Landscape Architecture: Great Outdoor Spaces by Design

Materials and strategies for enriching outdoor experiences
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Sponsored by Bison Innovative Products, Endicott Clay Products Company, and Thermory USA
By Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify sustainability criteria (LEED and SITES) that apply to exterior surfaces used in landscape architectural design.
  2. Describe some of the various product systems that are available for designing exterior plazas and roof terraces, and understand each system’s compliance with sustainability criteria.
  3. List design options for exterior pavement surfaces with respect to stormwater management.
  4. Describe the ways in which exterior spaces and outdoor rooms can help to meet LEED and SITES requirements of Human Health and Well-Being and Materials Selection, as well as those that apply to WELL certification.
  5. Explain the approach to Whole Building Design.


1 AIA LU/Elective
1 GBCI CE Hour
AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA.
This course can be self-reported to the NSAA
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
This course can be self-reported to the AANB, as per their CE Guidelines
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the NLAA
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

Landscape architecture shapes the built environment in ways beyond plant materials. The Whole Building Design approach optimally includes landscape architecture as a key component. The overall goal of Whole Building Design is to create a successful building project by utilizing an integrated design approach that incorporates all design disciplines during the planning and programming phases of a project. Some of the key design objectives of Whole Building Design are sustainability, accessibility, aesthetics, and performance durability.

Photo courtesy of Bison Innovative Products

The Symphony House Apartments utilized a pedestal deck system and modular aluminum planters to create this green roof.

How the building sits within the landscape sets the context for its construction and use. Landscape architectural design helps the building interact with its physical location, as the look and feel of the site is greatly influenced by the hardscape surfaces, site features, plantings, and exterior spaces that comprise the environment around a building. This course will provide insight into design approaches and materials that assist landscape architects with a Whole Building Design team approach.

The course will also reference some of the relevant criteria toward achieving points through LEED, SITES, and WELL certifications. It will illustrate ways that designers can achieve LEED, SITES, or WELL points by minimizing impacts to existing site ecology, using products that help to conserve ecosystems, utilizing products that come from renewable resources, avoiding waste through the use of recycled materials, and managing the effects of climate, whether excessive heat or excessive rain, through design techniques and products that mitigate climate issues.

Creating an outdoor space that is able to effectively weather the elements, meet its design purpose, and appreciate the owner’s need for low maintenance costs can be invaluable to a designer. This course will explore the ways that designers can create an attractive and sustainable outdoor environment compliant with several LEED, SITES, and WELL criteria while providing a Whole Building Design approach to a project.

Design Flexibility from Ground to Roof

Modular deck and pavement systems provide landscape architects with the design flexibility to create both rooftop environments and outdoor ground-level amenity spaces. Rooftop and ground-level spaces can be designed using wood, stone, structural porcelain, artificial turf, grating, or concrete to create unique custom looks. All of these materials can be applied either over a prepared subgrade or rooftop when utilizing a deck support system. Deck supports, also known as pedestals, create level surfaces over sloped areas. Pedestal deck systems can help reduce the heating and cooling loads of a building because they are “air permeable.” Air permeability is defined as the rate of airflow passing through a given area of a material. Pedestal deck systems allow for greater airflow on a roof. This reduction of heating on building roofs helps to meet LEED and SITES criteria for reduction of the heat island effect. Pedestal deck systems also help to increase walkable pedestrian surfaces on roofs and uneven ground spaces, thus meeting the criteria for SITES 6.5 – Support Physical Activity and LEED Sustainable Sites 5.2 – Site Development – Maximize Open Space.

Versatile Pedestal Deck Systems

Pedestal deck systems can be utilized over any structural surface: on structural concrete rigid insulation or roof membranes for rooftop decks, plazas/terraces, compacted grade, pavements, pool surrounds, or within water features. These pedestal deck systems are comprised of two major components: pedestals and tiles/pavers. Pedestals are designed to elevate and support a variety of surfaces, including structural porcelain, stone, granite, or concrete pavers, wood tiles, composite materials, fiberglass grating, or conventional joist and plank systems.

Photo courtesy of Bison Innovative Products

Shown here is an installation of a pedestal deck system supporting ipê wood tiles on a rooftop deck.

Pedestal deck systems offer tremendous design flexibility coupled with ease of installation. The adjustable pedestal deck systems provide a unique and viable alternative to traditional deck building materials and methods for the following key reasons:

  1. They are available in a range of heights and weight bearing capacities to suit a variety of applications.
  2. They are one of the most labor- and cost-efficient methods of creating a flat, level deck over a sloped surface.
  3. They use a gravity system that protects the roofing and waterproofing materials without damaging or harming the surface below.
  4. They can support decks over occupied space, allowing space for electrical systems, duct work, or irrigation.

Pedestals are made with high-density polypropylene plastic (comprised of 20 percent post-industrial recycled content) that are 100 percent recyclable. The recycled material content of the pedestals provides points toward both LEED and SITES certification. Pedestals are screw adjustable and easily leveled with tapered base levelling discs and/or shims, allowing the creation of level rooftop decks over a variety of surfaces, including sloped surfaces. Pedestals can elevate and support wood tiles, concrete pavers, and a variety of other surfaces when sophisticated, commercial-grade decking is required. They are also sturdy enough to support site furnishings such as planters, tables, and benches.

Design Options using Pedestal Deck Systems

Pedestals come in residential, commercial, and industrial grades, with each grade having different characteristics. Deciding which systems to specify is dependent on the support and elevation requirements of the installation. Pedestal deck systems create valuable, usable outdoor space for both owners and their clients, customers, and visitors. Rooftop decks are a way for residential, hospitality, or public spaces to differentiate themselves from the competition. Incorporating a pedestal deck system can provide pedestrian access to green roofs and expand usable space to include gardens and walkways.

A pedestal deck system is an ideal solution for water-feature applications. The system conceals the water supply beneath the pedestals and surface materials and allows water to drain to the surface below for recycling. Additionally, the supports are impervious to water, mold, and most chemicals.

Designs can include recessed lighting in the pedestal deck system. The lighting will enhance the ambiance of the environment and improve visibility and safety during nighttime and/or dark conditions.

Ground- and street-level sidewalks and storefronts can be expanded through the design of small deck areas known as parklets, or pop-up parks, all of which enhance urban areas. These parklets and pop-up parks can be designed using pedestal systems and modular wood tiles placed over existing ground- and street-level spaces. These exterior spaces provide areas that support social connections, mental restoration, and physical activities, which are criteria under Site Design – Human Health and Well-Being for SITES and Community, Movement, and Mind for WELL.

Fastening kits and splines facilitate quick and secure pedestal deck system installations. The fasteners attach kerf-cut wood tiles, concrete, and stone pavers or paver tray-backed 2-centimeter porcelain pavers to the pedestals without penetrating or damaging the roof surface material. While the fasteners are hidden, they can be accessed to allow for the removal of individual wood tiles or pavers if roof maintenance, drain access, or replacement is required. Some pedestal deck systems are designed to resist wind uplift; consult individual manufactures for more information about their systems.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in August 2019


Landscape Architecture: Great Outdoor Spaces by Design
Buyer's Guide
Rooftop Deck Systems
Manufactured in the USA with 20 percent post-industrial recycled materials, Bison Pedestals create level decks over sloped surfaces. They elevate and support wood tiles, pavers, site furnishings, and a variety of other surfaces. Bison Wood Tiles are commercial grade, constructed from sustainably harvested hardwoods, and available in standard and FSC-certified options.
Bison Innovative Products
Endicott clay pavers are an ideal choice for designers who appreciate their aesthetic beauty, color retention, and low maintenance requirements. They’re fired at temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, rendering them colorfast and resilient to wear and staining. Endicott Pavers make great walkways and streetscapes possible. Explore the movement.
Benchmark White Ash
Benchmark White Ash is the natural result of our modification process. Each board is thermally modified using heat and steam, resulting in enhanced rot resistance, a high degree of dimensional stability, and a deep, rich color. Benchmark White Ash is an ideal alternative to tropical woods in performance and appearance.