In 2017, we designed and built the world’s first Rain Park in South Orange, NJ. It was a huge deal for us and really set a new direction for the thinking around green infrastructure, public parks and community engagement. However, things didn’t go as plan for getting lots of amazing plants to grow in the new space. The lack of flowers and other nice things to look at caused a bit of an uproar, so we have doubled efforts to get the Rain Park moving in the right direction. The new direction has given us a chance to also show how landscape design can be as much an art form as a gardening and maintenance.
Invasive plant species are a huge problem. They have overtaken giant expanses of the landscape. As they do, they erase the ability for native plants and animals to thrive, and there’s no easy solution to get rid of them. But there is a bit of a silver lining. When I was walking along the bank of a river about a week ago, I came across a few very amazing plants that had beaten the odds among a mess of knotweed and porcelain berry (two of the worst offenders of the invasive mob).
It's the first official day of spring and things are definitely heating up in my studio. We have lots of really exciting residential projects going on as well as a few other types. One project that I'm super excited about is a stream side and habitat restoration project. It's very, very early in the process, so I can't even say 100% that we will be able to do it. But I'm excited none-the-less. The project entails restoring a piece of land on the border of South Orange and Maplewood, NJ. I did a video about the project, and you can watch it through the break below, or going to my company's Youtube page.
If you watched my recent video about the Rain Park, you know that I’m a big fan of cutting back perennials and grasses in the spring instead of the fall. There’re lots of ecological and aesthetic reasons for that. I’d recommend the Rain Park videos if you are interested to get more details. Or you can read this blog – because I’m taking a bit of a deeper dive on why spring cleanups are better for the environment and your sense of wellbeing. Get the facts after the break.
Just about every designer, architect, builder or creative I've ever known wants to make a difference. I'm no different. One of the reasons design and construction is so interesting to me is how it can positively impact other people and nature. To do my part, I'm always getting involved with projects that can foster communities around a love for the natural world. One of the projects I'm the proudest of is the Rain Park. If you don't know about the Rain Park, I've got info about it on the Project page of this website and I"ll add a few links in this blog. We designed and built the Rain Park about 2 years ago. My kids love going to it, and I've had tons of other people tell me how much they love it too. It's incredible during every season. I've had the chance to go to it this winter, and I made a couple of videos about it. The videos are on the chambersdesign Youtube page, but if you follow the link, you can watch them here too.
Last week, the Yardblog post was about green infrastructure. So this week, I thought it would be a good idea to write about something a little more specific about green infrastructure and yards. Obviously, rain gardens are a perfect topic! If you search this website about them, you will find lots of info. Rain gardens are amazing gardening items and extremely popular these days because they have enormous benefits for a property and nature. They create micro-habitats, improve the health of pollinators, look incredible, naturally fight mosquitoes and many others. Though there’re lots of good reasons to put one in your yard, the number one thing rain gardens are designed to do is manage stormwater. With the right placement in a yard and with the right design, a rain garden can turn a soggy backyard into a paradise or transform a boring spot into a eco-wonderland. Read more after the break.
Many in design to engineering have called suburbs “a tumor on the planet”. Yet, the suburban landscape is a treasure of opportunity for a better future. Even single-family homes are remarkable tool of transformative power with sustainability. This isn’t the normal thing you may read about suburbia though. Cities are more often championed as the ideal for social, economic, creative and ecological improvement, but this view is myopic in its prognosis. Everything happening in large cities from green infrastructure to urban farming to bike/pedestrian lanes to renewable energy has a greater potential for success in suburbs at lower costs, more ease of application and would serve a greater number of people. This is a huge topic to unpack, so in this blog I’m covering only one of the ways suburban living can make the world more eco-friendly, namely green infrastructure.
This week, we found out we have won a grant from Sustainable Jersey and the Nature Conservancy to reforest land within the Township of South Orange Village. We are super excited about finding out this news. This is the second award in two years we’ve won for reforestation in South Orange, and helps us continue to show a commitment to environmentalism in the state. The project will be half park, half reforestation while enhancing wildlife, acting as green infrastructure and fighting climate change. More details after the break.
I’m really excited about a bioswale project that my studio is currently working on. So excited in fact, that I had to write a blog about it. We are only in the preliminary phase for it, and hopefully things will progress in the coming weeks. If you don’t know what a bioswale is, don’t worry. I will explain it after the break, so read on. I’ll also give you more details and show you some images. Hope you enjoy!
This winter, I’m scheduled to teach a new class offered by the South Orange – Maplewood Adult School. The class is geared to help homeowner conceive and create their dream project for their yards. It will be held through a local adult education school in South Orange – Maplewood.
We are continuing our "Envisioning Your Dream Project" series with new videos about materials and sustainability. This newest video covers a bunch of amazing wood products that can make your next project truly incredible. We look at several types of wood that can be used for fencing, decks, cladding and other elements for a landscape project. Also covered is how to maintain it, their costs and how to use them to get the maximum impact from your project. Click below to watch the video.
Many of our clients have drainage issues in their yards. This is especially true for backyards. Exterior spaces can become swampy and muddy after rainstorms or snow melt making the area uninhabitable. There are standard ways to address soggy properties, but I’ve come to see them as uninventive and not worth the cost. Instead, I work with clients to use solutions that enhance the lifestyle and usability of they yards that celebrate imagination and the environment. Recently, we finished a drainage project that encapsulates the potential for better options for wet yards that doubles as an amenities for living a better life.
Super excited to announce a new video series about how to envision a dream project. The series is made up of three videos. The videos take you through a step-by-step process from discovering and finding inspirational images to how those images can influence and transform your entire house.
We had some good news around healthcare this year. In February, we were told it achieved a rating of Gold for a hospital we helped design. Way back in 2010, chambersdesign started working with WakeMed, a healthcare provider in Raleigh, NC to create one of the greenest hospitals in the world. With the news about our LEED rating we found out that the project is now one of only 15 to score so high on the planet.
As 2018 comes to a close, I thought it’s a good time to review the last 12 months. This year has been full of exciting clients, projects and experiences. Along with all of that, we also won an award from the US Green Building Council - New Jersey Chapter (USGBC-NJ) this year. I should have written about our success when first honored with the news, but I haven’t had time until now. Winning awards is always a great surprise and extremely humbling. They help gage whether or not the ideas and practices put into action through projects are making sense to the larger world. Design and construction are often so focused on the end results and juggling the many parts of the process that the wider conversation about ecology, urban design and nature are overlooked. However, receiving this award brings that all back into focus and gives me fuel for the future.
The goal is to make this blog a resource for helpful tips and sustainable ideas. I create original content that shows projects in progress and the behind-the-scenes of installation. And, I try to have as much fun as I can doing it.