Sustainable Communication

What an interesting week! At work, my billable time was down, productivity was up, delegation was verbally doled out, and I got to write on several topics. It was like having a best week (except for the billable time thing), which doesn't come around that often.

Tim's week was filled with communication and productivity!

The writing done was not just this week's blog post. I also had a somewhat unique challenge of writing, interpreting, and communicating on a few inter-professional subjects.

The cool thing was I actually had some practical knowledge that I could share without having to do an exhaustive amount of research.

The charge on me was this: Help submit corporate qualifications for an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) request from a major metropolitan city.

For the first time ever, this city placed an overriding environmental requirement on their IDIQ projects. All projects would employ the principles of Complete Streets, Integrated Stormwater Management (iSWM), and Low Impact Development (LID).

I told you it was a cool thing!

Needless to say, I was happy to see the city’s bold environmental position. After all, project approaches like that are what most landscape architects try to practice whenever possible. And if allowed to use our skill set, we usually do a fine job designing with these principles. More times than not, a restrictive code dictating our every means is not necessary.

Contributing to my company's marketing effort was something I truly enjoyed. It was also with honor -- more than I will let on -- knowing that, with a company roster comprised mostly of engineers, it was my esteemed colleagues who came calling on the only landscape architect among the ranks to write the project approach.

Is this whole thing getting cooler or what?

With our IDIQ submittal, my writing task was to concisely demonstrate our company's professional command for applying those three elements -- Complete Streets, iSWM, and LID -- when completing the city's targeted projects.

The writing task was not the issue in my assignment. I like to write.

At my disposal was a wealth of web research and information for use in implementing those three development strategies. Like most of you, I, too, have read on each subject, have sat through many a training and educational seminar, and can actually cite and lay claim to a few designed CS-iSWM-LID projects that, in some capacity, actually got built.

So in writing the project approach, it seemed more time was spent ensuring plagiarism was not a part of what was being said!

The second challenge was entirely different from writing: We had to interpret the principles of three elements. And whenever one interprets, one negotiates. Sometimes only with oneself, other times with colleagues.

With all this week's talking and writing, I think I am safe in broadly stating that I have a clearer understanding that landscape architects approach, design, and interpret conservation and sustainability principles differently than most architects and engineers. Not to knock any one design profession, but we all approach the solution with a different perspective.

No big revelation there, I know!

If we try not to do -- or out-do -- each other's work, the entire design team might just be a part of something very special and rewarding; that is, if our position is expressed with confidence, we are resourceful in our solutions, and we lend a receptive, objective ear to other professionals.

That, my oh my, would be interpretation at its finest!

It was somewhere around that time that I realized the IDIQ writing and interpreting of the elements' principles had to be communicated effectively. I figured if I rambled on too much, I would risk losing my reading submittal audience.

Or, perhaps worse, lose any gained respect from my allied professionals and colleagues in communicating my interpretation of the writing challenge.

So I rewrote my project approach four times, and finally summarized with this:

"Our design responsibility to the community and environment warrant a professional diligence in protecting the public health and conserving natural resources. The practice of combining the elements of Complete Streets, ISWM, and LID are not always easy. It will take deliberate and concentrated efforts of many professions that endorse and embrace sustainable ideals and opportunities."

When achieved goals of Complete Streets, iSWM, and LID successfully benefit a project with a true application of environmental stewardship, so, too, can opportunities to write, interpret, and communicate those same benefits to all professions that impact the environment with their decisions.

My last statement in the project approach said this: "If simply communicated, success will more easily find the environmentally responsible projects."


I think yes!

And one other note on this holiday weekend:

Remember, the real Easter eggs are biodegradable; the plastic ones need to find a recycle bin when you're done with them.

Have a complete, impactful, and managed Easter weekend, y'all.

Tim May is a professional landscape architect and LEED AP for TNP in Forth Worth, Texas. He can be reached via email at or by twitter at @TMay82