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Campus partners create showcase for sustainable landscaping

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UCLA students in the Education for Sustainable Living Program install drought-tolerant plants in a water-wise landscape located at the campus entrance at Hilgard and Wyton.
A unique partnership among undergraduate students in the Institute of the Environment, post-baccalaureate students enrolled in Extension’s Landscape Architecture Program and UCLA staff has completed a water-efficient garden demonstration project at one of the campus’ main entrances.
 
The replanted space at the Hilgard and Wyton entrance now provides a highly visible display of the type of drought-tolerant plants and creative, beautiful designs that are increasingly becoming both popular and necessary in a state faced with new water supply realities.
 
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“We have three forces coming together in this program: undergraduate students studying and seeking sustainable solutions, our advanced design students looking to put their ideas into practice and enthusiastic UCLA staff,” said Stephanie Landregan, director of Extension’s landscape architecture program.
 
“It’s always exciting to see our undergraduate students choose and complete a research project, but to also incorporate the in-house expertise of our continuing education division is truly a perfect collaboration,” said Glen MacDonald, director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment.
 
The drought-tolerant landscaping program was one of 11 research projects for UCLA students engaged in the Education for Sustainable Living Program. The goal was to replace a portion of existing landscaping on campus with a more water-efficient one. The students approached Extension’s Landscape Architecture Program for assistance with design and plant selection.
 
Students seeking certificates in landscape architecture are exposed to “real world” projects and examples to take classroom lessons into the field, Landregan said. This experience is a key element of earning a certificate, which meets the educational requirements for landscape architects seeking a California license.
 
While other water-saving landscape projects — such as drip irrigation and smart climatologically based irrigation — are being implemented at UCLA, this was the first to be initiated by undergraduate students and include Extension students studying landscape design and architecture.
 
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Extension students studying landscape architecture put together the plant palette for the design.
"Creating sustainable landscapes will be critically important in the near future to residents and businesses in Southern California,” said Theresa Nelson Chada, an Extension landscape architect student involved in the project. “This was an important project because it demonstrates to the community that the landscape can be both beautiful and water-wise. It was a design that could meet the needs of the multiple stakeholders and also be easily installed."

Working with the Facilities Management Department and Housing and Hospitality Services, the student research team settled on a highly visible patch near UCLA’s Guest House, where dignitaries from around the world stay when visiting the university. Many designs were developed before one was approved by campus officials. Undergraduate students completed the actual installation. 
 
The new landscaping features a range of low-water-using plants and a new drip irrigation system. Typically, such designs and plants result in using 30 to 50 percent less water over traditional landscapes, although higher efficiencies are possible.
 
“This was a great experience to learn about sustainable landscaping and demonstrate that drought-tolerant plants can look great while reducing use of water — an extremely valuable resource in Southern California,” said Ross Bernet, landscape project student team leader in the Education for Sustainable Living Program. “I am thankful that we were able to work with landscape students at UCLA Extension to make this a truly collaborative effort.”