Pack Your Bags for “Frozen Dead Guy Days”

The town of Nederland, Colorado (population 1,337), will be holding its annual “Frozen Dead Guy Days” March 7-9, 2008. So why would you care? Excellent question. It turns out that the eponymous Frozen Dead Guy is Norwegian landscape architect Bredo Morstøl. “Grandpa Bredo” served as the director of Parks and Recreation in Baerum County, Norway for over 30 years. After his death at the age of 89 in 1989, his body was cryogenically frozen in the hopes of eventual reanimation and was moved to a shed above the town of Nederland. Grandpa Bredo has run afoul of the law since his death, and the local controversy about his “temporary resting place” has made him, in the words of the official Frozen Dead Guy website “…to be more famous dead than most of us ever are alive.” So the town celebrates each March with dances, an eating contest, a “coffin race,” a “Grandpa-Look-Alike” contest, and more. Check out the site’s FAQs and let us know if you’ll be attending this year’s festivities.

AIA’s Latest Economic Survey Now Online

Our friends at AIArchitect, the news publication of the AIA, have released their findings of their latest economic survey. The news? In the face of a troubled US economy and with factors like $100 barrels of oil and lowering consumer confidence clouding the horizon, it is difficult to imagine that the growth in construction that firms have enjoyed in the past six years will continue unabated. However, the survey notes that the industry is entering 2008 with “a lot of momentum.”

Here’s the key, hopeful point:

While most design firms are likely to face a slowdown over the 2008-2009 period, it is unlikely to turn into a full-fledged downturn like the profession faced in the early 1990s, or even like the downturn earlier this decade.

Read the whole informative article here.

NY Times: A Landscape in Winter, Dying Heroically

“It’s not about life or death,” says well-known Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. “It’s about looking good.” What’s he talking about? Gardens in winter, of course. The New York Times recently interviewed Oudolf about his thought-provoking ideas on looks good in a garden year-round. His “New Wave Planting” style has many fans around the world. And how’s this for a quote about his work? “‘He’s gotten away from the soft pornography of the flower,’ said Charles Waldheim, the director of the landscape architecture program at the University of Toronto.” Wow.

Oudolf’s work appears in the Millennium Park in Chicago and will also be part of the new High Line in New York City. Jim Corner, ASLA, and others are interviewed about Oudolf’s work as well. Give it a read here.

[Photo courtesy NYT]

Your Dog Wants a Green Roof?

From the Style Saves the World blog, here’s a company called Sustainable Pet Design that makes dog houses with green roofs. Their custom-built “Dog Dens” are constructed of zero-VOC wood, treated with beeswax water-proofing, and the plants used on each roof are tailored to be native to the customer’s bioregion. The dens are cute, but they are not cheap! Check the catalog to scope out the prices; has your dog been extra good to you lately?

“Green the Capitol” Plus Six Months

Back in March 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the U.S. House of Representatives’ Chief Administrative Officer to determine ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. Capitol Complex. Administrator Dan Beard did just that, working with ASLA and other experts to identify tangible steps to make the Capitol Complex more energy efficient and sustainable.

The June 2007 Green the Capitol report created a far-reaching plan that included energy and water conservation, maximizing renewable energy sources, and adopting sustainable practices for the site and landscape. Six months later, many changes have already been made and more are underway.

Accomplishments include: 

  • Purchase of renewable wind power;
  • A redesign of the lighting of the Capitol Dome with energy efficient lighting;
  • Replaced all plates, cups, utensils, takeout containers with 100 percent compostable items;
  • Established agreement with Department of Agriculture to compost food service waste, ultimately reducing waste stream by over 50 percent;
  • Ensured House food offerings are organic and locally grown within a 150 mile radius whenever possible; and
  • Established incentives for employee use of transit.

Read the full six-month progress report.


Could “Shiny Crops” Cool the Planet?

At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last month, a group of experts from the University of California, Irvine, put forth an idea to reduce the planet’s albedo (the amount of sunlight that the surface absorbs): plant millions of “shiny plants” around the world. The leaves of these reflective plants “could send more of the sun’s heat back into space, and even reverse temperature rises in parts of the world. Encouraging farmers to grow shinier crops could reduce maximum daytime temperatures in agricultural regions by as much as 1.9C….Plant breeders have already created an extra-hairy variety of soya bean to fight pests, which reflects about 5% more sunlight than normal, they said.” The UK’s Guardian article is available here.

At this same meeting other experts suggested a series of terraforming and geoengineering plans to cool the planet, from seeding the oceans with iron to increase plankton growth to vast orbiting reflectors and sunshades.

Slate: How Can My Trees Save the World?

From the “what’s on the client’s mind?” file: this week a writer for answers this question about trees and carbon sequestration:

My husband and I intend to plant some trees on our property this spring. We’d like to do our part in the fight against climate change, so we’re looking for trees that can sequester exceptionally large amounts of carbon. Can you recommend a specific species, one that’s the acknowledged champ at reducing greenhouse gases?”

The whole answer is an interesting read, although the writer is not an expert in the field by any means. Sound off, Dirt readers: have your clients been asking for more sustainable landscapes? What are they looking for these days? Let us know in the comments.

Green Walls: The Green Roofs of 2008?

This rather stunning green wall building in Seoul, South Korea, has been making the rounds of the sustainability blogs today; it houses a Belgian fashion designer’s shop along with a restaurant and other smaller shops. Green walls, in the form of replaceable tiles, are covered in Pachysandra terminalis, a herbaceous perennial evergreen groundcover, and cover both the exterior as well as interior walls. Check out the Mass Studies Architects’ site for 35 images of the building and dream of the day when all buildings can look like this one.

[via inhabitat]

New Jersey Quantifies the Value of Undeveloped Land

Yesterday afternoon’s “Marketplace” radio program covered an interesting (if academic) attempt by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to determine the value of the state’s undeveloped land. Their answer? “At least $26 billion a year worth of goods and services. And that $26 billion a year is worth about $850 billion in present value terms.” Some of the benefits quantified include storm protection, soil-erosion prevention, minerals and agricultural products, and wastewater treatment.

This is an example of what’s being called the “green infrastructure” approach; what does undeveloped land do for surrounding development, cities, and suburbs? What are the true costs of development? New Jersey hopes that by putting a dollar value on undeveloped land, developers, environmentalists, and others can make better land-use decisions.

Read the transcript and visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for more information about the state’s conservation programs.

A Whole Kansas Town Is Going LEED

Mark this up to the popularity of sustainability; the tornado-damaged town of Greensburg, Kansas, has announced last month that the City Council has adopted a resolution that all city buildings greater than 4,000 square feet must be certified LEED Platinum. These buildings will also be required to reduce energy use by 42 percent over current building code requirements.

From the press release:

“Following the Council’s historic vote, City Administrator Steve Hewitt said, “I am so excited about being the first city in the U.S. to adopt this system for a town. I am ecstatic about this commitment and what it is telling the world about our town’s character and where we are headed.”
Mayor John Janssen said, “This is just another important step in our recovery and our intentions to come back as one of the greenest towns in America.””

Greensburg is the first city in the country to pass such a resolution.