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March 14th, 2011
Construction in the Landscape

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9781844079230Sustainable development implies consideration of environmental, economic and social factors. For engineers this leads to the design of infrastructure upon the landscape that meets the goals of sustainability. T.G. Carpenter takes it a step further and writes about the performance of sustainable infrastructure upon multi-discplinary approaches including hydrology, ecology and aesthetics.  

Construction in the Landscape

A Handbook for Civil Engineering
to Conserve Global Land Resources 


by

T.G. Carpenter


earthscan

ISBN: 9781844079230   2011   544 pages

 

Review by Jeff Thurston


 

Sustainable development implies consideration of environmental, economic and social factors. For engineers this leads to the design of infrastructure upon the landscape that meets the goals of sustainability. T.G. Carpenter takes it a step further and writes about the performance of sustainable infrastructure upon multi-discplinary approaches including hydrology, ecology and aesthetics. 

“We were aware of much of the elegance or intrusion ehich construction could create in the days before environmental assessment had been invented. But we did not have current – to us amazing – tools for recording what we saw,” begins author T.G. Carpenter in this. 

He is writing at a time when landscape engineers and planners who ventured to distant lands during the 1950’s, often exploring and venturing into new territory with new ideas – and observations – carrying the latest landscape design knowledge in their minds. He begins by addressing the issue of what the word ‘landscape’ means in it’s various interpretations through time and cultural expression. Landforms, geologay and climate are presented and animals and vegetation are also discussed. 

Landscapes mean different things to different people and the author discusses human perceptions for landscapes and opens the dialogue between natural versus man-made landscape alterations. “Involvement in landscape is experienced by living in it,” he says. Indeed, there are many ways that such living may occur ranging from homes to holiday trips to the actual infrastructure designed for a given place – expression of beauty or perhaps functional in nature. He describes theimpacts of construction beginning with the earthworks, site clearance and the initial site developments that many of us will be familiar with.

But impacts are not restricted to geophysical work, they include land use capabilities and their conservation or exploitation, impacts on wildlife and impacts connected to hydrology and water tables etc. The processes involved in landscape architecture flow between construction-structural design and their relationship to human aesthetics. Carpenter includes several photographs that discuss sites for which different landscape architecture factors are considered. He points to the need for lifecycle considerations and the need to design sustainably over the life of a project or structure. Natural landforms will involve elevation and slopes, giving rise to shape and form the author indicates. These may be altered by humans either through use over time, or more drastically through the use of machinery.

However, human involvement in altering landforms is not always negative in scope – hydrological improvements, retaining walls, viaducts – tunnels, and avoidance of landslides being a few cases where improvements can be made. Geology and soil are discussed in the book, since they are important to laying foundations, establishing locations for infrastructure of various kinds and often have aethetic considerations as well. 

This book provides a good discussion about mining and the considerations for engineering mining sites. Waste, underground mining techniques, geological formations, hydrological impacts as a result of mining. Different scenarios for mining rock, sand, minerals, soil and other types of materials are discussed. Dams, ports, esturary and coastal infrastructure are also included.  This also includes dredging, moorings and dock construction. The transportation sections of this book are quite interesting as they include discussions about how road networks are designed, junctions and the needs for bridges and routing traffic through urban environments. Industrial land use and landscape architecture is discussed along with military infrastructure. 

Carpenter continually describes the relationship of physical landscape to man-made structures. In later chapters he addresses issues of sustainability and how these relationships interact together. How can population continue to grow without expanding across the landscape? And, how can we feed people if the land that supports them agriculturally is used for development?

These are difficult questions to answer, but remain at the heart of this book as landscape planners wrestle with the numerous inter-connecting factors. Readers will find that the author moves through a considerable amount of topics involving infrastructure, without becoming bogged down too deeply in discussion.

Each chapter is filled with an abundance of material. There is an abundance of imagery throughout this book to support text. I find this book to be an excellent general reference for those interested in learning about modern day construction as it relates to land resources.

The author brings a wealth of knowledge about construction and engineering factors, and describes in light of sustainability factors and influences. This would be a good introductory text for sustainability and engineering classes looking to follow the path of sustainable landscape architecture and sustainable infrastructure.

 

 

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