Santa Monica Offers Grants for “California-Friendly” Low Water Landscapes

In an attempt to conserve water, the city of Santa Monica, California, is offering grants up to $20,000 to individuals, property owners, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and agencies to fund “California-friendly” water-conserving landscape projects.

From the City of Santa Monica site:

Grant request designs must include water-efficient irrigation systems, plus one or more of the following features:

  • California native plants

  • Non-native water-efficient plants

  • Stormwater management systems

  • Graywater systems

  • Other innovative water-saving features in the landscape

Applicants have until the end of March to submit the forms to be considered for a city grant. The reasoning behind the low-water landscape grants? Santa Monica is attempting to cut its water use by 20 percent by 2010.

[via worldchanging; photo by Jan Tik]

Winning Team for Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square Announced

The Toronto Star (which is quickly becoming a must-read for The Dirt) has coverage this morning of the announcement of the winning design team for the revitalization of Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. And the winners are…

  • Plant Architect Inc., Toronto, with Shore Tilbe Irwin & Partners (architect, Toronto); Peter Lindsay Schaudt Landscape Architecture, Inc. (landscape architect, Chicago); Adrian Blackwell (design collaborator, Toronto); Blackwell Bowick Partnership Limited (structural engineer, Toronto); and Crossey Engineering Ltd. (mechanical and electrical engineers, Toronto

The design of the square also makes strides toward sustainability. From the article:

[Andrew Frontini, a member of the winning team]  said he hopes the environmental sensitivity of the design will be “a banner to the city of Toronto and a statement that says: `We are a city that supports sustainability.'”

The Dirt looks forward to the groundbreaking ceremony–though it will have to wait until the city can come up with an additional $26 mil to pay for the project! Here’s hoping the fabled money truck pulls up to city hall soon.


New Report Outlines Strategy to Combat Invasive Species

The Nature Conservancy has a new report on the threats to biodiversity posed by invasive, non-native insects and pathogens. The 20-page report looks the current laws and regulations protecting U.S. forests and finds them lacking, particularly the “outdated” guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

From the report:

About 2.5 billion live plants are imported into the country each year, and many arrive with unintended hitchhikers. Plants, cuttings and seeds, imported by nurseries for sale to the public, have repeatedly served as a pathway for devastating pests to reach U.S. forests.

Of the 25 most damaging forest pests introduced since the mid-1800s, 18 are believed to have arrived on nursery stock — including sudden oak death, the citrus longhorned beetle, chestnut blight and the cycad blue butterfly.

The entire report, titled “An Ounce of Prevention,” is available today online [pdf link].


Reconnecting Children to the Outdoors

Richard Louv, writer, reporter, and the chairman of the Children & Nature Network, has a long (4000+ word) but fascinating piece in the March/April issue of Orion magazine on the importance of reconnecting children to nature. His thoughts on “nature deficit disorder” have been getting a lot of play in the green blogs, too.

Why are children not playing outside any more? From the article:

Urban, suburban, and even rural parents cite a number of everyday reasons why their children spend less time in nature than they themselves did, including disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures. Most of all, parents cite fear of stranger-danger. Conditioned by round-the-clock news coverage, they believe in an epidemic of abductions by strangers, despite evidence that the number of child-snatchings (about a hundred a year) has remained roughly the same for two decades, and that the rates of violent crimes against young people have fallen to well below 1975 levels.

The whole piece is definitely worth the read.

A Blog Fight About Global Warming at AIA

Talking about global warming and climate change can stir up strong debate. People want to shout about it: whether or not it’s happening, who or what causes it, and what we can or should do about it. The Dirt believes that the scientific community has spoken loud and clear on the subject.

Ed Mazria, AIA, founder of the Architecture 2030 project, has a post over at the AIA’s blog, Archiblog, where he discusses his view that climate change is real and a very serious risk to us all. His piece, “The Carriage Turns into a Pumpkin at 2° C!” has garnered some strong comments from readers and AIA members.

For example:
“…This whole Global Warming thing is a giant hoax!”

 “…I believe in ‘green’ design because I have a reverential respect for nature…not at the suggestion of Al Gore!”


“…the 2030 Challenge, and the big 2010 Imparative [sic]: Global Emergency Teach-In are the most relevant efforts that I have seen from AIA in many years. We have fiddled far too long as Rome burns.”

The Dirt feels compelled to mention that this discussion has also managed to follow Godwin’s Law by the eighth comment.

So what do you think? Is global warming a crisis du jour? Is it our fault? Is it too late? And, perhaps most important, are people too concerned with talking about global warming?

Price Tag for O.C.’s Great Park Passes $1 Billion

The LA Times reports today that Orange County’s new Great Park will now cost over $1 billion to complete. The park, designed by Ken Smith, ASLA, will be over 1,300 acres when finished. The good news? No new taxes. From the article:

Money for the work is expected to come from fees and taxes from the housing that will be built on the edges of the park.

“That means no new taxes for the citizens of Irvine,” said Michael Pinto, a park board member.

The core of the new park will be built on the decommissioned El Toro Marine base, which was closed in 1999. Visit the official Great Park site for more information on the project.

Watch the Webcast of the 2010 Imperative’s Teach-In

Last month the 2010 Imperative held a “Global Emergency Teach-In” on ways to combat global warming through decreasing carbon emissions. The Teach-In featured these speakers:

Dr. James E. Hansen: the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

Edward Mazria, AIA: founder of Architecture 2030.

Chris Luebkeman, AIA: Director and leader of Arup’s global Foresight and Innovation initiative.

Susan Szenasy: editor-in-chief of Metropolis magazine.

If you missed the Teach-In, worry not. The 2010 Imperative has a great archive of the entire event, including the video of the speeches, .pdfs of the presentations and handouts, and more.

Where to Put the Kids? Prefab Classrooms Go Green

Once upon a time this Dirter was a high school teacher who spent most of his days in a double-wide trailer classroom parked behind the gym on a slapdash concrete pad. The trailer (known officially as either a “mobile classroom” or even a “learning cottage”!) was drab, dark, cold in the winter, and hot in the spring and fall. To get to class, students had to walk a circuitous path around the school’s HVAC systems and loading dock. The classroom wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t help to create what’s called in the business a “positive learning environment.”

These types of temporary classrooms are both all too common and all too permanent a fixture of overburdened school systems across the country. So what to do with these apparently necessary evils blighting school and college campuses? Project Frog is offering what might be a better mousetrap. Its light-filled, low site-impact, and low-VOC prefab classrooms are customizable, scalable, and can even be combined to make larger learning spaces.

An important question for LAs working on school, college, and university planning is how to compensate for the need for mobile classrooms. Will school populations continue to grow? What’s the long-term strategy for housing students? Or should school and campus design as a whole be reanalyzed ?