Evaluating Landscape Performance
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Evaluating Landscape Performance

Oct 11, 2019
Video Length:  1:16:36
Presented By:  Megan Barnes

Join us as Megan Barnes of the Landscape Architecture Foundation explores the concept of landscape performance as a critical tool for landscape architects to advance sustainable outcomes and reach key decision-makers. You’ll learn how to evaluate landscape performance and choose appropriate metrics and methods to evaluate your own projects. Supplemented by resources from the Foundation’s online Landscape Performance Series, the presentation will show how and why an understanding of the myriad benefits of sustainable landscapes is essential for designers, developers, and policymakers who influence land development and want better results.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)

  • Intro/TOC
  • Examples of Case Studies
  • Why Measure Performance?
  • Determining What to Measure
  • Determining How to Measure


0:00 – 4:55: Intro/TOC

Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) background and key strategies (2:29)


Landscape performance defined: A measure of the effectiveness with which landscape solutions fulfill their intended purpose and contribute to sustainability (4:56)


Measuring sustainability (6:11)

  • Triple Bottom Line (environmental + social + economic)
  • Living Building Challenge
  • One Planet Principles

8:30 – 18:11: Examples of Case Studies

Case study comparison:

First LEED Gold building in Washington, DC (8:30)


Sustainably designed streetscape in Washington, DC (9:30)


LAF’s goal for the focus of landscape architecture sustainability: From features to claims to benefits (11:20)


Historic Fourth Ward Path, Phase 1, Atlanta (stormwater management park) (13:00)


Dutch Kills Green, New York (streetscape and park) (14:05)


Park Ave/US 50 Redevelopment, South Lake Tahoe, CA (streetscape renovation) (15:13)


Vista Hermosa, Los Angeles (public park) (16:47)


Uptown Normal Circle, Normal, IL (park and roundabout) (17:28)

18:12 – 21:54: Why Measure Performance?

  • To understand the performance of a system:
    • More effective management
    • Inform incremental adjustments
  • To demonstrate the success and impacts of a projects (ROI)
    • Environmental, social, economic
  • To inform goals and design on future projects
  • To help bridge the knowledge gap about the value of landscape solutions


Understanding the performance of built landscapes will lead to better future designs that use landscape solutions to their fullest potential.


Why metrics? (19:35)

Metrics: Standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, progress, or quality of a product can be assessed.

  • To inform a design
  • To meet “sustainable” criteria
  • To show “substantial completion”
  • To evaluate the performance of a project


Performance/monitoring trends (20:55)

  • Adaptive management
  • SITES monitoring credit
  • LEED performance path
  • Site commissioning

21:55 – 34:34: Determining What to Measure

Scope/context (22:15)

  • Built project or design phase?
  • Before you determine what to measure, scope must be considered.
  • Geographic extent of site – site plan
    • Size/location

    • Context

    • History/phased interventions
    • Stakeholders


Example: Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley, TX (24:18)


To evaluate performance (diagram) (25:01)

  • Project goals
  • Performance objectives
  • Design intent
  • Expected outcomes


What to measure (25:20)

  • Need to know:
    • Project goals
    • Performance objectives
    • Design intent

If you don’t evaluate against these factors, any assessment will miss the mark.

  • Also consider:
    • Other expected outcomes
    • Unexpected outcomes


Goals and design intent, Blue Hole Regional Park (28:40)

  • Protect and improve ecologically sensitive areas and reduce disturbed area while simultaneously increasing visitation
  • Improve native plant communities
  • Economic sustainability


What to measure: potential categories (29:34)

  • Land efficiency and preservation
  • Visitation
  • Habitat quality
  • Construction cost savings


What to measure: chart (30:45)


Example project: Avalon Park & Preserve, Long Island, NY (memorial and nature preserve) (31:00)

Goals/design intent:

  • Restore and protect the ecological communities
  • Provide a safe, peaceful, and harmonious place for visitors


What to measure/benefits, Avalon Park & Preserve (31:53)


Example project: Seattle Playgarden, Seattle, WA (fully accessible park) (32:45)

Goals/design intent:

  • Create a space where children of all abilities can play outdoors together
  • Create a sensory-rich environment for educational and therapeutic benefits
  • Use ecological design solutions


What to measure/benefits, Seattle Playgarden (33:20)

34:35 – 52:49: Determining How to Measure


Choosing the right metric (35:04)


Example: Blue Hole Regional Park parking lot (35:04)


Metrics: considerations (36:07)

  • Availability of information
    • Baseline
  • Resources
    • People
    • Equipment
    • Time
  • Defensibility


Example: Blue Hole Regional Park (38:41)

  • What to measure: Land efficiency and preservation
  • Possible metrics:
    • Area of ecologically, ecologically, or culturally available features protected or left undisturbed
    • Amount of disturbance confined to previously developed portions of the site
    • Area of existing topography preserved


Metric entries in the chart: Blue Hole Regional Parts (39:45)


Mini-exercise: metrics (40:09)


Choosing the right method (43:20):

  • Determine from design parameters
    • Stormwater modeling, area calculations, etc.
    • Rating system submittals (LEED, SITES)
  • Use public information
    • Property assessments, real estate data, GIS
    • Public agencies, BIDs, or other stakeholders
    • Big data, social media data
  • Conduct on-site measurements
    • Temperature
    • Water quality
    • User counts and observations
  • Conduct user surveys


Methods/tools and data sources (chart): Blue Hole Regional Park (46:47)


Communicating benefits (47:38)

  • Some metrics stand on their own.
  • If they don’t, you could try to:
    • Report absolute and relative values (e.g., %)

    • Use equivalencies
    • Monetize
    • Project out over time
    • Compare with “before” or similar/traditional


Finishing up the chart for Blue Hole Regional Park (Comparison) (50:08)


Completed benefits: Blue Hole Regional Park (51:18)

52:50 – end: LAF Resources to Quantify Benefits

Landscape Performance Series (available at LandscapePerformance.org)(53:00):

  • Build capacity to achieve sustainability and transform the way landscape is considered in the design and development process
  • Online platform and set of initiatives focused on the measurable environmental, social, and economic landscapes:
    • Case studies and other online resources
    • Outreach and trainings
    • Guide to evaluate performance
    • Resources for educators
  • Use it to find precedents, show value, and make the case for sustainable landscape solutions.


Case Studies Investigation (CSI) (54:30)

  • Unique research collaboration
    • Faculty research fellow
    • Student research assistant
    • Firm liaison
  • Evaluate and document high-performing landscapes as case study briefs
  • $1,000 honorarium for faculty + $9,000 stipend for student
  • Since pilot in 2011 (as of webinar time):
    • More than 150 case studies produced
    • 67 CSI research teams
    • 74 faculty, 85 students, 85 design firms
  • Program funs February – August, applications due in November


Evaluating Landscape Performance: A Guidebook for Metrics and Methods Selection (56:58)


This guidebook offers:

  • Metrics
    • Understandable and meaningful to land development decision-makers
    • More than 100 metrics in 33 benefit categories
  • Methods
    • Relatively easy to use
    • Generally applicable
    • Useful in a short time frame (6 months or less)
    • Defensible
  • Positioning information
  • Examples


Printable worksheets (included in guidebook) (58:15)


Example page: stormwater management (58:43)


How can you use the guidebook? (5918):


For projects in concept or design phase:

  • Think through measurement protocols and what baseline information to collect
  • Set specific performance objectives


For built projects:

  • Initially assess what could be measured based on project goals (and data availability)
  • Discover metrics and methods for a particular type of benefit


As much an idea generator as a how-to



Where to begin? (1:00:16)

  • On every project, think about how you will define success. (And write it down!)
    • Project goals
    • Performance objectives
    • Design intent
    • Expected outcomes
  • How will you measure success once the project is built?
    • What to measure?
    • Who will measure?
    • When will the measurement happen?
    • What equipment will be needed?
  • What baseline data do you need to collect?


Presenter & contact info:

Megan Barnes, Program Manager, LAF

Email: mbarnes@lafoundation.org

Website: LandscapePerformance.org


Question: Were the benefits projected or were they truly measured post-occupancy? What were the standards? (1:02:35)

Answer: The benefits were both projected and post-occupancy. The standards were somewhat varied – the mantra was “start where you are.” They built the Landscape Performance Series on several predictive methods, using everything from the construction documents and design to what the designers thought was going to happen, in order to help report the benefits.


Question: Were the South Lake Tahoe and Fourth Ward projects’ benefits projected, or truly measured post-occupancy? (1:04:44)

Answer: It was a mix for both. For example, the stormwater benefit for the Historic Fourth Ward park was taken remotely, but an on-site survey was also used for some of the other benefits.


Question: When you say a project increased nearby property values by a certain amount, how do you know it’s directly related? (1:05:57)

Answer: The teams will research property values in the areas, and if they can’t find any other specific factor that may have contributed to an increase, they will loosely attribute it to the project. Keep in mind that each of these case studies includes a downloadable Methods document that details the team’s process, as well as the project’s limitations.


Question: On average, how much does it cost (or percentage of a project cost) a client to track performance from the onset of a project, through construction, and ongoing tracking after completion? (1:08:11)

Answer: It would depend on the client and the site. It would depend on how much the firm is able to absorb, whether the client can obtain grant funding, etc. It’s largely an overhead cost for the landscape architecture firms.


How to apply for a project to be an LAF case study (1:10:30)

Megan provides significant support to applicants, providing insight into whether a project might have a good chance at acceptance, putting applicants in tough with faculty and students, etc.


Question: Do you have any suggestions for DOT landscape evaluation for roadside treatments such as water quality features (ponds, bioswales, ditches, etc.) and highway native revegetation performance metrics, inspection and evaluation of success for percent cover, forb/nectar sources for pollinator habitat, and maintenance regimes? The Colorado Department of Transportation is preparing a procedural directive to facilitate volunteer partner organizations to perform valuable roadside revegetation projects like seeding, seed collection, monitoring, etc. (1:12:10)

Answer: Megan would absolutely recommend application to CSI for these types of projects.

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