Sustainability on the Sly
Landscape Architect Project Coordinator | Omaha, NE, USAWhen asked to contribute to BLINK, I struggled to decide what to write about. It was a hard decision, but I did some deep thinking, went out and hugged my favorite tree, and came to a conclusion: Sustainability on the Sly.
When I graduated from the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Architecture program, I came out singing the praises of sustainability and how I couldn’t wait to implement its practices. My first real life project started with a lot of sustainable design aspects, but then I came to experience what is known as value engineering. Unlike graduate school, money (shockingly) matters and sustainability apparently is expensive! In the “blink” of an eye (ha!), a lot of the sustainable design aspects of my project were gone.
While on the surface sustainability seemed to be disappearing, I started to notice something amazing. Sustainable design practices were being added back in disguise. The design team for the Institute for the Culinary Arts building at Omaha Metropolitan Community College took advantage of such an opportunity. An area of the school's parking lot was so flat it was almost impossible to drain to the conventional storm sewer system. Instead of devising a series of complicated pipes, the team investigated pervious concrete. Not only would it drain stormwater directly through it, but it also cleans out any grime or chemicals that the water may have picked up from the parking lot. Two years later, Metro Community College is proud to say they have the largest pour of pervious concrete in Nebraska, and it’s working beautifully!
Another example is seen at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The owner’s representative was worried about those crazy college kids jaywalking across a very busy street (hard to believe, but I do hear it happens). The area between the sidewalk and the street was planned to be sod, but we were asked to find something more deterrent. After some research, we found some beautiful shrubs that, although they had no spikes, would keep people from wanting to walk through them. The best part? They are natives and will require less water than non-native shrubs and much less water than sod!
As I adjusted to the realities that exist outside graduate school, I have learned not to lose my enthusiasm for sustainability. If a door closes, look for the energy-efficient doggy door that lets the dog in but also keeps cold air out.