Sustaining Sustainability

Above: Shanghai, China skyline at night with a popution of 25,000,000 . . . exactly!?!

Global warming, climate change, sustainability, urban sprawl, regeneration . . . These are all terms that we live with more and more every day.

– I was recently reading a copy of National Geographic, where they were lamenting the fact that permafrost in Alaska was retreating, revealing artifacts from the 1500s and 1600s and threatening the way of life of the neo-native populations there . . . The article also mentioned that retreating glaciers had exposed the remains of the now famous “Ice-man”.

– In Southern California where they live in perpetual drought, single and particularly multifamily housing is being developed at a break-neck pace.

Only a few years ago, urban sprawl was the biggest issue in this region. All the talk was that acre upon acre was being developed into single family residences, consuming virtually all of the open land and resources. To counter that, higher density developments were implemented to allow for more communal open spaces . . .

– If you draw an oval starting just north of Tokyo and extending down to cover India and Indonesia, you will have defined an area, not much bigger than the land mass of Australia but in which more than half of all humanity lives today.

The largest city, Chongqing, has about 30,000,000 residents, but oddly and not indicative of most of the largest cities in the world, less than 8.5 million actually live in the ‘urban’ parts of that city. At #2, Shanghai is approaching 25 million, of which almost all live in the densely populated urban sections.

By now you must be asking, what do these have to do with one another . . .

From San Francisco to Mumbai, homelessness is a growing example of “big city disease.”

Well, to start with, as glaciers retreat and permafrost thaws, they are evidently approaching the same levels as they used to be; like before the ‘Little Ice Age’ when cold overtook the world and led to massive famine and pestilence including the Black Plague.

Back then, there were a few cities with several hundred thousand people like Beijing, Constantinople and Baghdad. But mostly, people lived in suburban areas where food and water were local resources.

Now, China has actually put a cap on the population of Shanghai at 25 million . . . Too many people, not enough resources (see previous page 73). . . Is this the beginning of a new direction for urban development and sustainability? New York City has plenty of fresh water, but the entire state only produces about 34% of the food needed to feed its people. Los Angeles is a short distance from more than enough food, but its water comes from further away and its main fresh water source, the Colorado River, runs dry before it finds the sea. Will these cities start putting caps on population growth? What about Portland Ore., south Florida or Phoenix Ariz.?
So . . . Is sustainability the science of keeping the climate the same as it is today, or is it planning for inevitable fluctuations? Is it consolidating housing and populations to be able to centralize resource delivery or is it the art of spreading out urbanization to allow local resources to sustain local populations? Maybe it’s somewhere in-between . . .

For landscape architects and planners, sustainability is more than simply picking plant material that grows native to an area, filtering stormwater, or creating communal open spaces for recreation and solace. The bigger picture is that climate will continue to change. Hot or cold is historically related to time, but resource development and delivery, and population-based pollution are definitely factors in human sustainablity and regeneration.

While individual landscape architects may not have the ability to change the world with a single project, the profession has always been at the forefront of the sustainability issue. As density begins to reach its limits and resource delivery increasingly creates conflict, what far reaching solutions will the profession develop to sustain sustainability? Some of the answers can be found in the following pages. Some have yet to be written . .

God Bless . . .

George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2019.

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Is it That Time of Year Already?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Man . . . It’s hard to believe that it’s already Thanksgiving. Ok . . . That’s because I’m writing this with a week still to go in October, and October is crazy busy for us at LCI.

On October 10th and 11th, we put on the Landscape Expo in Long Beach and hosted about 3,500 of our closest friends and business associates in the landscape industry to a great 2-day event. Then we turned around and went to two of the largest trade shows in the industry, GIE/HNA and the ASLA Conference in Philly; all the while putting our regular issues to print and gearing up for 2019 (we’re already halfway finished with the January issue).

Now we’re sifting through a ton of business cards and contacts, adding some finishing touches to the ALL NEW LA Details Product

Search Engine and enhancing the Product Request and Subscriber Center online, not to mention that Halloween is right around the corner, the election is looming large and people are going crazy everywhere . . . So it’s hard to imagine that, by the time you read this, most of the country (including us) will be resting with family and friends and enjoying the fruits of harvest time.

Well . . . That’s what Thanksgiving is all about . . . Looking back at the harvest of 2018 and enjoying its bounty. Hopefully, you have a lot to be thankful for. Forcing myself to stop and contemplate . . . I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

From a personal level, the kids are busy, everyone is healthy, the boat is fully operational and life is good.

Professionally, this has been a year of growth and accomplishment. It has been a good year in the building industry, and almost everyone we speak to is having a solid, if not phenomenal, year. For us, we’ve launched the LA Details Search engine (Find it @landscapeonline.com), have finally settled into our new building, and everything is trending upwards.

So . . . For you . . . Hopefully, you are reading this in a moment where you can reflect back on what was 2018 and smile. It’s been a busy year in the business and for the country. We work in a great industry, in a great nation at one of the most interesting times in history. There’s a lot to be thankful for . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

God Bless . . .

George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, November 2018.

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Fun in Philly . . .

Another great thing about the ASLA Annual Meeting is getting to sample the local foods. Hope to see you at Geno’s!

One of the best parts of my job is getting to put together our Annual ASLA Show issue for LASN’s 90,000 monthly readers.

In the issue, we focus on two major elements – the work of Landscape Architects in the immediate region of the meeting and the newly elected Class of Fellows.

While with some issues I read the copy with the eye of a proofreader, with this issue I read with the heart of someone intent on absorbing the content, the history, the commonalities and the differences in what you do and how you do it.

With that, I read about the great works and accomplishments of the 31 incoming members of the Class of Fellows, how their work has influenced the next generation of landscape architects and how it has impacted the communities in which they work.

At the same time, I read about 36 firms who shared with LASN their company structure, their personal and corporate design philosophies and their body of work.

While this column is way to short to get into commentary on those elements, I encourage all of you to set aside time over the next several weeks to read each and every one of the Firm and Fellow profiles. It took me a couple of hours, spread over a couple of days to read them all, but it was time well spent.

Congratulations to the 2018 Class of Fellows, and thanks so much to the numerous firms who participated in this special issue.

God Bless . . . 
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, October 2018.

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Just Playin’ Around . . .

fishing
My summer fun included using the wide open ocean as a playground. The Dorado were plentiful, colorful, lots of fun to play with and you get the added benefit of a great summer bar-b-que as well!

Well . . . Summer is officially over, and hopefully yours was one to remember. With the economy growing steadily and construction leading the way, your summer should have been both fun and profitable. 

Mine was both, and what better way to end the summer than by putting together the annual Playground Issue. It’s not hard to imagine that this issue is the funnest issue of the year. After all, it’s all about play and the projects you put together to foster creative, educational and socially interactive play for today’s increasingly isolated and device driven yutes (or should I say . . . Youths).

Of course, when I was a kid, after walking three miles uphill both to and from school, we used things like trees, fences, dirt piles and ditches as our playgrounds. But today there doesn’t seem to be as many opportunities for free play as we had back then . . . That makes these play areas not only necessary for kids, but also gives reason for communities to invest in playgrounds as social watering holes. 

Today we are seeing more and more play elements focusing on adults too. Exercise stations and coordination based elements are attracting adults from 20-90. In addition, at almost every new playground aimed at the kids, increasingly there are elements to keep the parents engaged as well.

So enjoy this end of summer issue and get out to a playground and have some fun. I might just see you there . . .

God Bless!
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, September 2018.

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Road . . . What’s a Road?

Wow . .  Can you believe that summer is almost over? Half the kids are back in school, and the rest will soon follow.

If you’re a typical American, chances are you took some sort of road trip this summer, and chances are you did NOT see an autonomous car next to you on the road. But chances are that next year, or maybe the year after, you WILL see a driverless car cruising down the highway . . . And you may be in it. 😳

“‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.” – John Mayer

It is almost a certainty that the autonomous car will be taking over our roadways and streetscapes over the next decade or so. That means, as a landscape architect who designs streetscapes and downtown redevelopments, you will need to become familiar with the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) (see page 56). 

If you are working on a streetscape plan today and are only looking forward at a ten-year-life for the project, you are probably safe in not planning for the next generation of transportation. But if your clients are looking for streetscapes that will thrive for 20 or 30 years, you would be remiss to not step back and think of the future.

Will you need street parking 10 years from now, or will your car drop you off and then drive itself to the parking center, awaiting your command to come and pick you up? Will roundabouts still be needed to slow traffic? Will there still be traffic signals with a red light, or will there just be some kind of electronic signal only ‘seen’ by your vehicle’s sensors? Will your car have an extra compartment to seat your personal robotic assistant? And where will you place the electrical power stations, or will every parking space come equipped with its own outlet?

Yeah . . . It sounds a little like Sci-Fi, but the reality is that the next wave of transportation innovation is already running down the road and while you’re planning that beautiful new streetscape, residential community (see page 52) or any project that is meant to accommodate vehicle traffic, you will need to assess how Generation A (for Autonomous) will be traversing the terrain. Heck, by then we might all be flying in our personal, autonomous hovercraft . . . As Doc Brown, (Back to the Future) so eloquently put it . . . “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

God Bless and Be Safe!
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, August 2018.

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Aloha…

Ho’omoe Wai Kahi Ke Kao’o
(Hawaiian saying meaning “Let Us Travel Together Like Water Flowing In One Direction”)

Just spent an awesome week in Maui, where water is on everyone’s mind, but certainly not the same way it is in Cali or throughout the South. For such a small island and with so many tourists and hotels, you’d think they might be concerned about their supply of fresh water. After all, there are no dams or lakes (except on the many golf courses) and the longest “river” is only a handful of miles long . . .

We stayed at the Westin at Kaanapali where my good and terribly missed old friend, Frank Manwarren, spent months and months building 5 swimming pools connected by what was at the time (some 30 years ago) one of the largest Rock and Waterscape systems in the world.

I remember Frank talking about the painstaking efforts they took to make the concrete outcroppings as realistic as possible, taking castings of rock structures from across the globe and joining them, in some cases with toothbrushes, to add a level of detail that is still considered state-of-the-art.

Today, these kinds of manufactured rock and water structures are found everywhere, from hotels to zoos and amusement parks, shopping malls, entryway monuments and even residential backyard pools, complete with slides and grottos. But only a few short years ago, this was cutting edge, pioneered by men like Manwarren, Ed Lewis, Julian George, Lance Friez, Bob Morris . . . Only a couple of which are still with us today.

So, as summer heats up, depending on where you are throughout the mainland, water is going to be on your mind. Some of you will have too much, some will have it at their disposal and some will be doing everything necessary to preserve that last drop. But whether it’s used as a playground, amenity, tool or quencher of thirst, water in the landscape is and always will be a central and enduring element . . . So please . . . Use it creatively, use it reverently and especially for those of us in the driest parts of the country, use it wisely . . .

God Bless . . .
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2018.

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What Are You Shopping For?

What are you shopping for?

LASN has long been a leader in searching out the latest and greatest in the field of Landscape; those being things that affect the design, installation and maintenance of developed lands.

We pride ourselves on our relentless quest to bring you the newest products, projects, technology and state-of-the-art design philosophies and implementation strategies from across the country and around the world.

In that quest, we have built a social network of more than 10,000 industry related followers and will be focusing even more energy to communicating with the profession through these media.

Also, over the past few months, besides organizing more than 1,900 products and advertisements in the May LASN Specifier’s and LC/DBM Buyer’s guides, we have upgraded and enhanced five major components of LandscapeOnline.com: the LADetails Product Search Engine, the Tools and Equipment Search Engine, the Local Wholesale and Plant Material Search Engine, the Landscape Expo trade show site and the LO store.

The next step will be to enhance your editorial experience in both the magazine and online.

To this we have spent the past two years gearing up the Editorial, IT, Circulation and Art departments to bring you even more current and pertinent information, relieving you from the burden of looking elsewhere for your research, your design, installation and maintenance technology, your local landscape ordinances, your spec items, and for those tools dedicated to, and for, all varieties of landscape professionals.

We will also be offering you greater ability to opt in to targeted industry related releases, opt out of sections that don’t hold interest and interact with vendors and other professionals across the broad spectrum of landscape.

So, as you settle into summer, keep an eye on LASN and on LandscapeOnline.com and join our social media tags. We’re working really hard . . . So you don’t have too . . .

God Bless . . .
George Schmok, Publisher


As seen in LASN magazine, June 2018.

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No Time to Sit Still . . .

1) The all new LADetails search engine features hundreds of manufacturers of decorative items, from site furniture to street lighting, pergolas, hardscapes, water features and more. It can be found at LandscapeOnline.com. We are now offering free downloads of the CAD files that go along with the products. By the time you read this, thousands of products and CAD files will be waiting for your search.

I don’t know about you, but we here at LASN are swamped with work. Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe it’s due to increased confidence that the building industry is on the road to several years of solid growth, or maybe it’s because that over the past few weeks we’ve launched four (4) new website applications:

2) The all new Local Wholesale and Plant Material Search Engine for local wholesale growers and supply companies is designed to be used on your smart phone when you are working on projects outside your normal supply area and need to quickly find plant materials, hardscapes, irrigation, lighting, and equipment. There are more than 3,000 suppliers listed across the U.S.

3) The all new Tools & Equipment Search Engine, much like the LADetails site, features thousand of products, many of which can be found with complete cut sheets and product specifications.

4) The Landscape Expo website. The 2018 TLE is scheduled for October 10-11 in Long Beach and will feature several new events, including almost an acre of outdoor equipment demonstrations. Registration is now open at Landscapeonline.com.

5) And we have been accumulating more than 1,200 product profiles for the upcoming Specifier’s Guide, which is due out next month.

So . . . It’s time to take advantage of the great economic news out there, combined with a fresh spring season, and start to make a little hay while the sun is shining. And take a moment to check out LandscapeOnline.com. We’re working hard so you don’t have to . . .

God Bless . . . 
George Schmok, Publisher

 As seen in LASN magazine, April 2018.

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Enlisting the Domestic Workforce

I make it a point to read as many landscape magazines, newsletters and commentaries as I can from across the country and see that many today are talking about the limitations of H-2B and the lack of workers available as the landscape industry, and the economy as a whole, heats up. Now, with Spring in the air, the need to enhance your crew is more important than ever.

Over the past 10 years, LC/DBM has advocated for the National Association to encourage American Citizens to join the ranks in this most Honorable of Professions. Visit LandscapeOnline.com and find article #9930 to see one of the first commentaries on this subject and the numerous responses it generated from across the nation.

I’ve seen and heard comments like, “we need to increase the H-2B limits,” “you need to become less labor intensive,” and “nobody wants these jobs.” However, for most of the years I have been in this industry, very little was done to promote a healthy workforce from within our borders.

First of all, there is a huge group of Americans that are underemployed. No . . . I’m not talking race or immigration . . . I’m talking American males in the 20-24-year-old category. This is the largest segment of unemployed people across all races and the one segment that is most capable of doing the physical labor associated with landscape. This group is also willing to gain education and is the most easily influenced to begin a new career path
.
Over the years I’ve written about this issue many times and recieved a lot of kickback from (then) PLANET and also the Nurserymen’s Association (ANLA), with most of their comments focusing on bringing in a foreign workforce based on the age-old misconception that “nobody else wants these jobs.” To which I would reply . . . Why? Almost everyone I know in the industry loves the work and loves the job . . .

Fortunately, through the NALP Growing the Workforce Initiative, which was introduced in 2016 and has been gaining steam over the past year, the national association has taken a big step forward.

It’s great to see NALP taking a proactive stance, by stating, “The Industry Growth Initiative is changing perceptions and narratives about the industry through aggressive public relations efforts that will redefine our image, making this a sought-after field of employment.” Finally!

Now, though, it’s time for NALP to redouble their efforts and really start to push this agenda across all media and across all 50 states. Spring is upon us and work is piling up.

To learn more about the NALP Industry Growth Initiative or to get involved, you can visit their website: www.landscapeprofessionals.org and follow the menu link “Workforce”. Landscape is a noble and profitable profession. It’s great to see the national association finally stepping up and taking steps to make the landscape industry truly great again!

God Bless . . . And Happy Easter!
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, March 2018.

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Park Your Park as a Park!

Well, spring is in the air and that must mean you are reading the annual LASN “Parks” issue.

With that, here are a couple of things trending in the world of park development. Recently, the ASLA released a statement opposing the Trump Administration’s 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, because it “recommended cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by 98 percent from FY17 levels and zeroing out the state grants program.” This represents a potential $900 million savings for the gov’t, but a huge loss for park development across the country. Since a lot of the allocations are based on a given state’s population, this retreat in spending would affect states like California, New York and Illinois to a greater extent than other less populated states. While I am definitely for less government spending, this matter does warrant further review. To find out more you should visit:
www.asla.org/FederalGovernmentAffairs.aspx?id=30713

And speaking of parks . . . I was recently down at San Diego’s Balboa Park and Museum Complex and found this ASLA Centennial Medallion recognizing the site as “a National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture.”

From the NRPA (National Recreation and Parks Association), I recently read a very entertaining piece on park trends that offered several interesting predictions, including a trend to renovate underground and otherwise abandoned facilities (like Seattle’s Battery Street Tunnel) into park spaces. Old train stations, subways, rail tunnels and more are all in play when it comes to this trend.

Another interesting prediction was that puppy waste could become fuel through “small-scale anaerobic digesters for parks. Patrons could deposit dog waste, which is composted to produce methane that is used to power park lighting.” (See page 120 of LASN March 2018.)

And also from the NRPA is a more somber prediction. Lack of housing is forcing cities to look hard for available real estate. Some parks are being replaced with high-rise or other population-dense developments. The NRPA is predicting this trend to grow in 2018, but offered a potential deterrent to this by “dedicating” land as park land. Apparently in New York, approving a conversion from a dedicated park to a different kind of development requires a 2/3 majority in the legislature and the change must also “comply with federal protections of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act” if the original park was built with those funds. (Although if Trump’s proposed budget changes kick in, this point would be somewhat moot for future developed parks.) I’m sure every state is a bit different, but if you can officially dedicate the land as a park it has a better chance of withstanding the onslaught of developers.

So, it appears that developing a park will not always be a walk in the park, but keeping an eye on legislation and working the system will definitely help to park the park as a park . . .

God bless and happy Easter . . .
George Schmok, Publisher

 As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.

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A Nation of Builders . . .

In listening to the State-of-the-Union address—and regardless of how you feel about Trump or how you feel about those who didn’t stand up to applaud a 12-year-old boy who decorated graves of veterans with American flags—there was one bipartisan moment that bodes well for landscape architects across the nation. That was when both sides stood up and applauded as Trump mentioned his plan to invest in infrastructure.

2 Big I 1 Credit Robert Reck
Large infrastructure projects like this Arizona interstate exchange featured on the January cover of LASN are not for everyone, but opportunity is going to present itself in the very near future, so now is a good time to brush up on the ins and outs of public works.

Back in 1991 when Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), followed by several other ‘TEA’ legislations, it helped take the United States out of the ’90-’91 recession and ushered in what is called “the longest period of growth in American history,” which was only briefly interrupted by the dot.com bubble and 9/11 in 2001 and basically lasted until 2008.

Again . . . Regardless of how you feel about the current administration, one thing is pretty well undeniable . . . Business and construction are solidly into positive territory. Now, with both parties eager to begin building or rebuilding infrastructure there is good reason to be even more excited about the immediate future of the landscape architectural profession as well.

That said, if you are a smaller shop, you’ll need to choose whether you want to be a part of the infrastructure rebuild or not. There will probably be plenty of peripheral projects, but to get into transportation or larger municipal projects, now would be a great time to scout out seminars and workshops designed to deal with these markets and start to shape your firm to deal with these kind of projects. 

Infrastructure isn’t for everyone, but with both political parties hot on the issue, there is definitely opportunity coming down the road . . .

Go get ’em and God bless . . .
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2018, Commentary.

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Landscape Architects Split 50/50 on Paris Climate Accord

Reader’s Opinions
 

image
Photo: UNFCCC

 

On Thursday June 1, Trump officially announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. That same day, LASN magazine emailed a sampling of its readers for their opinions on the pull out, and asked them to state specific reasons for their positions. Trump stated it costs U.S. jobs and is an undue burden on American taxpayers.

The response was split almost exactly 50/50 for those in agreement and those opposed to the US pulling out of the agreement. About 80% of all respondents sited the need to protect the climate regardless of which side they took. Here is a compilation of the response from across the country. We have not identified the names of the senders, only their city and state, nor edited the comments, except for a couple uses of profanity.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the question.

The comments were posted for this article:

http://www.landscapeonline.com/research/article-a.php?number=29368

Do you have any to add?

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