extractable and useful to the design and science community.

What does the future look like? Human civilizations until perhaps the last 2,000 years have exercised well established patterns of mobility and retreated from where (and when) inhospitable conditions developed. Or, in some cases, we simply followed the essential resources—bison herds (food), water, safety— and hospitable climate. Our ancestors simply followed the resources as a part of annual and longer wavelength cycles that operated across landscapes, seascapes, etc. The primary change from our mobile ancestral past appears to have resulted from a focus on “putting our roots down” with investment in landownership and infrastructure. The investment required to “protect” the infrastructure and landownership interests, such as fortifying against changes in the coastal zones from sea level rise, is well beyond the GDP of all countries, including the USA. This may only be possible where adequate relief exists between the coastal zone elevations and the adjoining uplands. And, where the underlying geology, hydrology,


and marine tidal changes and surges, and soil systems will support the future needs for safety, mobility, and the enterprise and economics of our civilization. Creation of systems-wide evaluation is critical to our future as designers and members of the terrestrial ecosystems on earth. Piece-meal decision making at the regional or individual landownership-scale is a sure way to become distracted and misapply precision resources. It sounds clearly like the future will require three levels of planning and re-thinking our infrastructure, landownership, and land occupancy rights, as follows: 1. Modular and Mobil—A land use policy and planning and science that supports a two home lifestyle (like the model now occurring in coastal Louisiana) where the ownership of parcels in the coastal zone is honored as sea level rise occurs, and allows for use of these homes/cottages when conditions are safe. The second home, and where communities reassemble, would be inland in safe locations not compromised by sea level change, increasing storm intensification, and other changes. The built form of the homes in the vulnerable coastal zone will need to take on the low cost, often modular designs of cottages. And, where the coastal zone dynamics become insurmountable with any design option, then the owned, submerged parcels or non-livable parcels, could become part of number 3 below. 2. S  afe Future Living Footprints—A land use policy, science, and planning that is focused on selecting the best locations for re-establishing safe, equitable and vibrant communities of displaced persons. The displaced persons will not only arrive from the coastal zones around the world (and USA) but will also come from the floodplains environments, desertification locations, and war zones where water and food and other natural resource-based access conflicts arise. This process is now well underway in Sudan, Syrian, island archipelagos around earth, and many other locations, including oil-economies that are rendered superfluous by modern energy economies.

3. Ecological Reserves - Land Gifted Back to the Earth—A restoration plan must be prepared for the large areas of the earth that are already (and likely in the future) being orphaned by the storm intensification, sea level rise, and declining availability of important natural resources, and the war-conflict zones that develop. Land use policy, planning, design and science need to support and plan for the reinvestment in re-linking and protecting the earth’s refugiums, (biodiversity hotspots), the agriculturally productive soils and water management source-locations and supplies, and the restoration of reserves of land comprised of orphaned landscapes around the world. IF this is done with a long view, tens of millions of acres of “public commons” restored ecosystems will become cherished locations on earth that will contribute to civilizations’ durability and resiliency. The above thinking (and action) needs to be guided by easily understandable operating principles created with large-scale ecosystem views, so that every small scale project is principled. To operate within a framework that has a global scale-view (temporally, geospatial, and dynamic understanding of the moving parts, including humans, etc), global, national, and local tools need to be created. Consensus will be needed on how decisions guided by equitability and grounded in ecosystem health performancemeasurements, not solely guided by economic indicators, will be an essential shift in the way our civilization must operate. This process calls for a very strong marriage between design and science (and policy, economics, governance, regulatory requirements, etc). Strong educational programs will be essential to achieve this future. This essay resulted from a workshop at Pennsylvania State University, in which the potential value of creating a curriculum that more assertively injects science into the design training of students. This summary reflects the thoughts of: Steven I. Apfelbaum, Applied Ecological Services, Inc, November 5, 2017



Hong Wu joined the Department of Landscape Architecture in 2016 as the Stuckeman Career Development Assistant Professor. Academically trained in Architecture (B.Arch) and Landscape Architecture (MLA and Ph.D.), Hong’s research passion lies in an important and timely set of topics across different spatial scales. At the regional and watershed scale, Hong applies computer-based models to facilitate natural resource decision-making, especially as it relates to water. Through agent-based landscape change simulation and hydrological modeling, her most recent regionalscale research investigated the effectiveness of watershed-scale stormwater Best Management Practices, and of alternative urban development patterns, for conserving stream ecosystem health in the context of rapid urbanization and climate change. At the site scale, Hong is passionate about exploring innovative design approaches to integrating sustainability into urban landscapes. Her current Green Stormwater Infrastructure research focuses on lessons learned on the design, construction, monitoring, and maintenance of Low Impact Development practices across different social and environmental contexts.


ADVANCING LANDSCAPE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION: ONE PROJECT AT A TIME Landscape Performance Assessment: Essential, yet in its Infancy Presented with broad-scale challenges such as urbanization and climate change, the discipline of landscape architecture has increasingly been demanding scientific rigor to achieve long-term landscape sustainability. To that end, strengthening the feedback loop between three components—key ecological principles, collaborative implementation, and performance assessment—becomes particularly important. This reflection piece addresses the importance of, and challenges to, measuring landscape performance and explores strategies to enhance research and education related to landscape performance.

A Strong Feedback Loop Is Needed to Integrate Research and Practice

Rated as one of the top ten things wrong with the landscape architecture profession, the lack of performance assessment has been undermining the impact of the profession. Measuring and communicating performance is critical to helping us learn from past successes and failures and to conveying the value of the profession. However, for many good reasons (e.g., lack of funding, time, and interdisciplinary expertise), firms rarely integrate postoccupancy assessments into their standard practices. The profession also lacks incentives or requirements that encourage in-depth inquiry about design impacts. For example, performance is not a requirement for consideration for professional awards, and clients rarely request performance assessment as proof of past success. To address this significant gap, our profession’s flagship performance assessment program, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF)’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) Program, has joined academics and practitioners in teams to document the benefits of high-performing landscape projects since 2011. Each year, over a six-month period, faculty-student teams, assisted by their partnering firms, identify environmental, economic and social performance measures to quantify the benefits of two to three built projects.


Their findings are then published in the Case Study Briefs in LAF’s online Landscape Performance Series (LPS). With 107 case studies completed to-date, CSI has made significant strides in promoting design-withperformance-in-mind, collecting performance data, and effectively communicating sustainability lessons. However, important program limitations have also motivated scholars and LAF itself to rethink the Program and consider better approaches to improving landscape evaluation in the future. Not surprisingly, the severe time and funding constraints were key barriers to improving the scientific rigor of CSI’s case study briefs. The six-month program duration precludes any empirical research that requires a longer timeframe (e.g., wildlife monitoring, water quantity and quality measurements). Furthermore, developing methods to measure environmental, social, and economic benefits through various metrics often relies on consultation with other disciplines. The lack of multi-disciplinary expertise on the teams made it challenging to produce defensible assessments. Taking the evaluation of “habitat quality” as an example, only four out of the 107 cases utilized external experts to develop systematic methods for long-term habitat monitoring.

So, what do we do? Build Better Forums for Collaboration As previously mentioned, measuring environmental, social, and economic performance often requires expertise outside our own discipline. As a result, CSI’s two-party, scholar-firm model appears insufficient. How could we build better forums for collaboration? For example, what if LAF takes the lead in assembling an expert consulting panel that would be available to the scholar-firm teams while they conduct the case study investigations?

Furthermore, to address the lack of research support, especially for projects with longterm monitoring needs, what if we more strategically involve citizen scientists and students? Such involvement would be especially valuable for enhancing our ability to adaptively manage landscapes.

Leverage Past Research With scarce resources, it is high time that we make the best of limited case studies. What if we avoid reinventing the wheel developing evaluative methods for each case study, and instead identify broadly applicable protocols? Whether or not we return to refining the existing 107 cases or invest in new ones, such protocols will go a long way toward enhancing the effectiveness and rigor in performance measurement over time. This idea of establishing protocols is not new. Since 2013, LAF has initiated an effort to strengthen the validity of CSI’s methodology by developing a comprehensive guidebook (forthcoming) that compiles more than 100 widely applicable metrics in 34 benefit categories. It will also provide recommendations on assessment considerations, positioning information, types of data to collect, and associated evaluative methods. As LAF’s guidelines are taking shape, one cannot help but ask, shouldn’t we all be in this together? LAF’s guidebook offers a great starting point for researchers. However, much more effort is needed, especially in analyzing potential limitations of the metrics and methods and developing detailed guidelines on how to implement the methods. Such knowledge is best acquired during the actual case study process, metric-by-metric, projectby-project, through close collaboration between designers, environmental and social scientists, engineers, and other experts.



Design as Hypothesis Design as hypothesis says installation is not the endpoint of the design process, but rather a step in a learning process. With this approach, installation is followed by monitoring to test implicit or explicit hypotheses and determine whether a design works as predicted or which of several alternative designs performs the best. For example, in one of Seattle’s pilot Green Infrastructure projects—the High Point community—different permeable pavement materials were applied at various locations to compare their performance, and equipment for monitoring water quantity and quality were integrated into the design of the facilities. In such cases, the processes of design and scientific inquiry are strategically aligned. This alignment can only be achieved if designers and evaluators work together from the very beginning.

Create More Incentives or Regulations The absence of incentives and regulations has been one of the primary reasons that the overall profession lacks the mindset that performance should be a priority for design. For example, what if our existing rating systems, such as the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), adopt performance measurement as a prerequisite of certification instead of merely encouraging it? What if the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) professional awards become performance-based or add a category specifically honoring highly performing projects? Better yet, what if clients, especially those from the public sector, request proof of past success in their requests for proposals? New research and publication opportunities, including grants, conferences, and journals, also will likely boost research and evaluation activity.

Integrate Performance Evaluation into Education With landscape performance integrated into the revised curriculum requirements by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) for all accredited undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture programs since 2016, this question won’t remain a “what if” for much longer. The core task now is for both the Board and universities to clarify the aspects of landscape performance that should be integrated at specific education levels and to explore effective ways to teach performance. Again, collaborative teaching with a supportive institutional structure would be key to achieving teaching excellence. Looking back to the 1998 Shire Ecology and Design Conference that focused on integrating ecological principles into practice and education, it’s clear we have made significant progress in exploring how performance can in turn inform theory and practice. Where we end up over the next 20 years is dependent on the little steps we take over time in advancing the science, practice and education of landscape sustainability. By accepting the challenge of integrating rigorous evaluation criteria into the landscape architecture design and education processes, and by demanding evidence of landscape performance, we not only strengthen the integrity and value of the profession, but also better confront the important environmental challenges that our field is so well-positioned to address.

—Dr. Hong Wu, Penn State


Hong—(to Apfelbaum) What would make you less likely to tell me no if I called you (to collaborate on landscape performance assessment)? Apfelbaum—I think the collaboration would be formalized, should be formalized, around what one would like to achieve. And then I think a lot of the science work, what to monitor, how to monitor it, how to train people effectively to do the monitoring—there’s so much of that that’s already done and doesn’t need to be reinvented. There’s whole schemes of process, like you lay down, that we could plug in as a conversation piece, to integrate with what you’re thinking. So I think where I would start is, if there’s interest in a collaboration, let’s talk through what that looks like. We have about 200 full time staff in 18 offices around the country now in the US and there’s people I could dedicate to this sort of thing, if not myself, occasionally. Harvard approached me about 10 years ago. We have a formal collaboration with the Graduate School of Design. And it’s focused on bringing, trying to inject ecology into design, kind of what we’re talking about here. (To Mitsch) How can you become involved in this, Bill? Mitsch—I’m not sure how I can become


involved, but we’re talking about monitoring. You know, it’s funny, in the sciences, monitoring is a bad word to use in a proposal if we send it to NSF. They automatically reject it if you use that word once. Just to show a little irony out here. But it’s absolutely needed if we’re creating restoring ecosystems and I think, maybe the problem is we’re just not building it into the cost of the project. We’re not ahead of the game saying this has to be monitored for X number of years. Right now with wetlands, the rule of thumb is you monitor for five years then you walk away. That’s a terribly short time. Especially for forested wetlands, I’ve always said that. It should be more like 20 years. But under all circumstances, the monitoring is almost trivial when it’s required because they don’t want to find anything. And if you don’t measure something you don’t find anything, there’s no problem. I’ve seen it time and again. They just monitor the minimal characteristics of a wetland restoration and then walk away after five years. And I’ve had several wetlands, which we followed for longer than that, and I’ll tell you one critter that really messes things up is beavers. And I, we had the most beautiful forested wetland coming back, it was monitored for five years. It officially got a stamp

of approval. We took our classes to this place all the time. They’d say, “Oh, what a beautiful wetland.” Then we went back one year with a class and I said, “Oh my God.” The beavers had taken down just about every tree that had been planted, built the most humongous dam on a supposedly beaver-impenetrable flow way. Well they took care of that. And changed everything. It became a big open pond, basically. So the monitoring does have to go on for quite a long time. Maybe not every year, maybe every five years after some point but it’s just got to continue. I don’t know that we have a mechanism in our society to do things over a time, you know, at said Father Time. We don’t have any mechanism for doing the things that Father Time requires in our society. We only work for 30 or 40 years at one job and after that we’re gone and how do you continue all these things? They really are lengthier than the length of a graduate student or a career, for that matter. Apfelbaum—I was just going to say, one of the things that might be worth thinking about is the relationship between the three categories, the experts, the experts, the citizen scientist, because what we’re finding is that in incentivizing the citizen science, and investing

in their training, it really does create durability around projects. So we are getting basically well trained citizen scientists collecting very good data in a way that we could not afford. We can’t afford to go to, you know, the McKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories more than once or twice in my lifetime. But we’ve got good people up there doing the monitoring. And linking those three, creating a plan that links those, with an ultimate goal of creating that localized capacities would be worth thinking about. Audience Member—Yes, so when it comes to like the design and the implementation and monitoring of some of the larger scale projects, like the Great Black Swamp for like the rotational grazing, what efforts are there to kind of, like, account for and work with, some of like, the local stakeholders? ‘Cause you’re working with ranchers or like, small farmers in those cases. And like, can it be used as like, an educational mechanism for them too? Mitsch—Well I’ll just start then I’ll turn it to Steve. We haven’t done the Black Swamp yet, that’s why I’m going to turn it to him. And by the way, the Black Swamp and the Kankakee Marshland are similar. Well I’m going to, if it’s okay with you all, I’m going to start going to (continued)


the crowd. Apfelbaum—Very similar. Mitsch—They’re in the northwest corner of respectively Indiana and Ohio. We don’t have a business model yet for the Black Swamp. We just have an idea of how the biochemistry will work and how we will be able to stop using fertilizers to some extent. But we don’t have a business model of how it will be enacted, how the farmers will be involved. I can only imagine that there will be, at first, perhaps farmers who willingly give up some of their land or maybe there’s a government program… who knows? We just don’t know. But surely we’d have to involve local people in some sampling. But in the end, when you’re measuring phosphorous in water column, that cannot be done by citizen scientists. The thresholds of the concentrations we’re talking about that are causing Lake Erie to be green are just too low of concentrations. And you need a pretty good analytical lab to do it. Yes, so when it comes to like the design and the implementation and monitoring of some of the larger scale projects, like the Great Black Swamp


for like the rotational grazing, what efforts are there to kind of, like, account for and work with, some of like, the local stakeholders, ‘cause you’re working with ranchers or like, small farmers in those cases. And like, can it be used as like, an educational mechanism for them too? Apfelbaum—So you don’t work on ranches and farms without working with the ranching and farming community. In fact, you don’t step on their property without getting permission. We work with them—the whole program that we’re doing. Right now we have about 12 million dollars, grants in Canada across three provinces that we’re doing AMP grazing research through the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Dr. Mark Boyce and a number of others. And we have gone through and talked with every rancher, explained the research program, explained what we would ask of them long term—short term and long term. And then they’re actually talking to their non AMP grazing neighbors to allow us to create comparisons with the conventional, the common baseline grazing practices. So working with land owners means that you

really work with land owners. And it’s not about an external stakeholder group, it’s about working with the land owners. And that’s just critical so we do not impose design thinking on a rancher. We explain the science questions that were asking and we ask them, “Could this be tested on your property without upsetting your operations or changing your operations?” We get their feedback and then we ask follow up questions. And the receptiveness to the idea comes through the conversation, ultimately. The stakeholders, at large, that will develop policy around climate mitigation and soil carbon being a potential, providing potential solution, there’ll be a lot of other stakeholders involved in that conversation beyond just the ranchers and farmers. And that conversation has also started in the U.S. and across Canada right now—and Australia and New Zealand. So it’s really driven by private land ownership, private land ownership and engagement, involvement. And participation from the ground up, literally and figuratively, in the design of the process. They take us across their ranch, they show us how to avoid the mean bull and getting stuck in all sorts of things. So it’s a critical part of the process. I don’t know if that answered your question. Audience Member—I have a question and it’s kind of for all three of you since you’re all talking about the monitoring of projects. So what happens when the beavers come along or when you turn up the seed bank and it turns out that there are a lot of invasive species in that seed bank, what do, how do you integrate the maintenance of a project into your monitoring and does that affect the maintenance structure or the monitoring structure or do you try to look at it in a vacuum? How does that all work? Mitsch—Well I’ll just start out because I brought up the beaver issue. I consider when a beaver comes into a wetland as a stamp of approval by Mother Nature. I don’t consider it an invasive animal that has to be trapped. In fact, that’s the problem we have with monitoring our systems. We get too fussy about what comes in

and what doesn’t and we try to kill stuff that we don’t like and we try to encourage stuff that shouldn’t be there. So really, I was notorious at Ohio State where I would not let anybody take care of the beaver. The day after I left Ohio State they trapped a 75 pound beaver out of my wetland. But while I was there, it wasn’t going to happen. So I just consider that part of nature. And the beavers aren’t going to be there forever. Muskrats will have an eat out, for example. If you had, one year in our wetland, they just ate everything or built huts out of them, or lodges. I mean there were no plants left. Well, nature has a nice way of handling that. The muskrats live in their hut over the winter and they come out and they get nailed by a hawk almost immediately because they cleared all the vegetation. They have nowhere to hide. So nature takes care of things like that and in the long run, I think that’s the best thing about it. We just over control our landscape. You know, we even have fields called Wildlife Control. It’s natural for us to want to control things but I’m saying, at some point, you just have to let nature take the course and lightly fine tune it every so often—but not excessively. Hong—I have a limited experience monitoring ecologic conditions but I do have one. So if you remember one of the design examples that I showed, maybe a year ago, that was one of the first rain gardens in Beijing. And my colleagues there, they have been constantly monitoring the water coming down the roof causing death of fishes, the small aquatic organisms that they have been raising in that water tank. And we tried all kinds of different things to solve that problem—by changing different filters to filter the water coming down the roof. We haven’t had a lot of success yet. The reason, actually, it was a stupid reason, being water quality testing was extremely expensive and what we weren’t able to figure out, what was the toxin coming out of the rooftop water? So that was one example that we tried, we tried, in our own garden to fix a water quality issue. Another issue we actually fixed was a mosquito problem. So the garden was completed for two years now and before (continued)


this August there has always been a mosquito issue that actually had escalated and at some point it became unbearable. We tried different things, kind of sealing the underground water tank to prevent the prevalence of a mosquito breeding ground. And then eventually we actually found, you know, we brought, we brought ecologists over and say can you help us diagnose? And then he looked around for, you know, during one night and helps out, you know. And then it was, it was kind of hilarious. It was the problem of our green wall right next to our garden. So that was my limited attempts to monitor the projects that I had been worked with and I think the key, the key message here is we, as designers, if we’re closer, if we’re close to the projects that we designed, keep a good eye on it and then constantly change things that might have not have worked, eventually you’ll probably figure it out. Apfelbaum—We break the ecological restoration process enduring into two phases. A remedial phase and a long term monitoring and maintenance phase and all we’re trying to do during the remedial phase is what we call jump start the system. Not slavishly recreate some stasis or some past condition. We’re


just trying to set the process and system on a trajectory with goals and principles and performance criteria. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve been on where the most amazing changes have occurred and the changes have been something we could not have controlled anyways if we wanted to, in our wildest dreams. I’ll give you one example. A several million dollar project on several thousand acres of land and a wildfire came through and burned, and it was a big wetland and grassland. Dry prairie system. A wildfire came through and burned 15,000 hectares of forestland around this site and wetting up occurred where the evapotranspirational capacity of the forest that was burned was eliminated overnight and the water table came up eight feet. And areas that we had planted as little blue stem and dry prairie, pasqueflower also, it’s wonderful, dry prairie species, within a two year period, was growing sphagnum moss and tusk sedge. It came out of the seed bank—and sundews, drosera, little sundews. 10 years later when the tree cover grew back into these groves, you know, eight or nine foot high multi-stemmed little oaks, the dry prairie system came back. So what I’ve learned is it’s not about, it’s not about

my version of a design, or the designer’s version of a design, it’s just trying to basically align the trajectory of the site we’re working with, with the contextual trajectory and allowing it to muddle through whatever future it has. The maintenance work that we did on that site was primarily cleaning up invasive species coming in around the edges during the early stage and then blowable waste and garbage that blew in from highways. You know, little helium balloons that land on the site that somebody sending a good wish, you know, to their father that passed away or something. All sorts of bizarre things that land on the sites. Golf balls, they’re notoriously found in these wetland projects. So I don’t know if that gives you some sense but a very different approach to maintenance than what you might think of compared to a very formalized project for sure. Very different. Audience Member—So this has been a fantastic day of seeing great design successes, project successes. I’m thrilled to know that there are beavers, wildfire and dead fish in the world as well. Because I would love to have a day of failures. In other words, I know that the three of you and all the other speakers that are here,

if I could get you to write down the 10 design failures of my life and my career, the 10 things I wish I had never done, now with enough beer that might happen. But none of us are going to remember. And so, Bill, you were talking about the fact that no one ever sends you articles about failures. How do we get people, designers especially, to tell us about their failures? Because in all honesty, we all would love to have your successes. But you know, as Wu Hong has explained, without the expertise, we’re probably going to make mistakes that you made 20 years ago. That information is so valuable to us. How do we as a profession dissolve our egos, perhaps, and share our failures?Apfelbaum—I think that, I think you’re misunderstanding what Bill might have said and maybe I’ll state it the way I think I understood it, Bill. Most of the design, ecological design failures have worked their way into revised specifications. And ways that have filtered down through, you know the technical journals as how things were done on the next project. Or in technical specifications. For example, the first wetland restorations we started doing in the late 70’s, we didn’t know anything about soil (continued)


compaction. We didn’t know anything about highway deicing material runoff impacts on soil compaction. And we accepted water from highways. What did we learn from that? We learned that, you know, sodium concentrations of 20,000 parts per million weren’t going to support the wetlands, and the soil structure molecularly collapsed under the construction techniques that we used and also the presence of the sodium. So we wrote—rewrote specifications. Those are the specifications that are now being used by the corp of engineers and


projects around the country. So I think some of the ideas have found their way into design communities access to solutions that we’ve learned will work. And we’ve admitted our failures in project documents and we learned the hard way. Mitsch—Yeah, it’s two fold why you can’t get a failure published. Number one, you’re not going to do it anyhow because it’s a failure in your mind. And secondly, if you sent it out for peer review they would reject it as a failure.

So you almost can’t get it published unless you publish it yourself. So, but I think that’s where we learned what, Robin Lewis, I don’t know, some of you know Robin Lewis, but he and I taught almost every year, wetland creation and restoration, a short course, for the whole country. And we’d get 10 or 20 people to show up for the course. And the first thing we told them is that we have, collectively, Robin and I have killed hundreds of thousands of plants. And we admit it. The first time we meet they think oh how could you have done that? Didn’t you plant them right? You learn by experience and everybody learns by experience. I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing you can put in a manual sometimes. You just have to understand the basic principles. You know, that Mother Nature’s in charge, she may not like the 15 plants that you’ve gone to the nursery and bought at great price. She may only like three of them. And you just gotta be able to live with that, and it’s not a failure. It’s success no matter what happens, almost, as another way to look at it.

live stream or those who are going to review this video. If you are interested in doing more, Dr. Andy Cole, as you heard at the beginning of today, this was his brainchild. He is our fearless leader of E+D, Ecology and Design. So you can reach out to Dr. Cole. You can email hamer@psu. edu to contact our Hamer Center for Community Design and we can get your information to Dr. Cole. We have other faculty members here in both architecture and landscape architecture who are passionately committed to seeing this move forward from our school. And, as you heard before, we have colleagues throughout the university who, so far, have expressed genuine enthusiasm and support for getting this off the ground. We could not have done it without our speakers—these three as well as everyone else who joined us today. We can’t thank you enough. We’re really looking forward to continuing the conversations, reflecting on what happened today and putting forth something to take away that can be shared more broadly. So stay tuned, we hope to share more with you.

Audience Member—Perhaps we need to recast the declaration. It’s not a declaration of... Apfelbaum—We’re not old enough to spread wisdom. But we’ve tried. At the ASLA annual convention for three years in a row, Tom Ryan and I did a lessons-learned that had 300 to 500 attendees. It’s very well attended. So I don’t know if that stuff is recorded but I think there were over half a dozen speakers that presented their lessons learned on design projects, it was entertaining to say the least. Mainzer—And with that I’m going to say thank you to our three speakers, hold your applause for just a minute. I do want to say thank you to all of our speakers today. Thank you to you all for coming and joining us. So today, as Professor Pennypacker mentioned, this is our “trial balloon” for Penn State. This is our test. Do we care enough about these topics to do more? I’m looking right at you undergraduate students, the graduate students that are here, our faculty members and everybody who joined us from throughout out university community, either


STUDENT REFLECTIONS “Restoration of a disturbed ecosystem is an acidtest of our understanding of that system and we will learn more from our failures than from our successes since failures clearly reveals the inadequacies in an idea.”—Tony Bradshaw (1987) Dr. William Mitsch, in his lecture, shared the importance of researching on failed projects to understand the shortcomings or weaknesses that are prevalent in many established ecological theories, marking the need to have more published journal articles on such issues. It is through understanding the failed attempts that we can arrive one step further towards ‘tested science’. It is essential that we apply the knowledge of tested science in any ecological restoration project, which are typically very large in scale. This ensures a higher rate of success. This ‘success’ however is difficult to determine and needs certain parameters to measure it against. These parameters include storm water management, water conservation, habitat creation, habitat quality, species diversity, noise mitigation, etc. Monitoring these parameters over a long period of time after the completion of the project ensures sustainable growth. Often, challenges like inadequate funds and lack of expertise prevent such monitoring and hence, pre-planning for these steps can turn out to be fruitful. One way of doing this can be through community engagement during the restoration process. Steven Apfelbaum shared the story about engaging school kids from eighth grade in some of the work in a project and it was amazing how some of these kids had returned to work with the team in that very project after eighteen years. Thus, community engagement has the potential to create a multi-generational conservation community, feeding the loop for years. Another approach to ensure monitoring could be to allocate project funds and a portion of the


revenue for this purpose. However, another challenge that still remains is that, even if there are funds for monitoring, there is a clear need for a guide to approach the issue.Details like identifying variables, establishing triggers, collecting and analyzing data need sharing of expertise. In this regard, Dr. Wu Hong mentioned that project teams could share their methods, experiences and lessons learned across a public platform, like a website, to inform others and help them make the right decisions. In addition, all three speakers emphasized on the importance of science backed ecological design projects that should take place in large temporal and spatial scale in order to answer ecological design questions effectively. This is while that most of the academia-based on-the-ground ecological research and education focus on small scale and short term design and evaluation. Although this fact makes the collaboration between academics and practitioners challenging, it implies two important areas of research that have been less explored in academic environment. First, it is setting up the ecological design curricula in a way that connects to real, large scale and long-monitored projects. This helps the students to understand large spatial and temporal processes and interactions and place/adjust their design solutions within that context. Second, there are many untested science, theories or site-scale research that needs to be tested or calibrated for larger scale application. This provides vast areas of meaningful future research that can be directly impactful in fostering the connection between science and well-informed on the ground design decisions. —Umme Hani, Masters of Science in Architecture student, and Nastaran Tebyanian, PhD candidate in Architecture with a focus in Landscape Architecture

“We don’t have any mechanism for doing the things that Father Time requires in our society.” —Bill Mitsch “One of the things that might be worth thinking about is the relationship between the three categories, the experts, the experts, and the citizen scientist.” —Steven Apfelbaum “We, as designers, if we stay close to the projects that we designed, keep a good eye on it, and then constantly change things that might have not worked, eventually you’ll probably figure it out.” —Hong Wu



The E+D Committee would like to add a special thanks to the following contributors— The Penn State Department of Landscape Architecture and its department head, Professor Eliza Pennypacker and the Hamer Center for Community Design and its director, Professor Lisa Iulo, for their extraordinary support and partnership with the launch of E+D: Ecology plus Design and this inaugural symposium and associated publication. Kendall Mainzer, for her service as event coordinator and host of the symposium and lead design and copy editor for this associated publication. Oscar Wegbreit, Penn State BLA student, and Paula Neder de Araujo Brito, Penn State Master of Science student in Landscape Architecture, for their service as assistant editors for this publication. Scott Tucker, for his design mentorship of our student editors and for the graphic design of all symposium promotional materials, especially the E+D logo. Stephanie Swindle Thomas and Cody Goddard, for their videography and photography expertise and professional audio/visual and social media support of the symposium event. The Penn State Multimedia Print Center and the patient graphic design professionals whose edits and services made this publication possible. The exceptional student leaders of landscape architecture at Penn State for volunteering to support the symposium event and for their dedicated engagement in continuing E+D efforts.

—Dr. Andy Cole, Director, and associated faculty Dr. Stephen Mainzer, Dr. Hong Wu, and Professor Lisa DuRussel


Profile for Penn State Stuckeman School

E+D Symposium, Volume 1  

This document is a summary of the E+D: Ecology + Design Symposium that was held in November 2017 on the Penn State University Park campus. E...

E+D Symposium, Volume 1  

This document is a summary of the E+D: Ecology + Design Symposium that was held in November 2017 on the Penn State University Park campus. E...