Five Key Takeaways from ASLA 2016 in NOLA

Keysoft Booth – ASLA 2016

Just a few years ago I was attending seminars, earning my CEUs, and absorbing the latest trends in our profession at the ASLA conference from the perspective of a PLA. This year I was at the Keysoft Solutions booth having conversations with practicing landscape architects about why they attended the conference, what they are taking home, and the current issues they are experiencing within their firms. We absorbed as much local food and culture as possible, had some great conversations, met some great people, and finally put a face to the name of several of our customers!

#1 Sustainable SITES Initiative v2 is Fully Realized

Finally, there is a standard for measuring site performance on par with LEED for buildings. When a building is being measured for a LEED rating there are relatively few metrics that relate to the scope of the Landscape Architect. Now, with SITES, there is an effective way to measure the performance of the project beyond the façade of a building, or if the project contains no structures at all (parks, open space, etc.).

If SITES certification is a goal of the developer or mandated by a municipality, the landscape architect needs to make certain early-stage design decisions to ensure that certification is not only planned for, but is also feasible. If you or your client is interested in pursuing SITES, get the checklist and assemble a documentation process early!

#2 Resiliency in Design: Location Appropriate

Resiliency has been the buzzword of 2015-2016, but the topic couldn’t have been more appropriate with the conference being located in New Orleans this year. Seeing this city recover and beginning to thrive again was very comforting, but it’s all for nothing if the next “Katrina-like” event causes similar devastation. The design community has really stepped forward in cities like New Orleans or Detroit that have (or had) an opportunity to redefine themselves.

#3 Dealing with Succession Planning

Hanging out at the EXPO, I talked to many professionals whose firms have been acquired, merged, or transformed in some way due to the unexpected departure of an owner or the owners are nearing retirement. Often the other shareholders cannot afford to buy-out those who are retiring. What are the options and how to they effect junior and mid-level landscape architects?

It seems we are starting to see a consolidation of small to medium practices. They are being acquired by the likes of Stantec or AECOM, they are merging with partners in adjacent services like civil engineers or architects, or they are exploring other options like bringing in equity partners.

#4 Landscape Architects Being Pushed to Revit

The most used word in our booth this year was Revit. Everyone is living under the shadow of Revit. Either they have been forced to adopt it and are struggling to manipulate it into working or they have been warned that it is on its way.

In the world of Autodesk, architects work in Revit and civil engineers work in Civil 3D. Landscape architects have always been caught in the middle in regards to drafting technology. Multi-disciplinary firms that have a strong architect contingent are trying to push landscape architects into adopting Revit as their design documentation tool. The problem is that Revit is not designed to work within the realm of the landscape architect.

Several problems are at play here:

  • Upper management does not understand the needs of their landscape architects and/or the shortcomings of Revit.
  • Misunderstanding about what BIM is. It is a process and not a product. Each trade should use the tools that work best for them…as long as there is an interchange format.
  • Your design should not be hamstrung by the shortcomings of technology. Don’t let the horse push the cart.

#5 Designing for Inclusivity/Diversity in Design

In light of recent current events and protects, this topic was particularly timely. As our population becomes more urbanized and more diverse, many of our design and planning theories are becoming obsolete. The frameworks we have in place do not account for the needs of all residents.

Important questions posed:

  • How do we allocate resources among all members of a community equitably?
  • Who should be designing or planning these communities?
  • How do you effectively gain community input and buy-in?
  • Does designing for a particular demographics’ needs ignore the needs of another group?
  • Should we design for total inclusivity or does that sterilize the design of any special cultural elements?


Shrimp and Grits at Ruby Slipper

Overall, its was a great long-weekend in one of most culturally-rich cities in the US. And if you missed the Krewe of Boo parade on Saturday evening (or didn’t make it to the conference this year), get back to NOLA as fast as possible!

For more information on how KeySCAPE LandCADD is helping the landscape architecture community improve their design capability, click here.


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