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Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office
An Example of Sustainable Design

Steve Lang MIG, Inc. - Photos by Billy Hustace

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

The Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office in Acadia, Calif., is a 24,000 square foot site that incorporates sustainable landscape features like bioswales, a rainwater retention pond, solar panels, native plantings and stormwater runoff management. The landscape architectural firm for the project was MIG, Inc. of Berkeley, Calif.

The Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office (ANFSO) is the local headquarters for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the hub of communications for the San Gabriel Mountains fire response and coordination. The ANFSO project was one of ten Angeles National Forest projects funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was a stimulus package instated by President Obama in response to the 2008 recession. Approximately $15 million was budgeted for the construction of the entire facility.

The original single-story, modular headquarters was a cluster of 22 buildings that included a plain parking lot. This was all replaced with a state-of-the-art, 23,862 square foot, multi-story facility and a relocated, revamped parking lot, complete with multiple bioswales on a 3.5-acre site.

The design intent was to build upon the resources that this site presented and celebrate the unique character of the mountain landscape. As a result of the improvements, approximately 100 employees are able to comfortably operate in a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly facility. Operations within include public affairs, emergency response, financial accounting and engineering services for the U.S. Forest Service.

Role of the Landscape Architect
During the entire process, the landscape architects were sub consultants to the architectural prime consultant. Darren Rector of MIG was the lead landscape architect and he facilitated workshop charettes with the U.S. Forest Service in order to develop a native planting palette and overall site design in conjunction with the development of the architectural plans.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

The site design by lead landscape architect Darren Rector.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

Small pedestrian bridges were located at building entries to provide a functional and aesthetic "creek crossing" that lead to the central employee courtyard.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

The topiary Smokey the Bear hedge art pictured had to be carefully worked around and preserved during the construction process. By using timber as the main construction component for the building, carbon is sequestered from the air and emissions from burnt fossil fuels are reduced; showcasing another aspect of the site's sustainability and environmentally-focused approach.

The plant palette was carefully selected to utilize only plant materials found in the San Gabriel Mountains and accompanying San Gabriel River watershed. The design team prepared site conceptual plans and plant palettes for presentation to the U.S. Forest Service representatives for their final approval on all plant selections and overall scheme of the landscape design. Additionally, the landscape architects prepared construction documents and provided construction support service to ensure the natural character goal.

The old headquarters was a cluster of "temporary" modular buildings that were never intended to persist for any significant length of time. The stimulus funds that became available allowed the U.S. Forest Service to upgrade the headquarters for the Angeles National Forest with a state-of-the-art facility worthy of its LEED Gold designation, which was awarded in 2014.

Credits for building systems and landscape water reductions, as well as overall site improvements, enhanced the total ecology of the previously paved 3.5-acre site. 100% of storm water from the parking lot is directed via bioswales into a 2,000 square foot recharge basin for percolation back into the soil. Native plants were chosen to increase biodiversity, support local fauna and habitat development.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

The existing communications antenna was required to remain operational throughout the demolition and construction process, as it provided a critical link for fire response. Bioswales were incorporated into the parking lot to fully harness the benefits of on-site storm water management by filtering runoff. LEDs were incorporated in the parking area and throughout the site to improve safety and security.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

Decomposed granite, gravel and cobblestones were used to create the meandering dry creek in order to capture and direct runoff from the buildings and parking lot to the 2,000 square foot cobbled rock recharging basin at the facility's entry.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

Before the renovations, the old buildings were a clump of semi-temporary modular buildings that were never intended for a long period of use.

A central courtyard was filled with flora native to the local mountains and watershed and was an integral part of the project. An underutilized warehouse was rehabilitated and repurposed to function as an additional office space and to enclose the previously open courtyard. The site also features a dry creek bed that acts as a stormwater-runoff solution and winds it way into the rainwater retention pond.

The main building was designed to allow plenty of natural light to enter, and solar panels were instated on the roof.

Mary McGrath, the executive architect for the project stated in a different article that the landscape was "designed not so that stormwater is reused, but so that it's returned to the earth. It percolates back into the soil."

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

Federal facilities require protective hardening, which was achieved with strategically placed large natural boulders and decorative stonewalls around the perimeter securing the facility from vehicle intrusion.

Angeles National Forest Supervisor's Office

Special Factors
In selecting materials, the landscape architects used boulders, large shade trees, Southern California mountain native plants, paving materials, LED lighting and park-style furniture, to soften and enhance the newly created space between the existing, rehabilitated warehouse and the new headquarters building.

Significant grade adjustments were made to fully integrate the warehouse building and former loading docks seamlessly into the central courtyard and to meet ADA requirements. Lighting was incorporated for area security and safety. Federal facilities require protective hardening, which was achieved with strategically placed large natural boulders and decorative stonewalls around the perimeter of the secure facility. An existing topiary in the shape of Smokey the Bear was preserved in its original location on the perimeter of the old parking lot, and was integrated adjacent to the footprint on the north side of the new headquarters building. Large USDA Forest Service emblems were integrated into the pavement in the central courtyard to develop the aesthetics of the building.

Steve Lang, principle at MIG, Inc., states, "An unusual design challenge we faced was the site was separated from the forest it manages and oversees. So we tried to bring a sense of the forest and terrain into its urban context, adjacent to the 210 Foothill Freeway in Arcadia."

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2019.

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October 18, 2019, 10:24 pm PDT

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