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Outdoor Spaces at High-End Residences Are Going Green

Eco landscaping is producing exteriors that are beautiful and sustainable


Outdoor Spaces at High-End Residences Are Going Green

In the same way drivers of luxury cars are trading in their Mercedes for Teslas, owners of high-end properties are abandoning their lush lawns and exotic outdoor plants for ecologically sustainable, environmentally conscious landscapes.

Across the U.S., landscape architects are being asked to create outdoor spaces that reduce water and energy consumption and utilize more locally sourced materials.

While some of this is driven by regulation, in many places it is simply seen as the right thing to do.

Russ Greey, a principal at the landscape architecture firm Greey|Pickett in Scottsdale, Ariz., said that 10 to 15 years ago, people migrating to the Southwest sought to re-create the green, ornamental landscapes they had back home in the North and Midwest. But over time, people have become more environmentally aware and are embracing water-wise desert plants native to the region.

More:Michelin-Starred Residents-Only Restaurants: Flash in a Pan or the Start of a New Trend?

Instead of water-intensive lawns, Mr. Greey said, clients are installing synthetic turf, man-made paving materials that are cooler to the feet and locally sourced building materials that don’t have to be shipped halfway across the globe.

“People aren’t saying that they can’t afford stone imported from China,” he said, “but that it is the right thing to do.”

Water and energy issues

Even in non-desert climates, Mr. Greey said, clients are increasingly concerned with the water consumption on their property. Coastal regions in Northern California and Oregon, for example, are surprisingly dry, and native grasses are gaining in popularity over box hedges and other traditional types of plants.

Other sustainable elements in his landscapes include permeable paving materials that allow water to soak in and down into the aquifer, rather than creating runoff and erosion, and LED outdoor lighting systems that use less energy and wiring and last far longer than incandescent bulbs.

It’s not only the materials that must be environmentally conscious, but the labor as well: Some high-end clients have requested landscape contractors who use electric mowers, hedge clippers and blowers, rather than the fossil fuel-driven variety, Mr. Greey said.

What happens outside could affect the entire house

Mr. Greey noted that trends in exterior design are having an impact on the design of homes themselves. Desert plants, he said, lend themselves to sleeker, more sophisticated contemporary architecture–their spiky, interesting forms can silhouette up against a wall–and he believes this is pushing architecture as a whole toward a more contemporary style.

More:In New L.A. Tower, Renters Can Run Errands in a Bentley, Relax in Their Own Private Park

John Feldman, founding principal of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture, a landscape architecture firm in Santa Monica, Calif., agreed.

“Classical architecture, from Cape Cod to Spanish Colonial, has a very defined look, an Italian or French garden with clipped and manicured hedges, low border plants,” he said. “The water issue is a game-changer,” as contemporary styles are more tolerant of innovative uses of materials.

He said he is seeing a definite nod toward contemporary landscapes and housing in Los Angeles, with 15,000- to 30,000-square-foot contemporary homes being built in the Hollywood Hills at a rate he’s never seen before.

Like Mr. Greey, Mr. Feldman is experiencing client demand for exterior LED lighting that is ecologically friendly and easy on the energy bill. Other popular features: fire effects, bocce courts, outdoor theaters with projectors and sound systems, and pools or spas that are themselves water features.

What he’s not seeing anymore are big, luxurious lawns. In fact, much of his business now involves turning clients’ water-hungry estates into sustainable gardens and grounds.

In some cases, it’s the law

Starting this past Jan. 1, any new home or significant remodeling project in the State of California must undergo a strict environmental review for water consumption that takes in the entire property and includes a point system that ranks every type of plant. The City of Santa Monica, Mr. Feldman said, has its own environmental regulations and sends inspectors out during installation to make sure the plants on the plans are actually going into the ground.

Some high-end buyers have purchased new homes whose exterior design plans do not comply with the law. In effect, he said, they end up buying something they can’t have. In those cases, he said, high-end landscape architects have to come in late in the process to adapt the project, at considerable cost.

More:Beyond Wallpaper: 3-D Wall Treatments That Transform a Room

But for clients who still want green, there are options. Large trees and a smaller, artificial lawn produce a shady effect that can trick the eye, and some of the material is a plush muslin-y weave that is soft underfoot, Mr. Feldman said.

One upcoming project in Santa Monica, he said, takes environmental awareness to a whole new level—it is designed as a net zero house. In addition to low-water-use plants and subsurface irrigation design, it will use graywater –recycled from the home–to water a portion of the grounds.

A similar trend takes hold in cities

Katherine Gauthier, of Douglas Elliman in Manhattan, said the desire for a reduced impact on the environment “is translating to outdoor sanctuaries” in the city, too.

One property she is selling—a $37 millionpenthouse on the Upper East Side—has a 2,900-square-foot terrace that was redesigned taking ecological principles into consideration. Cement was replaced with recycled wooden planks, one section has artificial turf and most of the plants were specifically chosen because they don’t need excessive water.

When she shows the property to prospective buyers, “we want them to know we worked with a landscape architect to use materials that didn’t tap the water supply,” Ms. Gauthier said. “It’s become part of what more people are expecting.”

As Mr. Feldman put it, “The way people luxuriate is being rethought.”

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3 ways to make meeting spaces, workplaces sustainable

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Green office spaces can boost health and productivity, and business owners are looking for ways to become eco-friendlier.

Whether one works from a home office or owns a small business or a large corporation, there are ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the business, in return decreasing costs associated with energy consumption, to lower the cost of business and create a healthier workspace environment.

Visionect recently introduced the Joan Meeting Room Assistant, an energy efficient digital door label and meeting room scheduling solution. Here are three trends in meeting spaces, according to the company, that promote a sustainable workplace:

  • Promote green office practices: If you want an environmentally friendly office space design, ensure that your meeting space promotes green office practices. Some ways to ensure that your office is green is to go digital. Physical calendars for meeting room reservations are not very green. Getting a digital conference room reservation system reduces unnecessary waste. Other green office practices include telecommuting or using public transit, business casual attire and powering down at night when it comes to shutting down unused devices to save on the overall energy bill.
  • LEED certification score and environmentally friendly office products: The U.S. Green Building Council created a scoring system to rate the greenness of a building. The scoring system is called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The highest potential LEED score is 110. Based on the number of points a building earns, it will receive one of four ratings: certified (40+), silver (50+), gold (60+) and platinum (80+). The points are weighted based on environmental impact. Achieving a high LEED certification score can be done by incorporating three green friendly factors; green construction methods, sustainable materials, and energy-efficient systems into the building process. When designing a meeting room, ensure they meet the LEED certification score by buying eco-friendly office furniture.
  • Use environmentally friendly office products: Environmentally friendly office products can range from reusable pens, to LED lamps and bulbs, to recycled paper and rechargeable batters, as long as you research and replace what can be more eco-friendly in your office, you are closer to being green. When it comes to reusable pens, stop throwing away pens and start using reusable ones. Even when it comes to ink and toner cartridges, each reused cartridge saves 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic and half a gallon of oil. Plus, it costs about 1.5 times less than new cartridges.

Topics: Architectural Firms, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Energy Saving Products, Great Commercial Buildings, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Technology, USGBC

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Steel, plants, marble and wood: Interior design trends to watch out for

Germans love functional living spaces, but comfort is the catchword at the IMM Cologne furniture design fair. Plants and decorative objects are a must, and so are new materials — used to revisit Bauhaus classics.

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Outcome of Design Conference


The inaugural Outcome of Design Conference (OODC), March 21 – 22 at The Merchandise Mart (theMart) in Chicago, will provide an in-depth focus on the impact of design on the human experience. Thought leaders and Outcome of Design Award (OOD) finalists will present on the theory and practice of design, new tools and processes, strategy, technology, and research – all through the lens of projects that successfully illustrate that “Design Impacts Lives.”



5:00 PM
3/21/2019 – 3/22/2019


The Merchandise Mart (theMart)
Chicago, IL
United States



A world-class collection of thought leaders in design, including the OOD Award finalists, will share innovative projects from designers and businesses that focus on the quantifiable effect of projects on people in spaces. Projects that measure the outcome of design on the human experience through sustainable, humancentric, and socially responsible design solutions are the future, and the OODC will include the innovators who are leading the charge.

The OODC is an ideal conference for interior designers and those who practice in related fields including facilities management, architecture, lighting design, landscape architecture, and more, who are committed to designing for the best outcome on the human experience.

The OODC is held in partnership with Herman Miller, NeoCon, and Metropolis.


Doreen Lorenzo, M.A.


Clinical Professor of Design and Future, Director of the Center for Integrated Design, University of Texas-Austin

Co-founder, Vidlet and Independent business advisor and design columnist

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Sandra Leigh Lester, BTech.Arch.Sci., MCOD, ARIDO, IDC, ZIN, PTS, CSBA, LEED AP BD+C


Affecting Change, Inc.

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Fred Marks, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Six Sigma Green Belt


Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA)

Visiting Scholar, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

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Avinash Rajagopal



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Joseph White


Herman Miller

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Byron Morton


the MART

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Randy Fiser, Hon. FASID



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Celebrate, explore, network, and learn at the inaugural Outcome of Design Conference. Discover the theory and practice of design through the work of the Outcome of Design Award winners on Thursday, March 21, and immerse yourself in the implications of design outcomes with presentations from industry leaders on Friday morning, March 22. Explore the winning projects with the OOD finalists as they discuss their design solutions on Friday afternoon.

Outcome of Design Conference Schedule

Thursday, March 21

5:00 p.m. | Registration & Cocktail Hour

6 – 7:00 p.m. | Outcome of Design Awards Presentation

7 – 9:00 p.m. | Reception

Friday, March 22

7 – 8:00 a.m. | Registration + Breakfast

8 – 9:00 a.m. | Opening Keynote: Preparing Future Generations to Influence Corporate Culture

9:00 – 9:15 a.m. | Break

9:15 a.m.– 9:45 a.m. | Morning Exploration: Technology

9:45 a.m.– 10:15 a.m. | Morning Exploration: Professional Practice

10:15 – 10:45 a.m. | Morning Exploration: Design Education

10:45 – 11:00 a.m. | Break

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Morning Panel

12:00 – 1:30 p.m. | Lunch at Marshall’s Landing

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. | Outcome of Design Award Finalist Project Panel #1

2:30 – 2:45 p.m. | Break

2:45 – 3:45 p.m. | Outcome of Design Award Finalist Project Panel #2

3:45 – 4:00 p.m. | Break

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. | Outcome of Design Award Finalist Project Panel #3



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Designing Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Buildings

Developing a perfectly energy-efficient building is relatively easy to do—if you don’t give the building’s occupants any control over their environment. Since nobody wants that kind of building, Professor Christoph Reinhart has focused his career on finding ways to make buildings more energy-efficient while keeping user needs in mind.

“At this point in designing buildings, the biggest uncertainty comes from user behavior,” says Reinhart, who heads the Sustainable Design Lab in MIT’s Department of Architecture. “Once you understand heat flow, it’s a very exact science to see how much heat to add or take from a space.”

Trained in physics, Reinhart made the move to architecture because he wanted to apply the scientific concepts he’d learned to make buildings more comfortable and energy-efficient. Today, he is internationally known for his work in what architects call “daylighting”—the use of natural light to illuminate building interiors—and urban-level environmental building performance analysis. The design tools that emerged from his lab are used by architects and urban planners in more than 90 countries.

The Sustainable Design Lab’s work has also produced two spinoff companies: Mapdwell, which provides individualized cost-benefit analyses for installing solar panels; and Solemma, which provides environmental analysis tools such as DIVA-for-Rhino, a highly optimized daylighting and energy modeling software component. Reinhart is a co-founder and strategic development advisor at Mapdwell, and he is CEO of Solemma.

Through it all, physics has remained a central underpinning. “Everything our lab develops is based on physics first,” says Reinhart, who earned master’s degrees in physics from Albert Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg, Germany, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

Informing design

A lifelong environmentalist, Reinhart says he was inspired to study architecture in part by the work of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, which built a completely self-sufficient solar house in Freiburg in the early 1990s.

While finishing his master’s thesis, Reinhart says, he also read an article that suggested that features such as color can be more important than performance to architects choosing a solar system—an idea that drove him to find ways to empower architects to consider aesthetics and the environmental performance of their designs at the same time. He began this effort by investigating daylighting at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

Light is incredibly important from a design standpoint—architects talk of “painting with light”—but there are also significant technical challenges involved in lighting, such as how to manage heat and glare, Reinhart says.

“You need good sky models and you need good rendering tools to model the light. You also need computer science to make it faster—but that’s just the basics,” Reinhart says, noting that the next step is to consider how people perceive and use natural light. “This really nuanced way of thinking is what makes daylighting so fun and interesting.”

For example, designers typically render buildings with all the blinds open. If they learn that people will keep the blinds down 90 percent of the time with a given design, they are likely to rethink it, Reinhart says, because “nobody wants that.”

The daylighting analysis software developed by Reinhart’s team in 1998 provides just this kind of information. Known as DAYSIM, it is now used all over the world to model annual daylight availability in and around buildings.

Reinhart has also published textbooks on daylighting: “Daylighting Handbook I: Fundamentals and Designing with the Sun” was published in in 2014, and a second volume, “Daylighting Handbook II: Daylight Simulations and Dynamic Facades,” was released last October.

“Daylighting was really my first way into architecture,” Reinhart says, noting that he thinks it’s wonderful that the field combines “rock solid science” like sky modeling with more subjective questions related to the users’ experience, such as: “When is sunlight a liability?” and “When does it add visual interest?”

Teaching and advising

After earning his doctorate in architecture from Technical University in 2001, Reinhart taught briefly at McGill University in Canada before being named an associate professor of architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. In 2009, the student forum there named him faculty member of the year.

In 2012, he joined the faculty at MIT, where he typically supervises seven or eight graduate students, including about three working on their Ph.D.s. Often, he also has students working in his lab through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Several students majoring in computer science have proved particularly helpful, he says.

“It’s amazing what MIT students can implement,” he says.

Reinhart is also an instructor, of course, notably teaching 4.401/4.464 (Environmental Technologies in Buildings), which focuses on how to assess the energy efficiency of buildings.

“There’s nothing more fun—especially at an institution like MIT—than to teach these concepts,” he says.

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) is now working to make that subject available online via MITx, and the class is expected to be part of a planned graduate certificate in energy, according to Antje Danielson, MITEI’s director of education.

City-scale modeling

Meanwhile, Reinhart has scaled his own research up to modeling energy use at the city level. In 2016, he and colleagues unveiled an energy model for Boston that estimates the gas and electricity demands of every building in the city—and his team has since assessed other urban areas.

This work has underscored for him how significant user behavior is to calculating energy use.

“For an individual building you can get a sense of the user behavior, but if you want to model a whole city, that problem explodes on you,” Reinhart says, noting that his team uses statistical methods such as Bayesian calibration to determine likely behaviors.

Essentially, they collect data on energy use and train the computer to recognize different scenarios, such as the energy used by different numbers of people and appliances.

“We throw 800 user behaviors at a sample of buildings, and since we know how much energy these buildings actually use, we only keep those behavioral patterns that give us the right energy use,” Reinhart says, explaining that repeating the process produces a curve that indicates the buildings’ most likely uses. “We don’t know exactly where people are, but at the urban level, we get it right.”

Determining how energy is being used at this broad scale provides critical information for addressing the needs of the energy system as a whole, Reinhart says. That’s why Reinhart is currently working with Exelon Corporation, a major national energy provider, to assess energy use in Chicago. “We can say, let’s foster these kinds of upgrades and pretty much guarantee that this is how the energy load throughout a neighborhood or for particular substations will change—which is just what utilities want to know,” he says.

The food-energy-water nexus

Recently, Reinhart has also begun investigating ways to make food production more energy-efficient and sustainable. His lab is developing a software component that can estimate food yields, associated use of energy and water, and the carbon emissions that result for different types of urban farms.

For example, hydroponic container farming—a system of growing food without soil inside something like a shipping container—is now being promoted by companies in some cities, including Boston. This system typically uses more electricity than conventional farming does, but that energy use can be more than offset by the reduced need for transportation, Reinhart says. Already, Reinhart’s team has shown that rooftop and container farming on available land in Lisbon, Portugal, could theoretically meet the city’s total vegetable demand.

This work exploring the nexus between food, energy, and water is just the next level of complexity for Reinhart in a career dedicated to moving the needle on sustainability. Fortunately, he’s not alone in his work; he has sent a host of young academics out into the world to work on similar concerns.

Reinhart’s former graduate students now work at universities including Cornell, Harvard, Syracuse, and the University of Toronto, and he continues to collaborate with them on projects.

It’s like having a growing family, says Reinhart, a father of two. “Students never leave. It’s like kids.”

Continue reading Designing Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Buildings

Outcome of Design Conference


The inaugural Outcome of Design Conference (OODC), March 21 – 22 at The Merchandise Mart (theMart) in Chicago, will provide an in-depth focus on the impact of design on the human experience. Thought leaders and Outcome of Design Award (OOD) finalists will present on the theory and practice of design, new tools and processes, strategy, technology, and research – all through the lens of projects that successfully illustrate that “Design Impacts Lives.”


5:00 PM
3/21/2019 – 3/22/2019


The Merchandise Mart (theMart)
Chicago, IL
United States


Continue reading Outcome of Design Conference

Mid-century Modern goes mainstream

Mr Bigglesworthy furniture reflects the passion of business owners Dan and Emma Eagle. Photographed in the McClew House designed by architect Ken Albert in 1966.
Mr Bigglesworthy furniture reflects the passion of business owners Dan and Emma Eagle. Photographed in the McClew House designed by architect Ken Albert in 1966.

It’s perhaps the strongest furniture trend this year, and it shows no sign of slowing.

Mid-century Modern pieces are appearing in new furniture collections throughout the country as demand soars.

Of course, there are the classics that have never gone out of style, such as the Eames lounge chair, G Plan furniture and Saarinen tables. But, increasingly, the look is finding favour with a younger generation, which didn’t see the furniture first time round.

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Design Recipes: A sustainable, energy-efficient home



Europe has been the leader for decades and now the United States is finally catching up. The trend right now is to be not only environmentally friendly, but also to not waste resources. Sustainability, many believe, is the key to healthy living. One of the main trends right now relates to building and construction. From sustainable materials that go into building a green home to some of the energy efficient benefits of passive housing, many homeowners are choosing to build and renovate their homes in a more environmentally friendly way.

Getting started

If you are looking to create a green home, understand it will not happen overnight. Living green and even building green is a process that is helped by pre-planning. Here are some tips for a greener lifestyle:

Source locally. Locally sourced materials not only help the environment by creating a narrow carbon footprint, but they are also in many cases more special than what you may find elsewhere.

Focus on materials. These days there are so many green options as it relates to materials, no one will have a problem finding a sustainable, eco-friendly choice. When you are looking for materials, begin by focusing on the most inhabited areas of the home, such as kitchens and baths. With rooms where you spend a lot of time, you certainly want to make sure are as healthy as possible.

Focus heavily on energy efficiency. Wasting energy, specifically how the home is heated and cooled, should be one of the main areas of focus. Looking to build a home from the ground up? Why not consider building a passive house? Passive homes are the ultimate in home efficiency and part of a growing movement.

The color green

Green is a color that many people associate with health and healthy living. With greenery being this year’s color of the year, expect to see even more green. Green will be the dominant color on the runways, then we will see it pass on to home furnishings. In general, green is a fresh, clean color that pairs especially well with light neutral colors such as white, taupe and gray.

Common misconceptions

One of the biggest misconceptions about green living is that it is more expensive. In many instances, it’s easy to get wasteful by purchasing products that are poorly made or lackluster performers. As a result those items are discarded and new ones purchased. Eco-friendly products in many instances are extremely well made and may be more durable and long-lasting. Eco-friendly materials may even end up saving you money.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at


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Outcome Of Design Awards

Welcome to the online submission platform for the ASID Outcome of Design Awards! 


(Submissions due December 5, 2018 11:59 p.m. EST.)

Awards Overview

Launching in Fall 2018, the ASID Outcome of Design Awards, in partnership with Herman Miller and NeoCon, celebrate the proof in the power of design. By highlighting new tools and processes in design, strategy technology, and research, the Awards seek to recognize projects that successfully illustrate that “Design Impacts Lives.”

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