Land is a strategic resource for future growth.  As a result, development of multi-functional landscapes must be designed for multi-dimensional benefits such as sustainable food production, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem protection, and poverty alleviation. Along with considerations related to accessibility and topography, environmentally sound development includes a collection of site design principles.

The main principles are:

Flexibility in site design and lot size – Lot design standards often lead to developments in which land is divided into building lots and streets, with natural areas and open space limited to undevelopable land and wetlands.  By allowing flexible lot design standards that are density neutral, it is possible to meet the concerns of developers while conserving natural areas and systems. Through this strategy, an equivalent number of residences can be clustered, yielding the added benefit of reducing costs associated with the site's infrastructure (roads, sewer, streetlights, water, etc.) as well as long-term maintenance costs.

Thoughtful protection and management of natural areas – Conservation design encourages open space as a means to protect and restore natural areas and resources, as well as provide for recreation. One implementation strategy of this principle is the incorporation of natural landscaping. Natural landscaping broadly implies creating a landscape "look" that restores the landscape to function similarly to its fundamental intent.

Reduction of impervious surface areas – Common impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, building footprints, roads, swimming pools, and patios can be designed or retrofitted to redirect stormwater runoff for absorption directly into the ground or into a holding mechanism, natural or man-made. By keeping excessive stormwater runoff out of the sewer system and closer to the point of origin, water quality is increased, soils are recharged and flooding is reduced. Narrowing of interior roads, reducing setbacks, shortening roads and driveways as well as green roofs and landscaped parking lots are a few practices that help reduce impervious cover and runoff.

Sustainable stormwater management – Seeing as multi-functional design is focused on improving the way water relates to a site, implementing sustainable stormwater management techniques is only logical.  These techniques seek to turn a source once seen strictly in need of disposal into a resource that nourishes.  Bio-filtration, filter strips, bio-swales, infiltration trenches, green roofs, rain gardens, natural landscaping, naturalized detention basins, and permeable pavement/pavers are among the most common stormwater management techniques.

From a regional environmental planning standpoint, multi-functional landscape design has become an emerging paradigm that tackles societal challenges such as population growth, scarcity of resources, environment degradation, and social equity. In order to be sustainable, we need our designs to be adaptive and resilient, serving a constantly shifting program, one that serves all types of people.To learn more, contact us directly at

meet the faces of edsa

senior associate
justin rietema
keyu yan
vice president
matt renauld

Growing up in a small, rural town in Iowa, Justin was heavily influenced by the agriculture and farming industry.  Armed with a talent for drawing, he knew he wanted a career that offered an artistic outlet for representing land forms and a sense of place. Following in his brothers’ footsteps, Justin received his Bachelors in Landscape Architecture from Iowa State University and joined EDSA in 2006 as part of the Larrea Studio.  Working heavily in Latin America, Justin has fallen in love with its people, its land, and its culture.  A registered landscape architect and visionary designer, Justin especially enjoys assignments where he is able to translate a clients’ vision into a tangible artful expression and experience their excitement when they see an all-encompassing design on paper.


Keyu’s love for a healthy, holistic lifestyle in a natural setting served as inspiration toward her becoming a landscape architect.  While in China, she earned her undergrad at Tsinghua University and continued her studies at the University of Pennsylvania where she received a Masters of Landscape Architecture. Endlessly motivated by an everyday appreciation of public open spaces, Keyu gains design insights from earth’s own textures and colors – creating projects that are uninterrupted expressions of landscapes that complement the built environment.  Her curious spirit and thirst for knowledge pushes her to create sensitive schemes that weave the vernacular of the local culture into a project vision where imaginative integrity drives her design outcomes.  Keyu joined EDSA in 2011 as a member of the Lalli Studio.

Matt began sketching plans of cities at a young age and quickly realized urban planning would be a big part of his future. A graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Matt joined EDSA in 2005 and is a member of the Centolella Studio in Baltimore.  A seasoned traveler, he infuses his global experience of places, spaces and cultures into every project.  With a focus on the intersection between solid design principles and clients’ objectives, Matt’s creative and thoughtful plans result in developments that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.  His approach is based on a strong planning background where simple materials, clean lines and varying shapes assist in creating a memorable experience. Matt is a registered landscape architect.

brought to you by the
smith studio – fort lauderdale

Truly sustainable design happens early in the process using a multidisciplinary collaborative approach

smith studio insight

It seems that sustainable design is becoming an overused and under practiced term. Most people agree that the world needs to change its behavior, but are we doing all we can? How can innovative site design reduce the environmental impact of development while improving social and cultural connectivity? The answers lies within a truly collaborative, engaging approach – inclusive of all design disciplines.  

In a recent project team meeting for a community planning assignment, this very discussion ensued between EDSA, our developer client and a civil engineer. The conclusion was to address two very simple, yet impactful elements: water and paving.

Regardless of climate or geography, water use, re-use and treatment are among the most important issues in real estate development. Our goal must be to reduce daily household consumption through more efficient appliances and by altering behaviors with new incentives to reduce use of potable water for irrigation.  As for the reduction of impervious (paved) zones, decreasing street width by at least one foot and sidewalks by six inches will have a huge impact across an entire development. Not only will this lessen runoff, but it also reduces carbon footprints and development costs.

For more information on the Smith Studio visit:


At EDSA, we are passionate in our commitment to advance the profession of landscape architecture. It is through our internship program, that students are given an opportunity to contribute to the design of real world projects that impact communities and people. This hands-on experience is a great supplement to their academic curriculum with practical training that strengthens their leadership and team collaboration skills.

Our recent 4-month, spring intern group worked on an intensive week-long charrette where they developed concepts for DC Alexander Park, a current EDSA project located in Fort Lauderdale. The client from the City attended the final presentation and was very impressed with the results.

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