Learn from the Experts: Petro Design Blog


Kathleen Litchfield President of Petro Design/Build, Inc. Kathleen Litchfield
President of Petro Design/Build Group, is one of the Washington area's leading landscape and garden design experts. Her insightful advice on landscape design, construction, and practice has been published and quoted innumerous regional and national magazines. She has developed and taught accredited courses in horticulture and has lectured for garden clubs, the National Association of Remodeling Industry, the Landscape Contractors Association, the Smithsonian Educational Series, the George Washington University landscape design program, and the Washington Design Center.

Kent Richard Abraham, Principle Architect with Abraham/Petro Kent Richard Abraham,
Principal Architect with Abraham/Petro a division of Petro Design/Build He is a member of the US Green Building Council 2006. His education includes Bachelor of Architecture, 1970, University of Nebraska, With Honors (Cum Laude),Awarded the Faculty Award, Outstanding Senior Student; Master of Architecture, 1971, University of Pennsylvania, Studio of Louis Kahn. He has served as Chair, Thesis committee school of Architecture and Planning, The Catholic University of America Washington, DC since 1978.


Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

What difference does 1 Lousy Rain Barrel make?!

Through a series of coincidental meetings (the third being a clear indication for action) I enrolled and was accepted into the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA).

For the next several months I have/will attend evening classes at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Severn, Md. along with weekend intensive trainings in various locations throughout the County.

“The quintessential role of Master Watershed Stewards (which I intend to be one of) is to organize community action toward the restoration and preservation of our watersheds” and, in particular, to learn, in depth, pollution source reduction strategies – Capturing water at its source is still the best way to reduce the pollutant load it carries to a stream.

During one of the first evening lectures Stephen Barry, the coordinator of the Outdoor/Environmental Education, told us future Stewards that we would be getting our very own rain barrel.  I thought, great, 1 barrel – how much good will that do; I don’t even have gutters.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the value of water and never take it for granted; turning the shower off while I soap up and the like.  I’m incensed when the media refers to rain as a ‘threat’ as if it is some terrorist when, if fact, it’s our life source.

For those of you who have read my previous blogs and articles, you know how involved Petro has been,  in addressing homeowner’s drainage concerns.  Typically, when someone is experiencing a wet or moldy basement they want the water as far away from the house as possible.   Pollution source reduction includes keeping the water on-site. Sometimes, depending on the soils, topography of the site and the homeowner’s maintenance involvement, this can be accomplished through rain gardens.   Alternative,  adequately designed buried dispersion systems are lower in maintenance but not quite as organic or attractive.

Rain barrels, on the other hand, can be used by everyone immediately and with relatively little cost.   But what good is just one? A couple of years ago we distributed our own eco-friendly tote bag that can be folded in for easy carrying.   I always have one in my purse or clipped to my belt for use wherever needed.   A lot of people bring there re-usable bags to the grocery.  I noticed that nearly no one used them in drug stores or other non-grocery shops.  In using my bag everywhere I’m hoping to encourage others to do the same.

One of our residential analysis projects this past weekend included an opportunity to assess and present ways that a particular homeowner might keep his water on his site. With little or no yard and the access areas at a minimum, one of the stewards suggested a rain barrel at the front driveway downspout.  The homeowner immediately said ‘not an option’ as it would not be aesthetically pleasing. This particular home was located on a prominent corner in a waterside community that was in much need of pollution source reduction for the good of everyone.  I thought, what a great example this one rain barrel would make prominently placed in the front yard; sort of like using my own bag everywhere!

So this one rain barrel, that I will get, will make a huge difference as an example to others of what little it takes to help maintain our planet.

This Holiday Season:

One of our assignments was to read The Chesapeake Watershed: A Sense of Place and a Call to Action by Ned Tillman. It’s a great geological and historic account of how our watersheds developed and declined with specific action plans available to individuals, corporations and government; inspiring, depressing and a critical assessment of our immediate watersheds.  We were fortunate to have the author at one of our evening seminars.  His first question to the group was, “Do you remember a specific outdoor location/space that you felt connected to as a child?” There were warm memories from Maine, Indiana to Florida mostly inspired by family outings as a child.  “This is why you’re here” Mr. Tillman said, “…these fond memories of your life in the outdoors having inspired you to take action to preserve it.”  Today our children are inside on electronic equipment, what memories will inspire future preservation?  This is where I’m heading.  This Holiday Season we will send out a 2011 guide to 3 local outdoor destinations per month where you and your family can experience the best of what is available in outdoor activities and locations. One trip per month can have a lasting effect.

Garden Clutter

Oh, it’s been a long winter, as evidenced by the copious amounts of garden ornament and furnishings (often still in the boxes), awaiting warmer temperatures.  Those enticing garden catalogs were hard to resist, as their focus is on wonderful outdoor summer life; something that seemed so far in the future.  The down side to all this early buying is that it was purchased before the garden was designed.  So instead of asking, ‘”How many people do you typically entertain?” or “What sort of play areas and spaces do you want for your children?” our challenge is to make all the styles, colors and themes fit together cohesively in the landscape.  Clutter is confusing and can negatively affect the energy of a space.   In design, it’s truly putting “the cart before the burro”  Style should be determined first.  Traditional, contemporary, arts and crafts, country home, etc. and then the spaces determined by desire and need.  If the client is set on ‘collections’, than vignettes may be the solution to organization and simple hardscape materials to provide a canvas for the ‘stuff’…I mean, ‘ornament’.

Bottom line; start with a theme/style; lay out the desired functional spaces and then coordinate the furnishings and ornament within those defined spaces.  Above all; work with a professional before garden surfing. This is more cost effective, reduces clutter anxiety and ultimately provides positive energy.

Petro has on staff LEED AP!

Landscape Architect, Colleen Bathon is LEED AP certified! LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is an internationally recognized certification system highlighting the importance of green building and sustaining our environment.

The program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and provides building owners with a framework for implementing and measuring practical green building design, construction, maintenance, and operations. Using the LEED process will help promote sustainable design, buildings and development.  This certification can be applied to both residential and commercial building types. LEED aims to achieve high performance in several areas of human and environmental health including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and environmental quality.

If you are interested in how your home/building could apply for LEED status, OR interested in learning more about sustainable applications for your site contact us.  info@petrodesignbuild.com

For more information on LEED, visit www.usgbc.org.

Petro designers and production teams like to think LOCAL!

Petro designers and production teams like to think LOCAL! 

patio

We promote the use of Low impact materials.  These are materials that require less energy for production, transport, and operation than NEW products OR those that come from outside of the local or regional economy.  They have lower impacts throughout the product life cycle, including production, use, and disposal.

It also helps to choose products that will not be damaging to your health and to the environment!

Let us guide you in choosing products that can be recycled or deconstructed and can be reused on-site or at nearby sites rather than disposed of in a landfill.  Using shade constructed surfaces with structures or vegetation to reduce heat islands and effects on microclimate and wildlife habitat are also helpful.  Additionally, choosing paints, sealants and other related products that contain reduced amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), which contribute to air pollution, are better for you and the environment.

Petro uses low impact materials in several of our projects currently in the works. Shown in the photos below, recycled stone was used for several wall structures at a residence in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Low Impact Material Baker Fountain Stone

Petro is Growing a Vegetable Garden

Petro’s yearly vegetable garden is growing, Growing, GROWING… This year, with the expert guidance of Kathleen, we have cultivated habanero chili peppers, tomatoes, figs, and several herbs, including basil, dill, and rosemary.  Our staff lunches have been supplemented by this lovely harvest from our “Edible Garden”.

Contact us if you are interested in edible landscaping.

Peppers in a Vege Garden Pepperbowl in a vege garden
Basil in the Garden Our Harvest for the week

Chicken Gardening – Sustainable Landscapes

What better way to ensure that you have fresh, organic eggs than to have your own hen house?  Today’s site development plans are no longer limited to vegetable and herb gardens, berry cages and compost bins; they include ‘designs’ for a family run hen-house. Yesterday’s hobby of water gardening is today’s producing chicken garden.

As a child growing up on a few acres, my father raised 45 chickens, several ducks and honey bees, seemingly to help sustain our family of 11.  I’m sure, though, he enjoyed the challenge, variety and fun of this endeavor.  He even grew mushrooms in our cellar!   These practices have come full circle as families, again, try to sustain from within.

It’s more than a personal interest;  reducing reliance on mass produced eggs and chickens reduces the waste run-off into critical waterways, eliminates the energy and fuel consumption necessary to transport and refrigerate, and sends a message about the cruel conditions that mass produced chickens are raised under.

Hen house ‘designs’ can be stylish and fun but keep in mind that this is not a weekend hobby. They must include security, shade, nesting areas, feeding areas, ventilation, protection from storms and weather, lighting, access and adjoining (or close-by) storage for ease of maintenance.

You do need space.  The average chicken will need 4 square feet of coop/house space and a minimum of 10 square feet of ‘run’.  Free range chickens are, naturally, just that and require much more space.

Make sure to check your local zoning laws before investing, as cities, counties and towns all have varying criteria.

Earth Day 2010

Happy Earth Day from Petro Design Build Inc.

Branch out and celebrate Earth Day this Thursday!  April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary.  Events, lectures, etc. will be taking place through the weekend in celebration.  We’ve listed a few below around the metro area we think would be great opportunities to “branch out”.

Thursday, April 22

2nd Annual Green Drinks for the Bay: 5:30pm, Severn Inn, 1993 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Annapolis

AIA Spring Lecture Series: Jerry van Eyck, Narration of Urban Settings through Integral Landscapes, 6pm Brown Center, MICA, Baltimore

Historic Sherwood Gardens is in full bloom with 80,000 tulips!  Absolutely breathtaking, a must see if you are in the Baltimore area.

Chesapeak Ecology Center:  Volunteer Needed,  Orientation: 1-3pm, Chesapeake Ecology Center, 245 Clay St., Annapolis

Saturday, April 24th

Earth Day and Family, Music & Kite Festival: 10-3pm, Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Road, Annapolis

16th Annual Sierra Club “Earth Day” 5k: 8:30am Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis

Sunday, April 25th

MD House and Garden Pilgrimage: Tour Historic Guilford in Baltimore City, home of Sherwood Gardens

St. Georges Day: PG Historical Society with gather at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upper Marlboro to celebrate the 314th anniversary of the establishment of Prince George’s County.

Earth Day Climate Rally: Washington DC on the National Mall