Watch the 2007 ASLA Awards Video Online

With the Call for Entries for ASLA’s 2008 Professional and Student awards released this week, are you in need of some inspiration? If so, then watch the 2007 ASLA Professional Awards videos, narrated by none other than Susan Stamberg of National Public Radio:

•    General Design
•    Residential Design
•    Analysis & Planning
•    Research
•    Communications
•    The Landmark Award

You can watch each section streaming online, or download them to enjoy later. Just a reminder: entries for the 2008 Professional Awards are due February 1, 2008, and May 9 for Student Awards. Good luck!


An ASLA Member on Serving with NATO in Kosovo, Afghanistan

Eric Wieland, ASLA,
is also known as Capt. Wieland of the National Guard, and serves as a company commander in the eastern sector of Kosovo with NATO’s 16,000 strong Kosovo Forces (KFOR). Newsweek recently interviewed Wieland and others engaged in peacekeeping in the uneasy Eastern European state. In “Kosovo: That Other NATO Mission” Wieland discusses the difference between serving in Kosovo versus Afghanistan and more. There’s nothing about bringing new landscape architecture ideas to either war-torn country, but it’s still very much a good read. With Thanksgiving just recently past and the holidays fast approaching, The Dirt salutes all the men and women serving in the Armed Forces around the world.


NY Times: In Miles of Alleys, Chicago Finds Its Next Environmental Frontier

Yesterday’s New York Times article on the Green Alley project in Chicago is fascinating. With nearly 2,000 miles of alleys in the city, Chicago is moving to porous concrete and asphalt for repaving. From the article:

In a green alley, water is allowed to penetrate the soil through the pavement itself, which consists of the relatively new but little-used technology of permeable concrete or porous asphalt. Then the water, filtered through stone beds under the permeable surface layer, recharges the underground water table instead of ending up as polluted runoff in rivers and streams.

Some of that water may even end up back in Lake Michigan, from which Chicago takes a billion gallons a year.

The Times article also discusses the other sides of the story, however, and gives evenhanded criticism of the project as well. The Dirt would like to see the city move beyond porous concrete and think about bioswales, green walls, and more. But every little step helps!

[photo courtesy Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times]

How Architects Name Themselves

This week’s architecture critic, Witold Rybczynski, Hon. ASLA, has an interesting piece on the history of naming architecture firms. The Dirt is glad that Witold mentions the most noticeable trend: the “+” replacing the ampersand “among the smart set.” If you’re just setting out with your own firm or just dreaming about it, give the whole article a read. And to add in two cents, make sure to check that the web address that matches your firm name is still available!


Download, Read and Comment on the Sustainable Sites Initiative Preliminary Report

This is a reminder that we are still in the 45-day open comment period for the Sustainable Sites Initiative preliminary report. Featuring over 200 recommendations for designing and building sustainable landscapes, the report is part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary guidelines and a rating system for sustainable landscape design. The 107-page preliminary report is available for download here and is filled with different strategies to help make sustainable choices for landscapes. So far the report has garnered strong interest and the website has seen a large bump in traffic since the report was announced. You are invited to give feedback on this report; comments are due no later than January 11, 2008. Save a tree and read the report online in pdf form!

Got a Question for the Environmental Protection Agency?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a new feature to their website: “Ask EPA” is a weekly online forum where visitors can ask EPA staff questions on topics like recycling and various EPA campaigns. The forum began this month. This Thursday, Susan Bodine, Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response at EPA, will discuss recycling and America Recycles Day from 2 pm to 3 pm ET. More information is available here.

In a previous job The Dirt was privy to some online chats at a major newspaper and would be interested to know just how unscripted these live chats are. Check the site to see transcripts of earlier chats, and let us know if they take your question!


President Clinton, Mayor Daley Team Up on Green Sears Tower, Merchandise Mart

News from the US Green Building Council’s annual conference, GreenBuild:

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the opening session and announced with Mayor Richard Daley, Hon. ASLA, that the city will be greening two of the largest buildings in downtown Chicago: the Merchandise Mart and Sears Tower. Financial and educational help will come from from Clinton’s namesake foundation. Clinton said that along with the various environmental benefits of retrofitting buildings, the attempt will also show Americans and other nations that such improvements are economically viable.

From the Journal Star:

“Owners plan to spend $50 million over the next 15 years on features in the Merchandise Mart such as insulating rooftop gardens to make the building more energy efficient, said Christopher Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties Inc.”



More information on the plan can be found here. USGBC’s GreenBuild hosted over 20,000 attendees this year. ASLA was a sector sponsor of GreenBuild and representatives from ASLA and our partners held a session on the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

NOAA Launches National Drought Portal

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched an online clearing house for information about drought conditions in the US. The site (officially named the National Integrated Drought Information System or NIDIS) provides a wealth of information about current drought conditions around the country, analyzes their impacts, and forecasts about future drought conditions. Their maps are particularly interesting, especially the drought forecast through January 2008. The site also has sections on planning, education, and drought research.


NBC’s “Green Week” Kicks Off

It looks like the folks at NBC Universal (owners of eight television channels, Universal Pictures, and more) have gotten bitten by the green bug. This week is the beginning of NBC’s  “Green is Universal” campaign, with a seven days of green-themed programming “aimed at entertaining, informing and empowering Americans to lead greener lives.” All of the major NBC programs seem to be on-board; for example, the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” has a green wedding, and the characters on “The Office” (set in a paper company) weigh the benefits and costs of using recycled paper. Even local NBC news stations are getting in on the act.

Joel Makower, who writes the excellent “Two Steps Forward” blog on sustainability, has a thoughtful piece on NBC Universal’s week:

Green Week will no doubt rankle some critics as, variously, being too commercial, not green enough, not serious enough, not entertaining enough, or whatever. Says Lauren Zalanick [president of Bravo Media, who heads NBC Universal’s Green Council]: “We’re going to be under a microscope. We’re going to plead for a lot of attention, and we’re going to get it, and we’re really going to try to do everything right. What I hope is that the shoutdown of our perceived imperfections doesn’t scare anyone else from trying to do it.”

Viewed in its entirety, NBC Universal’s approach, imperfections and all, strikes me as a substantive — and welcome — contribution from the mainstream media: a synergy of internal programs to reduce the company’s footprint and engage its employees and talent, with an external focus on the company’s massive, hydraheaded audience reach. And to do so in a wide range of styles, voices, and depth. One internal document positions the approach as “hopeful, empowering, and pragmatic, not moralistic or preachy.” Sounds about right.

Joel’s full piece is worth the read. What do you think? Is this yet another attempt at “greenwashing” by a large corporation? Is it crass and shallow? Or is it on the right track?


Feeding China’s Growing Urban Population with “Agro-Housing”

From Dwell magazine’s recently relaunched blog, here’s an idea for urban farming. An Israeli company Knafo Klimor Architects has created a plan for “agro-housing,” placing large greenhouses inside high-rise buildings.

From the company’s website:

“Advantages of this innovative building typology:

  • Produces food for tenants and the surrounding community.
  • Produces organic and healthy food that is disease and fertilizer free
  • Creates an abundance of crops for self-consumption and sale for the neighbors.
  • Requires no special skill set for greenhouse operation
  • Allows for flexibility and independence for the greenhouse working hours.
  • Creates extra income and new jobs for the inhabitants in the building.
  • Creates a sense of community and softens the crisis of migration to cities.
  • Preserves rural traditions and social order.
  • Creates sustainable housing conditions and reduces air and soil pollution.
  • Improves the building’s microclimate and reduction of its energy usage (cooling and heating) 
  • Uses water from the existing high water table and recycles grey water for gardening.”

It looks like an interesting idea, but The Dirt wonders how such a building would actually fit into an urban setting. What happens to the crops and plants inside when a taller building is constructed next door? More images and a .pdf explaining the project can be found here.