The Perfect Match: BIM & Sustainable Landscape Architecture

The Perfect Match: BIM & Sustainable Landscape Architecture

Across the state of California, landscape architecture firm Pacific Coast Land Design (PCLD) is known for its expertise in public works projects. They deliver LEED-certified sites across a variety of projects — two of which serve as shining examples of how building information modeling (BIM) contributes incomparable value to integrated planning and design processes.

The projects, Westview Village and Old Town Newhall, speak to the evolving demands of landscape architecture, and how PCLD’s design tool of choice, Vectorworks Landmark, helps them go above and beyond expectations.

Westview Village

Constructed in 1957, Ventura County’s Westview Village originally consisted of 180 housing units, making it the oldest and largest affordable housing complex in the area.

In an article for the Ventura County Star, the CEO of the Housing Authority of Buenaventura said that the affordable housing crisis in California incited the complex’s revitalization efforts. The Housing Authority called on RNT Architects, Mainstreet Architects and Planners, and PCLD for planning and design, aiming for a 21st century build that can sustain long into the future.

Westview Village, LEED-certified project in California

(Courtesy Pacific Coast Land Design and Vectorworks)

The new 20-acre master plan, which has already begun being realized with phase one completed, depicts 320 housing units in place of the old 180 with a full 2 acres of open space used for community events, recreation, and a community-wide gardening program for onsite food production.

Plan for Westview Village, LEED-certified project in California

(Courtesy Pacific Coast Land Design and Vectorworks)

The project aimed to exceed LEED Neighborhood Development benchmarks, so PCLD worked with Jensen Design Engineering to develop a stormwater management system that recycles much of the complex’s runoff. Drought-tolerant and low water-use plants decrease the need for irrigation water, which is largely obtained through recycled laundry water, according to PCLD Principal Eric Berg.

Developing these sustainable water systems required heavy support from Vectorworks Landmark’s building information modeling (BIM) capabilities. During planning and design, PCLD linked data-rich worksheets to the site model for visualized insights. Their model contained vast amounts of live information needed to push towards more sustainable systems — at the start of the project, for example, PCLD worked with an arborist to get a detailed report on every one of the 209 onsite trees. They then linked this report with Vectorworks Landmark’s Existing Tree tool and used the information to develop a tree preservation plan.

Old Town Newhall

Once a popular backdrop for western films in the early 20th century, Newhall, California would eventually experience dramatic decline as the sprawling suburbs of nearby Los Angeles drew people away, leaving behind struggling businesses and high vacancy rates.

The City Council launched a revitalization effort to reverse Newhall’s fate, calling on PCLD to make it all happen. The result is Old Town Newhall, an emerging, mixed-used, pedestrian-oriented village with a redeveloped streetscape.

Plan for Old Town Newhall, LEED-certified project in California

(Courtesy Pacific Coast Land Design and Vectorworks)

PCLD’s design team worked with the Council to re-envision the central corridor of Main Street, from which the City had diverted traffic to a nearby roadway and added a roundabout to improve the flow of through-traffic. “We wanted to strengthen the community’s heritage and instill a new sense of pride in downtown Newhall,” says PCLD Principal Emeritus Chris Roberts.

The result is a dynamic mixed-use site that both catches the eye and transforms what was once a dilapidated streetscape into a thriving community village, one that takes sustainability in stride.

“We have to provide water budget calculations for each site, which can become time-consuming if you don’t have the right tools,” said PCLD Managing Principal Mike Zielsdorf. “We can input all of our data into our worksheet and use smart calculations in Vectorworks Landmark to do all the budgeting for us. Everything happens with the click of a button.”

Vectorworks Aids Success

As project requirements grow more and more demanding in the landscape disciplines, delivering highly coordinated BIM projects helps firms stay ahead of competition by demonstrating a deep understanding of the design concepts needed for successful project delivery. This is especially true when designing sustainable systems.

For both projects, these advanced design features include smart objects linked with built-in worksheets that reduce tediousness in the information modeling process. Visually representing vast amounts of complex information saved PCLD valuable time — consider Westview’s tree preservation plan as an example, as the process would’ve taken exponentially more time without smart tools and visualization. It not only would have taken more time, but it also would have been far more error prone.

“All of us have worked really hard to create detailed visualizations, and it’s changed how people look at our firm and what we do,” said Roberts. “Our business has grown as a result of the visualization and project development tools that Vectorworks has made available to us.”

According to Zielsdorf, “It’s the quality of our drawings and renderings that’s been the basis of our growth. Vectorworks allows us to use one file from the start, beginning at the conceptual phase and moving into construction, all while letting us pull reports and diagrams to communicate our design to anyone who needs to see it. Vectorworks is an incredibly important part of our process.”

Part of Old Town Newhall, a LEED certified project in California

(Courtesy Pacific Coast Land Design and Vectorworks)

Alex Altieri is a copywriting specialist for Vectorworks, Inc. He has degrees in digital/print journalism and philosophy from the Pennsylvania State University, and although he's not a designer by trade, Alex remains inspired by the ways Vectorworks software helps incite creativity. 

Tags: environmentcaliforniasponsored

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