April 1, 2014

Landscape designers gain a national voice


In this series of articles, so far it has been all about the landscape designer’s business. We’ve talked about the evolution of the landscape designer, with a career path now that is as diverse as it is abundant, enjoying an enviable depth and breadth of market and practice choices. We’ve talked about new opportunities and tools now available to the landscape design industry to expand both practice and business including the LEED model, the project funding shift to green economics, project management models and value-added services; utilizing the tactical advantages within the scope and control of a landscape designer.

We’ve also talked about potential threats to our profession, foremost being the movement by the OALA toward a Landscape Architecture Practice Act in Ontario, which brought to light the realization that we have a real lack of national connectivity, identity and voice within our own profession.

At the January 2014 Landscape Ontario Designer’s Conference, Ron Koudys and I had the privilege of opening the event with the question, Is there a future in landscape design? What was an abundantly clear consensus amongst the group in attendance was yes, there most definitely is. History will record that it was after this event likeminded and passionate landscape designers got together and collectively decided the time had come to work toward a national landscape design representation mechanism.

It is the mission of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), with its provincial association members, to develop programs, undertake initiatives, and form alliances in order to achieve sustainable prosperity for members and stakeholders. To that end, in response to landscape design representatives from across the country and in consultation with the LO Landscape Design Sector Group and the Atlantic Association of Landscape Designers (AALD), the CNLA has created a Landscape Canada sub-committee specifically for the landscape design sector.

Ron Koudys, CLD of Ron Koudys Landscape Architects  in London, Ont., succinctly summarizes this new committee. “Landscape Design is a profession in Canada with roots that extend back over a hundred years; yet there is no national voice that represents this diverse and important industry. Creating an organization that provides leadership, education and the strength that comes from speaking with one voice is long overdue.”

This inaugural committee, the Landscape Canada Designer Sub-Committee, has elected Ellen Ruddick CLD, Price Landscaping Services, Moncton, N.B., as Chair and John van Roessel, CLT, CLP, JVR Landscape, Calgary, Alta., and founding member of Landscape Industry Certification, as Vice Chair, with an intended slate of provincial association representatives to follow.  “This Landscape Designer sub-committee will offer a network to reach out to designers across Canada and work with them to address common issues and improve the Landscape Design profession.” says Ruddick, who is a founding member of the AALD.

Beth Edney CLD, Designs By The Yard, Toronto, Ont., and Chair of the Landscape Ontario Landscape Design Sector Group, supports this national initiative saying, “The new Landscape Designer Sub-Committee is a welcome addition to Landscape Canada. I look forward to the synergy of having a national group to represent landscape designers across the country.”

Take a quick look south of the border to our American cousins, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), and the potential for the Canadian landscape designers as a represented sector is clear. Founded in 1989, the U.S. association is young by most landscape horticulture association standards, but a visit to their website www.apld.com  neatly summarizes the intent and much of the wish list we are hearing this sector needs from across our country.

That wish list includes national representation, defining and advancing the profession,  expanding certification, offering professional development opportunities, a Code of Ethics and events where designers can get together, network, exchange ideas, make connections, forge relationships, do some business and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from hanging out with the like minded. 

To sum up the unique strength of the landscape design sector, we are the gatekeeper of the greatest, most treasured legacies of those that have gone before us and forged the profession and now, we find ourselves the vanguard of industry best choices and practices, beauty, artistry and sustainability, contribution and responsibility. A dedicated national sector effort will capture this uniqueness into a progressive and inclusive effort going forward.

The first task of the Landscape Canada Designer Sub-Committee will be to connect with all the provincial associations to facilitate communication with designers who are members, and endeavour to identify those who are not; a census of sorts to determine who we are, how we practice and our business issues whether regionally unique or nationally common.
From that point, momentum begins. Stay tuned!
Christene LeVatte CLP is a landscape designer and LEED Green Associate from Nova Scotia. Her family business Landscapes for Lifestyle, which she operates with her brother David Stenhouse CLT, has won several Landscape Nova Scotia Awards of Excellence and the 2012 National Award for Excellence in Landscape Design. LeVatte is currently working toward her CLD designation.