We recently sat down with Darla Aldred, PLA, one of our Principals and a LEED Accredited Professional, to learn more both about her and her take on LEED. As a Firm Principal, Darla manages all landscape architectural aspects of Arkos Design’s projects. By integrating this discipline into each project, Darla ensures people can intuitively experience and enjoy their physical surroundings.
Q: What is your greatest personal strength?
A: I would like to think that one of my best attributes is that I always try to look at all points of view, not to look through a very narrow lens on anything, from people to places.
Q: Describe the purpose of your job to someone from another planet.
A: We’re the bridge between how things are built and how people function in them within nature. Making sure that all those work together: site, people, nature.
Q: What would you say defines sustainable neighborhoods?
A: Being able to have what you need close by to mitigate travel. And as a Landscape Architect, having the neighborhood be integrated into the natural environment answers more to sustainability.
Q: What is your favorite LEED credit and why?
A: I would love to say it’s “Sustainable Sites,” but at the end of the day, we don’t seem to get as many points in that as possible. So often clients have already determined the location of projects, so it’s already a greenfield or has woods we have to impact, etc. I would love to be able to influence that category more than we do.
I do like the “Innovation” credit. I think it’s good they’re open to other ways of thinking about it, because sometimes LEED can be a little too rigid. What seems to make sense in one area can impact negatively in another area. The Innovation credit can be used to help mitigate that.
Q: How can LEED be improved?
A: Be less expensive. I don’t necessarily mean the construction of it unless they’re attempting Platinum. Where it is expensive is the burden of the process. The extra time required by the consultant team to get through the process and documentation can be expensive. This is why a lot of clients are going through and doing the right things about sustainability that LEED helped to create, but they’re not getting the certificate on the wall. The most important thing is that they’re being more sustainable, but the seal is getting less important.
Q: Many individuals assume that a green project will cost more money, have you found this to be the case, or would you say that this is a false statement?
A: I would say it’s getting more and more false, especially for a lower-category building, because LEED has influenced so many products. I think that’s been one of the best things about the USGBC and LEED is that they have instilled in the industry a requirement to innovate and figure out ways to do things more sustainably. Things that 15 years ago would have been a challenge to get are automatically offered as green products now, and that’s largely because of LEED.
Q: If you had an 8th day in the week all to yourself, what would you do?
A: (Laughs) I would probably be out in my garden, or walking through the mown paths in my pasture-turned-meadow that I’m enjoying a lot lately.
Darla while on vacation with family at Colorado Springs, Colorado (Garden of the Gods)
Darla enjoys helping her community understand the importance of preserving and planting trees, having served on her city’s tree commission and as an Indiana Community Tree Steward. She is also a Kiwanian, a member of the La Porte County Master Gardeners, and enjoys volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Darla lives on a country acreage with her husband and two teenage boys, along with dogs, a cat, and chickens. She loves passing along to her boys the satisfaction of discovering the wonders of the natural world, whether through gardening, camping, or simply “being” outdoors.
- Bachelor of Science, Landscape Architecture, 1993, Colorado State University
- Certificate of Merit, Healthcare Garden Design, 2014, Joseph Regenstein Jr. School at CBG
- Registered Landscape Architect: Indiana and Michigan
- Indiana Tree Steward, 2016, Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
- American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
- American Horticultural Therapy Association
- Indiana Native Plant and Wildlife Society