This three-month design studio final project required for graduation summed up all my Bachelors of Landscape Architecture education. The project grew out of a family's wish for an earth-sheltered house on 40 acres in the hills southwest of Eugene, Oregon.
Taking the term "comprehensive" literally, my project examined the potential of "green" living concepts as they might apply at different geographic scales ranging from regional watershed planning to rooftop garden design.
Proposals ranged from ecosystem-aware rural energy and economic development to earth-sheltered homes with integrated greenhouses.
Regional Planning and Design
How can residents live comfortably by enhancing the watershed's natural carrying capacity of plants and animals?
Using watersheds as an organizing principle for systems analysis and design, this regional settlement scenario proposed land uses that were optimal for economic and environmental development for a two square mile area. It distributed these land uses across property boundaries assuming landowners agreed to share responsibilities in service of watershed vitality as a common beneficial outcome.
Development zones followed what the local soils, landforms, air flows, daily sunlight and annual availability of rain and ground water could sustain.
Land uses included forestry, agriculture and renewable energy production. All land uses intentionally provided multiple environmental as well as economic benefits.
Microhydro power worked alongside beaver habitat. Silviculture activities alongside creeks preserved Salmon spawning grounds. No-till row crops ran in bands along terrace landform contours prevented soil loss. Road placement and engineering provided access while preventing surface water runoff.
Land Planning and Design
What land use scenarios produced the most income and energy while allowing woodland and meadow habitats to flourish?
The land use scenario laid out economic and environmental development opportunities specific to an a 40-acre property at the center of the watershed, where two year-round creeks carved a nose-shaped ridge facing the sun.
Development proposals included old growth timber, commercial timber, riparian woods, hardwoods, pastures, orchards, vineyards, row crops, field crops and wildflower meadows.
The potential for microhydro energy generation was as high as the need to support several American Beaver families that called the creeks their home.
Placement of roads managed water runoff and prevented soil loss by following contours. Timber production sites needed to support select harvesting of large like Fir, Cedar or Redwood trees, while assisting with fire prevention. The steepest hillsides needed to fully preserve their stable cover of conifers, while the few Madrona and White Oak trees on footslopes suggested a small cultivated hardwood plantation might bring some income.
Site Planning and Design
How can infrastructure and buildings join rather than divide natural spaces and communities?
The site plan reflected specific requirements for siting an earth-covered house, a greenhouse, a fruit orchard, a small vineyard and a vegetable garden.
It placed the house where the steep south slope joined the sunny meadow terrace. This was the best location for solar energy gain, adiabatic air circulation, protection from the North winds, a water well and a septic drainfield.
The house was at the center of all outdoor work and recreational spaces, all of which were connected together by an access road with buried utilities following the lower terrace contours. Orchard health benefitted indirectly from septic drainfield groundwater flows.
How can homes last for centuries at their natural best, both spatially and environmentally, with the least demand on material and support resources?
The Meadowhome proposal reflected specific requirements for a two-bedroom earth-covered house with office, livingroom, kitchen, dining room, utility room, two-car garage and a greenhouse.
By connecting indoor and outdoor spaces, the design created opportunities for passive heating, cooling and air flow.
The structure shortened the winter shut-in experience with interior spaces and sheltered outdoor patios that captured warmth from low angled sunlight.
A native wildflower meadow flowed uninterrupted over the structure's roofs kept the house interior cool during summer. And by following the gradual rise of the terrace slope, structure's two level floor plan pulled cool air upward through the house as needed through a stack effect.
Daylight and greenery filled interior spaces to reinforce a sense of belonging to the land. An integral greenhouse helped control the indoor temperature and humidity while providing fresh herbs for cooking.
How can homes connect their occupants with a spirit of nature?
The long expanse of south-facing windows took in a wide view of the valley. Angled glazing assisted with solar heat gain in the winter and large overhangs created shade in the summer.
Structural frame was detailed in local rock and built-in cabinets were made from local hardwoods. Built-in planters created sites for indoor plants.