by Rosie Allen BSc BLA (Hons)
Since I joined Isthmus in February 2011 I have been undertaking research into landscape design input to major infrastructure projects, in particular the mechanisms for tying together landscape assessment with landscape design implementation. Projects I reviewed ranged from ‘worst practice’ to ‘best practice’:
A ‘worst practice’ approach is where a Landscape and Visual Assessment (LVA) is carried out after the project has been designed, and where any design input is limited to mitigation (typically planting) after the fact.
A ‘best practice’ approach, on the other hand, is where there is; input to the project design itself (avoiding effects as the first priority); input to more aspects of the project in collaboration with other disciplines; a focus on positive effects as well as reducing adverse effects; and use of more sophisticated mechanisms to control implementation of works.
Extract from Steamfield Design Protocol - Tauhara II Geothermal Development.
The initial impetus for this research is the increasing complexity of infrastructure projects, alongside increasing scrutiny of environmental effects and demands for higher standards of environmental design. At the same time the regulatory processes for infrastructure consenting has become more demanding (especially for ‘one shot’ Boards of Inquiry) and decision-makers are demanding more certainty about how designs will be implemented, in order to determine effects and therefore assess outcomes.
The best response appears to be more pro-active design and more sophisticated management mechanisms that provide more detail and certainty about how the works will be delivered. The other side of the coin is that such an approach can reinforce the credibility of landscape evidence, and improve the likelihood of consent.
In particular I looked at a range of implementation mechanisms including:
- Landscape Management Plans,
- Design protocols,
- Best practice procedures (e.g. for earthwork contouring),
- Landscape and urban design frameworks (particularly for NZTA projects),
- Comprehensive development plans (CDPs) (particularly for land development),
- Outline plan of works for Notices of Requirement and
- Environmental Management Plans.
Each of these seems to have a role and is best suited to different contexts. For instance Landscape Management Plans may be best where the project design is relatively advanced and complex, whereas design protocols may be best where future flexibility is needed (for example with the moveable elements of a geothermal steam-field). One of the tasks is also looking at how each mechanism can be tied in to conditions.
As well as management mechanisms, my research has coordinated technical knowledge and resources for the range of works associated with such projects. This has been assembled from a technical working group within Isthmus and input from outside experts.
I am now interviewing a range of clients for input from their perspective. The goal is to provide a tool-box to best suit different projects. I will add further detail on subsequent blogs on this site.
Transmission Gully Urban & Landscape Design Framework
Personal Background: Initially I studied Botany and Ecology and then completed a degree in landscape architecture. I was engaged by Isthmus for a summer research project in February 2011. I am now a permanent member of the Wellington team working on a variety of projects, as well as continuing to develop this ongoing research topic.
Please contact me if you would like to contribute or learn more. firstname.lastname@example.org