Planning Connections
Human, Natural and Man Made

Introduction to the Sample
Case Study

“Planning Connections contains 19 case studies on which Pete Pointner has carried out managerial and technical roles. Each case study illustrates, with approved plans and implemented projects, the principles presented in the book.

Each case study is structured to cover:
  • Background, a description of the time, place and situation within which the planning work was carried out
  • Key issues, including political, economic, technical, environmental and esthetic
  • The plan, a description of the key elements of the plan in relation to the issues and background context
  • Lessons learned
  • Participants

One case study was selected as a sample. The table of contents lists the name and type of project for all 19 case studies. These examples cover a wide range of planning activities in comprehensive planning, site design, town center redevelopment, revitalization of older urban areas and transportation corridor revitalization.

The author encourages readers to find or create good examples in their own community that draw attention to the principles of green planning and context sensitive design.

Sample Case Study
Conserve School
Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin

Background: Mr. James R. Lowenstine was chairman of the board of Chicago Wire and Steel Company of Chicago. When he died, he left approximately $140 million and 1,200 pristine acres in northern Wisconsin to create and maintain Conserve School. He established a board of directors and named a chairman who was to guide this endeavor from inception to operation. This was to be a premiere boarding school for high school students, with the environment as a basis for structuring a curriculum. The planning and design of the campus, its buildings, support systems, and operation were to reflect environmental sensitivity, sustainability, and responsible stewardship.

The property was located adjacent to the state line and the Silvan National Forest wilderness area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the north. There was one lake completely within the boundary of the property and considerable frontage on two other lakes. The site was rolling with a variety of forest cover, habitat, and wild life. Soils varied considerably across the site, and there were numerous wetlands. Access was via a gravel road, and the nearest town was Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin, approximately four miles to the east. A small regional airport was located just south of Land O’ Lakes, and there was Greyhound Bus service to Land O’ Lakes.

Key Issues: The consultant team had to initiate the study during the winter, when the base snow condition was over 3 feet in depth. The team was to conduct studies to determine the most favorable location for the campus and various external activities. They were then to lay out the campus following a program developed by the board with various educational consultants. The team faced somewhat unusual challenges related to processing a large and complex project in a rural township; balancing architectural design potentials and environmental sensitivity in site selection and design; and selecting methods of heating, waste-water treatment, storm-water management, and access and circulation systems which would meet the environmental imperative. One specific issue was whether to have a home field for football, given the area of forest which would have to be cleared for the field and associated parking.

The Plan: The first principle was for the team to work closely and simultaneously on the site surveys starting with a snow mobile tour of the site at the outset. The key members were architects, landscape architects, ecologists, land use planners, and mechanical and civil engineers.

Two alternative sites were identified, both of which were adjacent to lakes. The selected site of approximately 100 acres was chosen for less damage to wetlands and natural drainage both during construction and during operation of the school thereafter. Minimizing vehicle trips and vehicle miles of travel was also a consideration. The waste water is treated by what is affectionately referred to as the “Living Machine.” It filters waste water through vegetation in an enclosed structure and the outfall effluent is pure water. Natural gas was chosen over wood for heating and fuel. Best management practices were utilized in all of the stormwater planning. Existing wetlands were avoided to the fullest extent possible, and where appropriate, selective enhancements and expansion were implemented. More specifically, the project encompasses the following environmental considerations and design features.

Green benefits:
  • Minimal impact of campus on surrounding ecosystems
  • School marketing opportunities and environmental image
  • Enhanced employee, staff, and student productivity
  • Reduced operating costs (energy and landscaping)
  • Educational tool for employees, staff, students, and visitors

Main Entrance, Student Center

Site sensitivity:

  • Minimal tree clearance
  • Prairie grass instead of turf grass
  • Vegetated swales to filter roof and parking lot storm water
  • Reuse of excavated soils
  • Maximum tree preservation and protection by location of building pads and construction management procedures
  • Use of excavated boulders for construction of tree wells and retaining walls
Energy efficiency:
  • Solar orientation of buildings for maximum winter sun penetration
  • Large roof overhangs to reduce heat gain
  • Energy modeling to optimize design
  • Cost savings by exceeding code minimums for insulation
  • Optimized glazing and thermal envelope
  • Efficient HVAC and lighting controls
  • “Living Machine” waste-water treatment facility allowing for nature’s own water purification processes
  • “Energy management system” to centrally monitor and control mechanical systems
  • Installation of motion sensors and photocells for lighting and plumbing systems to minimize energy consumption
Indoor environmental quality:
  • Use of “heat sink” from flooring to radiate during evening hours
  • Large space volumes for better air quality
  • Interior glazing which maximizes access to view and daylight
  • Localized pollutant source exhausts
  • Low emission finishes of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Environmentally friendly
  • High recycled content
  • Resource efficient
  • Low embodied energy
  • A variety of locally manufactured materials, goods, and services
  • Locally harvested rough sawn pine for exterior siding
Construction and operation:
  • Enhanced erosion control
  • Construction waste recycling
  • Job safety inspections and training
  • Indoor air quality construction procedures
  • Comprehensive environmental operations plan

Participants: Interplan Practice Limited, architects, was the prime contractor with Planning Resources Inc. as a sub-contractor responsible for leading the environmental studies, site selection, and site plan for the campus. Pete Pointner AICP, AIA, was project manager for Planning Resources Inc.

Lessons Learned: The master plan for Conserve School illustrates the following principles:

  • A thorough environmental inventory and site analysis is required in order to make a wise site selection which minimizes short- and long- term environmental impacts.
  • Significant research is required to identify the most current technology and practices to minimize short- and long- term impacts to natural resources and energy consumption.
  • The location, site plan, and architectural design of buildings should consider not only green building principles but also physical and esthetic compatibility with the natural landscape of which they are a part.
  • Careful control is required during the construction process to avoid long-term damage to critical environmental resources.
  Planning Connections
By Pete Pointner

Conservation Foundation Director

“Who said environmental protection and development don’t mix? They were wrong! Good and well-planned development may actually enhance the environmental condition and protect natural resources. Unfortunately, we have seen too much of the opposite. This book shows you how to do it right.”

Brook McDonald, President/CEO, The Conservation Foundation with over 1,600 members and 500 volunteers

Transportation Planner

“Pete Pointner brings to this planning document a unique perspective of how planning and transportation engineering really should work together to develop exceptional projects. This book will be of considerable value to those involved in the planning or design of transportation facilities.”

David B. Miller, Fellow, Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and Past International Director of ITE District 4, Chairman and CEO, Metro Transportation Group, Inc.

Planning Consultant

“In Planning Connections, Pete Pointner has given us the accumulated wisdom of his long and distinguished career as a professional urban planner who has had the opportunity of working across the planning spectrum. The book presents a range of case studies through which Pointner confirms and illustrates basic planning principles which have continuing applicability to our present attempts to create communities that can facilitate a high quality of life for their residents, workers and businesses. Planning Connections is a solid resource for planning practitioners, teachers and students”

Leslie S. Pollock FAICP, founding principal of Camiros, a nationwide consulting firm

Custom Home Builder

“This book gives the builder or developer an appreciation of the factors involved in the planning process, and will help them in working with local governments.”

Dick Sulken, president, R.H. Sulken Company, an Atlanta custom home builder