Demonstrating the Value of Sustainable Landscapes

By Barbara Deutsch

Rooftops, streetscapes, and city parks offer indispensable recreation opportunities for urban residents. They also provide a host of other benefits such as mitigating the urban heat island effect, managing stormwater runoff, stimulating economic development, and – most importantly – contributing to public health and well-being. Yet investment in landscape elements is often cut from city and project budgets.

Addressing this concern, Landscape Performance is rapidly emerging as a vital way to articulate the value of designed landscapes, and to provide reliable evidence to support design, investment, and maintenance decisions.

The Landscape Architecture Foundation’s (LAF) Landscape Performance Series is an online portal and set of initiatives to help designers, agencies, and advocates evaluate performance, share best practices, and make the case for sustainable landscapes. By compiling evidence-based benefits and making them understandable and accessible to key decision-makers, the Landscape Performance Series is bridging the knowledge gap about the importance of our outdoor environments.

The centerpiece is the award-winning LandscapePerformance.org website, with over 100 sustainable landscape case studies and other resources, including:

Case Study Briefs – Database of exemplary built landscape projects with quantified environmental, economic, and social benefits
Fast Fact Library – Short summaries of the benefits of landscape derived from published research
Benefits Toolkit – Compilation of online calculators and tools to estimate landscape performance

These resources can be explored and searched by comprehensive data fields: Landscape Performance Benefit (e.g. flood protection, educational value, job creation), Feature (e.g. green roof, onsite energy generation, trail), and Tag (e.g. resilience, active living, learning landscapes). The Case Study Briefs can also be filtered by project type, size, location, budget, and climate zone.

The Case Study Briefs include celebrated city parks like Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park and Chicago’s Millenium Park, as well as lesser-known gems such as Seattle’s Magnuson Park, Chattanooga’s Renaissance Park, and Normal Circle and Streetscape in Illinois. The library of over 100 case studies covers a wide range of project typologies, scales, and geographic locations. They are produced by LAF, working in conjunction with designers and academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. Each case study includes a variety of environmental, social, and economic benefits along with a Methods document explaining how the benefits were determined.

The Landscapeperformance.org/fast-fact-library has some 120 summaries of benefits of landscapes from published research. These are an essential resource to highlight the value of parks to key decision-makers. The Landscapeperformance.org/benefits-toolkit contains 23 online tools and calculators to estimate performance of existing or proposed projects. The website also features Online Trainings, Resources for Educators with university teaching materials, and a soon-to-be-released Guide to Evaluate Performance with over 100 metrics and assessment considerations.

LandscapePerformance.org is an unparalleled resource and vehicle for research, information-sharing and dialogue; it is sure to become your go-to place to find design precedents, show value, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions. I look forward to sharing more about it with you in September!

About the Author
Barbara Deutsch is the CEO of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), a national non-profit founded in 1966 to support the preservation, improvement and enhancement of the environment. She will present a free lecture that is open to the public on September 12, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 pm at Alberici.
Register at usgbc-mogateway.org/events/