Recap: World Urban Parks & World Parks Academy Webinar: Climate Change Hasn’t Stopped for a Pandemic – Adapting Parks for Sea Level Rise, Flooding, and Fire

How do we prepare the parks for the various impacts of climate change? Michael Boland, Chief Park Office of The Presidio Trust hosted the World Urban Parks webinar with Alison Forrestal, Golden Gate National Recreation Area Chief of Natural Resources and Science; Kevin Conger, CMG Landscape Architecture Principal; and Lucinda Sanders, Olin CEO and Partner to discuss the impact of rising temperatures, frequent wildfires, intense river flooding, and rising sea levels. Watch the recording of the webinar: https://youtu.be/eFF4jbyTAkQ.  

Fire Management in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the era of Climate Change

Fires are becoming more frequent and increasing in temperatures both day and night in the western U.S, leading to warmer and drier conditions ready for wildfire. Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers more than 80,000 acres in 3 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area neighboring 2.5 million people and welcoming 17 million annual visitors.

Community Preparedness is the top strategy to respond and adapt to wildfire for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area by:

  • Creating a defensible space.
  • The Boundary Vegetation Management Program enables the Park’s neighbors to apply to remove vegetation on park land near their home in coordination with ecologists to create a defensible boundary.
  • Establishing evacuation routes.
  • Educating the community and public.
    • “Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) was formed to develop and implement a comprehensive wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness plan throughout almost all of Marin County” – Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority website.
    • “The Marin Forest Management Strategy for One Tam will provide a series of informed treatment methods to improve the ecology of Marin forests. These approaches will improve forest habitat and protect biodiversity, while also strategically managing vegetation to reduce “fire fuels” such as dry brush and diseased or dying trees.” – One Tam Forest Health & Resiliency website

Adapting for Sea Level Rise at Crissy Field

Situated in the nearly 1,500-acre Presidio military base that was converted to a National Park, Crissy Field is a 100-acre waterfront park that is managed by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, built in 1999 and designed by Hargreaves Associates.

In 2014, CMG led a planning process to create a vision for the next 20 years of Crissy Field. Engagement and analysis with the park’s diverse stakeholders and interest groups informed a strategic project framework; Crissy Field Refresh proposes new visions for Mason Street bike promenade, airfield programming, boardwalks and tidal marsh overlooks, and parking improvements.

To ensure the longevity of these improvements, CMG engaged in the analysis of sea level rise at Crissy Field and the vulnerability of the community and park assets. A Rise-Up Community Workshop looked at these vulnerability scenarios and community members designed their own vision for Crissy Field prioritizing cultural, historical, and ecological assets using various adaptation tools such as retreat, beach, seawall, levee, wetlands, and walkways. View the Crissy Field Sea Level Rise Analysis Report.

 

Sea Level Rise Projections for San Francisco Bay Area, Crissy Field + Sea Level Rise Report, May 2016

Designing for Flooding in the Midwest

Olin is leading the design for a new 400-acre park in Southern Indiana and plans to transform this park into a climate-resilient open space embracing the changing flooding patterns. The design integrates the river into the park’s experience through the path and programming, water, topography, ecology for low to high water areas of the park.

Vaulting into a New Virtual Dimension

I’d like to contextualize two recent project milestones at CMG within the current climate of working from home and highlight some specific examples that bring definition to many of the catch-words we hear and talk about around ‘collaboration’, ‘communication’, and ‘mentorship’. In this time of physical separation, how we are working together now has been on colorful display.

We are vaulting gracefully into a new virtual dimension, ‘new’ in that we are all here together in this environment of remote work, less ‘new’ in that we are all familiar with the technologies we use to do the work. Rather, I think ‘new’ applies to how we adapt our habits and routines, how we stay in touch, how we continue to be curious, to learn, and most importantly, how we support one another through this abstract dislocation.

Over the past couple of months while we all shelter in place, our teams have been continuing to produce high-quality work while operating in new ways. Underlying this productivity is ‘work ethic’ – “a belief that hard work and diligence have a moral benefit and an inherent ability to strengthen individual character and skill. It is considered a source of self-respect, satisfaction, and fulfillment”. I have seen and felt it in these two passing deadlines, and I hope this is something we all get to experience: the joy and reward of contributing to excellent work.

Oddly enough, although it may seem counter-intuitive, I felt more connected than ever through daily chatter on Microsoft Teams. We all had visibility to one another and a pulse on what everyone was doing. It was easy to check in and stay the course together – whether sharing screens to review a drawing, or a chat to discuss a quick question, or sending a link to a folder where information could be accessed or a final print should be saved – the communication and collaboration was fluid, supple, and conscientious. This created a clear channel for getting things done – staying goal oriented and prioritizing focus. Everyone showed up. Everyone was available and reliable. Everyone brought energy to the work and to one another. A symbiosis. A silver lining.

Perhaps all this is amplified by the challenges of not being physically together (the sound of trace ripping, keyboards clattering, printers sighing, voices humming) – but what I see is how positive people are and the strength shown in embracing the moment. Hardship often reveals character and some of the most stunning examples of dependability, reliability, and initiative have been on display. I am so grateful for the kindness we show to one another, the care we give, the quality of the design produced, and the translation of it through the documentation.

Principal Rayna deNiord

ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH
by Rebecca Elson

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometimes it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

Tools and Tips to Work and Design from Home

Sheltering in place and working from home for the past three months has been a surreal experience for CMG in the wake of COVID-19. There have been many adjustments and challenges for everyone in our community and beyond. Through these difficult times, it’s been inspiring to see how our colleagues  are adapting and staying positive and productive in the face of these challenges. To accomplish better work and design from home, here are a few of our tools and tips that have eased us into the transition to work from home life.

Keeping the Creative Spark Alive and Finding Inspiration at Home:

Lauren Bergenholtz | Designer:

“Early on during shelter in place, the Berkeley Stairs were an enormous source of inspiration and respite for me. Developed as neighborhood connections to the historic Key Route, these pathways are wonderfully diverse and lead through all sorts of strange and beautiful corners of Berkeley. More recently, biking to protests has afforded me the opportunity to get out of my neighborhood bubble and reconnect with the larger East Bay community.”

Nico Wright | Senior Associate:

“I am finding inspiration in having started a meditation practice.  I am on a 50-day streak of practicing mindfulness meditation every morning.  It has kept me centered, aligned and greatly helped me maintain a (mostly) relaxed state of mind.”

Tools and Programs to Work/Design from Home:

Austin Bamford | Designer:

“I am mostly working on a laptop—either directly on its hard drive or using the laptop as a way of remotely accessing an office computer. I have a small table at home that I use for all things work-related. Learning how to work from home has been more seamless than I thought it would be—I think the biggest challenge has been finding ways to have impromptu drawing sessions or reviews with colleagues.”

Lauren Stahl | Designer:

“I’ve been using an iPad pro and stylus to test concepts and draw schematic plans in place of trace paper, pens and a scale. Once I got used to the programs, they’re really fun and quick to use—I can make and edit sketches quickly and from anywhere, without big rolls of paper. It’s easy to draw an idea and then email it out to the team to get their opinions. Using it for scaled drawing has been a bit more challenging, but I’m getting the hang of it. I still miss my drawing table, but not the large format scanner.”

Rayna deNiord | Principal:

“Oddly enough, although it may seem counter-intuitive, I felt more connected than ever through daily chatter on Microsoft Teams. It was easy to check in and stay the course together – whether sharing screens to review a drawing, or a chat to discuss a quick question, or sending a link to a folder where information could be accessed or a final print should be saved – the communication and collaboration was fluid, supple, and conscientious.”

Martine LaBelle | Project Accountant

“Honest to goodness desk and a personal printer that scans to PDFs and double-sided copies”

What We’re Reading and Listening to Right Now:

Lauren Stahl | Designer:

“I really enjoyed the podcast Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway. It’s a 4-episode series where they take questions and talk about cooking and food during quarantine, but its light hearted and fun. After listening, I’ve been making savory oatmeal, with avocado, eggs, kimchi, or other things I have in the fridge, which is my new favorite breakfast.”

Lauren Bergenholtz | Designer:

“I’ve always been a big fan of broadcast radio, but have become increasingly dependent on it over the last few months. I especially love KALX (FM 90.7) and KCSM (91.1). I have been so grateful to hear real people speak candidly in real time about all tumultuous events of the past few months, even if only in breaks between sets. Last Thursday (6/4), KALX went of air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as a moment of silence for George Floyd – it was a truly profound and emotional moment that gave me a strong feeling of solidarity, despite being alone at my desk in my house.  The shows/DJ’s that inspire me most include KALX’s Sex 14s (schedule varies) and Richard Hadlock’s Annals of Jazz (Sunday evenings on KCSM).”

Eustacia Brossart | Designer:

Spaceship Earth is a great documentary about Biosphere 2 and the whacky, inspiring group behind its creation. Biosphere 2 was in many ways the ultimate landscape architecture project: humans trying to recreate all the ecosystems of the earth in a glass bubble. Thirty years later, as we accelerate habitat destruction and climate change, their work is more relevant than ever.”

Austin Bamford | Designer:

Belonging: A Culture of Place, by Bell Hooks”

Matt Arnold | Designer:

“A Climate Fiction Book Club, run by my sister Emma Arnold as part of Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo in Norway. Book 1 was Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer (Part of  Trilogy) and Book 2 is The End of the Ocean, by Maja Lunde.


CMG is Committed to Cultivating Diversity in our Practice and Profession

Like the rest of the country and the world, we watched as the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black Americans led to weeks of protest, and as those protests led to both overdue government action and sincere dialogues about the depth of racism in our country. We have been reading and listening to the important conversations about race and diversity happening in the landscape architecture community and are having those conversations within our office.

The systemic problems of racism and inequality facing Black and Brown communities are enormous, and, like so many others, we’re trying to figure out the most effective ways to help. In the spirit of open dialogue, we’re sharing the steps we’ve been taking, not because we have the answers, but in the hope that others in the landscape architecture field may find this helpful. These efforts and this list is a work in progress and our goal is to continually improve our practices. We’re really curious to know what other firms are trying and where they’re finding success.

We started our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative at CMG in 2018 with a goal to increase the diversity in our office and our profession and to think critically about how we support the communities where we work. CMG is a mission based firm working to increase social and ecological wellbeing through artful design. We believe in the value of democratic public spaces and the DEI initiative is a vital step that embodies our mission and beliefs.

CMG is committed to cultivating diversity in our practice and profession because an inclusive design culture and process is critical to creating truly democratic public spaces.

We are working toward those commitments by:

  • EDUCATING OURSELVES ABOUT THE HISTORIC INJUSTICES FACING COMMUNITIES.
    • Last summer our entire office participated in a full-day workshop led by Skeo to discuss the legacy of injustice in our cities, approaching projects from an equity mindset and the concept of cultural humility.
    • This summer we are continuing those conversations in our book club, discussing some of the many anti-racism resources that have been widely shared in the past few weeks.
  • WORKING TO INCREASE REPRESENTATION IN OUR FIELD. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE IS A PREDOMINATELY WHITE PROFESSION, AND WE NEED TO BETTER REPRESENT THE COMMUNITIES WHERE WE WORK.
    • We would like to connect with middle and high school students to inspire a new, more diverse generation of designers and teach them how they can have a voice in shaping their built environment. Our DEI team’s main priority for 2020 is to engage with local schools and design programs, with a focus on programs that target low-income communities and schools in communities of color. The pandemic and stay-at-home orders put a wrench in those plans this spring, but we’re still working to engage with students this fall.
      • If you know of a Bay Area school teacher, especially one within the SFUSD who would like to introduce their class to the field of landscape architecture, please send them our way.
    • This year we started the CMG Landscape Architecture scholarship to fully fund a 5-year Landscape Architecture degree for a low-income student through the Cal Poly Scholars program. Landscape architecture degrees are expensive and out of reach for many low-income students, who are disproportionately People of Color. Please visit the Cal Poly Scholars program if you are interested in supporting a low income student’s education.
  • TRYING TO INCREASE THE DIVERSITY WITHIN OUR OFFICE AND ENSURE EVERYONE FEELS COMFORTABLE BEING THEIR AUTHENTIC SELF AT WORK.
    • We’ve been recruiting more widely for our internships to reach more diverse applicants. The average number of schools represented in our applicant pool went from 28 to 66 in the past few years. The past two summers we’ve hosted an intern from the San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) professional design trainee program, which places students studying design from San Francisco.
    • All of our internships are paid so that anyone with the talent and dedication is able to participate.
    • We are working toward an office culture that emphasizes a posture of cultural humility. The past two years our office retreat focused on ‘personal mastery.’ While not specifically focused on issues of DEI, we’re learning the skills to have tough conversations together and to listen before we speak.
    • We’ve added more holidays to our office calendar. This year we asked staff to nominate holidays that are important to them and received submissions like Cesar Chavez Day, Juneteenth, Pride, Day of the Dead, and Yom Kippur. We had hoped to have happy hours or lunches to celebrate together and learn from each other. Now that we’re all working remotely, we’re having to work a little harder to stay connected, but we’re still marking these holidays with digital celebrations. 
  • SCRUTINIZING THE WAY THAT WE PRACTICE TO BETTER UNDERSTAND HOW THE BELIEFS AND TENANTS OF OUR PROFESSION ARE BIASED TOWARD AFFLUENT, WHITE COMMUNITIES.
    • Architecture and design communities have a long history of bias and this manifests in the way designers are educated, the way we work and the places we make.
    • We’d like to open this conversation to our larger landscape and design community and are considering ways to have a more open, public dialogue.

We are landscape architects because we care about people and the places where we live. Our work gives us a deeper connection and understanding of the complex web of space, people and ecology in our cities. Systemic racism, economic inequality and environmental injustice are realities in our communities and we must work together to design a world that is inclusive, equitable, and just.⁠ 

We don’t have the solutions. We know that Black Lives Matter. We know that democratic public space is essential and that everyone has the right to always feel welcome and safe, especially to join protests or celebrations in our streets. We know that we need to listen and that we need to keep trying.

CMG partners with Cal Poly SLO to promote diversity with a student scholarship

Public space design is more valued when it responds to the needs of the communities which it serves, which is best accomplished when designers can directly relate to those communities’ values and needs by working with diverse designers that represent those communities.  CMG is supporting diversity, equity and inclusion within our profession by partnering with the Cal Poly Scholars Program to provide a full-time 5-year scholarship for a student of financial need pursuing a degree in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO), starting Fall 2020. 

The Cal Poly Scholars Program at Cal Poly SLO recruits and retains high achieving low-income students from California high schools and community colleges. These Scholars are supported by Cal Poly Scholars Program’s network of resources including Student Academic Services, the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships, Mustang Success Center, all six academic colleges, Career Services, University Housing, and other campus collaborators, to enhance their success.

Cal Poly Scholars

Apply for the 2020 CMG Summer Internship!

2020 CMG Summer Internship Program is now accepting applications. Are you a motivated and creative individual looking for a chance to work with a group of passionate and innovative designers? Join the CMG Landscape Architecture team to work on a variety of landscape and urban design projects this summer!

During the 10-week internship program, you will have the opportunity to expand your skills and knowledge by working with a local landscape architecture design firm in San Francisco. Interns contribute to design conversations, visit project sites currently under construction, and are exposed to the breadth of the design process from concept to construction. CMG’s summer internship is an excellent opportunity to apply your Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD, and Google Sketch Up skills to local and regional projects around the Bay Area.

In addition to gaining valuable project and design office work experience, CMG interns investigate research topics relating to the landscape architecture profession. Previous research topics explored topics related to the sociological analysis of public space and the ecological impact of sea level rise. 2019 CMG Summer Interns produced “Emergent Ecologies of the Bay Edge: Adaptation to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise,’ which investigated potential impacts of climate change to intertidal habitat around the San Francisco Bay edge. Read more about their experience here.

If you are a landscape architecture or architecture student with at least one semester remaining prior to graduation, we hope that you will consider joining us and experience how CMG is working to support social and ecological wellbeing through artful design.

What past interns have to say about the CMG Summer Internship:

“The richness of contents within only ten weeks went beyond my expectations – without feeling overwhelmed!”

“I feel more confident going into school with new skill set that I’ve established here.”

“Through ten weeks of internship, I learned about office structure, design corporation and stakeholder engagement process”

CMG Internship Overview

  • 10 week program from June-August
  • Applications due March 23, 2020
  • Shortlist notification the week of March 30, 2020

For 2020 CMG Summer Internship application instructions, visit https://www.cmgsite.com/firm/employment/.

Deadline to apply is March 23, 2020!

Women and Leadership in Design Salon Recap

On June 11, nearly 200 guests gathered at CMG for our third salon, “Women and Leadership in Design”.  The evening began with a warm welcome from CMG’s first female Principal, Jamie Phillips.  Our Associate, Julie Gawendo, gave a presentation framing the conversation on gender equity in design.  A link to this presentation is located below.

Allison Arieff, SPUR Editorial Director and NY Times columnist, moderated an inspiring conversation with Karen Alschuler, Consulting Principal at Perkins and Will, Laura Crescimano, Co-founder/Principal of SITELAB Urban Studio, Cinda Gilliland, Principal and President of Reed Gilliland, and Akiko Ono, Associate at Shades of Green Landscape Architecture.

The evening’s turnout was inspiring for all and we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation!  If you weren’t able to make the event, but are interested in hearing about future events,  please email Wesley Cogan at wcogan@cmgsite.com.

View the full presentation HERE!

Read more about the speakers and their topics HERE!

Kevin Conger Receives Honored Alumni Award

CMG Partner Kevin Conger receiving the Honored Alumni Award with Cal Poly SLO President Armstrong and Dean Theodoropoulos

CMG Partner Kevin Conger looking at a landscape architecture model with Cal Poly SLO student

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CMG Partner, Kevin Conger, recently received the Honored Alumni Award, the highest honor given by the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Alumni Association. The award recognizes alumni from the University’s six colleges with Kevin representing the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. He is recognized for creating democratic public space, improving the social and ecological wellbeing of our cities, and his long term contribution to the Landscape Architecture Department at Cal Poly through the Landscape Architecture Department Advisory Council.

“Landscape Architects play an important role in addressing the issues that are so critical to society and the environment. This is a recognition of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly SLO, and the important work we are all doing, and I’m honored to represent that,” said Kevin, who graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly SLO in 1988 and earned his Master in Landscape Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design.

2019 California Urban Forests Conference


CMG Landscape Designer, Kate Lenahan, traveled to San Luis Obispo September 26-28 to attend the 2019 California Urban Forests Conference. This year’s conference discussed the impacts of climate change on urban forests and the urban lumber industry–  presenting current research on climate-appropriate tree selection, urban canopy management, and wood reuse in California. As CMG works to capture more carbon, understanding what species and planting strategies will be most climate adaptive and carbon positive will be key to balancing our projects’ emissions in the future.


Day 1 of the conference focused on climate change and the urban forest, examining the effects of projected shifts in heat, drought, and accompanying pests on trees in California’s cities, as well as the communities that most need them. Presentations by Drs. Matt Ritter and Igor Lacan underscored that careful tree selection today will be critical to maintaining a healthy urban forest under increasingly stressful conditions. Lacan and McBride’s work on space-for-time substitution outlines a framework to project climate and species shifts in California cities, using the canopies of warmer cities to anticipate which common species will not tolerate future conditions.1 The loss of trees will be greatest inland, where temperatures are projected to rise more than on the coast. Planting urban forests with greater biodiversity now, argues Dr. Ritter, may protect against their decline over time. Out of 60,065 tree species in the world, only approximately 1.7% of them are selected for urban forests.2 If many of California’s common urban tree species will no longer be suitable in a warmer climate, there’s a good chance that others–represented in this uncaptured biodiversity–will be successful. “Common garden” studies through UC Davis are ongoing to test urban-appropriate trees for California’s future cities.


Day 2 focused on the urban lumber industry, picking up where Friday’s foresters left off, addressing the end of life uses of our cities’ trees. Most often, removed trees are trucked to landfills or ground for mulch. Although mulch releases some carbon to the soil, most carbon stored in mulch wood is eventually emitted back tot he atmoshere as it decomposes. Dr. Sam Sherrill explained that every year, and estimated back to the atmosphere as it decomposes. Dr. Sam Sherrill explained that every year, as estimated 3 to 4 billion board feet of wood are disposed in these ways3, representing approximately 7.1-9.5 million tons of carbon. Urban lumber offers an alternative; recycling trees as hardwood products like architectural finishes and site elements could retain a significant store of carbon, stored as long as these products exist. In 2017, buildings accounted for 44% of San Francisco’s GHG emissions, or 2.2 million tons4 (for comparison, the average car emits 5.1 tons of carbon dioxide annually). As the California urban lumber industry organizes and develops standards, it could become a powerful tool for designers of the built environment to offset construction impacts.

  1. McBride, Joe, and Lacan, Igor. “The impact of climate-change induced temperature increases on the suitability of street tree species in California (USA) cities.” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2018. 34, 348-356. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866718300013
  2. Ritter, Matt. “California Tree Selection: Factors to Consider in an Era of Climate Chaos and Decreasing Diversity.” 2019 California Urban Forests Conference, 27 Sept. 2019, Ludwick Community Center, San Luis Obispo, CA. Conference Presentation.
  3. Sherrill, Sam. “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Storage in Wood Products.” 2019 California Urban Forests Conference, 27 Sept. 2019, Ludwick Community Center, San Luis Obispo, CA. Conference Presentation.
  4. San Francisco Department of the Environment. “San Francisco’s Carbon Footprint.” Accessed 7 Oct. 2019. https://sfenvironment.org/carbonfootprint

Landscape Architects Rise to The Climate Crisis


September 30, 2019 – A month of the largest collective climate activist events in history culminates with the launch of the Climate Positive Design Challenge that enables the global landscape architecture profession to take climate action. The Challenge establishes targets for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the built environment, with a goal of going ‘beyond neutral’ – sequestering more carbon than emitted and providing a positive contribution towards reversing global warming. The Challenge is part of an initiative that includes tools landscape architects can use today.

“Landscape architecture is the only design profession that can not only reduce emissions but also increase carbon sequestration,” says Pamela Conrad, Principal of CMG Landscape Architecture and founder of the initiative. “To date, we have not had the tools, guidance, or resources to make this contribution. With these now in place, it is time that we rise to the climate crisis. It is not only an opportunity to reimagine how we design our world from every aspect, but a responsibility.”

Conrad is a 2018-2019 Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Innovation and Leadership. The Climate Positive Design initiative is the product of years of research and collaboration with Atelier Ten. Designers can meet the goals of the Challenge by logging projects into a web-based application called the Pathfinder. The app encourages design strategies that sequester more CO2 than they emit – becoming Climate Positive.

THE CHALLENGE

The Climate Positive Design Challenge provides guidance for improving the impact of site design projects on the environment.

The goal is for global landscape architecture projects to collectively sequester more carbon than emitted between now and 2030. If the targets are continuously met, the profession has the opportunity to remove one gigaton of CO2 from the atmosphere beyond project emissions by the year 2050.

The targets establish the maximum number of years it should take a project to offset carbon emissions based on CMG project case studies. A target of five years is suggested to offset carbon footprints for greener projects like parks, gardens, campuses, and mixed-use developments. For more urban projects that require a greater amount of hardscape to accommodate programming, twenty years is the targeted offset duration. The case study analysis revealed that the targets could be met without changing the program or reducing the quality – the projects merely became greener.


Initially, all who log a project in the app will be recognized as contributors on the Climate Positive Design website. Data will be collected over time to evaluate how the Challenge goals are being met, which will be reviewed by advisory partners including the LAF, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation (LACF).

THE PATHFINDER

A web-based app called the Pathfinder is a landscape carbon calculator that guides designers on the path to meeting the goals of the Challenge and becoming Climate Positive. The user is directed to input the following quantities:

  • Sources. This includes approximately eighty different types of materials used in landscape projects such as paving, walls, fences etc. and their associated ‘embodied carbon’ from extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, use/maintenance and replacement. The data is derived from the Athena Impact Estimator.
  • Sinks. Trees, plants, wetlands and certain types of meadows/lawns capture CO2 from the atmosphere and sink carbon into the soil. All data used for calculating sequestration and decomposition for trees and shrubs is obtained from the US Forest Service.
  • Costs. Carbon Costs represent emissions associated with mowing/pruning performed using machinery and fertilizer use for trees and shrubs. These emissions occur regularly over the lifespan of the project and are often referred to as ‘operational carbon’.

After the user inputs quantities, they receive a Climate Positive score that indicates how many years it will take to offset the project’s carbon footprint. To lower the score, the user receives design recommendations to reduce emissions and increase sequestration, thus offsetting their project faster and providing a positive contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas concentrations sooner. Each user has a project page where data from projects is stored and can be revisited. A scorecard is provided with project details including total carbon emitted, stored and years to offset, with a purpose of further understanding and sharing with others.

“Many of the challenges surrounding the climate crisis are around communication and education. Everyone wants to help, but they don’t quite know what to do,” Conrad states. “It is my goal to make climate smart decisions easy to do and easy to communicate. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to make a difference.”


THE INITIATIVE

The Climate Positive Design initiative is founded with a goal of empowering landscape architects, property owners, municipalities, and related disciplines to take climate action. By providing tools, guidance, and resources the initiative seeks to enable positive changes that can be made now and do not require new regulations or policies – merely activism through education. Beyond the Pathfinder, the website provides additional educational resources including a Design Toolkit and Case Studies that assist with making Climate Positive Design decisions.

“These impacts will only be possible if we all work together,” Conrad says. “That is why over the past couple of years I have been bringing everyone possible into this initiative – from organizations, to schools, to firms. We need to drop our competitive tendencies, utilize the strengths of different groups, and work together for this one cause – for the challenge of our lifetime.”

Conrad has been spreading this message around the world, from publications including Landscape-Paysages Magazine, CityLab, ASLA’s The Dirt and The Field, World Landscape Architect, Landscape + Urbanism, and Urban Choreography blogs, America Adapts podcast, universities including UC Berkeley, Cal Poly Pomona, Harvard Graduate School of Design, to speaking events for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, the World Design Summit in Montreal, Canada, IFLA World Congress in Singapore, IFLA World Council in Oslo, Norway, Rescape Sacramento and San Jose, and ASLA Conferences in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

CMG Landscape Architecture is incorporating the initiative into its practice and invites firms around the world to join them.

To learn more about Climate Positive Design go to www.ClimatePositiveDesign.com

ABOUT THE TEAM

Pamela Conrad, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP | Climate Positive Design Founder, CMG Principal and landscape architect, practicing for fifteen years on a wide range of domestic and international landscape architecture projects. Pamela’s work focuses on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

CMG Landscape Architecture | CMG is a mission-oriented urban design and landscape architecture firm working to increase social and ecological well-being through artful design, based in San Francisco, CA.

Atelier Ten | Environmental consultants providing expertise on carbon strategy and alignment with industry standards.

Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) | LAF’s mission is to support the preservation, improvement and enhancement of the environment. The initiative is an outcome of the LAF Fellowship for Leadership and Innovation. Martha Schwartz, FASLA, Hon RIBA, Hon RDI, is a member of the LAF Climate Change Task Force and is an advisor to the initiative.

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) | ASLA’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship. Vaughn Rinner, PLA, FASLA, former ASLA President, is a member of ASLA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and an advisor to the initiative.

Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) | The CSLA is an advocate for Canadian landscape architecture professionals on issues such as urban design, urban renewal, sustainable development, climate change, and cultural heritage. Colleen Mercer Clarke, APALA, CSLA, is the chair of the CSLA Committee on Climate Adaptation and an advisor to the initiative.

International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) | IFLA is an organization which represents the landscape architectural profession globally. It aims to provide leadership and networks to support the development of the profession and its effective participation in the realization of attractive, equitable and sustainable environments. Colleen Mercer Clarke is the chair of the Climate Change Working Group.

Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation (LACF) | The LACF is a national charitable organization with a primary goal of supporting the fundamental ideas expressed through the profession of landscape architecture.

PRESS COVERAGE

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