First-of-a-Kind CD-ROM for Landscape Architects Published by UMass Amherst Professor

January 19, 1998


AMHERST, Mass. - Highly technical and detailed information crucial for design and construction is a mere click away for landscape architects and design professionals, thanks to a unique CD-ROM created by a professor at the University of Massachusetts.

Nicholas T. Dines, professor of landscape architecture and regional planning and director of the University’s graduate program in landscape architecture, has published the "Time-Saver Standards for Landscape Construction Details CD-ROM," which for the first time provides an interactive library of standard landscape design and construction details tied to a database manager.

Dines, together with Ph.D. candidate Kyle D. Brown, was recently recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) with an ASLA Merit Award for Professional Communication for his work on the CD.

"In many ways, this does something a book can’t do," says Dines, who is the editor, along with Charles Harris, Harvard Graduate School of Design professor emeritus, of the first edition of "Time-Saver Standards for Landscape Architecture: Design and Construction Data" (McGraw-Hill, 1988). That book provides information on landscape construction standards, methods, techniques, and materials that promote efficient use of natural resources and environmental compatibility and serves as a popular reference manual for architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, and builders.

The CD, however, is an "interactive thinking tool," says Dines, and "a totally new product" that grew out of a proposal for a second edition of the earlier book. A user may access any of the more than 350 landscape details by clicking on design elements imbedded within nine cross-section drawings of various landscape types. Each detail can then be selected according to its application, climate, the soil and grade characteristics at the construction site, and then by installation and maintenance costs.

For example, a user designing a retaining wall chooses that detail within its proper context (i.e., public garden, parking lot, public plaza, etc.), and is then linked to a corresponding construction studio. From there, the user may then access detailed text and graphic construction information with regard to materials and design, types of climate (hot-arid, hot-humid, temperate, and cold), subgrade soils (well-drained, expansive clays, roof-top garden), installation, and cost.

Says Dines, "Designers may request specifications for a particular project or project detail according to certain criteria – for instance, the information needed for using a heavy-duty non-mortared brick that can withstand cold."

Additionally, a designer’s drawings may be modified to meet specific site criteria as directed by the CD’s construction studios, and those files then inserted into actual construction drawings by using the CD’s CAD (Computer-Assisted Drafting) capability. Dimensions are available in both metric and U.S. units.

Dines, along with Harris and Brown, has in fact also just published the second edition of "Time-Saver Standards for Landscape Architecture" (McGraw-Hill, 1997). That volume, unlike the first, is fully metric. Further, says Dines, while the earlier book promotes responsible development, the second more strongly encourages sustainable site development and construction practices. For example, it fosters the use of indigenous or recycled materials and plants; suggests that toxics such as pressure-treated wood be avoided in construction; offers the best management practices for stormwater runoff mitigation; and promotes less intrusive construction methods.