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Frontier Project

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Infiltrates or reuses all rainwater falling on the site for up to a 5-year storm event, preventing an estimated 48,878 gallons from entering the local municipal stormwater system for each 5-year event.
  • Reduces irrigation water needs by over 75% as compared to a conventional Southern California landscape through the use of water-wise native plants and an efficient drip irrigation system.
  • Avoids the production of 865 lbs of CO2 annually by eliminating the need for fertilizer, pesticides, and mowing through the use of low-maintenance, climactically adapted native and naturalized plantings.
  • Reduces absorption of solar radiation through the use of high-albedo roofing material and a greenroof, which have solar reflectance index (SRI) values 23 and 7 times higher than that of a conventional blacktop roof. 


  • Provides sustainable landscape design education to approximately 5,000 visitors annually through on-site demonstrations, facility tours, special events, workshops, and conferences.
  • Improves overall workplace satisfaction, with 87% of Frontier Project employees reporting an improved mood, 67% feeling more able to cope with work-related stress, and 53% feeling more relaxed after viewing, walking through, and spending time in the Frontier Project’s landscape.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    EPT Design

  • Project Type


  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    10435 Ashford Street
    Rancho Cucamonga, California 91730
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  • Climate Zone

    Hot-summer Mediterranean

  • Size

    21,000 sf landscape on a 35,000 sf site

  • Budget

    $377,000 for landscape (some items donated)

  • Completion Date


The Frontier Project is a non-profit organization and demonstration facility, created specifically to showcase the application of sustainable design practices and technologies most suitable for use in Southern California. Providing citizens with an array of educational resources and implementation tools, the Project seeks to encourage visitors to incorporate energy efficient and water-wise practices in their own homes. Seamlessly integrated with the LEED Platinum building, the indigenously inspired landscape showcases a comprehensive stormwater management system, the Inland Empire’s first greenroof, and visually stunning, low-maintenance, water-wise plantings.


The design team sought to create a sustainable landscape which not only would inspire, inform, and instruct visitors on how to incorporate energy efficient and water-wise design into their homes and workplaces, but that could capture, treat, and reuse or infiltrate all stormwater runoff on site. Additionally, the planting palette needed to contain species that were low-maintenance and drought tolerate, yet visually engaging, so as to dispel the myth that drought-tolerant California landscapes must look like a desert. An added challenged for the planting design was to use plants that could be readily available to residents for purchase at local garden centers.


Inspired by the indigenous eco-tones of the Cucamonga Valley Watershed, the landscape contains a variety of climatically adapted succulents, grasses, shrubs, and trees that also provide habitat to local insects and birds. To capture and treat all stormwater runoff on site, the design team created a treatment train. A green roof, rain garden, and cobble swale collect rainfall and direct runoff into an underground cistern where it is stored and used for irrigation. Excess water flows into an overflow infiltration basin made of gravel-filled structural cells. Descriptive signs across the site educate visitors about the many sustainable features on display, including plant names.

  • Stormwater runoff from the rooftop and grounds is directed into a 2,000 gallon rainwater cistern buried beneath the site’s water-less demonstration garden. When full, the cistern can theoretically supply all of the site’s irrigation needs for 2-4 weeks (depending on the season), thereby reducing the amount of potable water needed for irrigation.
  • A rain garden and cobble swale direct runoff into drains connected to the underground cistern.
  • When the cistern is at full capacity, excess water overflows into an adjacent 50,000 gallon sub-grade infiltration basin made of gravel-filled structural cells that allow the water to slowly percolate into the ground and recharge the groundwater.
  • 7,154 sf of porous paving and decomposed granite walkways promote infiltration and groundwater recharge.
  • The site is planted with 19,594 sf of native and naturalized plantings, which were chosen for several environmental and aesthetic factors, including: low-irrigation requirements, low-maintenance requirements, resiliency to both drought and flooding, habitat value for native birds and insects, and year-round visual interest. An additional consideration was availability at local garden stores, so as to encourage visitors to purchase the plants seen in the demonstration gardens.
  • To optimize water use, the landscape is irrigated by a water-efficient drip system. A weather controller monitors temperature and soil moisture and adjusts irrigation amounts accordingly. In coming years (as the infrastructure becomes available), the potable water irrigation source will be re-plumbed to supply reclaimed water from the local treatment plant.
  • To protect the existing mature trees (10 pines and 4 palms) and to reduce hauling and disposal costs, the site’s grading plan creatively balanced cut and fill, using soil excavated from the infiltration basin to create a sweeping berm for the Chaparral Hillside garden.
  • The 1,110 sf green roof was the first in the Inland Empire area of Southern California. It utilizes two different systems – 4-in shallow trays and 9-in deep soil – to test the viability of green roofs in the area. Observational analysis indicates that plantings in the deep soil system are viable, with irrigation.
  • Locally sourced landscape materials, including boulders for the cobble swale and decomposed granite for the pathways, reduced costs while supporting the regional economy.
  • Interpretative signage, plant labels, and information kiosks educate visitors about the site’s many sustainable design features and technologies.
  • The Frontier Project is estimated to cost $58 per year to irrigate, whereas irrigating a similarly-sized conventional Southern California landscape would cost $234 per year. This represents an annual savings of $176.
  • The value and need for long-term specialized landscape care needs to be understood and agreed upon by all parties involved. During schematic design, the landscape architects recognized that in addition to utilizing low-maintenance plant species, further cost-savings and long-term environmental benefits could be achieved by hiring a master gardener to oversee the landscape’s long-term health. However, this vision was not mutually shared amongst consultants, and a typical “mow-blow-and-go” maintenance company was hired instead.
  • Educating the construction crew about the imperative for adequate soil preparation – especially in non-traditional landscape situations – is essential to ensure successful plant establishment and long-term health. After installing the subgrade infiltration basin, the contractor parked heavy equipment on top, ignoring the construction specification to double dig and adequately prep the soil prior to planting the water-less demonstration garden. Severe soil compaction resulted in poor drainage and caused the initial plantings to fail. The species palette was revised, to better match the new soil conditions, and the garden was replanted.
  • Though the Frontier Project utilizes numerous sustainable features and technologies onsite, a protocol for ongoing monitoring and performance data collection was never developed. Partnering with a university or research institution early in the design process could provide an opportunity for this type of long-term research.
  • Though the plant palette was designed to reduce water use for irrigation by over 86% as compared to a conventional Southern California landscape, this study discovered that the plantings are being watered more than the intended amount. The plantings are not showing signs of stress, however, due to their adaptable nature. To ensure design intent is fully realized and upheld, a knowledgeable maintenance staff must regularly monitor and audit water use.

Project Team

Owner: Cucamonga Valley Water District (CVWD)
Client: Frontier Project - Non-Profit affiliated with CVWD
Architect: HMC Architects
Landscape Architect: EPT Design
Civil Engineering: RHA Engineers
Stormwater Consultants: RBF
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing: DCGA
Contractor: Turner Construction
Landscape Contractor: DMA Greencare
Landscape Maintenance: Casa Verde

Role of the Landscape Architect

EPT Design established the initial site design goals, collaborated with a multi-disciplinary team to develop the site’s grading and stormwater concept, and led the site design from concept through construction.


Stormwater management, Water conservation, Temperature & urban heat island, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Health & well-being, Educational value, Rainwater harvesting, Permeable paving, Bioretention, Native plants, High-albedo materials, Green roof, Efficient irrigation, Educational signage, Green communities

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

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