Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Will we have a White Christmas? NOAA probability map tells all

It’s the question we ask every year, “Will we have a white Christmas?!”

But we all know the answer varies depending on where you are and what’s happening with the weather at that time.  Moisture, cold, and ground temperature all play into it.  The folks at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center have made a map based on the best data (see link below if you want to geek out).  And of course, some likely candidates win out: northern Minnesota, Rockies, but so does a good amount of Colorado.

Regardless of the snow you see, may your Christmas be happy and bright!


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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Vision for Louisville


The mayor is embarking on a 25 year Vision for Louisville.  Much of it was kicked off at IF 2012, but there is more going on.  To stay in touch with the movement, go to this link:

See how 3D printing helped start the process.

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Vision for Louisville

The mayor is embarking on a 25 year Vision for Louisville.  Much of it was kicked off at IF 2012, but there is more going on.  To stay in touch with the movement, go to this link:

See how 3D printing helped start the process.

Posted via email from Verdant Design

Monday, November 05, 2012

Cost-effective, energy-efficient homes go head-to-head


The scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have put four advanced home design technologies head-to-head: all built at the same time right next to each other with the same square footage.  They tested structural insulated panel (SIP), optimal value wall framing (OVF), advanced framing with phase change materials (PCMM), and exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS). An overview of what these mean and the products used can be found in this pdf.

They computerized the homes to have the same daily use (electronically of course) for two years.  And the verdicts are in: SIPS was the most efficient and sealed crawlspaces are better than vented ones.   But all four of the homes were more than 50% energy efficient over conventional IECC (2006) code standards.

Here is a link to their findings and publications.

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Cost-effective, energy efficient home go head to head

John Pacyga, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP


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Friday, September 21, 2012

Park(ing) Day in Louisville #PD502

Some photos of the Kentucky Chapter of Landscape Architect’s PARK(ing) DAY space.  It’s right in front of the Green Building on E. Market.  It will only be in place until 4pm, so stop by!  There are many who devoted time and energy to this effort.  You can see the list at:  It also has a link to find a Landscape Architect Firm if you are looking for one in your area.

For more on Louisville’s many temp parks (TODAY ONLY) and a map, go to

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Visiting plant nurseries

So on rainy, overcast days I take advantage of the neutral light and visit plant nurseries in the area.  Today, I was scouting for some very unusual plant combinations.  Plant Kingdom and Thieneman’s were the places I visited.  The staff were helpful, even though my plant requests were audacious!  So here are a few of the photos from the day.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New SketchUp (SU8m4) is released and 2012 Basecamp registration is open!


(Note the new logo!)

Well the SketchUp team has been busy!  There is a new release of SketchUp available on the Trimble SketchUp site.

This would be SketchUp 8 Maintenance 4  (SU8m4).

The SketchUp Blog also has links to register for 2012 Basecamp – SketchUp’s every two year conference.

There is also a page to learn more about how SketchUp Pro can work for Landscape Architects.

There is also a Picasa page show casing SketchUp Landscape Architecture work.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bike Lanes: love 'em, hate 'em, funny?

So do you use bike lanes?  Do you think they make the roads safer for everyone?  What if a bicyclist has to make a left turn – can you be outside of a bike lane and still ride legal?

Has made a video about obstructions in bike lanes in New York City.  It’s kinda funny, kinda not.

(a little language (NSFW) for those with sensitive ears)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How do plants know which way is up or down?

If plants start from seed underground, then how do they know which way is up or down?  Do they sense gravity?  What would happen in space?  This great article from NPR discusses this along with why there truly are rocks in your head.

Time-lapse of a seed sending leaves up and roots down.

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Monday, July 02, 2012

Gourmet mushrooms at the Louisville Nature Center

The Louisville Nature Center has invited Eric Osborne, an Indiana state certified wild mushroom expert, to show how to identify mushrooms and take home a log inoculated with gourmet mushrooms.  Come to learn and get to enjoy mushrooms!

Fantastic Fungi Program

Louisville Nature Center

Saturday, July 7, 10am – noon

Reservations are required: 502-458-1328

or by email:

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shade plants with color

Whether its shade created from large buildings or from tree canopy, shade areas in your landscape can be a challenge.  Sometimes sun plants can adapt (they grow less vigorous or don’t bloom), but it really needs to be thought as a separate area in its own right.  There are ways to make these areas as interesting and colorful as the rest of the yard.  Plants in the photos can show how interesting and beautiful it can be.  Color can be found in the flowers, but also in the leaves and their textures.  Hostas are a prime example of a common shade perennial where most of the color comes from the leaves more than the blooms.

For your particular situation, consult an expert so the right plant can fit in the right spot and can be displayed in a way that takes full advantage of the conditions.

Here are some plants that do well in shade:

Burgundy Lace Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum), Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), Money Plant (Lunaria annua), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.), Coralbells (Heuchera spp.), Monkshood (Aconitum spp.), Turtlehead (Chelone spp.), Bugloss (Brunnera spp.), Honeysuckle Vine, and Lenten Rose (Helleborus spp.).   Other winners are: Bleeding Hearts, Astilbe, Columbine, Snowbells, and Mertensia.

There is a great nursery that specializes in Shade plants near Louisville, KY called Munchkin Nursery (it’s about a 45 minute drive).  They have wonderful display gardens and anyone can see their plants online and have them delivered via mail order.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Edible City: ideas about growing food in the city


A fellow Landscape Architect, Daniel Tal, made a great 3 minute video about the edible city: ways to grow food as the city expands.  Lots of different strategies are shown: food trucks, roof top farming, commercial growing, and growing food at home.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tornado maps

Leave it to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center to visualize where tornado watches have occurred on a per county basis in a given year and how much that has varied from previous years.

Tornado Statistics:

Largest average tornadoes per State over 30 years: Texas (a big state)

Largest average annual tornado fatalities per state over 30 years: Alabama (6)

Largest average annual tornadoes per 10k square miles per state over 30 years: Kansas (12)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Louisville Nature Center's Spring Plant Sale

The Louisville Nature Center will be having their Spring Plant Sale on May 12, 2012 from 9am to 3pm.  Sun and Shade loving perennials as well as some trees, shrubs and vines will be available. 

Best of all, you can see how they can be used by observing the LNC’s rain garden!

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Playhouse Design Competition!

I really admire a blog called “Life of an Architect” for many reasons.  This is one of those: he is hosting a Playhouse Design Competition!  All the rules and directions are below.  Be sure to check out the blog too.

Life of an Architect Playhouse Competition

The entries for the first annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition are due in 29 Days (April 16th, 2012)!!!

Who can enter?

This competition will be open to anyone from anywhere – the only entry criteria is the following:

§ there is no entry criteria!

That’s pretty much it, so there really isn’t a good reason not to submit. Oh, did I mention that there’s no fee required to enter!! It just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it?

What do I submit?

All submissions are required to be in electronic form with a file size not to exceed 5MB. For the judging process, you should submit plans, elevations, sections, perspectives … whatever you feel best conveys your design. Whatever drawings you do choose to create need to be arranged on a 24″ x 36″ board oriented vertically – this is very important that you follow these submission guidelines. I would humbly request that no animations be submitted. Right below you will see an example of the sort of entry graphic I am talking about …

Planter House by Scott Taylor

You might remember this playhouse from none other than frequent Life of an Architect collaborator and talented designer Scott Taylor (see the feature post on this design – including construction drawings  – here). This is the format you should use as an example, even paying attention to the types of drawings Scott included – he did a great job conveying his design intent along with just enough information on how this playhouse might be built.

**You are not required to generate construction drawings unless your design is selected as a winner**

.How do I register?

Please send an email to me – and put “Playhouse Competition” in the subject line. In the email, tell me who you are, what you do (architect, intern, student, housewife, phlebotomist – etc.) and current location of residence (just city, state, country – I don’t need your home address). If you want to include some additional biographical information about yourself feel free. I will respond to your email and send you the design guidelines (these playhouses have to get moved around so there are size limitations).


The judging process will be handled in two rounds; the first round will be a review of all the entries judged by me and up to 4 other people who will be chosen at a later date. The number of qualified entries we receive will determine how many entries will advance to the final judging round but I am shooting for around 20%. The criteria used for judging will be:

§ creativity

§ appeal

§ originality

§ buildability, and

§ the ability of the playhouse to be built for approximately $4,000 in material costs

On the costs, there are lots of people who don’t know how much stuff costs and that’s okay. The point is that you need to be considerate of the cost as you are designing your playhouse – which means designs that require CNC routers, GFRG castings, or cast in place stainless steel will most likely not advance to the final round. Entries can be submitted by individuals or by a team, it doesn’t matter and will not be a consideration during the judging. I will also feature all the entries that advance onto the final judging round here on the site.


Registration is currently happening!! – so send me that email ( with “Playhouse Competition” in the subject line – remember?)

April 16th – design submissions will be due. Deliverable will be a 24″x36″ vertically oriented JPEG or PNG file format emailed to (file size not to exceed 5MB). In the case of multiple entries by a single designer (person or group), please send each entry by itself. Do not place any personal information (like your name) on your digital submission – I want to keep things fair during the judging process.

April 23rd – initial round of judging (by celebrity judges not yet selected) to bring number of entries to be judged to manageable number of finalists will be complete with the finalists announced here on the Life of an Architect website.

April 30th – the final judging round will be completed and the winners will be announced here on the Life of an Architect website.

May 28th – Winners are required to prepare construction drawings (with possible value engineering considerations) for their entries and submit final construction drawings to the designated contractors.

Playhouses will be constructed and ready for delivery to Dallas CASA by the beginning of August to be raffled off.

.Reference information?

If you want, here is a link to every post I’ve written on the Parade of Playhouses (here) which includes construction drawings and a ridiculous number of construction photos and insider tips.

.Information on Dallas CASA

Dallas CASA (which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a nonprofit organization of community volunteers trained and supervised to serve as voices in court for abused and neglected children. On any day in Dallas County, there are nearly 2,000 children waiting for a safe place to live. Many times the CASA volunteer is the only constant in the child’s life during this very difficult process. Parade of Playhouses raises funds for Dallas CASA to continue serving more children who need safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.

.Special Thanks to:

AUI contractors llc fort worth texas

This is the second year in a row that AUI Contractors has stepped up and funded the construction of several of these playhouses. I became familiar with AUI thanks to Tim Guedry, a friend of mine dating back to high school who is now the  Director of Commercial Construction Services for AUI. Considering that I am primarily a residential architect, their financial commitment speaks to how much they care about the work Dallas CASA is doing in the community.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kentucky to be warmer and wetter than normal this spring


The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting Kentucky to be warmer and wetter than normal spring (when do we get normal?).  This is happening while the drought in Texas and Minnesota extends…

More maps and data can be found on the NOAA website:

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Bulbs for home and for commercial properties

Bulbs are a great way to kick off the growing season.  Some are very early bloomers, even blooming with snow on the ground!  Others can take off in late May.  Bulbs add a splash of color that is both good for homeowners as well as for commercial properties.  Their cost is minimal considering the will come back year to year.  If they are planted at a good depth (it depends on the size of the bulb but usually twice their size is how deep to plant), you can plant annuals above/around them.  My favorites are: Allium (showy ones all the way down to chives), Crocus, Galanthus (Snowdrops),  Lilium (Lilies), Narcissus (Daffodils), Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), and Scilla (Squill).  I tend to stay away from Tulips – the squirrels will eat them like apples before they can put out roots to keep them anchored.  They also decrease in strength over the years, while Daffodils will multiply!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Integrated Pest Management: What's the fuss all about?

UK agriculture has made a 35 minute video about Integrated Pest Management which gives a more complete picture for dealing with plant problems.  The first three minutes give a quick summary of what IPM covers:

Cultural – right plant for the right space

Biological – using insects and other animals to controls pests

Genetic – selecting cultivars with traits that are resistant

Mechanical – physical removal of the problem

Regulatory – controlling what plants (and therefore the pests) using quarantine or regulations to prevent the spread

Chemical – chemical treatment of the problem (right chemical at the right time)

The remaining part of the video covers the first four items listed above in more detail such as selecting quality plants, planting and maintaining them well, and how to deal with common disease/insect problems.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Rain Garden animation

It can be difficult to visualize a change in the landscape such as how a rain garden functions.  The enclosed animation takes a photograph of a Highlands landscape island and shows how it can be transformed into a rain garden.  An existing “bee hive” inlet is raised to allow for the water to first soak into the ground.  If there is too much rain water, the excess goes down into the inlet before it is allowed to flood the parking area.  As the rain stops, the water in the landscape island recedes.  So the animation shows how the view from a photo can be transformed to illustrate an ecological change – infiltrating water in a landscape area.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Invasive Plants! Oh My!


Invasive plants (or more correctly, non-native aggressive plants) tend to take over whether it’s a commercial landscape or a residential landscape.  These plants have proven to take over landscape areas, reproduce easily and can spread beyond their original location (making their way into our parks and natural areas).

Some plants are readily known to be invasive:

Honeysuckle (along I-64 around Cannons Lane)

Johnson Grass (taller grass found in roadside ditches such as River Road or along I-71)

Multiflora rose (thorny and ugly)

But some of the plants may surprise you:

Winged Euonymus (or “Cardinal Bush”)

Miscanthus (Silver Reed Grass, shown in the picture)

English Ivy

Kentucky 31 and Bluegrass (both are aggressive taking over native areas)

So what is being done in Jefferson County, KY?  Well, first thing is when a landscape plan is required in the county one does not receive credit for plants on the prohibited list such as the ones shown above.  And instead, other plants are preferred.  To learn more about our county plant lists, see our Louisville Land Development Code at:  (See Chapter 10, Appendix 10A and 10B)

General information on any state can be found at

Kentucky Exotic Pest Plant Lists

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Plant Hardiness Zone Map available

The 2012 version of the hardiness zone map is available on the USDA website.  And yes, the map is changing.  Louisville’s West End is now zone 7a.  Clifton, and all points east, are zone 6b.  Louisville used to be in hardiness zone 6b as of 1990.  The hardiness zone map is based on average annual minimum temperatures.  It will be interesting to see how a year like this year will affect future maps…

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