Insights from Performance Evaluation

Allyson Mendenhall
Curated by Allyson Mendenhall

Allyson Mendenhall, ASLA, is the Director of DW Legacy Design at Design Workshop, a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm with locations in the U.S., China and Middle East. Based in Denver, she leads Design Workshop’s initiative to establish comprehensive sustainable agendas, develop research and practice models, and promote and teach performance-based methodologies so the firm’s projects can deliver the greatest measurable benefit. Here, she shares insights from Design Workshop’s experience and from teaming with university researchers to evaluate and produce Case Study Briefs for nine of their completed projects.

  1. Case Study Brief

    Park US 50-After

    Park Avenue/US 50, Phase 1 Redevelopment

    South Lake Tahoe, California

    “This redevelopment had the goal of no net loss in scenic views of the nearby Lake Tahoe Basin and Carson mountain range -- a performance benefit that is easy to claim but hard to prove. The case study Methods document explains how the total visible area of the natural environment was compared pre- and post-construction, and how the improved scenic quality of the roadway was evaluated using a regional Travel Route Rating system.”
  2. Case Study Brief

    Blue Hole-After

    Blue Hole Regional Park

    Wimberley, Texas

    “Interest in how this park was performing caused the design team to conduct a post-occupancy user survey to gauge perceptions of the design improvements. The team did not conduct a pre-construction user survey, but now understands the importance of capturing baseline conditions, as well as the need to develop replicable survey protocols to administer at regular intervals to measure long-term social performance.”
  3. Case Study Brief

    Cherry Creek-After

    Cherry Creek North Improvements and Fillmore Plaza

    Denver, Colorado

    “This case study contains performance measures that we often quote to clients as rules of thumb -- to make a quantified case for planting trees to shade pedestrian spaces thereby increasing human comfort and reducing heat island effect, and for replacing spray-irrigated turf with drip-irrigated, water-wise plantings to reduce water use and save money.”
  4. Case Study Brief

    Capitol Valley-After

    Capitol Valley Ranch

    Pitkin County, Colorado

    “Working with the research team to assess the microclimates of outdoor spaces at this single-family residence introduced us to our favorite measurement tool -- the Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker. This hand-held gadget measures temperature, relative humidity and wind velocity and is an easy-to-use way to assess whether design interventions related to building orientation, thermal massing and tree placement are improving human comfort on a site as intended.”
  5. Case Study Brief


    Cascade Garden

    Aspen, Colorado

    “The student researchers for this case study creatively applied the histogram feature in Photoshop to evaluate, pixel by pixel, whether the visibility of traffic on a nearby road was reduced from key points on the property as a result of design interventions (earth berms, planting and retention of mature trees). Their clearly outlined method is easily applied to assess visual impacts from or to any project site.”
  6. Case Study Brief


    Daybreak Community

    South Jordan, Utah

    “A 2011 study by the University of Utah Department of Family and Consumer Studies concluded that 88% of students in this new mixed-use community walk or bike to school! For the case study, this performance metric was then expanded to include metrics for auto trip and carbon emission reductions, and gallons of fuel saved from walking instead of driving.”
  7. Case Study Brief

    High Desert-After

    High Desert Community

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    “Using decomposed granite mulch from the site instead of annual wood chip mulch application preserves the equivalent of 15,230 trees a year, saving up to $2 million, 100,000 gallons of fuel, and 617,000 tons of carbon emissions over a ten-year lifespan. This is a good example of how one decision can have many environmental and economic benefits.”
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