Project DRAWDOWN how we can reverse climate change

With all the doom and gloom that talking about climate change in the anthropocene engenders in ones audience, all the hype and positivity I can muster flags when I read about the size of the problems faced and the inadequacies and failings of individuals and governments to act, and in fact my own poorly implemented and limited attempts to do something! It seems as if it is extreme hubris on my part to say we can change our lifestyles, consumerist habits or other people’s desires. I was pleasantly surprised while I was researching on LAF’s (Landscape Architecture Foundation) website for a recent magazine article, to discover Martha Swartz talking about the book edited by Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown The most comprehensive plan ever to reverse global warming” Having viewed the website’s info and watched the video I am eagerly awaiting the book.

As Martha Swartz says in the interview on LAF’s websiteI was introduced to Drawdown by Pamela Conrad, a Senior Associate at CMG Landscape Architecture, while preparing for a conference presentation on climate change with her two years ago. We gave a presentation about the book, why it’s important, and why it’s important specifically for landscape architects. We got up there and talked about what climate change is and why it’s so urgent that we address it. What really struck me about Drawdown is that it gave metrics for its solutions. They weren’t theoretical, but actionable ideas” 

Here is Paul Hawken, the projects instigator, the books editor and the evangelist of the crusade to make a difference, telling us what inspirited him and how it can affect us and what we can do ourselves, more than just lamenting the lack of efficacy of our recycling or our governments alternative energy strategies!

Landscape Performance Research: The Economics of Change

From Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) By Jason Twill, LEED AP and Stuart Cowan, PhD

The built environment and building industry together account for about 50% of U.S carbon emissions and contribute to a web of significant, interconnected problems: climate change, persistent toxins in the environment, dwindling supplies of potable water, flooding, ocean acidification, habitat loss and more. Over the past decade, great strides have been made in terms of energy efficiency, water and waste consumption, and sustainable materials, and a critical mass of innovative professionals has emerged.

Yet a major barrier to the broad adoption of advanced green building practices is our 20th century real estate financial system. Current lending approaches, appraisal protocols, and valuation models do not reflect the true externalized costs of doing “business as usual” nor do they fully capture the additional environmental and social benefits created by building green. These barriers affect the perceived financial viability of environmentally sound projects and slow innovation and market growth. To fully realize true sustainability, a shift in assessing and evaluating real estate investment is urgently needed.

The Economics of Change is a groundbreaking effort to do just that.

The overarching goal of The Economics of Change is to shift mainstream real estate practices to document the full value of a built environment that is compatible with healthy, natural systems. Correcting real estate incentives and improving financial models will shift investment toward buildings and infrastructures that are financially rewarding, resilient, socially just and economically restorative.

eoc-shiftA project’s integrated value includes its traditional market value AND the environmental and social value it provides. This research seeks to shift the investment barrier to the right through recognition of integrated value, potentially unlocking a trillion dollars of investment towards restorative building.

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IFLA 2012 Congress : High Performance Landscapes and Landscape Research

The urgent need for the landscape architecture profession to engage with global climate change issues and to become involved in research and conversations around climate change issues and in turn to broaden its agenda to include and embrace performance metrics in its suite of tools was highlighted by Foster Ndubisi’s presentation “Quantifying The Benefits Of High-Performing Landscapes:Prospects And Challenges’‘  at the recent IFLA 2012 Congress in Cape Town, where he emphasised the lack of effective baseline measurements of projects and how this hampered the ability of the landscape architecture profession to back up its claims that landscapes have a value beyond purely aesthetics and concepts of “place making.”  His work with the LAF’s (Landscape Architecture Foundation) ‘Landscape Performance Series’ embodies the type of research and knowledge critically required in order to both deliver and prove the true value of green infrastructure improvements.

The Landscape Performance Series is an online interactive set of resources to show the value of sustainable landscape solutions and provide tools for designers, agencies and advocates to quantify benefits and make the case for sustainable landscapes.

The Landscape Performance Series (LPS) is designed to fill a critical gap in the marketplace and make the concept of “Landscape Performance” and its contribution to sustainability as well known as “Building Performance” is today. The LPS is not a rating system, but rather a hub that brings together information and innovations from research, professional practice and student work in the form of:

  • Case Study Briefs
  • Benefits Toolkit
  • Fast Fact Library
  • Scholarly Works

Coincidently I am reading ‘Landscape Architecture Research’ by Simon Swaffield and M. Ellen Deming who revue the state of recent landscape architecture research and whilst amongst the general themes that emerge, they identify Green Infrastructure as an important topic, they also comment ” Furthermore, some areas of major activity in related disciplines receive little explicit attention in landscape architecture literature. Most noticeable of these is the relative lack of attention to the challenge of climate change adaptation and mitigation at multiple scales. At the precise moment when the practice of landscape architecture is becoming vital to our collective survival, its lack of a coherent research agenda and its lack of relative impact in the wider field of published knowledge make it vulnerable to becoming sidelined in the global academy. The discipline clearly needs a broader and better organized professional research agenda to guide is initiatives, a cleared understanding of what it means to be research based, rather than a service driven profession, and stronger focus upon effective dissemination of the knowledge it creates.”

Foster Ndubisi also spoke about the LAF’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and that this is not solely a North american incentive but could be applied for by practitioners and academics world wide.

The Case Study Investigation (CSI) program is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded student-faculty research teams with leading practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits and produce Case Study Briefs for LAF’s Landscape Performance Series.

The teams are led by LAF Research Fellows, select faculty members with demonstrated interest or expertise in quantifying landscape benefits. Fellows develop methods for data collection, provide academic rigor, and receive funding to support a student research assistant.

Participating firms apply with specific projects and are selected based on the quality of the project, availability of information to document performance, and commitment to participate in the CSI process.

The CSI program is highly collaborative with the goal of better integrating the innovative work being done by academia and practice to advance our knowledge of landscape performance. By investing in this research, LAF hopes that CSI can be a key impetus in moving the landscape architecture profession toward routinely collecting performance data, designing every project with specific performance objectives, and integrating landscape performance in design education.

For more information, contact Linda Ashby at