Update 11:55 Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) – The US Mission to the UN in Geneva has begun a project with a group of nine American and three Swiss university landscape students to help “green” the grounds of the Mission.
The students, selected by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in Washington, DC, which is the Mission’s partner for the project, are spending the first two weeks of August studying the Mission’s grounds. They will then draft a sustainable landscape design that can be phased in, over five years.
More than 130 applications were received by ASLA and screened to select a team with the widest breadth of skills, talents, and experience.
In addition, Craig Verzone, an American landscape architect based in Switzerland, worked with the Mission to identify three Swiss students to be part of the team and to share Swiss expertise in this area.
The project is part of a larger US State Department commitment to sustainable design at its dipomatic facilities.
Geneva site aims to be greenest US diplomatic building in Europe
The prominence of the Mission building in international Geneva and the fact that it is regularly visited by diplomats and political figures from around the world for meetings, such as the recent negotiations on the new Start nuclear treaty, were factors when the State Department selected Geneva as its “”Flagship Post for Energy and Sustainability”.
The building is the site of the installation of the largest solar energy project ever undertaken by the State Department overseas. It is home to an innovative magnetic levitation (MaglevTM) chiller air conditioning system that runs a virtually friction-free compressor.
Conserving the variety of plant and animal life is also a priority, and in 2009 the Mission became the first State Department facility to earn certification by the US National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
The Mission formed a “green team” that developped the concept with ASLA to recruit students for a collaborative sustainable design project. The students were selected by a committee which included representatives from ASLA and the Department of State.
Applicants were required to be US citizens and to submit a résumé; 400-word statement of interest; faculty recommendations; and three samples of project work.
“I am very excited about this project, which will help reinforce the Mission’s reputation as the greenest US diplomatic building in Europe,” says Ambassador Betty E King, the Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.
“The efforts of this talented team of young landscape architects will not only help us make our environment more sustainable, but also provide our staff with an inspiring and healthy environment which we will enjoy for years to come.”
Project holds several unusual challenges
The project nevertheless offers some serious challenges.
Natalie Ross from Minnesota was interviewed by her university’s student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, which looked at problems the students will need to resolve: “A major issue is dealing with water runoff. There are several paved areas that water cannot penetrate, Terry Poltrack of ASLA said. Those areas will need to be opened up, as it is better to have water infiltrate through plants so they don’t pick up oil residue on the street, Ross said.
There are many other things to be considered, such as using green materials that haven’t been sourced from other areas, building green walls and planting more trees, which could enhance visitors’ experiences at the Mission.” The US students and staff are unfamiliar with plants that will do well in Geneva, and some ideas, such as long grasses, might need to be scotched for security reasons, the university newspaper points out.
Meeting Geneva’s green specialists
During their stay in Geneva the students will have an opportunity to meet with international diplomats, UN staff and non-governmental organizations, and to exchange ideas with members of the environmental community in Switzerland, including people at the European headquarters of the UN Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and people from nearby Gland’s conservation organizations, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The landscape project team
US students – David Bramer, University of Washington; Colleen Gilfrich, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Michael Lindquist, University of Pennsylvania; Jennifer Obee, Ohio State University; Kirsten Ostberg, University of Virginia; Natalie Ross, University of Minnesota; Damon Sanchez, Iowa State University; Michael Scholtz, State University of New York at Syracuse; Katherine Tooke, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
US faculty – Terry Clements, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Richard Hawks, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse; Tim Toland, State University of New York , Syracuse
Swiss students from Geneva’s School of Landscape Design, Engineering and Architecture (HEPIA- Haute École du Paysage, d’Ingénierie et d’Architecture) – Marion Crozetière; Samuel Enjolras; Raphaël Papiou.