It rarely rains in Santa Barbara, and when it does, it's an event as remarkable as the first sunny spring day after a long Chicago winter.
During a recent storm, I put on my rain gear and went for a walk. I watched rainwater sheet off my roof, down the driveway, and into the road. I followed the runoff down the street and into a gutter, which bore the sign "Flows straight to ocean". Sadly, i had just witnessed the entire suburban hydrologic cycle.
We have designed a build environment that, for the most part, treats water as a waste product to be disposed of as quickly as possible. The reality is just the opposite however - rain water is a precious resource.
The City of Santa Barbara realizes that water conservation is vital to the future of our community. They have been supplying rain barrels to residents for half price. We picked some up and installed them, and as I write, the new barrels are filling up in my backyard. (Info on City's earlier barrel program and the cost is still posted here. The City may "roll out" a new batch of barrels in the spring.)
Here are some photos of our new rain catchment system. We elevated the barrels to provide pressure at the outflow. They are piped together so they fill up and drain together. As you can see they fit in a small side yard. Rain barrels or a cistern are an economical way to decrease the amount of potable water that you use in the garden.
There are lots of options for rain catchment systems, from highly engineered underground cisterns to small scale residential systems like this one. Arcadia Studio understands the importance of water conservation and explores water catchment systems for our clients whenever possible.
The movement towards building sustainable landscapes and architecture marches forward, and Arcadia Studio is always proud to see one of its projects take the lead, or in this case, LEED. Inexpensive pun aside, the University of California's San Clemente Student Housing Project has officially been given a "Gold" rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is a stringent 100 point based design guideline that awards projects points for specific attributes of sustainability. For a project to achieve a Gold rating, it must gather a minimum of 60 points, which is no small feat. The press release explains that a lack of green standards for housing or residence hall construction forced the design team to get creative. "A lot of hard work went into this," said Wilfred Brown, executive director of UCSB's Housing & Residential Services. "We had to look at what was being done for industrial construction, for new classrooms, or laboratories, and adapt it for housing."
Arcadia's Senior Associate Landscape Architect Brian Brodersen led our design effort on this project. Congratulations, Brian ~
The full announcement lives here, as do pictures of the project.
As a few members of the staff and I study for the LEED certification test, we're struck by the system's attention to detail.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has been developed by the US Green Building Council as a way to quantify a project’s sustainability. Five brave Arcadians have committed to taking the test in spring 2009. Being LEED certified will help us guide projects toward a higher level of sustainability.
One of the things that amazes us as we go through the dense study guide is the amount of thought that has gone into the system. Imagine – you are making up guidelines for architects and builders all over the country. Big cities, small towns, cold climates or deserts – this system has to be inclusive enough to span the wide geography of the states, yet specific enough to actually measure something. The more we learn, the more respect we have for the rating system.
One of the many applications of LEED certification is that it helps us avoid “greenwashing”. Arcadia gets inundated with fliers and emails about this or that new green product. How do we differentiate between the truly green products and those that have just been re-named and re-packaged? By researching and implementing products that truly decrease the carbon footprint of our projects, we provide examples of beautiful, low-impact designs.
Our collective respect for the nuanced details of the LEED system makes me more excited to become certified - I think I’ll go memorize some EPA standards!
I'll be posting more about what practical applications of LEED we're discovering as the study group forges on towards the test. Click here for more info on LEED.