Landscape architecture is more than deciding which plants to use when designing a garden. A lot more. The discipline examines how humans shape the natural environment and how the built environment affects the humans moving through a space. Before a shovel of dirt is turned at a construction site, a landscape architect has considered drainage options, energy and water efficiency, walkability, and, of course, the plantings on site.
Utah State University’s landscape architecture and environmental planning (LAEP) program requires students to learn by doing. Since 2012 students in Associate Professor Phil Waite’s field studio course have transformed a 1940s-era home once slated for being demolished into an energy efficient home for visiting scholars.
“We thought, while we are at it, let’s make it as a green as we can with the idea that we could inspire neighbors to say ‘hey, you can resurrect something,’” says associate professor Dave Anderson, who oversaw the home’s renovation.
The interior was stripped and remodeled, adding dual insulation throughout the home where before there was none. The exterior was re-designed for water-wise plantings, rainwater harvesting, energy efficiency, and ADA compliance. Through a combination of grants, alumni support, and student proposals, the LAEP program rebuilt the cottage and optimized the site.
“Everything you see here, the students designed and built,” says Waite.
He knocks on a beam of treated wood that warped due to weather. It was installed before the wood was completely dry. “We always learn more from our mistakes than our successes,” he says.