Face of Defense: Landscape Architect Saves Resources

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Jan. 3, 2011 — With health, safe­ty, con­ser­va­tion and morale at the heart of her mis­sion, the land­scape archi­tect here strives to deliv­er on every front.

Effec­tive land­scap­ing can be beau­ti­ful as well as func­tion­al. Jan­ice Ellis, the land­scape archi­tect at Los Ange­les Air Force Base, Calif., uses land­scap­ing tech­niques to con­serve water, reduce main­te­nance costs and pro­vide force-pro­tec­tion mea­sures.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Air­man 1st Class Desiree Espos­i­to
Click to enlarge

“A mil­i­tary instal­la­tion has a high degree of stress,” said Jan­ice Ellis, one of only six land­scape archi­tects in the Air Force. “Stud­ies have shown that land­scap­ing reduces the amount of stress that peo­ple feel. Health and safe­ty is a land­scape architect’s No. 1 pri­or­i­ty. Peo­ple think it’s [plant­i­ng] trees, and it’s real­ly not; it’s the health and safe­ty of people.” 

Ellis designed and draft­ed the plans for an arti­fi­cial turf intra­mur­al field. The project has been approved and is in the works. Because the new arti­fi­cial turf field is 99.5 per­cent main­te­nance free and does­n’t require water, fer­til­iz­er or mow­ing, the upkeep cost is dras­ti­cal­ly reduced. 

“Our goal is to reduce water and main­te­nance over­all,” she said. 

Ellis has a bachelor’s degree in land­scape archi­tec­ture, which includes engi­neer­ing class­es, com­mu­ni­ty plan­ning and architecture. 

“A land­scape archi­tect does­n’t sim­ply pick out plants,” she said. “They spe­cial­ize in pick­ing the right plant, for the right type of soil, for the right cli­mate, for the right function.” 

Ellis has made strides to choose flo­ra and fau­na that flour­ish in the dry cli­mate here. She uses the “xeriscape” land­scap­ing method to cre­ate a land­scape design care­ful­ly tai­lored to with­stand drought conditions. 

At one loca­tion, she has plant­ed col­or­ful suc­cu­lents, installed fab­ric that sup­press­es weed growth while retain­ing mois­ture in the soil, and replaced thick, green veg­e­ta­tion with much small­er rock that adheres to force-pro­tec­tion guidelines. 

She has also plant­ed blue agave — a small, com­pact shrub with thorns that takes water only dur­ing win­ter — at two instal­la­tion entry con­trol points. 

The thorny plants won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly stop a ter­ror­ist, she said, but they pose more of an obsta­cle than soft veg­e­ta­tion that can be climbed or walked over. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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