by Deborah W. Dalton, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oklahoma
The latest addition to McGraw-Hill's Portable Architecture Series, Landscape Architect's Portable Handbook, is a stripped-down, portable version of Harris and Dines's Time-Saver Standards for Landscape Architecture. The back cover describes the handbook in somewhat hyperbolic terms as "Providing a remarkable distillation of the entire profession...giv[ing] access to the 20% of the data you need 100 percent of the time."
The handbook concentrates on what ought to be considered the traditional core of the profession as practiced in the private office in urban and suburban development listings. It is organized in a four-part format as an introductory chapter, appendix, and index. Part One provides information on pedestrian, vehicular, and community standards, among others. Part Two briefly reviews techniques for documentation and design of layout and surveying and grading. Part Three addresses the detailed information needed for such devices as paving, spaces, walls, and lighting. The final part reviews aspects of contract administration, including permitting.
Given the emphasis on this as a field handbook for professionals, there are some inconsistencies in what is covered and what is not. The introductory chapter provides a framework for design addressing the range of scales from the very detailed up to regional-level planning. It is a marvelous piece and will be useful for beginning students, but it does not seem necessary given the intended use and audience for the handbook. In the same vein, there are chapters on basic grading design, layout, and surveying that many may find handy but that do not seem to be critical in a field handbook.
The book is tightly organized, with many charts and tables judiciously supplemented with text, supplying information on standards for design, as well as critical data for basic landscape construction elements. The standards addressing recreation needs to be oriented toward traditional urban parks, play spaces, and field sports. However, if you need to find specific standards for green-way designs, such as minimum dimensions for equestrian trails, these are not there, although there is a chart articulating classification systems for trail design.
The section on deck design is quite thorough, including detailed requirements for both public and private conditions, and beam tables that provide guidelines for doubling and tripling light framing lumber to create larger members. Strangely, though the design calculations for retaining walls are provided in full, none of the details or information addresses how to size and locate steel properly in the footings. There is good basic information on fences and walls, but absolutely nothing on gate design and structure.
The section on stormwater will enable one to calculate runoff rate using the Modified Rational Method and runoff volume using the Schueler's Shortcut Method. Infiltration seems to be the focus for the devices illustrated, which include retention ponds for sediment removal, filter strips, subsurface sand filters, recharge trench, and bioretention ponds. However, there are no hard data or graphics on sizing inlets, pipes, and swales. Also, this is not the reference if one needs field-ready information for erosion and sedimentation control devices, since none are discussed or illustrated. The one flat-out error I found was in the surveying chapter, which describes the datum for latitude as the prime meridian in Greenwich, England.
Regardless of the book's limitations, many professionals as well as students will find it quite useful, particularly as a condensed, portable, half-price version of Time-Saver Standards. I believe that the profession needs to continue discussions about the legitimate purview of the field as represented by the material covered in our construction handbooks and field guides. This is particularly important in light of recent challenges to landscape architectural licensure by allied fields such as civil engineering, which in a number of states have sought to limit the landscape architect's ability to prepare and stamp grading and drainge plans as well as to do sedimentation and erosion control work.Dines, Nicholas T. is the author of 'Landscape Architect's Portable Handbook', published 2001 under ISBN 9780071344227 and ISBN 0071344225.