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Pittsburgh, PA: Claudia West

  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens One Schenley Park Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA (map)

Designing Ecological Plant Communities for Stormwater Management Workshop

Claudia West ASLA, Principal, Phyto Studio LLC 

Barton Kirk, PE, Principal, Ecological Engineer, Ethos Collaborative

$125, ($150 after August 25) lunch is provided  

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Special Events Hall 

Audience: Landcare and stormwater professionals, landscape architects, and engineers

Register early.  Space is limited to 25 participants for optimal hands-on learning.

Three Rivers Wet Weather, The Penn State Center and Phipps Conservatory are hosting this full day workshop exploring stormwater management solutions with Barton Kirk and Claudia West.  Barton Kirk of Ethos Collaborative here in Pittsburgh will share his expertise as an ecological engineer teaching participants the basis of stormwater interventions.  Learn techniques and strategies for natural, low-tech solutions for the soils and topography of the Pittsburgh Region.  Claudia West of Phyto Studio and author of Planting in a Post Wild World, will lead participants through hands-on design activities, teach about plant communities and how to design them for stormwater systems.  


Session 1: Hydrology of the Pittsburgh Plateau

Barton Kirk

During hard Pittsburgh rains, hundreds of millions of gallons of stormwater flow into our sewer system, causing prolonged flooding and sewage backups and overflows. Hard rains also overwhelm our stormwater systems and waterways. In order to mitigate this issue we must work with water and understand its movement. A thorough site analysis of soils, terrain and hydrology is imperative and will influence our design choices and solutions. See several case studies of built projects and get firsthand knowledge of how to approach site design, construction and maintenance.


Learning objectives: 

• Understand stormwater management within the context of Pittsburgh soils and topography. 

• Be able to reduce and slow runoff – preserving natural areas, reducing land disturbance and minimizing impervious surfaces, where practical.

• Understand proper installation and maintenance techniques.


Session 2: Creating Hyper-functional Plant Communities for Successful Stormwater Management Workshop 

Claudia West

Functional and ecological plantings, such as rain gardens and meadows, are gaining in popularity but also face severe challenges. They often fail to wow the public, offer a low level of ecological functions, and limited budgets for maintenance challenge plant survival and the effective management of stormwater. Examples of failed projects are plentiful and hurt the image of the native plant movement. We won’t solve these issues if we continue to compare planting design to painting on canvas and perceive plants as individual objects in space. It is time for a new approach -- a plant community-based method which has evolved in the world of ecological science. Join us as we translate ecological principles of wild plant communities into planting design tools that will help you create better planting for high performing functional landscapes for stormwater management. This interactive workshop will introduce you to the science behind stable and lasting plant combination. You will learn the skill of creating plant communities in hands-on design exercises and practice this technique in a hypothetical planting project at the end of the workshop. 


Learning objectives:

• Understand the scientific foundation of stable plant communities and how species fill ecological and spatial niches in successful planting.

• Be able to translate the principles of wild plant communities into designed planting for stormwater systems.

• Be able to visualize complex planting schemes and prepare installation guides.



Barton Kirk 

Barton is a co-founder of Ethos Collaborative and ecological engineer whose core expertise lies at the nexus of energy, water, climate, and community. Through applied ecological economics and life-cycle systems analysis, Barton’s work with green infrastructure (GI) offers holistic insight into the long-term economic and environmental costs and benefits of site-level infrastructure, institutional operations, and regional community patterns. Barton is a 20 + year veteran green infrastructure designer and practice leader. He has used this experience to drive local policy and advance standards of practice via the region’s Green Infrastructure Network and Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority’s Green Infrastructure Technical Advisory Committee and engaged a new wave of community infrastructure designers, builders, and advocates through more than two dozen GI design-build trainings and charrettes across the Northeast and Midwest.

Claudia West 

Claudia West is a leading voice in the emerging field of ecological planting design. Known for her passionate advocacy of plant-driven design, Claudia is a widely sought out speaker and consultant who applies the technologies of plant systems to bring essential natural functions back into our cities and towns. She has worked on all sides of the green industry—as a designer, a grower, installer, and land manager—grounding her innovative work in pragmatic solutions that address the realities of our urbanizing world. She is the co-author of the critically acclaimed book, Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press, 2015).

Having grown up on a family-owned nursery, florist business, and design/build firm in eastern Germany, Claudia was propagating plants before she could walk. Her love of American native plants brought her to the U.S. where she worked at Blue Mount Nurseries in Maryland and immersed herself in the study of American flora and mid-Atlantic ecosystems. Claudia holds a Master’s Degree of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. Her intense studies of plant habitats and the science of plant community-based design strategies at the renowned school for horticulture in Weihenstephan, Germany built a solid foundation for her current work. Before co-founding Phyto Studio, Claudia was ecological sales manager at North Creek Nurseries, a wholesale perennial grower in Landenberg, PA. Her work was focused on bridging the gap between growers, designers, and land managers as well as introducing more functional and beautiful ecological plants into the nursery trade.

Credits: 8 CEUs for each of the following: LA CES, Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturists, Sustainable Landscapes Certification, and Phipps Sustainable Landcare Accreditation. A certificate will be provided upon request for Professional Engineer continuing education hours.  

Earlier Event: September 24
Pittsburgh, PA: Claudia West
Later Event: October 10
Chaska, MN: Claudia West