INASLA Celebrates National Landscape Architecture Month

April is National Landscape Architecture Month and for the  occasion, the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (INASLA) commissioned Outside the Box, a local non-profit that assists people with developmental disabilities, to create an art piece that shows all components of landscape architecture. This art piece is currently on display in the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. BDMD’s landscape architecture studio took a stroll to the library to support this initiative and admire the piece. In photo from left to right: Ryan Cambridge, Brett Schlachter, Drew Braley, Jonathan Hutslar and Mark Beer. #NLAM #landarch


Visualizing “Seasonal Lag” Effect


I recently completed teaching a unit on the topic of solar geometry. Among the various facets of the subject matter, I talked to the class at length about the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (which, evidently, is a revelation to 1/4 of American population), the northern hemisphere’s 23.5° tilt toward and away from the Sun during the summer and winter, respectively, and how the distribution of radiant flux is affected by the relative tilt of the Earth’s surface at a given location (i.e., the “cosine effect”).

As we discuss the Sun’s journey across the sky in northern latitudes, it becomes clear that solar income should theoretically be most available at the summer solstice (i.e., June 21) – when the Sun has its longest course, its highest altitude, and is shining most normal (e.g., closest to perpendicular) to the Earth’s surface at a given location north of the equator.

Strangely, the air temperatures at the Earth’s surface typically lag behind June 21 by several weeks. For instance, in Indianapolis, Indiana, peak temperatures typically occur in July and August. Both months’ average temperature is higher than that of June.

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Efficiency: Toward Net-Zero Energy (VoiceThread Presentation)


Four years ago, I co-authored a white paper with my colleague Nick Worden at Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf (BDMD) Architects and William Brown, currently the Director of Sustainability at Indiana University. The white paper was published at 2010 International High Performance Buildings Conference at Purdue University and it presented a full-year of energy consumption and on-site renewable energy production data for the Chrisney Library (a branch of the Lincoln Heritage Public Library), verifying the project as the first non-residential net-zero (site) energy facility in Indiana (we intend to publish more recent performance data this summer).

On the heels of this verified accomplishment, we began an internal dialog at BDMD that resulted in a honed design philosophy that focuses on metrics and the value proposition of a wide range of energy efficient strategies and technologies.

En route to this synthesis of ideas, we developed an earlier version of the presentation offered below. In fact, over the next couple of years, we would develop a few versions of this presentation, which we now entitle Efficiency: Toward Net-Zero Energy.

A version of this presentation has been given at several venues, including the following conferences:

  • 2011 Spring Conference & Trade Show for Indiana Association of Homes & Services for the Aging (IAHSA), Indiana Assisted Living Association (INALA), Indiana Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (IHPCO) and Hoosier Owners and Providers for the Elderly (HOPE)
  • 2011 Midwest Healthcare Engineering Conference & Trade Show
  • 2012 Indiana Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) State Conference


On behalf of BDMD Architects, we are happy to finally offer the presentation in an online publicly available format.


Data demonstrating that from April 2009 through March 2010, the Chrisney Library produced 1,826 more kilowatt-hours than it consumed.Image courtesy of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects



Efficiency: Toward Net-Zero Energy will introduce you to the basic principles of net-zero energy design. Specifically, the presentation will detail how proper design decisions based on climate and available resources can yield considerable energy savings and serve as a sound investment for both new and existing facilities.

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives for this presentation are as follows:

  • Explore the four basic concepts and types of Net Zero energy
  • Determine the best Net Zero concept / approach as it relates to a facility
  • See examples or real applications that can make a difference in reducing the consumption of energy

VoiceThread Presentation

The presentation is publicly available via VoiceThread at:


A complete collection of presentation slides. including a few that did not make into the final VoiceThread edit, can be accessed via the link below:

Efficiency: Toward Net-Zero Energy – Full-Presentation Slides (PDF, 29.9 MB)

via Google Docs


Creating U.S. Climate Data


A cornerstone of design performance and energy modeling is access to relevant climate data. Climate data is the basis for the climatological conditions a structure will be subjected to during a computational analysis. Intuitively, we understand the broadly generalized differences between locations like Phoenix versus Minneapolis. However, a computer program needs more than intuition, it needs data.


Climate data defined

In the most simple terms, the climate data files accessed by energy modeling programs contain annual, monthly, daily, and even hourly climate data averaged out over a defined period of time – typically 30 years. Such collections of three-decade averages of climatological variables are known as Climate Normals. Climate Normals are produced once every ten years – with the latest available data ranging from 1981-2010 (released in July 2011).

Managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, Climate Normals data sets will include a wide range of information such as temperature, precipitation, and heating/cooling degree days.

One of the best online resources for climate data files is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy:

EnergyPlus Energy Simulation Software: Weather Data

This website contains data from over 2,100 locations worldwide – including 1,042 locations in the U.S. The weather data is arranged by the World Meteorological Organization.


Why 30 years?

A three-decade average is important because the climate can vary a great deal from year-to-year. Basing an energy model on the past one or two years may produce unreliable results. Rarely does a short-range sample align with long-term averages.

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Technically, Heat Does Not Rise

© Kumiko Murakami Campos


Heat rises.

The adage is one of the cornerstones of passive environmental systems in buildings. The typical anecdote is the hot-air balloon. By using a burner to thrust heated air into the (typically) nylon envelope, the balloon fills with less buoyant gas that lifts the it and its passenger(s) into the air.

But what if I told you that this oversimplified statement actually misrepresents the characteristics of heat?

The truth is – technically, heat does not rise.

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Localizing LEED

In search of greater responsiveness to local priorities, the process for identifying Regional Priority Credits is recalibrated for LEED v4.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Environmental Design + Construction (EDC) magazine.

One common criticism of LEED has always been the notion of taking a “one-size-fits-all” rating system and applying it to the entire building sector. If all sustainability is local, then surely LEED needed to respond to geographically distinct regional priority issues.

LEED 2009 addressed this criticism by introducing a process coined “regionalization” by which USGBC collaborates with its chapter volunteers to identify existing LEED credits that should be prioritized to address specific regional issues. The six credits identified for each region were termed Regional Priority Credits (RPC).

Chapter volunteers across the country worked together to identify various regional zones, and locations and associated priority credits were determined by ZIP code. While the use of USPS postal codes simplified the collaboration process, the demarcations of RPCs rooted in environmental impact factors were often distinguished arbitrarily by streets or governmental limits rather than appropriate boundaries based on geographic and natural borders, municipal infrastructure or socioeconomic demographics.

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John Dierdorf Receives Leadership Achievement Award

Congratulations to John Dierdorf, CEO of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects, for receiving the 2013 Indiana Credit Union League Leadership Achievement Award. The presentation was made at the Chairman’s Awards Banquet at the JW Marriott Hotel on Sept. 27, during the League’s statewide convention.

John is Chairman of the Board of Forum Credit Union and has been instrumental in transforming Forum CU into a premier financial institution. Under his leadership, FORUM CU has enjoyed tremendous growth and achieved significant milestones including being the first credit union to offer mortgage services to its members; being the first in the state to offer auto financing at the dealership and being the second in the country to offer Internet banking and creating a Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) that offered software solutions to other credit unions.

The Leadership Achievement Award honors exceptional credit union volunteers and officials who are dedicated to the promotion of the credit union ideal in Indiana.

As LEED v4 Launches, When Will LEED v2.2 and 2009 Expire?

Out with the old, in with the new.

With the official launch of LEED v4 just one month away, LEED project teams should be mindful of the LEED-NC v2.2 and 2009 sunset dates.

As every new version of LEED launches, USGBC initiates a process to phase out the previous version of the rating system. This process begins by establishing a date for closing registration. After the registration closure date, GBCI will no longer take new project registrations under the previous version of LEED.

Once the registration closure date is established, all projects registered under the previous version of LEED become subject to a deadline for either achieving certification or upgrading to the new version of LEED.
In accordance with the latest version of the LEED Certification Policy Manual (issued January 1, 2012), “After the close of registration of a rating system, projects that are registered under a particular rating system shall be allowed to proceed through the LEED certification process until the occurrence of the rating system sunset date…”

After the sunset date, projects registered under the previous version of LEED are no longer active in the LEED project database and their registration status is no longer valid.

The LEED Certification Policy Manual also states, “The sunset date for any rating system shall occur no sooner than six (6) years after the close of registration for that rating system.”

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Alcoa Storm Water Runoff Reduction Project Receives Award

Safety, sustainability and beauty blend into a perfect, award-winning solution. Browning Day was honored on Friday, September 20, with an INASLA Merit Award for the Alcoa Stormwater Runoff Reduction Project. Jon Hutslar PLA, ASLA accepted the award on behalf of the firm.

Alcoa’s strong commitment to excellence in both their products and the footprint they leave on the planet was the catalyst behind their Lafayette, Indiana, leadership’s decision to redesign 33 acres of property, primarily made up of the industrial plant entry, parking, and security functions.

The initial priorities of this project were site improvements with goals of safe car, truck and employee circulation, and, most importantly, employee safety moving from car to the security clearance, along with environmental improvements. To address these issues, the Browning Day team proposed a design-build approach that promoted the use of Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) criteria to inform solutions that would recycle, harvest and reuse existing materials on the property for best management practices and goals.

Browning Day’s design increases safety, improves aesthetics and reduces overall storm water runoff for the project site from pre-existing conditions to a targeted net-zero runoff in a 100-year storm event. The design allows the removal of 12 million gallons of storm water runoff per year. Traffic control islands and medians will maximize the separation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation for improved safety, while a central median will collect all pedestrian traffic and funnel movement into the secure zone of the site.

A central pedestrian spine doubles as a “good morning or afternoon” on approach to and from the workday and is flexibly designed to hold company picnic and health fair activities. Reduction in impervious areas will create a dramatic reduction in storm water runoff. The use of underground storage and open detention basins will provide quantity control while maximizing opportunity for recharge of groundwater through infiltration.

In the redesign of the parking, Browning Day and its consultants, Smock Fansler Corporation and Williams Creek Consulting, explored the potential of maintaining the site’s micro-watersheds by milling the existing parking lot asphalt, while maintaining the base and using it as a resource for structural soil used beneath the proposed sidewalk areas. Water then is managed by sheet draining a full bay of parking into a two-foot porous concrete strip and curb that will be received by the structural soil and water new trees in the walkways. Once tree areas are filled, water overflows into and is received by infiltration ponds that are designed in series to manage varying rain events. Other areas of the parking sheet drain directly into vegetated rain gardens. Ends of parking aisles were treated with river rock material in order to accept necessary Midwestern winter snow removal.

Ultimately, we are proud to have achieved the performance goal of a net zero runoff in a 100-year rain event, while reusing existing materials of asphalt and concrete.

Images courtesy of Williams Creek Consulting

The Blog of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf