Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers


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Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers
  Overview Articles  854 BioScience • November 2013 / Vol. 63 No. 11  T he widespread impact of humans on ecosystems (Kareiva  et al. 2007) and the recognition that ecosystem services are essential to the future of human survival have catalyzed a shift in the field of ecology (Collins et al. 2010). Although they are historically disengaged from cities (Martin et al. 2012), ecologists are seeking to become instrumental in managing the built environment and studying its inter-action with the natural world (Chapin et al. 2011, Palmer 2012). Building on foundational studies on topics such as urban metabolism (Newcombe et al. 1978), vegetation (Sukopp et al. 1990), remediation and restoration (Bradshaw and Chadwick 1980), and gradients (McDonnell and Hahs 2008), researchers are advancing theory, methods, and prac-tice in a relatively new field—urban ecology (Grimm and Redman 2004, Pickett et al. 2011).The city as a living laboratory for urban ecology presents challenges for the conduct of research and the develop-ment of theories of the urban environment (Forman 2002, Young and Wolf 2006, Pataki et al. 2011). These challenges stem from the complex interplay of the biophysical, socio-economic, and political processes that affect how the built environment itself is shaped (Ernstson et al. 2010). Working in this context, urban ecology researchers require frameworks for their input into these processes so as to facilitate research and its role in shaping sustainable urban environments (Cadenasso and Pickett 2008, Miller et al. 2008, Musacchio 2009, Palmer 2009). Researchers also require entry points into the process of shaping cities such that they can establish sufficient replication and control to ensure the quality of the experimental design (Pavao-Zuckerman and Byrne 2009).Designers, engineers, and planners already rely on sci-entific information that they, along with environmental consultants and scientists, have adapted to the design process (e.g., McHarg 1967, Spirn 1984, Johnson and Hill 2002, Forman 2008; also see  ). Although environmental consultants have played an impor-tant role in this process (Azerrad and Nilon 2006, Pouyat et al. 2010), they typically do not conduct primary experi-mental research, nor do they frequently have the flexibility to do so. Moreover, they often draw their “best available science” from past research on nonurban sites (Pataki et al. 2011), even though the assumptions underlying nonurban systems may not necessarily directly apply to urban areas (Collins et al. 2010). Furthermore, although rapid assess-ments are commonly used to evaluate sites and inform design decisions, the timing and budget constraints all too often compromise the accuracy of these assessments. Rapid assessments can fill crucial gaps in the face of land-use change, but their methods are yet to be fully validated (Kareiva et al. 1999). Given the growing demand for environmental consultants to both address regulatory concerns and provide ecological input on urban sustain-able design projects (Meyer et al. 2010, Nassauer 2012), the time is ripe for urban ecology researchers to forge partnerships directly with designers (Felson et al. 2013a;  ). Therefore, urban ecology researchers could use the design Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers ALEXANDER J. FELSON, MITCHELL PAVAO-ZUCKERMAN, TIMOTHY CARTER, FRANCO MONTALTO, BILL SHUSTER, NIKKI SPRINGER, EMILIE K. STANDER, AND OLYSSA STARRY The integration of research into the design process is an opportunity to build ecologically informed urban design solutions. To date, designers have traditionally relied on environmental consultants to provide the best available science; however, serious gaps in our understanding of urban ecosystems remain. To evaluate ecosystem processes and services for sustainable urban design and to further advance our understanding of social– ecological processes within the urban context, we need to integrate primary research into the urban design process. In this article, we develop a road map for such a synthesis. Supporting our proposals by case studies, we identify strategic entry points at which urban ecology researchers can integrate their work into the design process.Keywords: applied urban ecology, collaboration, interdisciplinary, design process, ecological design  BioScience   63: 854–865. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244. © 2013 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved. Request permission to photocopy or reproduce article content at the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions Web site at reprintinfo.asp  . doi:10.1525/bio.2013.63.11.4   b  y g u e  s  t   onM a r  c h 1  ,2  0 1 4 h  t   t   p :  /   /   b i   o s  c i   e n c  e  . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om November 2013 / Vol. 63 No. 11  • BioScience 855 Overview Articles  process as a framework for engaging with cities (Felson 2013).In the present article, we distinguish the urban eco logy researchers from others involved in the design process on the basis of their ability to establish hypothesis-driven research and monitoring protocols, to formulate theories relating to urban ecosystem interactions and rigorously test them, and to participate in cross-disciplinary design col-laborations. The term urban ecology researcher   here refers to research ecologists, research engineers, and social science researchers. We demonstrate how urban ecology researchers can integrate their work into urban development projects through the designed experiments   approach (i.e., controlled experiments shaped as designed landscapes), whereby researchers work with designers to generate real-world, site-specific data while also influencing the process and the out-comes of urban design and landscape architecture (Felson and Pickett 2005, Felson et al. 2013b). First, we outline the design process for both public and private urban projects (figure 1). Next, we suggest key entry points in the design process at which researchers can integrate urban ecological research into urban designs (box 1). We follow with two case studies that highlight strategies for integrating and strength-ening research goals (figure 2). Using examples from the case studies, we conclude with a summary of lessons learned for moving forward. Design process phases The design process is multifaceted, creative, nonlinear, and iterative (e.g., McHarg 1967, Halprin 1970, Rittel 1984, Wall 1999). In United States–based projects, a landscape, urban design, architectural, or engineering team typically leads the process, with consultants contributing at different stages. These stages can be generalized into five phases, each varying in cost and duration: contract, evaluation, design, construc-tion, and postoccupancy (figure 1).The client issues a request for proposals, a request for qualifications, or a competition brief and invites consultants to bid. Once a bid is accepted or awarded, the contract is drawn up. Contract negotiations include the determina-tion of the project team, program, time frame, services and deliverables to be provided by each consultant, schedule, cost, and method of payment. Contracts are legally binding instruments. Amendments have cost implications.Site evaluation can be perfunctory or extensive. It involves research, analysis, and synthesis of site history and context (e.g., utilities, zoning, circulation), physical and biological features (e.g., topography, water conditions, vegetation, soil quality, habitats), cultural elements, and other factors. Together, these inform and determine the general loca-tion, constraints, and opportunities to be further explored through the design process (Lynch and Hack 1984, LaGro 2001). In this phase, environmental consultants conduct their assessments and submit their reviews or environmen-tal impact statements to the relevant agencies for approval (Alter 2012). Environmental consultants usually rely on available biological information and limited monitoring and rarely apply hypothesis-driven research (Pouyat et al. 2010). Outreach and stakeholder communication may also be initi-ated and may continue over the course of the project.Three drawing submittals drive the design phase: the schematic design, the design development, and the construc-tion documents with specifications. Each submittal package marks the resolution of an increasing level of specificity of detail and allows the project estimator to periodically refine the budget. Environmental consultants are typically invited to review the design and to provide advice on reducing environmental impacts and addressing related concerns. The team then modifies the project components in response to budgetary constraints, a procedure known as value engineering   (Harris and Dines 1998).On completion of the construction documents, the project is sent out to bid. The client uses various criteria to select a contractor, including the project scope, contractor experience, proposed fees, and the type of client. During construction, the design team typically oversees the con-tractor’s execution of drawings and specifications. When construction is near completion, the designer conducts a walk-through inspection and prepares a punch list to iden-tify the remaining tasks (Harris and Dines 1998). Once these tasks are completed, the client signs off on the punch list and accepts the project.Designers are occasionally involved postconstruction through commissioning stages of the built project. This is usually specific to the performance of materials and equipment or other functional aspects of the built work. Otherwise, designers are not involved in postoccupancy phases. Qualita tive success metrics have been used in the past to assess ways in which people use designed spaces and buildings (Halprin 1970, Whyte 1980, Lynch and Hack 1984). Contractors usually include a limited-time guarantee on a project. However, with the increased interest in post-construction monitoring and commissioning, researchers are likely to become more involved in this phase ( certification/leed-certification.aspx  ). Entry points for urban ecology researchers in the design process phases Each phase of the design process presents opportunities for researchers to participate in urban design projects (box 1). The most crucial entry point is the contract phase, in which the researcher can negotiate inclusion on the design team and can seek to define the time frame, budget, and deliverables as components of the scope of work. In addi-tion, the researcher can press for multiyear funding of post-construction monitoring to cover postconstruction research costs.Urban ecology researchers can also advocate for the inte-gration of research into the design process at the evaluation phase (Alter 2012). The typical compressed time frame of this phase does not currently facilitate primary research, but it does not necessarily preclude it. The challenge for  b  y g u e  s  t   onM a r  c h 1  ,2  0 1 4 h  t   t   p :  /   /   b i   o s  c i   e n c  e  . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om  856 BioScience • November 2013 / Vol. 63 No. 11  Overview Articles     F    i   g   u   r   e   1 .    A   r   o   a    d   m   a   p    i    l    l   u   s   t   r   a   t    i   n   g   t    h   e   c   u   r   r   e   n   t    d   u   t    i   e   s   o    f   r   e   s   e   a   r   c    h   e   c   o    l   o   g    i   s   t   s ,   e   n   v    i   r   o   n   m   e   n   t   a    l   c   o   n   s   u    l   t   a   n   t   s ,   a   n    d   e   n   g    i   n   e   e   r   s    i   n   t    h   e    d   e   s    i   g   n   p   r   o   c   e   s   s   a   n    d    h   o   w   t    h   o   s   e    d   u   t    i   e   s   o   v   e   r    l   a   p   w    i   t    h   t    h   o   s   e   o    f    d   e   s    i   g   n   e   r   s .   F   o   r   c    l   a   r    i   t   y ,   m   a   n   y   o    f   t    h   e   t   y   p    i   c   a    l   p   a   r   t    i   c    i   p   a   n   t   s    i   n   t    h   e    d   e   s    i   g   n   p   r   o   c   e   s   s   a   r   e   n   o   t    i   n   c    l   u    d   e    d    (   e .   g . ,   t    h   e   c    l    i   e   n   t ,   c   o   n   t   r   a   c   t   o   r ,   c   o   s   t   e   s   t    i   m   a   t   o   r ,   r   e   g   u    l   a   t   o   r   s   o   r   s   t   a    k   e    h   o    l    d   e   r   s    ) .    C   o   n   t   r   a   c   t   o   r   s   a   r   e    i   n   c    l   u    d   e    d    i   n   t    h   e    b   o   t   t   o   m   r   o   w    f   o   r   e   n   g    i   n   e   e   r  –    d   e   s    i   g   n   e   r    i   n   o   r    d   e   r   t   o    i    l    l   u   s   t   r   a   t   e   t    h   e   t   y   p    i   c   a    l   r   e    l   a   t    i   o   n   s    h    i   p    (   c   o   m   p   a   r   e   w    i   t    h    fi   g   u   r   e   2    ) .    A    b    b   r   e   v    i   a   t    i   o   n   s   :    C   D    /    S   P   E    C ,   c   o   n   s   t   r   u   c   t    i   o   n    d   o   c   u   m   e   n   t   s   a   n    d   s   p   e   c    i    fi   c   a   t    i   o   n   ;    C    O ,   c   o   n   t   r   a   c   t   ;   D   D ,    d   e   s    i   g   n    d   e   v   e    l   o   p   m   e   n   t   ;   H    0  ,   c   r   e   a   t    i   o   n   o    f   a   n   u    l    l    h   y   p   o   t    h   e   s    i   s   ;   R   F   P ,   r   e   q   u   e   s   t    f   o   r   p   r   o   p   o   s   a    l   s   ;    S   D ,   s   c    h   e   m   a   t    i   c    d   e   s    i   g   n .   b  y g u e  s  t   onM a r  c h 1  ,2  0 1 4 h  t   t   p :  /   /   b i   o s  c i   e n c  e  . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om November 2013 / Vol. 63 No. 11  • BioScience 857 Overview Articles  researchers is convincing clients, who tend to fund project- specific information gathering more often than basic research, to support hypothesis-driven research as a com plement to rapid assessments and as a means to surmount regulations or other obstacles (Kareiva et al. 1999). To do so, research-ers can explore partnerships with academic institutions to access grants and fellowships and also as a way to extend the scope and rigor of site evaluation, including baseline data collection (Shirk et al. 2012). Researchers must demonstrate how their research can balance cost, time, and the informa-tion relevant to decisionmaking; can respond to the myriad agents affecting the conduct of urban research, including political social and regulatory needs (Shirk et al. 2012); and can reduce variables, establish replication, and provide con-trol studies.The next crucial entry point is the design phase. This is a definitive stage for the project, in which designers will make most of the decisions that will affect the potential for research integration. Researchers can pursue designed experiments (Felson and Pickett 2005, Felson et al. 2013b) and can orient the objectives of research toward studying and shaping sustainable design solutions and toward bet-ter positioning and translating basic and applied research to function as drivers of the form, layout, and program of Box 1. The proposed involvement of urban ecology researchers at different stages of the design process. Initial contact Follow the money and identify project opportunities and possible clients (e.g., developers, landowners, managers). Meet with them to understand their goals and cultivate ways in which research could benefit their interests. Develop research that feeds the value of eco-logical science for informing urban projects. Partner with organizations (e.g., nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits, government agencies) working with communities on urban environments to encourage research. Enter design competitions as consultants on teams (e.g., ). Identify relevant requests for proposals and reach out to design firms to propose partnerships. Contract Define the ecologist’s deliverables, including the time frame and budget, as a component of the scope of the work to clarify the role that the urban ecology researcher will play during contract negotiations. Structure the timing of the research to ensure that some of the findings can inform the design process. Baseline data for research can also contribute to the evaluation phase during the design process. Avoid underselling the research contributions. Identify contingency funds as a backup for potential costs attendant to con-struction so as to avoid compromising on the rigor and quality of the research. Attend initial meetings to assert the value of research for site evaluation and design. Evaluation Emphasize the limitations of urban data and the need for experimentation. Negotiate a time frame adequate for gathering baseline data. Negotiate for hypothesis-driven research as an alternative to rapid assessments. Explore partnerships with academic institutions so as to extend the scope and rigor of baseline data assessment and to tap into potential sources of funding through grants and fellow-ships. Examine hybrid research and rapid assessments to balance the costs, time, and information relevant to decisionmaking. Prioritize research methods such as before-and-after or comparative studies that respond to the challenges of working on urban sites, such as navigating politics and establishing control studies. Select sites strategically to generate greater control over the data and to reduce permit requirements (e.g., prioritize sites remote from typical urban conditions). Design Engage with designers on decisions that will affect the research and on design decisions that the research results may inform. Orient the objectives of the research to study and to shape sustainable design solutions and to better position and translate basic and applied ecological research to function as drivers of the form, layout, and program (intended use) of the site. Apply as is appropriate the designed experiment approach, which incorporates applied research goals into the design and layout of projects and facilitates addi-tional experiments for adaptive management. Construction Go through the client to emphasize to the contractor the need for consistency in craftsmanship and for a reduction of variables during the experiment’s setup. Clearly identify the purpose and needs for constructing a designed experiment to the contractor. Engage the contractor early to communicate your research goals, to identify areas of concern or clarification, and to seek advice on cost-saving measures. Build mock ups to ensure clear communication about the design configuration and performance of the project. Postoccupancy  Expand urban researchers’ focus from postconstruction research (the typical purview of ecologists who target existing built environ-ments) to include hypothesis-driven research that informs the design, construction, and postoccupancy of projects. This avoids the inherent issues of nonreplicable one-off designs that lack controls. Establish a postconstruction maintenance and operations plan to be put into practice for the long-term, in order to ensure commitments to the research over time, especially as the project transitions to public or private ownership. Identify and engage the ultimate owner early to help instill an understanding and a sense of ownership in the project and to encourage long-term stewardship. Address long-term maintenance funding issues, which plague parklands and will, likewise, negatively affect research experiments.   b  y g u e  s  t   onM a r  c h 1  ,2  0 1 4 h  t   t   p :  /   /   b i   o s  c i   e n c  e  . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om  858 BioScience • November 2013 / Vol. 63 No. 11  Overview Articles     F    i   g   u   r   e   2 .    C   a   s   e   s   t   u    d    i   e   s    i    l    l   u   s   t   r   a   t    i   n   g   t    h   e   r   o    l   e   o    f   t    h   e   p   a   r   t    i   c    i   p   a   n   t   s    i   n   t    h   e    d   e   s    i   g   n   p   r   o   c   e   s   s .    A    b    b   r   e   v    i   a   t    i   o   n   s   :    C   D    /    S   P   E    C ,   c   o   n   s   t   r   u   c   t    i   o   n    d   o   c   u   m   e   n   t   s   a   n    d   s   p   e   c    i    fi   c   a   t    i   o   n   ;    C    O ,   c   o   n   t   r   a   c   t   ;   D   D ,    d   e   s    i   g   n    d   e   v   e    l   o   p   m   e   n   t   ;   H    0  ,   c   r   e   a   t    i   o   n   o    f   a   n   u    l    l    h   y   p   o   t    h   e   s    i   s   ;   N   Y  -    C    A   P ,   N   e   w   Y   o   r    k    C    i   t   y    A    f    f   o   r   e   s   t   a   t    i   o   n   P   r   o    j   e   c   t   ;   R   F   P ,   r   e   q   u   e   s   t    f   o   r   p   r   o   p   o   s   a    l   s   ;    S   D ,   s   c    h   e   m   a   t    i   c    d   e   s    i   g   n .   b  y g u e  s  t   onM a r  c h 1  ,2  0 1 4 h  t   t   p :  /   /   b i   o s  c i   e n c  e  . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om
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