Architect Dominique Davison AIA, LEED AP, principal of DRAW Architecture + Urban Design, knows the value of landscape performance in achieving a sustainable, carbon-neutral built environment. That is why her collaborative performance assessment tool, PlanIT Impact, takes a holistic approach that models performance for both buildings and sites – unlike many of the building-centric modelling platforms available in today’s market.
Davison, who trained at UC Berkeley under key leaders in architecture’s sustainability movement, realized early on how essential it was to make a compelling case for the financial benefits of sustainability. She was also inspired by the significant economic savings that municipalities like the City of Philadelphia were able to achieve with simple alternatives to standard practices, such as green approaches to stormwater management. Davison credits the Landscape Performance Series as another inspiration for her work on PlanIT Impact. She says, “One of the biggest investments we make is in the built environment, and yet we demand more in terms of information from our dishwashers than from our buildings.”
Founded in 2014, PlanIT Impact is a cloud-based platform that helps design teams collaborate to optimize performance and evaluate return on investment (ROI) by system: energy, water, stormwater, and transportation. Users input desired performance targets and site constraints, and PlanIT Impact runs models to inform optimal performance and ongoing management. The interface and models are designed to remove existing barriers to efficiency and sustainability in design, including communication challenges within a project team. PlanIT Impact is not only useful for “special” or LEED Platinum-aspiring projects – the simplicity and variety of inputs allow it to be used for every project a design team might take on. It also “plugs into” other performance-focused tools like RevIt, addressing some of the omnipresent barriers to cross-platform collaboration between disciplines.
Will Metcalf, former Senior Product Manager for PlanIT Impact and a recent Masters of Landscape Architecture graduate of the University of Minnesota, believes that a holistic approach is essential for collaborative work. In project teams that comprise diverse professions, discussions often focus on a specific resource like water or energy. The disciplines approach resources in different ways and in a siloed manner. For example, discussing water could mean a planned cooling tower for architects or irrigation for landscape architects. “Integrated performance modeling can facilitate these conversations and begin to change the way teams approach working together by looking at the total picture of a resource in a project,” Metcalf says.
PlanIT Impact seeks to promote greater transparency in ongoing monitoring. For example, the team worked with municipal partners to create a dashboard with live performance monitoring for a Kansas City fire station. This type of collaboration opens up future opportunities for municipal sites to provide greater transparency about their performance. PlanIT Impact was also used during the fire station project’s development to show return on investment for the proposed integrative approach. There was a projected 80% water savings from installation of a cistern for captured stormwater to be used in washing fire trucks, which made the case for the green infrastructure.
The success of Kansas City-based PlanIT Impact speaks to ongoing and emerging performance-focused work in the Midwest. “It’s an incredibly supportive environment for running a practice that is focused on research and development and testing new things,” Davison says. She supports this by citing the wider variety of project types due to more space for infill development, as well as the somewhat reduced financial pressure that make it easier to take more risks in the Midwest. She and Metcalf have only good things to say about the design communities in Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, places with a strong design culture and creative energy. “Although people may not look for it there,” Metcalf notes, “there’s this desire to do something well or do it right that gets baked into everything in the Midwest.”
With significant strides being made in performance modeling and evaluation in both architecture and landscape architecture, improved collaboration represents the future. “Architects should look at the ability of the landscape to help achieve a site’s sustainability-related performance objectives as a relief – it’s not all on us!” Davison shares. “Architects should welcome the ways that a building’s site can be an integral factor in achieving performance targets holistically.” Tools like PlanIT Impact open the way for collaboration between disciplines on achieving high-performing projects.
PlanIT Impact offers a free demo of the platform. Additionally, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) members can assess 1 free project with PlanIt Impact here.