The Callander Blog

Reviewing The Future: ASLA Awards Jury

I recently had a very rewarding experience serving on the 2016 ASLA Awards jury representing the Northern California Chapter.  This year, the chapter reviewed submissions from the Potomac Chapter (covering the Washington D.C. area).  The jury consisted of seven individuals with varying backgrounds and levels of professional and academic experience.  One jury member happened to be one of the most accomplished landscape architects of our generation.  So to say I felt a little awestruck would be an understatement!


The Potomac Chapter submitted a total 42 projects in 4 different categories (Design – Built Work, Design – Unbuilt Work, Analysis & Planning and Communications).  The project types ranged from parks, institutional, civic, city planning, open space to residential, multi-family housing, resort and everything in between.  While I can’t yet reveal award-winners, I can tell you there were a number of stellar projects to review.  In reviewing these projects, I was reminded how landscape architects play a vital role as stewards of the built environment, whether in an urban setting or in the countryside.  And a common thread evident in the submitted projects was a commitment to sustainable design.  There were park projects that accommodated heavy program needs while being sited in and around sensitive environments.  The treatment of these built edges included meadow and stream restoration, among other techniques.  Multi-family housing projects incorporated green roof design and captured rainwater and condensate from mechanical systems to irrigate on-site landscape.  Day use areas utilized regenerative eco-sound walls to creatively resolve the problem of a noisy roadway nearby.  In addition to the sustainable aspects of the designs, there was also a consistent pattern language of form and space among project submissions.  Many designs exhibited striking rectilinear forms, expressed in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional ways.

Reviewing these projects, it was also clear how important graphics and high quality photography are to “telling the story”.  I have no doubt there were good projects that didn’t get award consideration because the graphics were muddled and confusing to the jury.  Also, projects with high quality photography that depicted a project’s key features in a prominent way were more likely to keep the jury’s attention.  For those considering submitting a project for award, remember these tips.  It has to be a good project that elevates landscape architecture, but it also needs to tell the story in a graphically impactful way.


After spending the good part of a Saturday with such talented people, my biggest takeaway was that landscape architecture is a fun, yet noble profession that’s critically important to our future.  I left feeling excited about continuing my career pursuits.  And serving on the jury was a joyous reminder of the type of work that got me excited about landscape architecture in the first place!

Dave Rubin, Project Manager

Irrigation Innovation: Hunter Factory Tour

Last month, Hunter Irrigation’s Bay Area representative Christine Hawkins, invited the San Mateo office to visit their corporate headquarters and factory located in San Marcos, California. Team members Shawn Sanfilippo and Pierre Chin-Dickey took this opportunity to learn more about some of Hunter’s products and how they are researched, developed, and produced.


After a quick flight to San Diego, we were immediately carted off to the Hunter headquarters. The facility is a LEED platinum building that sits above their extended campus and manufacturing facility. Marty with the Marketing Department was able to show us the new line of details that Hunter was working on for their drip systems to help designers design using Hunter products. Afterwards, we had a presentation featuring a selection of Hunter’s flagship products, such as Hunter’s 2-wire controllers and their drip irrigation product Eco-mat. Mike Madewell introduced us to Hunter’s I-Core, Dual, and ACC 2-wire controllers. We had a 2-wire bootcamp through the entire setup of a 2-wire system from wiring and control process, to making sure we were grounding all of our stations. We were shown some very compelling photos of Eco-mat installations and the positive results in extreme drought areas, especially in turf streetscape applications. Afterwards we wrapped up the night at Stone Brewery where we had a chance to dine on some delicious food and drinks amongst Stone’s beautiful garden which was lighted with nothing less than Hunter’s FX Luminaires.

On Friday we had a chance to tour the Hunter factory along with a group of Cal Poly Landscape Architecture students. We toured all the departments from shipping, manufacturing, and product testing. On the MP Rotor manufacturing floor, we saw dozens of machines molding tons of plastic pellets into MP Rotor heads, while overhead tracks carried spray bodies to their shipping boxes. The drip line manufacturing machine was especially fascinating as it shot out yards of hot plastic tube at 400 degrees F and had a small shotgun that inserted the emitters in the drip line. In the testing room, a large area contained a series of small buckets radiating out from a single stand where Hunter can test a particular spray head. These buckets capture data for distribution uniformity and also precipitation rates.


We also had a great presentation and demonstration by FX luminaires displaying their latest models and some really fascinating technology using their mobile device controlled light systems. Since all of FX Luminaire systems are low voltage, landscape architects can design our own lighting on a project and save money on contracting out to a sub!

Though the trip was quick it was very interesting to meet all the people behind the product. Everyone we met was full of pride and enthusiasm for their company. Christine and the whole Hunter staff were very hospitable and made sure our trip was equal parts educational and fun!

-Pierre Chin-Dickey & Shawn Sanfilippo

It’s Easy Being Green!

greenbus._webIt’s one thing to say you embrace green principles,  it’s quite another to prove it!   The San Mateo branch of Callander Associates has proven it all over again! When the Green Business Program began in 2011,  The San Mateo office became one of the first of three businesses in San Mateo County to be certified green. In 2015 our certification came up for renewal.   Like a tax audit, proving that we were green relied on more than our assertion of this claim.  The County sent a program manager  to meet with us and physically review everything from the green waste content of our copy paper, and the nozzle types in our sinks, down to the type of light-bulbs we use.  Thankfully, the practices we had put in place in the past resulted in a relatively short list of outstanding items to be addressed.  Changes in cleaning product purchasing practices and clearing out the last of those incandescent (old school!) light bulbs pretty much did the trick.

To seal the deal, the County requires that the office adopt an Environmental Policy as documented in an Environmental Policy Statement.  One of the biggest revelations that I had as a result of this effort was the degree to which so much of Callanders staff already subscribe to green principles.  With over half of San Mateo’s employees  using mass transit, bicycling or walking to work, we were WAY ahead of the curve on that effort.  Combine that with substantially lower paper usage (on the way to being a paperless office), employee instigated composting, and the elimination of the use of disposable plates, cups and silverware, it became apparent that this group doesn’t need somebody to lead the way, they are already way out in front!


Are we perfect?   No.  Could we do more?  Certainly!  But, as an office, are we “walking the walk”?  You bet! On November 2nd, 2015 the San Mateo City Council recognized it’s Green Businesses with a formal certificate reception, and we are once again officially Green!

Mark Slichter, Principal

Conserving Water One Step At A Time

California has for many years been in a drought, but this year is the worst in recorded history. With no snow pack and not a lot of rain this winter (or spring!) everyone is looking for ways to conserve water.  From the beginning, Callander has always designed our projects with water conservation at the forefront by being advocates of drip irrigation and specifying low or very low water use plants, but do our employees also conserve water in their personal lives? Well…I asked and these are the answers I received:


Dave Rubin:  Last fall, we turned off all but one of our irrigation zones at home.  The only part of the landscape still getting water this summer?…A small veggie garden!  And even that is scaled back this year.

Brian Fletcher: The credit for our family’s water savings definitely goes to my wife.  Even before the drought she felt very strongly about water conservation.  Her strategies began small with a bucket in the shower to collect water while it comes to temperature.  That water we use for our drought resistant landscaping by our front door.  From there we have installed dual flush toilet mechanisms on existing toilets, low flow shower heads, and installed a low flow toilet on a recent remodel. For Christmas she asked for a received our first water barrel for rain water collection from our roof drains.  She was thinking a small 50 gallon barrel but what I gave her was a 220 gallon barrel which was easily filled with the early rains this year.  We plan on installing a second 220 gallon barrel this summer.

Matt Gruber: I am taking military type showers (only turning the water on to get wet, turning it off, then back on for rinsing) and putting a bucket under the faucet as the water warms up to use to flush the toilet. In addition we save all the water from washing our vegetables to be used for the vegetable garden, we save our water from brewing beer to be used in our garden, and we’ve stopped watering our lawn.

Mark Slichter: well,  in the Slichter household we have a pail in the shower that fills up with water while we’re waiting for it to get hot.  We pour that into the toilet tank after flushing so it takes a lot less fresh water to recharge the tank.  I told Matt that we do this and he let me know that they’ve been doing that forever in the Gruber household.  It’s hard to keep up with the Grubers! and of course the sprinklers are off.  That’s infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things but I’m a big believer in the collective power of people to effect events.  My dead lawn might inspire hundreds of dead lawns, or if I get my act together and switch out to drought tolerant plantings, my drought tolerant plantings might inspire hundreds of drought tolerant plantings.  Then the needle starts to move…..slowly……..

Marie Mae: We’ve been conserving water by: installing synthetic turf in lieu of real turf in our backyard; harvesting rainwater for irrigating our garden; installing an automatic drip system for irrigating our garden; installing mulch to improve soil structure and conserve soil moisture; short showers for the kids (no more baths!); basin-washing dishes by hand (using rinse water in a basin and not running the faucet); taking our car to a commercial car wash and taking it less frequently.

Nate R.: Personally, I minimize my water consumption by limiting shower time, selectively flushing the toilet, and washing dishes as quickly as possible. Choosing not to eat animal foods can save roughly 250 gallons of water per week! (Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,

Brenna: I love designing with native, low water-use plants and I’m thrilled to be able to do that more often as water conservation in the landscape becomes a top priority for our clients. At home, I even helped my parents replace their front lawn with beautiful drought tolerant shrubs and groundcover last fall, and they are already seeing water savings over last year’s numbers!

Zach: I turn off the water when I soap up in the shower (dead serious, have been doing this for about 7 years now).

Ben: The Woodside family is doing a few things to conserve water.  We have shut the water off to our toilets and are using buckets to capture the water that’s usually wasted as we wait for our shower water to heat up.  We dump the buckets in the back of the toilet and we are good to go.  I am also reducing my turf area by 1/3 and installing low water use planting.

Shawn: I’ve cut back on my yard watering days and times. I’m using a 5 gallon bucket to capture the shower water before it gets hot. Full dishwasher and laundry loads and checking for irrigation leaks.

Melissa: I have implemented a “yellow let it mellow” policy at our house and we are remodeling our bathroom with the new low flow toilet and shower fixture. I am also irrigating our shrubs and lawn on an as needed (barely surviving) basis only and I planted succulents in what was once a water feature. I am also looking to invest in a rain barrel now that I have used all my buckets for capturing the little rain water we did get.

And what do I do to conserve…

Well…at the Ditto house we have a bucket in our showers to collect the cold water (because I just can’t get myself to take a cold shower!) then we use that water for our outdoor plants and garden.  We also do not leave running water on while brushing teeth or doing dishes and have cut down on showers and the amount of time in the showers (my teenager gets a 2 song maximum!). My girls like to have water by their bed at night (or else they think they will die of thirst), but often there is leftover water, so we take that water and it gets poured into our German Shepherd’s water bowl or used for our indoor plants.

As you can see at Callander we not only design with the drought in mind we personally try to make a difference! Have we inspired you? What are you doing to conserve?

Sonja Ditto – HR & Marketing Manager

Keeping Up with the Grubers: Chickens 1 Year later

So it has been almost a year since I first posted (in “Keeping Up with the Gruber’s“) about our foray into raising chickens.  At that point we had just brought six two week old chicks home and the coop was under construction.  The family was enthralled with seeing how quickly the chicks were growing and I was happy with my new construction project.  We really didn’t have a clue at that point how rewarding the whole experience would become.


Unfortunately during this period of time our beloved Labrador Milo passed away.  Although we were given some notice and tried to prepare as best we could it still hit our family like a ton of bricks.  What has unexpectedly happened since is how much our chickens have filled the void.  Bawk Obama, Oreo, Blue, Yolko Ono, Betsy, and Fluffy (or the “girls” as my wife calls them) have quickly become part of our family and not just suppliers of our eggs.  They run to us when we open the back door, fall asleep in our arms, and lay peacefully with us on the hammock.  We have also begun to give chicken inspired gifts to each other and have collected an assortment of housewares with chicken motifs.

Yes … we are the crazy chicken family of our neighborhood.  However, as long as we keep supplying eggs to our neighbors they don’t seem to mind.  Oh, and the eggs are tasty…better than any store bought we have ever had.

Brian Fletcher, President

We Are In This Together: Hedgerow Farms Tour

Back in April of this year, I attended my first California Native Grassland Association’s Field day at Hedgerow Farms in Winters, California. The weather was unseasonably cold and wet and I realized when I got to the farm, that I was entirely unprepared for this weather (I don’t even own a proper rain coat!). But the weather did not stop myself or others from attending this event, as there were over 100+ people, who also seemed as unprepared for the weather as I was.   Soggy hay rides aside, we were all excited and anxious to see what was growing at Hedgerow Farms.

Some of the key things I took away from the day were the importance of preserving and restoring our native grasslands;


Beautiful field of Melica californica

providing habitat for beneficial insects including bees and butterflies;


Lasthenia glabrata


Asclepias speciosa

and incorporating native grasses and forbs in our urban landscape.


Whether it’s responding to the drought, restoring the monarch butterfly and bee population or fighting the loss of our native grasslands…we are in this together.

– Melissa Ruth, project manager

Adventures in Urban Homesteading: Working with Contractors

As someone that likes to do everything myself (not only to take pride in the craftsmanship when the job is complete, but also to ensure the job is done exactly as I want it) I have come to realize that sometimes I just have to let it go and let the professionals do the work. That was the case in my latest adventures with home ownership.


My driveway, installed at the same time my house was constructed (in 1945) had seen better days. It looked like the San Andreas fault line in areas with cracks as wide as 2 inches, a driveway approach that was guaranteed to scrape the bottom of your car, and a nice pond next to the foundation of my house whenever it rained.

Knowing my back couldn’t handle demolishing and installing over 500 sf of concrete I drew up some simple plans, contacted 4 local contractors, got very competitive bids, and chose a contractor. Little did I know that as soon as construction began, issues would follow.

My contractor had hired a subcontractor to do the work and the contract between him and the contractor was different than the contract I had with my contractor.  There were constant disagreements with the foreman and I on what was included in the job and what wasn’t. (That is where I was extremely happy to have drawings with everything called out, because whatever wasn’t called out was a battle).  It became apparent that my expectations with the quality of the workmanship and the contractors clearly did not align. In the morning, I would give the construction crews specific directions before leaving for work and when I got home would find that they did not follow my instructions (or the plans).

I am now 45 days into the construction of the driveway and the contractor still has not completed the job.


When all is said and done my back is going to thank me and, although it’s been a trying process, I’ve learned a very important lesson in regards to contractors – make sure that EVERYTHING is in writing before beginning work (and choose a contractor that has already done work for someone you know).

Written by Matt Gruber, Project Manager at Callander Associates

Keeping Up with the Gruber’s

What do bees, home brewing, and gardening have in common?  These are just a few of the amazing things Matt and his wife Rachel have been dabbling in at home.  Their adventures in urban homesteading have provided much inspiration for my family’s own adventures from expanding our own gardening exploits to learning the art of nurturing sourdough starter and baking bread {from Rachel herself}.  Well in our continuing efforts to keep up with the Gruber’s, the Fletcher family recently stepped into the world of urban chickens!


chicken coop almost complete!

Why may you ask would I welcome more responsibilities, and mess, while trying to manage a growing landscape architecture firm….the eggs of course!  Well, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.  The building of the coop satisfies my construction and design cravings, raising chicks has unleashed my wife’s “mother hen” qualities, and the feeding and care will hopefully teach my two young kids about responsibility and chores.  In all, these chickens represent another vehicle helping us to create a healthy and happy home life while hopefully bringing some of the hard work and family values found on rural farms to our little urban oasis.


Written by: Brian Fletcher, President