The City of Sacramento Department of Utilities (DOU) recognized an opportunity to upgrade its facility to educate the public on current sustainability practices. The main desire was to create an outdoor classroom and demonstration garden showcasing natural resource conservation best practices. CALA’s main goal was to elevate the space to an attractive and inspiring garden engaging the public on just how beautiful sustainable practices can be.


CALA worked closely with four different City departments to ensure the project represented the message they wanted to communicate.  The key element for the cohesiveness of the site is education.  The design incorporates communication of both the history of the DOU and information about sustainability practices.  CALA worked with a sign designer and manufacturer on a comprehensive interpretive signage system placed along expanded walking paths which allow visitors to engage with the landscape and learn more about the design practices showcased in the garden. A new shaded outdoor classroom provides educational space for classes open to the public hosted by DOU.

Since the projects completion there has been a lot more focus on California’s drought situation. The DOU site has become the backdrop for both state and local press regarding drought tolerant education and was featured on “Show The Flow Video Tour” by Association of Landscape Designers in 2022 which included an interview with CALA’s Owner/Principal Ben Woodside.


Incorporating sustainable techniques on an existing, heavily used and constrained site was challenging.  The complex program includes rainwater capture and reuse, bio swales, permeable pavements, ADA accessibility, turf substitution exhibits, multiple irrigation technology examples and low water use landscape including perennial polyculture and native plant grouping concepts. The constrained planters around the building have many heritage oak trees that required protection and enhancement. By limiting trenches, removing turf, installing permeable surfaces and incorporating planting/mulches that partners well with oak trees, the finished project looks great and promotes a healthy oak tree environment.

    Sacramento DOU Demonstration Garden
    Sacramento, CA
    LEED (in progress)
    Coordination with multiple City stakeholders
    Extensive site analysis
    Preliminary Design
    Construction Documents
    Interpretive Signage Design
    Construction Administration
    Maintenance Manual Preparation