Face of Defense: Landscape Architect Saves Resources
By Air Force 1st Lt. Mara Title
Space and Missile Systems Center
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 photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"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.