A Quick Introduction To California’s Green Building Code (CALGreen)

All new construction projects in the state of California must comply with CALGreen guidelines beginning on January 1, 2011. CALGreen is a mandatory statewide code that applies to all new residential and non-residential construction projects in the State of California.

CALGreen is an integral part of the California Building Standards Law and is required for landscape architecture projects similar to the State Building and Fire Codes.

Unlike LEED or other green building rating systems, CALGreen is a minimum building standard an NOT a rating system. Your project does not qualify for a plaque or any special recognition if it exceeds the minimum standards.

CALGreen Applies to Landscape Architects

Applies to planning, design, operations, construction, use and occupancy of every newly constructed building or structure in California. Landscape architects must comply with the landscape design and irrigation design standards in the CALGreen building code.

In addition to CALGreen requirements, many cities (e.g. Santa Monica) have their own green building and sustainability amendments to CALGreen and other building requirements. However, you are only responsible for the CALGreen state-wide requirements for the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects.

Benefits of CALGreen

The state of California claims that CALGreen has many benefits for the construction professions, the public, and the environment.

First, CALGreen’s resource conservation and pollution reduction requirements improves the public health, safety, and general welfare of communities.

Second, the commissioning process and operations manuals promote occupant safety for all building users.

Third, the energy conservation standards cut the carbon footprint of the built environment.

Fourth, CALGreen provides a uniform and consistent program for California and codifies conservation and energy reduction standards across the state (although individual city regulations weaken this argument).

Fifth, CALGreen creates a mainstream design guideline for green buildings that can influence the profession in the state and world-wide.

Fifth, CALGreen generates cost savings though energy efficiency and water conservation strategies.

Sixth, CALGreen delineates Mandatory and Optional Measures, resulting in consistency while simultaneously providing guidance for more ambitious green building projects.

Levels of Green

CALGreen has three levels: mandatory, and tiers I and II. All projects in the state are required to meed the mandatory requirements. The code breaks down the mandatory requirements into residential and non-residential projects. To achieve higher levels of conservation and energy savings, your client can choose to pursue tier I or tier II status. Some cities require meeting one or both of these standards as well.

Final Thoughts

CALGreen is the state of California’s green building code and all new construction projects must comply with the mandatory resource conservation standards. CALGreen is enforceable just like the Building Code and landscape architects must comply to the landscape irrigation requirements. Expect a few questions about CALGreen on the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for landscape architects.

For More Information:

[California Building Standards Commission] (CBSC)

Posted in Construction, Regulatory Agencies, State Agencies Tagged with: , , , , , ,

How Many Questions Are On The California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects?

If you’re like most landscape architect candidates, you’re probably anxious to find out how many questions there are on the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for landscape architects.

The official answer is 100 questions. However, many landscape architect who recently taken the exam I found a been answering more than 100 questions. What gives!

I decided to do a little research. The Candidate Guide published on LATC’s website dates back to 2013. In this candidate guide, it’s is that they’re only 100 questions on the exam. If this is the current guide, why are so many other landscape architects reporting that there are more than 100 questions on the exam?

I decided to reach out to LA TC and find out straight from the source.

In an email I received from a member of the Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC), they stated that there are only 100 questions which are graded on the CSE exam. But, they frequently test new questions to see what the responses. So, you may have more than 100 questions to ask but only 100 will be graded.

As you can understand, this is quite nerve-racking for somebody who’s prepared for a 100 question test and then his ass to answer more than 100. even worse, you don’t know which questions are going to be graded and which ones do not count.

Many landscape architect candidates have contacted me expressing dismay at questions that weren’t in the study guide or in the candidate guide. There’s a simple answer for this. These questions are for a future version of the exam and will not be counted on your exam.

As frustrating as it is, be prepared to answer more than 100 questions on the California supplemental exam for landscape architects. But remember, only 100 answers will count for you.

Posted in About the CSE for Landscape Architects Tagged with: , ,

Non-Native Shrubs For Planting Under Oak Trees

Quercus lobata - Valley Oak - California Native Oak Tree - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Native oak trees (Quercus spp.) are one of California’s most beautiful natural resources. Several native oak species, such as coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), blue oak (Quercus douglasii), and valley oak (Quercus lobata), are common along the coastal plains, foothills, and valleys. As development pushes further into native plant communities where oaks are common or dominant in the native landscape, these majestic natural treasures often succumb to poor landscape design and management practices.

Problems Landscaping Under Native Oak Trees

Native oak trees are incredibly tough. The have evolved to withstand California’s wet winters, summer heat in the inland valleys, periodic fires, and dry summers. They are real survivors when left to their own devices.


Quercus lobata - Valley Oak - California Native Oak Tree - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Quercus lobata – Valley Oak

However, California’s native oak trees have not adapted to life in a high water-use landscape where exotic plants are watered frequently all summer long. Too much summer water is detrimental to native oaks which are adapted to dry soil in the summer.

Watering heavily during California’s typically dry summer months encourages the oak’s mortal enemy: fungus.

Warm, wet soil fosters the rapid growth of oak-attacking fungus species. In most cases, fungal infestations are terminal for California native oak trees. Young trees which are growing vigorously are usually able to resist fungal attacks for a number of years. But older trees are less able to fight off fungal attacks and slowly succumb to the fungal infection. Oak trees grow slowly and they also decline and die slowly.

Proper Plant Selection Can Help Keep Oak Trees Healthy

If you have a site that has mature oak trees growing on it in California. There are a few best management practices (BMPs) that landscape architects implement to protect oaks and keep their clients happy.

  • Minimize grading around oak trees
  • Do not change the drainage pattern around mature trees
  • Do not cut major roots
  • Use grade beams to avoid compacting soil in the dripline
  • Use native or low water-use plants under oak trees

While a great deal has been written about using low-water native plants for planting under oak trees, some exotic species may also be planted with great success.

Some examples of common exotic plants that grow well under and near oaks include the following plants.

  • Abelia grandiflora — Glossy Abelia
  • Arbutus unedo — Strawberry Tree
  • Berberis darwinii — Darwin’s Barberry
  • Buddleia davidii — Butterfly Bush
  • Daphne odorata — Fragrant Daphne
  • Grevillea rosmarinifolia — Rosemary Grevillea
  • Myrsine africanum — African Boxwood
  • Myrtus communis — Myrtle
  • Nandina domestica — Heavenly Bamboo
  • Nerium oleander — Oleander
  • Ochna serrulata — Mickey Mouse Plant
  • Pinus mugo — Mugo Pine
  • Plumbago auriculata — Cape Plumbago
  • Prunus lusitanica — Portugal Laurel
  • Punica granatum ‘Wonderful’ — Pomegranate
  • Sarcococca ruscifolia — Fragrant Sarcococca
  • Teucrium fruticans — Bush Germander
  • Viburnum suspensum — Sandankwa Viburnum
  • Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ — Laurustinus
  • Xylosma congestum ‘Compacta’ — Xylosma

Best Exotic Shrubs For Planting Under California Native Oak Trees

These shrubs use low to moderate amounts of supplemental irrigation and can be used around oaks.

HINT: Make sure you know the botanical names for the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) since LATC does not use common names on the exam.

Abelia grandiflora — Glossy Abelia

Abelia grandiflora - Glossy Abelia - Grows Under California Oak Trees - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Abelia grandiflora – Glossy abelia

Glossy abelia is one of the most dependable exotic shrubs for planting underneath California-native oak trees. The arching stems form a mounded shrub which grows from three to seven feet tall and wide. The small, pointed leaves are shiny and bronze-colored in spring and fall. Several cultivars are available which range from medium-tall shrubs to spreading groundcover plants.

Arbutus unedo — Strawberry Tree

Arbutus unedo - Strawberry Tree - Plant under California Native Oak Trees - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Arbutus unedo – Strawberry Tree

Strawberry tree is a Mediterranean native plant that looks right at home in California. It’s attractive, reddish, shaggy bark is conspicuous and becomes an asset with age. Use strawberry tree as a slow-growing screen up to 25 feet tall with an eight foot spread. Plant outside dripline in full sun or light shade. While the red fruit which is reminiscent of a strawberry is edible, it is not tasty. Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’ remains a smaller shrub to 6 feet tall with an equal spread. With some pruning, older shrubs can be trained to resemble small, multi-trunked specimen trees.

Berberis darwinii — Darwin’s Barberry

Berberis darwinii - Darwin’s Barberry

Berberis darwinii – Darwin’s Barberry

Darwin’s barberry is a very dense mound of dark, glossy, well-armed leaves. With age, this barberry grows between five and seven feet tall. The inconspicuous flowers produce dark blue berries which attract birds. Spiny foliage makes it a good barrier plant and discourages people from cutting through that part of the landscape. Plant at edge of dripline in full sun for the best appearance.

Buddleia davidii — Butterfly Bush


Buddleia davidii — Butterfly Bush - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Buddleia davidii — Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush quickly grows to be ten to 12 feet tall. The shrub’s form is arching with flowers borne on the tips of the stems. The gray-green leaves grow to six inches long. It’s colorful, honey-scented flowers are a foot long, and as the name suggests, attractive to butterflies. Prune back hard in winter to encourage vigorous new growth and maximum flower production. Plant outside dripline in full sun.

Daphne odorata — Fragrant Daphne


Daphne odorata - Grow Under California Oak Trees - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Daphne odorata – Daphne

Daphne slowly grows to be a four to six foot tall shrub that spreads up to eight feet wide. The neat evergreen, glossy leaves are three inches long. In winter, the sweetly fragrant flowers perfume the air around the plants. The one real downside of daphne is it’s absolute need for excellent drainage; poor drainage is the biggest killer of this plant. Several cultivars are available with pink or white flowers and tastefully variegated foliage. Plant in partial shade and don’t overwater.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia — Rosemary Grevillea

Grevillea rosmarinifolia — Rosemary Grevillea - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Grevillea rosmarinifolia — Rosemary Grevillea

Rosemary grevillea forms a dense, dark green shrub four to five feet tall and wide. The spiny, dark-green leaves are green on top and white underneath. Flowers rosy-red flowers bloom for a long time and attract native hummingbirds.

Myrsine africanum — African Boxwood

Myrsine africanum — African Boxwood

Myrsine africanum — African Boxwood

African boxwood has stiff, vertical stems which are clothed in small, dark green leaves with burgundy stems. This underused shrub Will grow to six feet tall but can be easily maintained by shearing to any height. This is a great choice for a formal hedge in full sun or shade.

Myrtus communis — Myrtle

Myrtus communis - Myrtle - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Myrtus communis – Myrtle

Myrtle is a dense rounded shrub which grows from five to eight feet in height and spread. The fine-textured foliage is dark green and aromatic. Plant myrtle at the edge of dripline in full sun or partial shade. Tolerates shearing and makes a fine formal or informal hedge. Easy-to-grow and tolerant of most landscape conditions.

Nandina domestica — Heavenly Bamboo


Nandina domestica - Heavenly Bamboo - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo is an upright shrub which grows to five feet tall. The delicate evergreen compound foliage creates a lacy appearance. In fall, the foliage changes color to orange, red, or pink and lasts all winter long. Heavenly bamboo is highly resistant to oak root fungus and is generally adaptable to less than optimal growing conditions. Several compact and dwarf cultivars are available and can be used to replace annual color or as a groundcover.

Nerium oleander — Oleander

Nerium oleander - Oleander - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Nerium oleander – Oleander

Oleander is frequently used as a flowering shrub for screening objectionable views. Several large and compact varieties are available from nurseries. Dwarf forms grow four feet tall and slightly wider. Full-sized cultivars can grow to an impressive 12 feet tall and wide. The white, pink, red, or salmon flowers bloom in summer and fall. Plant oleander at edge or outside dripline in full sun. Plants grown in considerable shade are leggy and bloom infrequently.

Ochna serrulata — Mickey Mouse Plant

Mickey Mouse Plant - Grow Under California Native Oak Trees - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Ochna serrulata — Mickey Mouse Plant

The Mickey Mouse plant is aptly named due to it’s unusual berry formation. With time, it will grow four to eight feet tall and wide. The narrow evergreen leaves are bronzy-green in spring and turn dark green as summer progresses. Plant at the edge of dripline in full sun or partial shade.

Philadelphus virginalis — Mock Orange

Philadelphus virginalis - Mock Orange - Grow under California Native Oak Trees

Philadelphus virginalis – Mock Orange

Mock orange is a vase shaped deciduous shrub which reaches three to seven feet tall and wide depending on variety. The pure white flowers are delightfully fragrant in spring. Prune out one-third of the oldest canes after it is done flowering to maintain it’s vigor and control it’s size. Best in partial shade in inland gardens.

Pinus mugo — Mugho Pine

Pinus mugo pumilio - Mugo Pine - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects - grow under oak trees

Pinus mugo – Mugo Pine

Mugo pine forms a neat, compact dome of attractive needles and grows up to 4 feet tall and wide. Dark green needles and a mountain-like or Asian look to rock gardens.

Plumbago auriculata — Cape Plumbago

Plumbago auriculata - Cape Plumbago - Grow under California Native Oaks - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Plumbago auriculata – Cape Plumbago

Cape plumbago is a spreading, arching plant that grows up to 10 feet tall and equally wide. The sky-blue flowers bloom nearly year-round near the coast and from spring through fall in the inland valleys. Plant cape plumbago at the edge of dripline in full sun for the best flower production. One drawback is that the plant can be damaged by frost. Prune out dead wood to rejuvenate every few years.

Prunus lusitanica — Portugal Laurel

Prunus lusitanica — Portugal Laurel - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Prunus lusitanica — Portugal Laurel

Portugal laurel is an old-school California landscape plant which forms a 6 foot to 15 foot tall shrub. The handsome foliage is dark and glossy. Dark purple berries decorate the plants and feed the birds in summer. Plant Portugal laurel outside the tree’s dripline. Prune to any size or shape; good as a hedge or screen.

Punica granatum ‘Wonderful’ — Pomegranate

Punica granatum - Pomegranate - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Punica granatum – Pomegranate

Pomegranate is a large, vase-shaped shrub that grows to 10 feet tall in low-water situations. The narrow deciduous foliage is glossy and medium green. Although pomegranate doesn’t fruit prolifically in low water situations, it produces an abundance of bright orange flowers in spring and summer. Pomegranate is best planted outside the oak tree’s dripline. Several highly ornamental dwarf pomegranate cultivars are available which grow three feet tall (or less). Dwarf pomegranates are grown for the ornamental (although inedible) fruit and attractive foliage and form. Pomegranates combine well with native and Mediterranean plants.

Sarcoccoca ruscifolia — Fragrant Sarcococca

Sarcoccoca ruscifolia — Fragrant Sarcoccoca

Sarcoccoca ruscifolia — Fragrant Sarcoccoca

Fragrant sarcoccoca can grow to six feet tall but usually stays lower. The dark green leaves are glossy and very attractive in the shady garden. In winter, the inconspicuous but fragrant flowers perfume the garden. It’s flowers are followed by red fruit. There is a low-growing groundcover variety also available in the trade; Sarcoccoca hookerana humilis is a low ground cover variety which only grows 18 inches tall and spreads wider. Plant in partial or full shade.

Teucrium fruticans — Bush Germander

Teucrium fruticans — Bush Germander - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Teucrium fruticans — Bush Germander

This tough shrub will grow to four feet to eight feet tall and as wide. Its attractive silver-gray foliage and blue flowers blend well with native and exotic plants. One really outstanding characteristic about bush germander is that it blooms prolifically most of year. Prune to shape the bush in spring. Low maintenance.

Viburnum suspensum — Sandankwa Viburnum

Viburnum suspensum — Sandankwa Viburnum - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Viburnum suspensum — Sandankwa Viburnum

This evergreen screening shrub grows to 10 feet tall but can be pruned or sheared to any size. The foliage is an attractive shade of dark green and is the plant’s most outstanding characteristic. Unfortunately, its flowers and fruit are inconspicuous. Plant where it will get good air circulation to prevent pest and disease problems.

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ — Laurustinus

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet' — Laurestinus - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ — Laurestinus

This handsome evergreen shrub is maybe to the Mediterranean region and grows well with low moderate maintenance and irrigation. Foliage is dark green with large two to three-inch creamy white flower clusters in spring. This is a well-behaved shrub which looks good mixed with native plants or more common exotic shrubs.

Xylosma congestum ‘Compacta’ — Xylosma

Xylosma congestum 'Compacta' — Xylosma - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Xylosma congestum ‘Compacta’ — Xylosma

This handsome, well-behaved shrub grows three to five tall and has a dense, domed form. The light, golden-green leaves are attractive and glossy. The branches have some spines and it can be used as a low barrier plant to control circulation in the landscape. Tolerates tough conditions and looks good in sun or shade.

California Native Oak Trees Can Coexist With Exotic Plants

The right plant selection makes all the difference to the overall aesthetics of the landscape and the long-term health of existing native oak trees on a site. While there are many arguments to be made for exclusively planting California-native plants, many exotic plants are also suitable for planting under oaks.

The California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects has many questions about suitable plant material for the state of California. I strongly recommend you learn what grows well with native oak trees. You might be surprised how many questions this can help you answer successfully.

Photo Credits:


Posted in Plants, Shrubs Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Questions about the CSE

Rapid-fire Questions and Answers

Is it advisable/necessary to be able to describe and identify all the distinct flood insurance rate zones?

No. Know what agency controls flood maps and flood insurance rates (FEMA) and know what kinds of development can be permitted in the 100 year flood zone (e.g. passive recreation, sports fields, etc.)

What plants do we need to know for the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects? 

The CSE has a bias towards native landscape materials. Know the most common landscape plants and native plants by their botanical name. There are no common names on the CSE.

When doing MAWA calculations, how do you determine the IE factor?

The IE, or irrigation efficiency factor, is determined by how efficient the irrigation system distributes water to the plants. As a rule of thumb, drip irrigation has an irrigation efficiency of 90% (0.90). Rotors can achieve 80 to 85% efficiency. Spray irrigation is the least efficient at 70 to 75%. Use the IE factor in irrigation formulas to determine a system’s actual water use.

Can van and passenger accessible aisles overlap?

Yes. Van access aisles must be on the passenger side of the van. Two vans cannot have overlapping access aisles. Two passenger cars may share an access aisle. However, it is preferable that the access aisle be on the passenger side.

Can the 5×20’ aisle next to a passenger drop off be above the curb (reached by a ramp) or does it need to be a the same grade as the road surface?

It needs to be at the same grade as the road surface.





Posted in Uncategorized

How to Determine Irrigation Efficiency (IE) for Landscape Water Use in California

“Irrigation efficiency” (IE) means the measurement of the amount of water beneficially used divided by the amount of water applied. Irrigation efficiency is derived from measurements and estimates of irrigation system characteristics and management practices. The minimum average irrigation efficiency for purposes of this ordinance is 0.71. Greater irrigation efficiency can be expected from well designed and maintained systems. — California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

Some irrigation water never gets used by the plant, this value compensates for that. The great Irrigation Tutorials site suggests using 0.75 as the value for spray irrigation. Very well designed sprinkler systems with little run-off that using efficent sprinklers can have efficiencies of 80% (use 0.80). Drip irrigation systems typically have efficiencies of 90% (use 0.90).

Posted in Irrigation

How to Understand Flood Insurance Rate Zones

Flooding in California and the 100 year flood is on the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Floods are hazards that occasionally affect California landscapes. In the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects, there may be a question or two about floods and how to mitigate the affects of flooding on project sites.

Aerial flooding in California - California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects CSE

Floods are covered on the CSE under job task 8 (Identify potentially hazardous conditions that may affect development of project site) and Knowledge Area 403 (Knowledge of potentially hazardous conditions e.g., fire, flood, erosion, storm water). It is reasonable to expect a one or two questions on hazards, including floods.

How To Determine Flood Risk

Landscape architects can investigate a site’s documented flood potential by researching the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) maps.

You can find FEMA flood maps on the a special website dedicated to flood mapping. Here is the website: https://msc.fema.gov/portal

“The FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) is the official public source for flood hazard information produced in support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Use the MSC to find your official flood map, access a range of other flood hazard products, and take advantage of tools for better understanding flood risk.”

Special Flood Hazard Area Maps

FEMA publishes Special Flood Hazard Area Maps (SFHA). According to FEMA, a Special Flood Hazard Area is defined as “the area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.”

Flood Insurance Rate Maps

After a flood hazard area has been mapped. FEMA and the insurance industry create Flood Insurance Rate Maps. FEMA describes a Flood Insurance Rate Map as “the official map of a community on which FEMA has delineated both the special hazard areas and the risk premium zones applicable to the community.”

Flood Insurance Rate Maps are used to determine flood insurance premiums and assign flood risk to parcels. The construction industry uses Flood Insurance Rate Maps to determine if a property lies within the 100 year flood zone.

What is a 100 Year Flood Zone?

A 100 year flood zone is an area which is below 100 year flood base elevation and is subject to catestrphoic inundation.

The base flood elevation is defined by FEMA as “The computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during the base flood. Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) are shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and on the flood profiles. The BFE is the regulatory requirement for the elevation or floodproofing of structures. The relationship between the BFE and a structure’s elevation determines the flood insurance premium.”

Flood Zone Designations

FEMA uses several different zones to describe the probability of flooding in a particular area. The zones are defined below.

Zone A

The flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to the 100-year floodplains that are determined in the Flood Insurance Study by approximate methods. Because detailed hydraulic analyses are not performed for such areas, no Base Flood Elevations or depths are shown within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.

Zone A99

The flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to areas of the 100-year floodplains that will be protected by a Federal flood protection system where construction has reached specified statutory milestones. No Base Flood Elevations or depths are shown within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.

Zone AE and A1-A30

The flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to the 100-year floodplains that is determined in the Flood Insurance Study by detailed methods. In most in- stances, Base Flood Elevations derived from the detailed hy- draulic analyses are shown at selected intervals within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.

Zone AH

The flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to the areas of the 100-year shallow flooding with a constant water-surface elevation (usually areas of ponding) where aver- age depths are between 1 and 3 feet. The Base Flood Elevations derived from the detailed hydraulic analyses are shown at selected intervals within this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements apply.

Zone AO

The flood insurance rate zone that corresponds to the areas of 100-year shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) where average depths are between 1 and 3

You do not have to memorize each flood insurance zone for the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects. However, know that there are several gradations of what qualifies for a 100 year storm event and the flooding that can occur.

What If A Project Is Located in A 100 Year Flood Zone?

If you have a project located in the 100 year flood zone as designated by a Flood Insurance Rate Map, a landscape architect has a couple of options. First, you can choose a development program which is compatible with occassional flooding. Passive recreation and habitat restoration projects and often occur within the flood zone. A second option is to raise the elevation of the development above the flood base of the patient. this will keep all development out of the flood zone. Not all jurisdictions allow this method so you’ll need to check with the local zoning board or development authority to determine if this method will work for your project site.

Photo Credits:
Kansas City District via Compfight cc
USACE HQ via Compfight cc

Posted in Federal Agencies, Regulatory Agencies, Site Inventory Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Can Accessible Van Parking Spaces Share An Access Isle?

Accessible parking is a topic in the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Accessible parking is one of many topics on the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects. Van parking spaces can be particularly challenging to design. Here are some tips to help you design accessible van parking spaces that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Division of State Architect regulations.

Design An Accessible Van Parking Space

Accessible parking design example for the California Supplemental Exam

Car and van parking spaces shall be 216 inches (18′) long minimum. Car parking spaces shall be 108 inches (9′) wide minimum and van parking spaces shall be 144 inches (12′) wide minimum, shall be marked to define the width, and shall have an adjacent access aisle.

Access Aisles

ADA parking access isle width for the California Supplemental Exam for Landscape architects

Accessible routes must connect parking spaces to accessible entrances. In parking facilities where the accessible route must cross vehicular traffic lanes, marked crossings enhance pedestrian safety, particularly for people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Where possible, it is preferable that the accessible route not pass behind parked vehicles.

Can Accessible Van Spaces Share An Access Isle?

Access aisles shall not overlap the vehicular way. Access aisles shall be permitted to be placed on either side of the parking space except for van parking spaces which shall have access aisles located on the passenger side of the parking spaces.

Accessible van parking spaces cannot share an access isle. Because vans with lifts usually have it mounted on the passenger side, it is not practical for van spaces to share the access isle. Therefore, each Van-accessible space needs its own isle.

Here is what the Department of Justice (DOJ) states:

Wheelchair lifts typically are installed on the passenger side of vans. Many drivers, especially those who operate vans, find it more difficult to back into parking spaces than to back out into comparatively unrestricted vehicular lanes. Where a van and car share an access aisle, the van space must be located with the access aisle on the passenger side of the van space.

The Bottom Line

One in six accessible parking spaces must be van accessible. Van-accessible parking sites need the access isle on the passenger side due to the wheelchair lift. And, van-accessible parking spaces cannot share an access isle with another van space, but they can share with a passenger car space.

For More Information

You can find out more information about accessible building standards in the 2013 CBC Advisory Manual for the California Division of State Architect.

Posted in ADA & Accessibility Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Ribes aureum—California Native Landscape Plants

Ribes aureum - Golden Currant - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)—California Native Landscape Plants

Golden currant (Ribes aureum) is a 3 feet to 6 feet short deciduous flowering shrub native to California.

Ribes aureum - Golden Currant

The flowers range in color from soft to bright yellow and have a pleasing fragrance. Ribes aureum’s flower color is yellow and the flowers bloom in spring. It flowers from April to May. The shrub has erect growth and is 3 to 6 feet tall and wide. The foliage consists of light green leaves with lobed, toothed edges. Ribes aureum’s foliage is deciduous and has an attractive fall color before the leaves drop.

Golden Currant is a California Native Plant

Golden current is native to moist areas, central Sierra Nevada east to Rocky mountains. It can be found growing in the Valley Grassland, Lodgepole Forest, Riparian (rivers & creeks) and Sagebrush Scrub plant communities.

Golden currant is a very tolerant plant. I’ve seen it growing 5 feet away from a stream in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas.

Ribes aureum foliage - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Wildlife Value of Golden Currant

Ribes aureum’s fruit is edible and are often eaten by birds and other forms of wildlife. I’ve seen bushes covered with very good currants on it in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The fruit are about the size of golden blueberries and the seeds are not too bad. I find the flavor to be excellent. The berries can be either yellow, red, or purple when ripe depending on the particular plant. The flowers are well liked by the hummingbirds. Ribes aureum is great for a bird garden and attracts many species of native and migratory songbirds.

How to Grow Golden Currant

It likes sun to part shade and is adaptable to many soil moisture conditions (unlike many native plants). Ribes aureum tolerates poorly drained soils better than most other native plants. Golden current can tolerate standing in water during the wet season and also tolerate summer drought with just a little supplemental irrigation.

Golden currant is very easy to grow. It needs irrigation for the first few seasons to get established and looks best with monthly summer irrigation when established. This native plant will probably not fruit in the mildest areas of California since it needs some winter chill to set fruit.

Climate Zones for Golden Currant

Golden current is adapted to most of California except for the low deserts and grows well in Sunset Climate Zones 1 to 12 and 14 to 23.

Water Use for Golden Currant

Ribes aureum is classified as a low water-use plant for Southern California according to the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS) database.

For More Information

Here are a few places to find out more about Ribes aureum.


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Top 3 Services Landscape Architects Provide Clients In California

California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects

Landscape architects often serve as consultants for private-sector clients. In the state of California, a landscape architect license legally permits landscape architects to perform certain skilled tasks for their clients.

While there is some professional overlap with related professions, landscape architects exclusively provide most of these services. Landscape architects focus on developing and preserving the land for human use while taking into consideration the cultural, physical, environmental, and biological impact of the project. A landscape architect is a valuable team member on private-sector projects.

Let’s explore the role of a landscape architect working with a private-sector (non-government) client.

Roles Landscape Architects Play In The Design Process With Clients

Landscape architects can assist their clients in several ways during the design and construction process.

Master Planning

Landscape architects are often part of a master plan team. Master planning uses the constraints of the site and budget to develop a long-term program framework that guides development over a period of time. Many larger projects are constructed in phases as market demand and financing permit their construction. A developer can use a master plan to guide the construction and development process while communicating the site’s ultimate vision to potential tenants, purchasers, and financing institutions. Master planning is one skill where landscape architects excel at providing value to their clients.

Site Planning

Site planning involves developing alterative treatment of sites and includes the programming of a site and the physical layout of program elements. Some site planning elements include vehicular circulation, pedestrian circulation, accessible path of travel and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, recreational facilities, residential and commercial areas, resorts, and retail development. Landscape architects work within the site’s capabilities and restraints and the client’s budget to produce the best functional and aesthetically pleasing solution. Site planning is an area of emphasis on the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) and Landscape Architect Registration Exam (LARE).

Design Services

Many landscape architects find design work to be their favorite part of the profession. Landscape architects typically perform detailed site design. The design process starts with a conceptual plan. After the client approves the design concept, the landscape architect team develops the design and produces construction documents for bidding and building. As the project is built by a contractor, the landscape architect performs site observation to make sure that the design is being constructed in accordance with the construction documents and follows the designer’s intent.

The following elements are usually part of a landscape architecture design:

  • Grading and Drainage
  • Erosion Control Measures
  • Paving and Hardscape
  • Recreational Facilities
  • Small Non-habitable Structures
  • Site Furnishings
  • Planting
  • Fountains and Water Features Irrigation
  • Lighting Design
  • Signage

These design elements are packaged into a set of construction documents for bidding and construction.

Final Thoughts

While landscape architects perform multiple rolls for their clients, master planning, site planning, and design are three major activities that clients rely on the experience and expertise of the landscape architect. This is also why the state of California requires landscape architects to be licensed. Unlicensed professionals who cannot demonstrate the minimum competence to practice in the state may potentially harm the public’s health, safety, and welfare.

All of these practices mentioned above are on the California Supplemental exam for landscape architects.

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How to Get Licensed With A Foreign Landscape Architecture Degree in California


California is a wonderful state in which to practice landscape architecture and attracts talented professionals from all over the world. While getting a landscape architect license with a foreign landscape architect degree is possible, it does present a few challenges.

This guide will help landscape architect candidates apply their foreign landscape architecture degree towards the experience requirement for the Landscape Architect technical Committee (LATC).


Evaluate Your Foreign Landscape Architect Degree

Although formal landscape architecture education began in the United States, there are many fine landscape architecture degree programs offer in other nations.

In order to qualify for a landscape architect license in the state of California, you need at least one year of formal landscape architect education. If your education is from an American college, your official transcripts are proof of your education. But, foreign education requires an additional step before the LATC can evaluate your transcripts.

How To Establish Exam Eligibility

Foreign-educated students need to prove that their degree is substantially similar to a landscape architecture degree earned in the United States. Here is how you do this. The Landscape Architect Technical Committee (LATC) says that they accept “…a credential evaluation report, which includes information about the applicant’s credential (diploma or degree) and its U.S. equivalent.”

You have to provide the credential evaluation report when you submit your application to take the Landscape architect Registration Examination (LARE) or the California Supplemental Exam (CSE). Since the LATC will not perform the evaluation for you, candidates with foreign education can have an independent third-party company conduct the credential evaluation.

Where To Get A Credential Evaluation Of Foreign Landscape Architect Education

Several companies offer high-quality landscape architect credential evaluation reports for a fee.

These credential evaluation reports are prepared by experts after examining the applicant’s education documentation for accuracy and authenticity.

While these organizations offer several different levels of evaluation, LATC only requires the “general” level of evaluation. This level of evaluation compares your degree with a comparable landscape architect program in the United States. Hopefully, the evaluators agree that your education is roughly equivalent to a degree earned in the United States.

Because each case is different, LATC does not maintain a list of approved foreign programs.

You can find a list of professional credential evaluation services at the National Association of Credential Evaluations Service, Inc. Web site at www.naces.org/members.html or by contacting the LATC at (916) 575-7230.

Final Thoughts

Getting a landscape architect license in California is possible if you were educated in a different country. When you submit your application for licensure, include a copy of your credential evaluation report to show the LATC that your foreign education is substantially similar to a degree earned in the United States. Once LATC accepts your education and experience, the process is the same as for any other domestic landscape architect candidate.

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Do You Want to Pass the CSE?

You are in the right place. Learn what you need to pass the California Supplemental Exam for landscape architects the first time. This site is dedicated to aspiring landscape architects who want to get a California landscape architect license. I'll share my research for the CSE as I prepare for the exam.

Feel free to submit a question and I'll do my best to answer it here.

Good luck,

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