Integrating Landscape Performance Metrics in Campus Planning: Baseline Conditions for Temple University

By Myers, Mary; Carney, Margaret et al. | Planning for Higher Education, July-September 2015 | Go to article overview

Integrating Landscape Performance Metrics in Campus Planning: Baseline Conditions for Temple University


Myers, Mary, Carney, Margaret, Whitlow, Heather, Planning for Higher Education


INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS ARE DYNAMIC ENTITIES whose environments prioritize a positive dialogue between buildings and landscapes. Their landscapes often provide a serene parklike setting that softens the impact of the built environment. Additionally, institutional landscapes can promote human well-being and environmental health (Hartig and Cooper Marcus 2006; Voigt et al. 2014). Environmental health can be measured by the quantity and quality of ecosystem services that a landscape provides. Ecosystem services are defined as the provisioning, regulating, and cultural benefits that people obtain from ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

Campus landscapes have the potential to positively contribute to ecosystem services by valuing those services during the planning process. For example, since campus trees help regulate climate and sequester carbon dioxide, increasing the numbers and sizes of trees can increase this service. Reducing impermeable surfaces on campus can abate runoff and flooding both on- and off-site. Increasing the number of native plants boosts biodiversity, helping to improve the supply of other ecosystem services.

These benefits are generally known to those responsible for the installation and maintenance of campus grounds and help justify investment in a campus's landscape. What has not been understood or widely acted upon is the need to measure landscape performance to ensure that planning and installation methods make the most of this important resource. Additionally, the use of campus landscape installations, including storm water management systems, as learning opportunities for students and researchers has only recently been considered in campus landscape design. Knowledge of and continued academic/teaching involvement in landscape performance have the potential to dramatically increase our understanding of landscape installations, thereby positively affecting landscape design and environmental sustainability.

LEED AND SITES RATING SYSTEMS

Spooner (2014) points out that several rating systems have been developed to assist campuses in understanding how physical design enhances sustainability. One of the first and now most prominent certification bodies is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), whose rating system was issued in 2000. This system rates a building's level of sustainability based on measureable criteria. The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is a landscape rating system issued in 2009 that gives point credit in specific design, construction, and maintenance areas. Both LEED and SITES were intended to be used during the design process to incorporate sustainable elements.

LANDSCAPE PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT

While the LEED and SITES rating systems are evidence-based and have done much to advance sustainable design, credits are awarded based on design intent, not how the projects actually perform over time once they are built and operating. To fill this gap, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) developed a complementary initiative, the Landscape Performance Series (LPS), which has ongoing performance as its centerpiece. LAF defines landscape performance as "a measure of the effectiveness with which landscape solutions fulfill their intended purpose and contribute to sustainability" (Landscape Architecture Foundation n.d., [paragraph] 1). LPS assesses progress made toward achieving environmental, social, and economic goals based on measurable outcomes. The LAF program does not assign specific points and is not a certification system. Instead, it allows for a variety points and is not a certification system. Instead, it allows for a variety of tools and methods to be used to measure benefits.

LPS provides an online, searchable platform of curated content that focuses exclusively on the measurable benefits of landscapes: LandscapePerformance.org. Resources include "Case Study Briefs" (1), a database of over 100 landscape projects with quantified environmental, social, and economic benefits. …

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