Click here to learn more about Permaculture School.

Have you ever wondered what design ecology is or what a landscape architect does? Meet Permaculture School advisor Josiah Cain, a landscape architect with 16 years experience as an ecological design professional. He is currently Chief Design Officer at Design Ecology, a landscape architecture firm specializing green roofs, living walls, and on-site water management solutions. Below are some highlights of the services offered by Design Ecology.

In an era of resource scarcity, global climate crisis, and failing civic infrastructure, new development and infrastructure projects must be efficient, reliable, resilient, and ultimately regenerative. Natural systems are under strain to support urban populations and absorb associated downstream impacts. Design Ecology‘s interventions provide a rigorous, metric-based approach to passively attenuating human impact by reintroducing ecology and related benefits to the built environment.

Living Roofs

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.37.23 PM

The benefits of green roofs are many, including building performance, sequester carbon, stormwater control, habitat, agriculture, urban heat island, noise control, air and water filtration, accessible outdoor space, and aesthetic enhancement. Perhaps the most tangible is the extension of membrane life. Roofing membranes typically degrade due to UV exposure, temperature fluctuation, and physical damage. All of these impacts are mitigated by green roof systems, and the major US membrane manufacturers offer warrantees of equal or greater value to conventional systems.

Living Walls

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.38.56 PM

Vertical vegetation systems on structure provide many of the same benefits as green roofs, with the ability to improve building performance and provide civic benefit in the form of infrastructure, habitat, and climate. Living Walls are more specialized, and offer some very unique opportunities. For indoor use, studies by NASA and others conclusively show the ability of vegetation to condition indoor air, removing and metabolizing toxic airborn Volatile Oganic Compounds (VOC’s) such as formaldehyde, tulomene, and benzene in addition to converting CO2 to Oxygen. Wall systems can also be designed to filter wastewater, provide habitat, or grow food in tandem with building function such as cooling and noise reduction.


Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.40.59 PM

Cities across the US and abroad are experiencing sever stormwater infrastructure failures, resulting in flooding and untreated Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO’s) into natural water bodies. With cost prohibitive upgrade requirements, infrastructure managers are looking for stormwater reduction solutions and leveraging developers with increasingly stringent requirements. It is unnatural for rainfall to be rapidly conveyed to pipe infrastructure. Our passive, often vegetated solutions slow down, retain, reuse, and infiltrate stormwater as a functional component of site and structure. This water can be simply slowed down to allow pipes to move water over a longer period of time to prevent flooding, or used to cool buildings, irrigate, flush toilets, and support local ecology.

Rain Harvesting

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.41.55 PM

Rainwater is appropriate for a variety of uses including laundry, toilet flushing, wash water, and irrigation. Rainwater can be a reliable supply, providing about 600 gallons per inch of rainfall for each 1000 square feet of collection area. At this rate, a 2000 square foot home in San Francisco is capable of capturing up to 50,000 gallons of water from the roof alone! Our team assesses conservation, efficiency, climate, storage capacity, filtration needs, and distribution to provide effective low-maintenance on site water supply.

Graywater Reuse

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.43.07 PM

As worldwide pressures force difficult decisions with finite water resources, there is no good reason to utilize valuable potable water for such uses such as irrigation and toilet flushing. Design Ecology applies package systems, low-tech gravity flow irrigation, and sophisticated technical solutions to provide reuse of household water such as baths, showers, and sinks at minimum capital and maintenance expense. With first permits in six jurisdictions, our experienced team can help navigate local regulation to design an effective and code compliant solution.

Sustainable Landscapes

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 2.44.38 PM

With roots in Landscape Architecture and licensed Landscape Architects on staff, Design Ecology provides sustainable landscape design to a limited clientele when there is an intent to integrate our solutions into a comprehensive site system. Our team enjoys the creative process and the application of form into outdoor experience that subtly informs and empowers the user to engage with site function. Permaculture, Systems Thinking, and a love of the outdoors and outdoor living inform our process. Our portfolio of ecological schoolyards, organic agriculture masterplans, public spaces, and residential landscapes are evidence of our 20 year commitment to environmental sustainability.

 Subscribe to our mailing list

Upcoming events, beautiful photos, free webinars, inspiring partnerships, and latest news are posted weekly. Sign up for your private and free weekly digest and stay engaged with our highlights!

* indicates required field

You’ll receive an email to confirm your subscription-  if you use Gmail please check your Promotions tab.

Share →