Planning Sustainable Communities: “It’s More than Being Green”

The focus of this year’s American Planning Association AICP National Symposium, held at the National Building Museum, was planning sustainable communities. Beth Osborne, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Shelley Poticha, Senior Advisor for Sustainable Communities, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), two key policymakers involved in the new federal partnership on livable communities, gave presentations on federal developments. Tim Brennan, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), and Joseph Schilling, Professor at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria Center, and head of the Metropolitan Institute’s Green Region’s Initiative, also spoke about regional and local sustainable planning initiatives. In introducing the sessions, Paul Farmer, CEO of the APA asked: “How do we operationalize sustainable communities?” Jason Jordan, APA’s head of policy and government affairs, said “sustainability isn’t just about environmental sustainability. We have to look at the triple bottom line. Sustainability is about economic competitiveness and resilient communities as well.” One goal of the session was to examine how planning is critical to sustainable community development.

Beth Osborne, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Transportation Policy, DOT: Sustainable transportation is about having “multiple convenient transportation options.” Osborne said a number of people have defined “livable or sustainable communities” differently, but she prefers this definition: “it means being able to walk from your house to get a slice of pizza.” Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary, has defined a livable community as a place where “you don’t have to use a car if you don’t want to.”

Osborne rhetorically asked “Why is the federal government involved in planning livable communities?” The reason: transportation costs are lower in walkable communities. As an example, she noted that Washington, D.C. has shed 4,000 cars in the past year. Money spent on cars now goes into the D.C. local economy. Increasing walking and biking access also improves communities’ economic resiliency. “Some communities must use their cars and are therefore vulnerable if gas prices increase or the economy falters.”

Osborne noted that car-dependent communities also have a 40 percent higher overall CO2 footprint. Planning must play a role because CAFE standards won’t reduce emissions alone. As an example, Osborne cited Salt Lake City, which is focusing development in built-up areas, and has saved $4.5 billion in avoided transportation infrastructure costs as a result. More high-density communities are needed. “30 percent of the population wants to live in high-density communities, but only 2 percent of U.S. communities are like this. As a result, these areas are expensive to live in.”

Shelley Poticha, Senior Advisor for Sustainable Housing and Communities, HUD: Poticha said regions are now the economic engines of the U.S. “Regions need to be strong, viable, and innovative. Other countries already recognize this. The U.S. is behind on this.” Outlining the new HUD-EPA-DOT partnership on livable communities (see earlier post), Poticha said it’s the result of “inter-disciplinary thinking.” The agencies are now collaborating on funding decisions, and all review discretionary spending on the TIGER grant program (see ASLA’s guide to economic stimulus opportunities) and smart growth discretionary spending programs.

“The goal is to embed sustainable ideas into communities,” Poticha argued. To that end, the partnership is created a set of performance measures, including an affordability index, which will be the first to combine housing and transportation costs and give a true picture of the cost of living and working in an area.

The heads of EPA, HUD, and DOT recently went on a tour of sustainable community best practices, viewing projects in Chicago, Denver, and Dubuque.

Tim Brennan, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), Central Massachusetts: Brennan argued that the “region, not the state or city, is now the important piece of geography. The region is the city of the past.” Massachusetts has 13 regional planning agencies. Brennan’s area is the size of Rhode Island and covers older urban towns, universities, and contains mostly small business. To turn his sustainable comprehensive planning into reality, Brennan asked all local elected officials in his region to sign an “intergovernmental compact,” committing themselves to the sustainable development plan his team put together through extensive collaboration with local organizations. “A collaborative planning approach is needed to get a plan implemented.” Read PVPC’s plans.

His region’s goals are to reduce C02 emissions, replace outdated energy infrastructure, clean-up brownfield sites, and connect environmental reforms to economic development. “The region doesn’t have good data on C02 emissions, but we set targets.” The biggest challenge, Brennan contends, is transportation-related emissions. “We must end car addiction. Transportation is more about land use than transportation. People need to move closer to where they work.” According to Brennan, the next challenge is to create 22nd century plans that connect “the economy, environment, transportation, and energy.”

Joseph Schilling, Research Professor, Virgina Tech’s Alexandria Center, and Metropolitan Institute’s Green Regions Initiative: Schilling outlined aspects of the eco-Alexandria initiative, an effort to make one of the oldest communities in the U.S. more sustainable through planning. Schilling brought in students from his program and conducted public reviews as part of a comprehensive eco-city planning process. Key eco-city players included the mayor and city council, environmental policy commission, office of environmental quality, and a local environmental planning group. Read more on the Eco-Alexandria plan.

Image credit: A Civic Vision and Action Plan for the Central Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA. Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC, Philadelphia, PA

The Garden That Climbs Stairs

Now famous for its Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim building, Bilbao continues to come up with unique ideas to revitalize its city center through urban design. According to Metropolis POV, the city commissioned a master plan seven years ago for the Abandoibarra area in the city’s downtown. Bilbao then sponsored BilbaoJardín 2007, “a contest that solicited designs for garden plots of up to 80 square meters (about 860 square feet), to be built on scattered sites throughout the city.” The first competition received some 132 proposals and a total of 27 projects were built. The design competitition was renewed in 2009.

For 2009, Balmori Associates, a firm that worked on the downtown master plan, submitted a park, The Garden That Climbs Stairs. “Sited between two Arata Isozaki towers, the miniature urban park is an arresting combination of native and exotic plants sidling up the steps leading to Santiago Calatrava’s Nervion River Footbridge. (Seen from above, it kind of looks like a cross between The Blob and the High Line.)”

Read the article and view the 31 other winning projects at BilbaoJardín 2009.

Image credit: Metropolis POV. Iwan Baan/courtesy Balmori Associates

Interview with Sadhu Johnston, Chicago’s Chief Environment Officer, on the City’s Climate Action Plan

Sadhu Johnston, Chief Environment Officer, Chicago city government, discusses Chicago’s forward-thinking and comprehensive climate action plan at its one-year anniversary. Johnston outlines progress in key areas, including green roof and stormwater management infrastructure, building energy efficiency (including new rules on reflective roofs), renewable energy, and sustainable transportation systems.

Chicago’s many city agencies has spent the past year turning the broader climate action plan into specific implementation plans. While this intra-government process continues, Johnston says the city has already exceeded benchmarks in some key areas. As an example, Johnston contends Chicago has dramatically expanded its rooftop green infrastructure — there is now seven million square feet of green roof. “We already have over seven million square feet of green roofs underway in the city of Chicago. That’s way ahead of where we thought we would be at this point.”

To further spur development of the city’s green roofs, Chicago is tying them in with sustainable stormwater management plans. “We couldn’t give credit to a new development for installing a green roof until we passed our storm water ordinance a couple of years ago. Now, every new development is required to calculate stormwater runoff and figure out how they can keep at least a half-inch of that first rain onsite for utilization and bioswales, green roofs, or other green infrastructure, like permeable pavements. Green roofs can play a significant role in stormwater plans for each site.”

On building energy efficiency, the city has made progress in a variety of ways. “We’ve exceeded the number of residential retrofits that we expected to retrofit this year. Through the Green Office Challenge, we had more people, more high-rise buildings, join us than we expected.” Additionally, Chicago recently updated its city-wide building codes, which now includes “unique features” such as cool or reflective roof rules. “One of the accomplishments we achieved early on in the plan was passing a new energy code. We passed the IECC 2006 code, which was the newest code at the time. There were a couple of unique elements. The first was a new reflective roofing component. We were one of the first to amend the code to require a higher reflectivity on roofing surfaces to address the urban heat island effect.”

Chicago sees remaining urban brownfields as a key opportunities for expanding renewable energy capacity and is actively partnering with the private sector to find solutions. “We worked with Exelon to develop the world’s largest municipal solar installation. It’s a 40-acre brownfield site that’s been vacant for 30 years. We’re using the opportunity to put a ten-megawatt solar installation on the site, and bring it back to productive use without having to spend the 30 million dollars to clean it up. This allows us to park that site for about 25 years with solar installation while, hopefully, the rest of the area redevelops, allowing us to then clean up that site. There’s an example of something that just fell out of the sky. We were just at the right place, the right time, the right partnership.”

To further improve on the walking and biking transportation networks in the city, Chicago launched the Chicago 2015 bike plan, which fits in with the greater climate action and transit-oriented development (TOD) plans. Johnston says: “I’ve been Chair of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, which involves working with 40-50 different non-profits and for-profits in town to ensure that we’re implementing the plan effectively. There’s a lot happening on biking. The part that really complements the climate action plan is the TOD component, which ensures that new developments tie into existing infrastructure seamlessly and support that infrastructure.” The involvment with community organizations has paid off: “We’ve added a lot of additional bike lanes and now have over 12,000 bike racks in the city. We’re working on a second bike commuter station because the first one has been just so successful.” 

Read the full interview

Image credit: The Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd, Seattle, Washington

A New Response to Climate Change: Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

Barbara Boxer, Senator from California and chair of the Senate committee on the environment and public works, kicked off three days of hearings on the latest version of the Kerry-Boxer climate change legislation. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and E.P.A. Administrator Lisa Jackson all spoke to the committee about their organizations’ plans for mitigating C02 emissions and adapting the U.S. to climate change. Salazar called for expanded landscape conservation cooperatives, which can protect critical carbon sinks and wildlife habitats. Salazar said landscape conservation cooperatives can serve as both wildlife migration corridors and a major part of a U.S. C02 bio-sequestration strategy. While preventing deforestation in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia was crucial, the U.S. “also needs to focus on reforestation,” argues Salazar. U.S. lands are the key sources for biosequestration and geological sequestration of C02.

To support renewable energy production, the interior department has set aside 1,000 square miles of federal land for solar use. Solar installations on federal land could generate 100,000 megawatts of solar power. Hydropower, geothermal energy, and off-shore wind are other key renewable energy sources Salazar wants to promote.

In his remarks to the committee, Chu added that while moving quickly on climate change is critical to avoiding disaster, creating global and U.S. renewable industries also presents huge opportunities for U.S. firms. “Which countries are going to manufacture and export renewable energy technology? Which are going to be dependent on other countries for their solar panels and wind turbines?” Citing Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures, Chu argued that the combined global wind and solar markets will become multi-trillion markets within a few decades. “U.S. policy decisions now affect the size of the U.S. share of these future markets.” Chu added that China has already decided to aggressively target renewable energy markets and is now investing $9 billion per month in solar and other technologies. “The U.S. has already fall far behind. We are now producing just seven percent of the world’s solar panels.” 

Multiple speakers urged comprehensive and rapid action. Senator Kerry argued that science is “screaming at us to take action,” and a “voluntary approach won’t work.” Oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and scientific studies foresee no sea ice in the Artic in summer by 2013. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland noted that there are already climate refugees in Maryland. Steven Chu quoted M.I.T. researchers: “There is a 17 percent change that there will be a 11 degree Fahrenheit increase by mid-century,” arguing that a 11 degree decrease in temperature would lead to a new ice age, so a 11 degree increase could lead to “unknown effects.”  

However, not all senators were convinced. Senator James Inhofe, ranking minority member of the committee, wondered about the costs of the bill in terms of jobs and economic growth. Other minority members complained about the fast pace of the legislative review, and argued for more detailed economic analyses of the impact of the legislation from the E.P.A.. Senator Voinovich asked: “Why try to jam the bill through?” Voinovich also wanted more economic analysis done on the cost of wind power versus nuclear power installations, arguing that nuclear power was more cost-effective given the high cost of creating transmission lines to bring wind power to cities. Other senators also called for a greater role for nuclear power in the legislation, saying that “100 new nuclear power plants would be cheaper.”

Senator Boxer and Kerry focused on the cost of the legislation per household, and argued the bill would create new green jobs. Boxer said that the new Senate climate change legislation would cost 30 cents per day per household. Senator Kerry said the bill would create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs that can’t be exported and pointed to a chart showing state-by-state net job increases. “Energy produced in the U.S. equals jobs.” Kerry added that the information technology economy was $1 trillion; a new clean energy economy could be $6 trillion. “We will create 5-10 Google equivalents.”

Kerry noted that six more Senate committees will review the climate change legislation with expected mark-ups and votes on November 3.

The White House also contributed to the push for climate change legislation as well. President Obama toured a solar installation and also spoke on renewable energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last week.

Watch the next two days of hearing at C-SPAN.

Image credit: Brays Bayou Greenway Framework, Houston, TX. SWA Group, Houston, Texas

Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, Dies at 93

Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, passed away at the age of 93. His six-decade career encompassed such prominent works as the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C.; Freeway Park in Seattle, Ghirardelli Square, Levi’s Plaza and the United Nation’s Plaza in San Francisco; among many others. In comments to The San Francisco Chronicle, Charles Birmbaum, FASLA, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, said: “He was the single most influential landscape architect of the postwar years. He redefined the profession’s role in cities.”

A Fellow of ASLA, Halprin also received the ASLA Medal in 1978 and the ASLA Design Medal in 2003. Among his many other accolades includes the 2002 National Medal of the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for an artist. At the 2007 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, the closing general session featured a Q&A session with Halprin and Charles Birnbaum. Listen to the 30-minute podcast.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s appreciation and view photos of Halprin’s work. Also, read an obituary in The New York Times.

Additional information about his work can be found at this biography at The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Image credit: Eric Luse / The San Francisco Chronicle

Design It: Shelter Competition Winner Facilitates Immersion in Nature

The Guggenheim Museum and Google SketchUp announced the winners of their Shelter It design competition. Amateurs and designers were invited to submit 3-D shelter concepts created using Google SketchUp and Google Earth. Almost 600 entries were received from 68 countries. David Mares of Setúbal, Portugal won the People’s Prize for Cork Block Shelter (CBS). David Eltang, Aarhus, Denmark, won the juried prize for his design, SeaShelter!

SeaShelter is positioned along the coastline of Denmark’s Wadden Sea, an area known for attracting beach hikers. The design offers an observation and resting platform for hikers to “experience the seabed during shifting tides.” The shelter can be configured for viewing habitat at high tide as well. The shelter also offers habitat for local birds and seals.

According to juror David van der Leer, Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Guggenheim, “SeaShelter creates an opportunity to experience full high tide and interact with the environment in dramatic ways. Providing a refuge for passersby and wildlife alike, the shelter invites narrative and possesses a welcoming quality that the jury viewed as reflective of the spirit of the Design It competition.”

The design competition was launched as part of the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward and Learning By Doing exhibits.

View the SeaShelter project and watch a video on the competition.

Also, check out a review of the new book “Google SketchUp for Site Design.”

Image credit: Guggenheim Museum, Design It Competition. SeaShelter, David Eltang, Aarhus, Denmark.

How High Speed Rail Can Spread Across the U.S.

The U.S. High Speed Rail Assocation, a new group formed to advocate for high speed rail, organized a conference in D.C. attended by Congressional representatives, smart growth advocates, and Governor Ed Rendell from Pennsylvania, a leading high speed rail proponent. Rendell argues that a nation-wide high speed rail network is critical and called for a “dedicated federal government capital budget” to fund the program. “We have just been nibbling at infrastructure,” Rendell argued. Rendell sees a dedicated “infrastructure bank,” which would “take the politics out of transportation decisions,” funneling funds to high speed rail, transportation rehabilitation, and transportation improvement projects.  Rendell noted that the American Society of Civil Engineers said the U.S. needs to invest $2.2 trillion to ensure the country’s future competitiveness.

In addition to strengthening the U.S. competitive position, Rendell argues that high speed rail would help restore the U.S. construction and manufacturing base, and “bring millions or tens of millions of jobs and new factories.” Rendell compared current opposition to a country-wide high speed rail network to the early opposition against the Erie Canal. He noted that the $9 billion investment (if calculated at today’s rate) in the Erie Canal was repaid within nine years, and the investment helped revolutionize the U.S. economy. 

In terms of high speed rail networks, the U.S. is falling even further behind other developed countries. Japan’s already advanced network will add 16,000 miles of high speed rail line by 2020. Spain is spending $100 billion on another 6,000 miles. While the U.S. spends 2.5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure, Spain is spending up to 10 percent. The U.S. has spent $1.3 trillion on highways, but only $53 billion on passenger rail.

While the Obama administration has put $8 billion in recovery funds and $5 billion of the budget towards high speed rail, this will really only help in planning and making relatively minor improvements to existing networks. Rendell fears much of the funds have already gone to mid-speed rail. California alone requires $45 billion for their high speed corridor plans, which would run from the northern to the southern part of the state.

Rendell sees a new high speed rail line between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, one of the most congested transit routes in the country. Additionally, he wants the northeast corridor Acela line to become truly high-speed. “The Acela trip between D.C. and New York City could be 1 hour and 35 minutes with infrastructure updgrades.” Overall, a nation-wide network would cost hundreds of billions, but is needed to replace relieve pressure off of highway infrastructure and crowded flight corridors. There are also environmental and health benefits. “High speed rail can take cars off the road.”

Other conference speakers made additional arguments for high speed rail in the U.S.:

Congressman Jim Costa, 20th District, California: California voters recently voted “yes” to a plan and $9 billion in state funds to create a linear, north-south corridor in California. The planned 700-mile system would “connect 80 percent of the population, while creating 300,000 new jobs,” Costa argues. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel in the U.S. We can plug in 3rd, 4th generation technologies from Japan and Europe.” Also, public private partnerships will be key to making the system work giving the costs involved. California is ready to move forward if there is federal support.

In discussing the results of a California commission on high speed rail, Costa noted that distances of between 100 and 400 miles were best suited for high speed rail.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, 30th District, Texas: Johnson said U.S. Southwest Airlines helped nix high speed rail in Texas a few years ago, and from this experience they learned “we need to start a grassroots public education campaign.” Johnson says a disproportionate amount of money has been given to highways. Current cargo traffic between Mexico and Texas has “torn up the roads,” and road repairs remain costly. Instead, Johnson thinks freight should move on high speed rail lines between the two countries.

Anthony Perl, Ph.D, Simon Fraser University: While the world isn’t reaching peak oil yet, Perl argues, the remaining oil will be much harder and more expensive to access. “If we are also serious about climate mitigation, we will need to add carbon capture and sequestration systems into existing oil and coal plants, which will raise the cost of extraction by 1/3.” Comparing people to pandas, Perl said both rely on one just one food source (in the case of pandas, bamboo; in the case of people, fossil fuels) which makes for a vulnerable future. “We need to differentiate our energy sources.” Perl sees a post-carbon intercity passenger rail system run on electricty. The cost of high speed rail will come down once China starts manufacturing high speed rail, Perl believes. China is aiming to produce 1,000 train sets in the next few years.

William Schroeer, State Policy Director, Smart Growth America:  “It’s about place,” Schroeer argues. High speed rail stations must support places, smart land use, and communities. As an example, Schroeer highlighted the station in Cologne, Germany, which is a destination within the community and is well-integrated into a town square. Rail riders can also rent bikes upon leaving the station, removing the need for car transport. In many countries, well-designed, integrated high speed rail stations have made adjacent land more valuable. “People will pay for accessibility.” Additionally, population growth occurs around these transportation access points. “People want to  live near accessibility.”

The U.S. High Speed Rail Assocation advocates for a 17,000 mile network across the U.S., which would include dedicated high speed track, multi-modal stations, and feeder rails. By 2015, they want to see the current U.S. high speed transportation plans in place; by 2030, a complete national system. A U.S. system would include electric high speed trains, mid-speed regional trains, and local light rail or trams. The anticipated cost of the whole system is $ 600 billion, or $30 billion per year over 20 years. Transit-oriented development around new lines and stations is also key to making high speed work. The organization notes that Spain has recently spent $340 billion, China has invested $300 billion, and developing countries, including Morocco, Brazil, and others, are also investing.

Image credit: Proposed California high speed rail station. U.S. High Speed Rail Association

Does Looking at Nature Make People Nicer?

A new study from the University of Rochester published in Personality and Social Psychology argues that paying attention to the natural world makes people feel better and also makes them behave better. Richard Ryan, an author of the study, says that viewing nature can not only have personal health benefits, but also broader social benefits. The University of Rochester writes that 370 test subjects exposed to natural as opposed to man-made environments led people to “value community and close relationships and to be more generous with money.” 

Lead author Netta Weinstein argues that the research findings illustrate the value of green space in cities. “Incorporating parks and other representations of nature into urban environments may help build a stronger sense of community among residents.  To the extent that our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.” The University of Rochester says the lack of green space in cities may explain higher levels of personal reservation, indifference, and estrangement in urban dwellers than rural dwellers. “We are influenced by our environment in ways that we are not aware of,” Weinstein noted.

Even indoors, Weinstein says people should maximize their connections with nature. “Because of the hidden benefits of connecting with nature, people should take advantage of opportunities to get away from built environments and, when inside, they should surround themselves with plants, natural objects, and images of the natural world.” 

The University of Rochester researchers studied 370 participants. The study included four experiments in which the participants were exposed to either natural or man-made settings. Participants were encouraged to pay attention to their environments by looking at colors, textures, and imagining sounds and smells.

Other researchers are exploring how viewing nature in cities has positive cognitive effects (see earlier post), and can aid rehabilitation (see earlier post).

Read the article and research study

Image credit: Paul Crosby, Paul Crosby Architectural Photography. Westminster Presbyterian Church Fellowship Courtyard and  Memorial Columbarium, Minneapolis, MN. Coen + Partners, Inc.

Habitat Corridors Have Positive Spillover Effects

Habitat corridors, strips of natural land in between human settlements, enable plants and animals to spread and migrate and conduct their crucial ecological roles, such as fertilization.  Scientific America notes that “as conservationists discovered more than 40 years ago, if you connect these fragments with skinny strips of natural land, called ‘corridors,’ plants and animals can more naturally spread.” According to a recent research study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, habitat corridors create positive spillover effects, extending biodiversity far beyond the actual corridor.

FreshKills Park Blog summed up the study’s key findings: “The establishment of habitat corridors between existing natural areas–and the resulting migration of wildlife between those areas–can increase biodiversity not only in connected sites, but also in habitat adjacent to those sites.  In the study, conducted in South Carolina in conjunction with the USDA, the biodiversity spillover effect was found to extend beyond the boundaries of the connected natural areas by as much as 30 percent, resulting in a 10-18 percent increase in plant life–particularly native plants–in the larger area.  The findings suggest that investments in habitat connections can pay off on a scale even beyond their designed ambition.” 

According to Scientific America, the lead researcher, Lars Brudvig, a post-doctoral student at Washington University in St. Louis, Nick Haddad, associate professor of biology at North Carolina State University, and other researchers, were first inspired by marine fisheries management. “Banning fishing in over-exploited areas allows populations to recover, increasing their density to the point that they spill over into surrounding, fishable waters.” In other words, protected areas support higher catches overall. 

In the same way, land-based habitat corridors could provide crucial space for animals and plants to grow in the midst of an ever-expanding built environment. “As human populations grow, so do the spatial and social roadblocks to establishing new conservation areas. That leaves creating pathways between currently safeguarded spaces especially valuable.” Brudvig, in comments to Scientific America said that while only about 10 percent of land around the world is protected in the U.S., “this gives hope for the remaining 90 percent that is not afforded formal protection.”

Read the article and research study

FreshKills Park Blog noted that FreshKills Park’s master plan includes a man-made habitat corridor. Other major parks in development, including Ken Smith’s 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park also feature man-made habitat corridors. Both of these parks demonstrate that in cases where pristine landscape is unavailable to serve as a habitat corridor, man-made habitat corridors can be constructed or manufactured on land that has been highly degraded.

Image credit: Orange County Great Park Comprehensive Master Plan “A Vision for the Great Park of the 21st Century”, Irvine, California. Ken Smith Workshop West, Irvine, California, Team Lead, and Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles, California

Economic Stimulus Opportunities for Landscape Architects and Other Design Professionals

ASLA has produced a guide to economic stimulus opportunities.  The guide outlines U.S. federal government stimulus opportunities that benefit landscape architects and other design professionals. Federal opportunities are organized into the following sections: transportation, water, sustainable design, climate change, small business, and government procurement. There is also a list of U.S. state and territory recovery sites where design professionals can get more information on local opportunities.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was enacted into law to spur job creation and economic development, and jumpstart the nation’s lagging economy. After passage of ARRA, the federal government began allocating funding to states and localities to begin economic stimulus projects in the areas of education, housing, health care, infrastructure, and renewable energy. State and local governments have received stimulus funding and are now awarding contracts, grants, and loans for projects that will create employment opportunities and promote economic growth in local communities. Many federal agencies still have untapped funding available for stimulus projects.

If you know of useful loan or grant programs we’ve missed or you are a provider of a government program and would like to be included, please e-mail

Go to the guide

Image credit: Teardrop Park, NY, NY Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.