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"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." -Theodore Roosevelt

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sustainable

We seek innovative design solutions which provide a balance of environmental sensitivity, social equity, and economic viability. We are committed to creating sustainable places that meet today’s needs, while being conscious of how we will live tomorrow . We don’t give lip service to sustainability – we live this in our office, in our homes, and in our practice.

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creative

We believe everyone has something to offer. Our firm is based on a flat organizational structure, providing opportunity for all of our staff to be involved in decision-making processes. We find this enhances the design process and results in a superior final product.

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design

EnSite, Inc. is a leading Florida based design firm. Our services include Planning, Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Design, Sustainability, and Graphic Design. Our team is committed to the long-term success of the communities in which we live, work, learn, and play.

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"The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river." - Ross Perot

Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept.

Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept.

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Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept.

Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept. We are often challenged to describe sustainability and how it can be most practically applied. Many see the word sustainability and think “going green.” In the world of development, this can mean switching to LED lightbulbs or installing low-flow faucets. These are noble efforts that certainly make an impact, but we believe Jeff Speck, co-author of “The Smart Growth Manual,” put it best when he said, “The changes we are making to individual buildings are like moving deck chairs on the Titanic. We can change them all we want but it's only when we fundamentally begin to address the organizational structure of our communities that we can really have an impact.” Fellow author and “Green Metropolis” writer David Owen expanded on this thought when he said the flaw in the conversation around sustainability is the focus on "what can I buy and add to what I've already got, to become more sustainable?" Instead, we must begin to shift our focus from buying our way into sustainability and assess how we can create around the idea of sustainability itself. As landscape architects and urban planners, we strive to create concepts with a big-picture perspective and provide for the growth of the community. A recent example of this is our work with Alliance for the Arts and the master plan we helped develop. This plan reimagines the property and creates an enhanced development that supports not only the arts but the surrounding community and economy as well. Enhancements to the western edge of its 10-acre campus, which also serves as a gateway to the City of Fort Myers, are just the beginning. This project seeks to improve the urban landscape through naturalization and expansion of an existing retention pond, regenerating the land and establishing a beautiful, thriving pocket of Florida flora. The focal point of this project is the Caloosahatchee Water Wall, designed by internationally acclaimed environmental artist Michael Singer. In addition, we partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation to solve the pedestrian safety and connectivity challenges along McGregor Boulevard. Reinvigorating the property’s event space on the south side opens the door for neighborhood gathering activities such as farmers markets and concerts. Solutions like this master plan create a more walkable environment for the community and provide a sustainable foundation from which to build. This upgraded property will serve as a park for the 500-plus residential homes in the surrounding areas, reducing the need for automobile transportation to similar facilities while also promoting the local economy by providing a space for local businesses to showcase their products and services. By rethinking the way we enact sustainability, we hope to build a better world for tomorrow.
Landscape architecture turns blight into beauty

Landscape architecture turns blight into beauty

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Landscape architecture turns blight into beauty

There are so many golf courses in Florida, you’d think they just pop out of the ground by themselves. But when a golf course is left untended, it quickly becomes apparent that nature had other ideas for that space. The grass becomes overgrown, the sand traps fill with weeds, and the cart paths crack and crumble. The course at the Admiral Lehigh Golf Resort, built in 1960, was a dismal-looking example of this sort of decline by the end of the last decade, when it was abandoned during the recession. Now the space is alive again, and as World Landscape Architecture Month readies for its grand finale, it’s a perfect time to celebrate Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. EnSite provided the community charrettes, landscape architecture, and civil engineering for the park. The idea was to do more than just simply recover the lost aesthetics. The project created a sustainable destination that preserves the environment, attracts visitors and raises the value of surrounding properties. It features a half-mile paved multiuse trail that surrounds an open space that includes new rain gardens — manmade depressions in the land — that collect rainwater and filter it to limit harmful runoff into the nearby Able Canal. Still, the park retains much of the original topography of the course. The elevation changes originally created for berms, greens and bunkers were preserved to cut down on the need for heavy construction equipment that drive up costs and expend fossil fuels. Instead of the Bermuda grass that was used on the golf course, which required constant maintenance, the 18,000 grasses and wildflowers in the open space need only be watered after long dry spells. Perhaps the greatest testament to efficiency and sustainability is the decking on the park’s boardwalk and observation area, which contains recycled plastics from discarded objects like milk jugs and detergent containers. The park is meant to eventually become the beginning of a greenway that connects to Lehigh Acres Community Park and Harns Marsh. So, there will be more opportunities to find ways to use land as effectively as possible for people, planet and profit.
Throw shade on your energy bills through landscape architecture

Throw shade on your energy bills through landscape architecture

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Throw shade on your energy bills through landscape architecture

April is World Landscape Architecture Month. Aren’t you excited?! OK, maybe you’re not. But what if we called it World Saving Your Money Month? We bet you’d be willing to celebrate that. And saving your money is exactly what landscape architecture can do. Properly placed plants can reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs by 20-30 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences research available via the Lee County Electric Cooperative. Much of it has to do with tree cover. It’s no secret that trees provide shade, but they also cool the air around buildings by a process called evapotranspiration. That’s a fancy way to say that leaves absorb heat. A lot of trees means a lot of leaves, and they can make the air around them as much as 9 degrees cooler, the same research says. It’s important to know where to put those trees. In the summer, walls facing east and west receive twice as much sunshine as ones facing north and south. So, trees that can absorb the rays along the east and west are more valuable commodities. And while some vegetation can go right up against the wall, other types should be much farther away to maximize shade cover, according to the University of Florida research. You’ll want trees that will grow at least 10 feet taller than your windows, a FirstEnergy Corp. study shows. And while it pays to keep your air conditioner shaded, make sure there is at least 3 feet between the air conditioner and any vegetation. Landscaping is also useful in creating wind breaks that shield homes and businesses during the winter. It’s not nearly as much of a concern in Southwest Florida as it is up north, but since it can cost as much as three times more to heat a home than it does to cool it, according to Florida Power & Light, it makes sense to avoid having to turn on the heat whenever possible. There are plenty of minor adjustments that can produce major energy savings. That’s why an experienced team that knows the tricks of the landscape architecture trade is valuable for anyone who wants to get the most of their property — and their bank account.
Low impact development has high impact on community

Low impact development has high impact on community

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Low impact development has high impact on community

Florida has never really embraced the idea of “everything in moderation.” Everyone here seems to drive either really fast or really slow. Season brings more tourists and snowbirds than we can handle, but many places around here look deserted by August. It gets so dry this time of year that we catch on fire. And then in the summer, the rains come. And boy, do they come. We don’t just have thunderstorms in Florida. We have massive, booming, sky-ripping tempests that convince the uninitiated that the Apocalypse must surely be nigh. The rain that falls from these storms piles up in a hurry. That’s what makes low impact development so important. Low impact development is an engineering term for building practices that foster natural drainage and help keep water out of ditches and storm drains, which often overflow. One of the key problems we face as our community grows is that the more ground we cover with roads, parking lots and structures, the higher our risk for floods — unless we take steps to mitigate that. It’s a common misconception that low impact development isn’t worth the effort in a place where rain falls in such a hurry. Features like bioretention areas, bioswales, stormwater planters and the like can’t take all the rain either, and it’s a waste of time and money to engineer those features when they’re just going to get flooded anyway — or so the thinking goes. But that’s not the case. Sure, they’re not going to soak up everything. But the rain they do capture and send back into the ground is valuable in keeping water out of streams, rivers and old-fashioned drainage systems. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Some of these low impact development features are simply common sense. Tree-lined streets, like McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers, make driving more pleasant. Rainwater has a much tougher time draining through the street itself than the soil surrounding the trees. So, if the curbs are cut to allow water to rush off the street and into the area of the trees, we can reduce the flooding risk. Simple, yes. But little things like that often escape planners whose main priority is to work as quickly and as cheaply as possible. The effect of doing a project the right way is like a ripple in water — or in floodwater, to fit the theme. Development doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It affects everyone around it, near and far. The better we build, the better off all of us will
Smart design can help Florida beat the heat

Smart design can help Florida beat the heat

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Smart design can help Florida beat the heat

It’s coming. It creeps up on you, starting with a single bead of sweat on your neck. Then there’s another. And another. Soon, you’re drenched, and you’ve only gone halfway on the walk from your front door to your car. Yes, the hot, steamy, sticky Florida summertime is right around the corner. And it’s only getting worse with each passing year. As Southwest Florida grows, so too does its susceptibility to the heat island effect — in other words, our cities are getting hotter than their surroundings. Put a million people together in a city, and it can be as much as 22 degrees hotter at night than it is in the country around it. So much for that pleasant evening stroll. We aren’t there quite yet; Cape Coral has close to 180,000 people and Fort Myers has upward of 77,000. But we’re getting there. Those numbers were 76,000 and 45,000, respectively, in 1990. That means the collective population of the two neighboring cities more than doubled in less than 30 years. But the way we grow can make the heat island effect less profound. Placing buildings in random clusters rather than ordinary grids helps cities stay cooler, according to a recently released study by researchers from MIT and the University of California, Irvine. The reason has to do with heat that radiates between buildings that face each other. Fewer structures right in front of each other means less heat bouncing around, the researchers determined. Take one look at a map of Cape Coral, and all its neat rectangles and squares, and you can almost feel the heat starting to build. But we can use this innovative science to influence how we build the Cape Coral and Fort Myers of the future. Grid-like canals present a challenge, but it doesn’t mean homes and businesses can’t be built at angles on the lots. Similarly, as we build eastward from Fort Myers, we can create neighborhoods and office parks with more bends and turns. You know how it goes — we’ll be begging for every degree of difference we can get on those sweltering midsummer days. But the right planning and design can help us cling to our chill.
Long-range planning plays role in avoiding catastrophe

Long-range planning plays role in avoiding catastrophe

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Long-range planning plays role in avoiding catastrophe

The horror is unimaginable. The March 16 collapse of the pedestrian bridge at Florida International University was one of the darkest moments in recent memory for so many, including the engineering community. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and everyone connected to the tragedy. Specific answers to the immediate questions of why, how and who’s to blame are unlikely to come soon, if they come at all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t examine broader issues at play. Many have pointed to the way it was put in place. The technique known as Accelerated Bridge Construction, or ABC, sounds experimental — build a bridge off-site and use special vehicles to haul them into place — but it’s been going on for years as a means to limit traffic disruption. A Federal Highway Administration presentation cited in a piece on Wired.com mentions that ABC was used for more than 800 federally funded bridges between 2010 and June 2012 alone. Others have wondered about the decision to build the bridge’s main concrete segment over a busy road before building its main support tower. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the road stayed open while workers adjusted the tension in two rods threaded through diagonal trusses on the north side of the bridge — work that was going on when the bridge collapsed. But maybe the more important question is why the bridge and the road were there in the first place. The impetus for bridge construction was, in essence, the growth of the university and the growth of the road. More and more students were having to cross more and more lanes and dodge more and more cars. The idea was to take the students out of harm’s way, not put them into it. That’s hard to do for a student population that’s grown as rapidly as FIU’s has. Founded in 1965, its student body has stunningly become the fourth-largest in the U.S. The 55,000 FIU students are more than the number at the University of Florida and just behind long-established schools Ohio State and Texas A&M. The largest student body in the U.S. belongs to the University of Central Florida, which is just two years older than FIU, and it underscores a key point: Growth all around Florida in the past half-century has been enormous. And it has perhaps been much too fast. Let it not go unnoticed that the road the bridge was placed atop is part of U.S. 41. Southwest Florida is growing quickly, too. We have to plan ahead and resist the temptation to rush. The stakes are incredibly high, as we saw this month. Growth and change may be inevitable, but the worst of the problems associated with them are not.
A driverless future, the effects stretch beyond the road

A driverless future, the effects stretch beyond the road

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A driverless future, the effects stretch beyond the road

If you honk your car horn and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? We may have an answer to that question within our lifetimes. Driverless cars are nothing new — and thus far, they’re nothing popular, either. We’re at least a decade away from them becoming widely used, according to Daniel Sperling, a distinguished professor of civil engineering and environmental science and policy at the University of California at Davis. But when glancing over at the next car and seeing no one behind the wheel becomes a ho-hum moment instead of a shocking sight, it will signal a shift not just in transportation but in the way our transportation systems are built. Imagine if, instead of spending your commute in the driver’s seat, you could sit in the backseat and get work done instead. The 15, 30 or 60 minutes lost to traffic could be regained. That might make you more willing to live in Naples if your job is in Fort Myers, especially if more cars shift to lower-cost electric power. Communities deemed too far away won’t be anymore. As nice as that sounds, it comes with consequences. More sprawl, and more cars on the road for a greater length of time, would only exacerbate growing congestion problems. So we return to the age-old questions of how to build an effective mass transportation system and how to encourage people to use it. But perhaps the key challenge is to incentivize living and working in close proximity. That goes back to how we build not just roads but structures. And that requires vision and a willingness not just to do what’s always been done. Stepping into a car without a driver will be a bold move, just a stepping into a car in the first place was for people in the early 1900s. We’ll need to take more bold moves like that to get to where we’re really going.
Bold, creative thinking gets results

Bold, creative thinking gets results

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Bold, creative thinking gets results

The best is, by definition, different from all the rest. So, you have to be different to be the best. We embrace that idea at EnSite. So does engineering student Tinashe Chipako, who took home the top prize in a recent contest for emerging engineers in South Africa. His research exploring the use of urine as fertilizer and waterless urinals to offset drought embodies the spark of ingenuity and the willingness to look past the obvious. He found that seven tons of fertilizer could be made from urine collected on his school’s campus each year, far exceeding the four tons of fertilizer the school buys. That represents a potential savings of thousands of dollars. Stanford engineering professor Tina Seelig encourages others to take similar roads less traveled in her 2015 book, “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head And Into the World.” She points to Cirque de Soleil and Southwest Airlines as examples of companies that took well-known but often maligned frameworks — the circus and commercial air transportation — and put their own, successful spins on them by reimagining what they are. No elephants in the circus? Everyone can just sit in whatever seat they want on an airplane? Exactly. The Danish engineering firm COWI came up with an unusual solution to the challenge of building a bridge over the strait between Denmark and Sweden: Stop the bridge right in the middle. If it were a full bridge, it would either be too low to let ships to cross underneath or too high to allow air traffic from the nearby Copenhagen Airport pass overhead. So the engineers made part of it a bridge and the other part a tunnel, with a manmade island to connect them. Maybe a similar solution exists to the problems facing Southwest Florida. Perhaps there’s a way to deal with agricultural runoff around Lake Okeechobee in a way that won’t pollute the Caloosahatchee River and doesn’t threaten farming jobs around the lake. Maybe the solution to our traffic problems isn’t bigger highways with more lanes. The solutions won’t always be conventional. Neither should our approach to finding them.
Old buildings, new insight: We can learn from demolitions

Old buildings, new insight: We can learn from demolitions

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Old buildings, new insight: We can learn from demolitions

The end is just the beginning. Buildings that have been condemned usually don’t appear to be of much use. These dilapidated structures are usually just taking up space at best, and blighted eyesores at worst. But for civil engineers, they’re golden wellsprings of potential solutions. A team of civil engineers at the University of Nebraska recently mined nearly a terabyte of data from the demolition of two dormitories. They set up almost 4 miles of wires to collect information about the teardown that can help improve the buildings that go in their place. The data shows how the structures respond to different types of stress, including the sort of battering that severe weather can dish out. Here in Southwest Florida, where half the year is spent under the daily threat of storms and the looming threat of hurricanes, it’s vital to have buildings that can withstand Mother Nature’s worst. That’s not just for the sake of the building and its occupants. If the wind blows apart the building next door, it’s a problem for everyone in the neighborhood. We’ve learned so much in the past few decades about how to build to withstand hurricanes, as each major storm imparts a new set of lessons. But we don’t have to wait for the next Irma, Wilma or Charley to better prepare ourselves against the elements. We have opportunities to study buildings every time one is cleared to make way for another — an occurrence almost as common in these times of economic recovery as summer thunderstorms. At EnSite, we’re constantly looking for ways to make Southwest Florida more sustainable. Sometimes that means looking in places that won’t sustain much longer.
Talk it out: Communication helps foster sustainability

Talk it out: Communication helps foster sustainability

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Talk it out: Communication helps foster sustainability

It should be easy to avoid, but we’ve all done it. We work diligently on a project for hours, only to find out that our co-worker down the hall has been doing the very same work. That means one of us has just wasted our time, and we curse our lack of communication and collaboration. An occasional foul-up like this might be impossible to avoid, but the less of them, the better. Newly released research from Concordia University’s Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering shows how municipal governments can save money by taking an analytical approach to reduce wasted effort. Lifecycle costs could be cut by 33 percent and user costs cut in half, according to the researchers, who looked at ways to increase efficiency in the road and water networks of a town in British Columbia. The researchers compiled a database that inventoried road and water networks, and they came up with models to measure the impact of intervention and an algorithm that simulates thousands of scenarios to come up with an optimal work schedule. The study asks, “Why fix a road today if it’s slated to be ripped up for new sewers next summer?” One of the answers they come up with is departments within municipalities tend to work separately and come up with their own plans rather than make plans that dovetail with each other. Efficiency is a core principle of sustainability. It’s impossible to come up with a sustainable way to pave roads, to use the researchers’ example, if the pavement has to be torn up so soon after it’s laid down. Better to tear down the walls between departments than to tear up the pavement. Communication is the key to efficiency. That’s why we place such an emphasis on communication at EnSite. Our plans are coordinated, streamlined and designed to eliminate overlapping and conflicting goals. That’s how we achieve quicker, budget conscious and ultimately more sustainable results.
Water mains provide opportunity to engineer sustainability upgrades

Water mains provide opportunity to engineer sustainability upgrades

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Water mains provide opportunity to engineer sustainability upgrades

The average person uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water a day. Imagine trying to find room for 80 to 100 gallon jugs of milk in your refrigerator. So when running water stops or is compromised because of a water main break, it can result in a major problem. With aging infrastructure, we encounter these problems on a regular basis. There are 240,000 water main breaks every year in the U.S., according to White House estimates. Southwest Florida is no stranger to them. A break in Port Charlotte shot water into the air like a cannon on a chilly January day. Another break forced the shutdown of Pine Ridge Road between U.S. 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road — one of the busiest stretches in Collier County —two days before Christmas. Some 20 water mains broke over the span of a few January days in Tampa, closing several streets and intersections. Some breaks are unavoidable, but widespread issues represent a failure to create a sustainable system. The Environmental Protection Agency put together a guidebook for owners, managers and operators of public water systems, local officials, technical assistance providers, and state personnel that lays out best practices for managing those systems. The guidebook encourages managers to analyze consumer demand and satisfaction and to understand current and future regulatory requirements — two avenues in which the public can influence water policy. There has been much discussion at the federal level to focus on infrastructural improvements as a goal for the next decade, and the fact that there is plenty of data highlighting the number of public utility breakdowns suggests water managers will soon have to meet higher standards and a new set of demands. That’s why taking steps now to foster the sustainability of water systems is so vital. EnSite can help planners design and implement changes that are built to last and keep the water flowing long into the future. From drivers to builders to anyone who turns on a faucet, we all have a stake in creating a water system that works. Call us at 239-226-0024 to learn more about how our civil engineering services make an impact on our region.
Green is far from the only color on the spectrum.

Green is far from the only color on the spectrum.

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Green is far from the only color on the spectrum.

So it shouldn’t be the only aspect of sustainability. What makes our planet truly special is its inhabitants. True sustainability involves not just the environment but the society and the economy as well. Accordingly, each of those aspects needs more than one leg to stand on. Concentrate only on soil but neglect water, and the soil starts to have problems. Concentrate only on children but neglect parents, and the children start to have problems. Concentrate an economy only on construction and tourism — sound familiar, Southwest Florida? — and those who depend on construction and tourism will start to have problems. The economy is strong now, but as the Dow’s recent 1,100-point tumble in a single day reminds us, turbulence always lurks. That’s why a sustainable economy — locally, nationally and abroad — is so important. It’s critical to have somewhere to turn when times are tough. EnSite turned toward the community during the last economic downturn, redoubling its efforts to make Southwest Florida a better place to live. The company is dedicated to working with local schools and encouraging students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math that can lead directly to improvement and change for the better within the community. Urban and land planning is meaningless, after all, unless there are future generations who understand the plans and know how to put them into action. There’s no such thing as a truly linear process — there are always bumps in the road. Acknowledging that and building a sustainable plan that accounts for those bumps is critical. Better to set aside money for the inevitable car repair than to scramble for cash when you’re broken down on the side of the road. The key is to keep on rolling and sustain momentum. And that’s what Ensite is all about.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t always mean love is here to stay

Valentine’s Day doesn’t always mean love is here to stay

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Valentine’s Day doesn’t always mean love is here to stay

Red-and-pink decorations have replaced the red-and-green ones of a few weeks ago — yes, Valentine’s Day is coming soon! Hallmark and the like have mastered the art of telling you how to put love in your life for Feb. 14. But for true romance to flourish for more than a day, you need to know the basics of a sustainable relationship. Check out a few expert tips:
  1. Expecting perfection is the best way to end up with a broken heart. Fairy tales don’t tell you what really goes on during the “happily ever after” part. The only reasonable commitment your partner can make is to be with you as you endure whatever life throws your way, no matter how challenging that may be. Approach the relationship as one between two equal adults, and embrace the change necessary to transition the passion of a new relationship into the true intimacy of a long-term bond, Randi Gunther says in Psychology Today.

  2. It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it is you. The more growth as a person you experience because of your partner, the more committed and satisfying the relationship is, according to multiple studies highlighted in The New York Times. Chances are, you won’t be the same person at 60 years old that you were at 30. A lifelong partner is someone who helps you become the person you want to be.

  3. Is this really what you want? Some love the thrill of the chase, and brain chemistry is a big part of that, as Damon L. Jacobs, author of “Rational Relating: The Smart Way to Stay Sane in the Crazy World of Love,” told women’s health. Sustainable relationships involve commitments that some just aren’t willing to make. That could be you, or that could be your partner. Find out before you dive too deep.
  The flowers, candy and restaurant reservations come on Feb. 14, but real love begins Feb. 15.
Ideas to get traffic flowing again

Ideas to get traffic flowing again

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Ideas to get traffic flowing again

Season in Southwest Florida means gridlock on the roads. Precious time ticks away while you sit in a stationary car stuck behind hundreds if not thousands of others on U.S. 41, Interstate 75 or one of many jammed east-west corridors. And relief might not be coming anytime soon. Counties charge impact fees to new businesses to, in part, offset the effects of the extra traffic coming to and from the development. That money goes to build new roads and expand existing ones. Those impact fees went down in Lee and Collier counties during the most recent recession. But as the economy has rebounded, the fees have yet to rise back to the levels seen before the bust, as a recent Gulfshore Business story highlighted. So that means less money for relieving congestion. But more and better roads aren’t necessarily the only solution. The idea of a commuter rail system is on the radar of municipal governments in Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers, as Gulfshore Business details. Still, that’s likely more than a decade away, at least, from coming to fruition. No easy solution to congestion exists, but the Los Angeles Times — which covers an area with traffic so crippling it makes Colonial Boulevard at 5 p.m. look like a desolate highway — suggests four possible fixes: 1. Eliminating gas taxes and replacing the revenue with tolls that go up at peak times, thus discouraging rush hour traffic. 2. Giving tax incentives to companies that stagger start times or let employees work from home. 3. Turning carpool lanes into truck-only lanes. 4. Making it easier for kids to walk or bike to school. Which idea is your favorite? Head to our social media pages to let us know.
Don’t get burned: Use fire-resistant gardening and landscaping

Don’t get burned: Use fire-resistant gardening and landscaping

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Don’t get burned: Use fire-resistant gardening and landscaping

It’s a simple word that evokes danger, fear and panic. Fire! And in Florida, California and other states ravaged by wildfire in the past year, it brings up painful memories. But fire is a natural – and necessary – part of life. The Florida Forest Service regularly conducts prescribed burns in the Everglades to, in essence, fight fire with fire. Burn vegetation in a controlled environment, the thinking goes, so it’s not there when an out-of-control wildfire sweeps through. There is no such thing as a fire-resistant plant, but fire-resistant landscaping is possible, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. That involves high-moisture plans that grow close to the ground and have a low sap or resin content, and fire-retardant plant species like rockrose, ice plant and aloe. Avoid plants that drop needles, leaves and other detritus that can dry up, research from CNN and “This Old House” says. Gravel and stone pathways can help fire from spreading. Basic landscaping maintenance plays a major role in wildfire prevention, according to these tips from the National Fire Protection Association:
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
The threat will never truly go away, but proper design can help create sustainable homes and communities built to withstand wildfires.
Take the work out of your workout

Take the work out of your workout

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Take the work out of your workout

The new year has only just begun, and already, millions of Americans are already trudging through their runs, hanging clothes on their elliptical machines and trying to find ways to trick their Fitbits. About half as many people who begin new exercise programs drop out within six months, according to scientific research. One of the keys to sticking to a workout is doing one that doesn’t feel like work at all. Find exercise that’s fun for you, and you’ll be more likely to keep doing it, says University of Utah psychologist Nathaniel Lambert, Ph.D. There might be more efficient ways to burn calories than the one you choose, Lambert points out, but none are more effective than the exercise you’ll keep at day after day, week after week and month after month. Walking is the most popular form of exercise, Fitbit research shows. You might think you’ll need to invest too much time walking to see much of a benefit, but life expectancy can increase by two hours for every hour you walk, according to the American Heart Association – so walking can make twice as much time as it takes. Other ideas include dancing, fantasy sports camps, and using music and audiobooks to distract your mind from the workout, as WebMD suggests. Getting discouraged is common for anyone who starts a new exercise routine – that’s why finding a way to encourage yourself is so important.
Think green? How about think big!

Think green? How about think big!

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Think green? How about think big!

When someone mentions the word sustainability, you might picture recycling and eco-friendly efforts. Here at En-site, however, we think that the environmental component is just an ingredient of the sustainability pie.  Mmm, did somebody say pie? Thinking about the environmental impact of a project is a great starting point but that narrow focus causes so many projects to miss the mark. True sustainability requires consideration of not only environmental impact but also the impact on society and economics. Like a master baker measuring ingredients, we carefully consider all three components on all of our projects. Doing this requires some big thinking on the part of our team. But when we look at a project we tend to agree with Albert Einstein when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Just as Einstein viewed the world around him differently, we encourage you to think big and look at sustainability differently. After all, a pie just isn’t the same without one of the key ingredients.
Chasing the unicorn – work-life balance

Chasing the unicorn – work-life balance

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Chasing the unicorn – work-life balance

Work-life balance is often seen as something of a unicorn. It’s not a mythical creature here at EnSite, though, but an integral component of our organizational structure. Our team is the key to our success and creating a positive workplace that supports a balance between work life and home life is paramount to our ability to continue to grow. This type of environment isn’t created out of thin air. There are a few things an organization can do to better align its staff in succeeding with the balancing act.
  1. Create a quiet space for employees.
    1. This space does not have to be a whole office or contain over the top features like Zen gardens or soundproofing. It just needs to be an area where employees can step away from work and take a moment. Having an area where your employees can take a much-needed break can be immensely beneficial.
  1. Allow schedule flexibility
    1. This can be the hardest tip to implement but can be a game changer for retaining quality team members who engage at a higher level. We understand that not all businesses are well-suited for working remotely, but building in flexibility where possible is critical to helping employees balance their home life with their work life. Little things like allowing weekend makeup time or providing flex time options let your employees know you see them as people not just a means to an end.
  1. Hear your employees
    1. Every workplace is different with no cut and dry solution for each one. Asking your employees what they need in order to better balance their life opens up the conversation and lets them know you are aware a balance is needed. This is something we do often our company continues to expand.
Balancing life and work will always be a challenge both individually and as a business. But if you’re anything like our team at EnSite, you see challenges as opportunities.  Now, who’s up for a little unicorn chasing?
Collaboration as our greatest sustainability tool

Collaboration as our greatest sustainability tool

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Collaboration as our greatest sustainability tool

We're big on collaboration. None of our projects exist in a vacuum. Many are in fact metaphorical expressions of our love of working with communities to design a better future. McGregor Boulevard Veterinary Clinic, for instance, invites passersby to interact with the space, incorporating the sidewalk and even a public park as integral design elements. Similar features are essential to the Cape Coral Hospital and Alliance for the Arts campus enrichment projects. You also may know we're big on emphasizing sustainability as a multi-component perspective that informs everything we do. Environmental stewardship is critically important, but so are the economic development and social equity considerations that we treat with equal seriousness. We were pleased this morning to discover a roundup from The Nature Conservancy highlighting some standout stories about sustainability successes earned in collaboration with global partners to achieve measurable gains to advance all three sustainability components. As we approach the end of a somewhat chaotic year, it's encouraging to count gains being made around the world by leveraging strategic partnerships in: 1. Conserving the Landscapes that Supply Our Water 2. Planting Trees for Healthier Cities 3. Smarter Farming for a Healthier Planet 4. Innovating Our Way to a Sustainable Future 5. Nature’s Role in Responding to Climate Change 6. Making Smart Investments in Coral Reefs 7. Communities Lead on the Path to Climate Progress Even more impressive than this dynamic overview, plus some gorgeous photos and an infographic that make us jealous, is the combination of partners at play in these advances, from economists, farmers and community leaders to NGOs, tech companies, tourism companies and governments.
Remembering Marjory - a for-Everglades friend

Remembering Marjory - a for-Everglades friend

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Remembering Marjory - a for-Everglades friend

In Greek myth, Cassandra was blessed with the power of prophecy. Her curse was that upon foretelling the doom of Troy, no one believed her. The southern part of Florida's peninsula had its own Cassandra. Is it too late to listen? Many - but too few - have listened and many more are rediscovering the simple power of her words. In honor of the Everglades National Park's 70th birthday, next week, we revisit the wisdom and strength embodied in Marjory Stoneman Douglas - journalist, feminist, environmentalist and tireless champion of the Everglades. Everglades National Park will likely get to her contribution in its upcoming Facebook posts highlighting its history, but we'll get the ball rolling because we can't afford to let her legacy fade away in the popular imagination. Douglas published her book, "The Everglades: River of Grass," in 1947. That same year, Everglades National Park was established. She helped people understand the importance of the flow from Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. In the 1950s, Douglas warned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ canals, levees and dams could destroy the delicate balance of our wetlands. What would our region look like if her warning had been heeded? We contend that there are still areas where prescience - and preventative action - could do better than hindsight. In 1970 Douglas formed the Friends of the Everglades, giving her a pretty big microphone. Florida Governor Lawton Chiles said, "Marjory was the first voice to really wake a lot of us up to what we were doing to our quality of life. She was not just a pioneer of the environmental movement, she was a prophet, calling out to us to save the environment for our children and our grandchildren." Douglas lived to the age of 108, which her biographer said was the only thing that could "shut her up." He added: "The silence is terrible." Today, we can choose to hear her voice. Her beloved River of Grass has enjoyed great longevity, but it's too early to call it the "For-Everglades." As Douglas said, "There is always the need to carry on."

what inspires us

shellie johnson

shellie johnson

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shellie johnson

The Mother Hen The quality of life that a community has to offer is only as good as what its residents are willing to work for. The people at EnSite make Shellie Johnson excited to come to work everyday. “I work with a fantastic, energetic and creative group that is respectful of one another and most important, likes to have fun,” she said. Working with and taking care of the needs of a small firm is a natural extension of small-town home life for the LaBelle resident. Loose ends are a foreign concept to Shellie, as her focus on details runs deeper than even her credentials from the American Institute of Certified Planners can testify. Shellie is one of EnSite’s owners and in her role as Planning Director, she assists private clients in gaining development entitlements to property. She also assists government jurisdictions with daily planning tasks such as development reviews and regulatory amendments, and with long-range planning projects. When she’s not at work, Shellie volunteers as President of the LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corp. The group’s efforts have not only made good on its name, but it has also caused a resurgence in residents’ pride in their community and instilled a sense of ownership in the beautiful historic downtown. She enjoys being part of a small town and contributing her time and energy in preserving its sense of community while creating opportunity to encourage younger generations to stay there and prosper. Shellie is a recent widow who enjoys being close to her three stepchildren. Her three dogs run her life. She likes spending time in the outdoors, hiking, and kayaking. She loves to eat great food.
brent gibson

brent gibson

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brent gibson

The Solutions Guy Work smarter, not harder. Brent Gibson enjoys the laid-back, open culture and family-like atmosphere of the EnSite office, which he thinks promotes creativity. “Also, everybody has a voice in what happens with the company. Whether you’re the newest employee or one of the owners, your ideas will be heard and considered.” That flat organizational structure also has a way of encouraging folks to reach beyond their job descriptions to do whatever it is that has to be done. As Lead Designer, Brent does most of the civil engineering design. He also oversees production management, and is responsible for scheduling and getting the designs and plans out the door to clients and municipalities. He also serves as the in-house IT guy. The McGregor Veterinarian Clinic is one of many projects that served as a proving ground for Brent’s creative problem-solving skills. While employing low-impact development techniques, the EnSite team met the challenges presented by Lee County’s newly drafted Compact Communities Planned Development zoning code. This code emphasizes mixed-use and compact development, rather than separate uses with the large setbacks often seen in sprawl development. Brent has been married to his wife Emily for 16 years, and the couple has three boys and a girl between eight and 15 years old. He enjoys playing golf and basketball, and coaches youth basketball at the local YMCA. He’s also on the board for Big Brothers Big Sisters and is a mentor in the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools STAMP program. Twitter: @BGib4
brian smith

brian smith

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brian smith

The Design Doctor Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The Golden Rule was frequently evoked by the single mom who raised Brian Smith and his older sister. Another favorite quote was “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Brian said, “Watching her struggle through life taught me the values of hard work and determination to make a better life for the family. She is certainly my early inspiration and drive to do better and to work hard and value what I have and to cherish family always.” Fortunately, coming to work at EnSite means much more than a paycheck to him. An EnSite owner, Brian values his co-workers, the atmosphere, and the variety of projects the team gets to work on. As Director of Land Design for the company, Brian is responsible for site planning and project management. It’s thrilling to prepare a plan that exceeds the client’s expectations, whether it is a 4,000-acre new community or a .75-acre commercial project requiring innovative design solutions. “Problems” is a word he banishes from his vocabulary. There exist, rather, solvable issues, and the team works with surgical precision to work out solutions to those issues. Few people are aware that Brian’s alternative career path would have led him to being an emergency room doctor. He maintains that laughter is the best medicine, and employs plenty of humor in his work and family life. He and his wife of 15 years, Christy, have two boys, aged 13 and 11. In keeping with his mom’s example, he says, “They are everything to me.” His family enjoys spending time outdoors.
jonathan romine

jonathan romine

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jonathan romine

The Big Picture Thinker There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. - John Wooden EnSite owner Jonathan Romine is obsessed with metrics. Aside from hard numbers, he has a major soft spot for people. Every day represents a new opportunity to help someone succeed or empower a whole community of “someones” to make a better future. Of course he pays close attention to the many details of running the business, from finance and investment to R&D and marketing strategy, but it’s the big picture that really matters. By maintaining everything in ship-shape condition, EnSite’s team can consistently deliver optimal results for its clients. His biggest consideration is the company’s culture, which is at the heart of everything EnSite does. On the practice side, Jonathan’s official title is Director of Landscape Architecture, but he describes himself as a “mentorholic.” All staff members are given room to grow their creative talents, develop their leadership skills, and pursue their dreams. Moreover, the organizational structure is horizontal, meaning no one holds a monopoly on good ideas. Jonathan’s passion is making a positive impact on the community in which he lives, works, learns, and plays. Therefore, he’s especially proud of EnSite’s public sector and non-profit projects, such as parks, community planning, redevelopment/infill plans, and arts and cultural institutions. Jonathan has a daughter, Ava, with wife Megan. He loves sports and travel, and supporting these community organizations: The Imaginarium Science Center (current President of the Board), The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools (Board Member and Mentor), Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce (Board Member), Rotary Club of Fort Myers South. Twitter: @rominejl
matt horton

matt horton

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matt horton

The Boundary Pusher It’s in the doing that the idea comes. Like every team member at EnSite, Matt Horton enjoys the horizontal structure, which affords him the opportunity to work in the trenches, where the best ideas come from. Top-down organizations often suffer some delusion when they think innovation can come from the ivory tower. As Director of Urban Design, Matt has been able to push boundaries and enjoy the freedom to develop innovative solutions. Every EnSite project is special, but a particularly gratifying one is Gardner’s Park in downtown Fort Myers. “This was probably the most fun of my career, because the owners and residents were very enthusiastic and helpful throughout the project,” he said. Starting out as a guava farm in the 1800s, Gardner’s Park is a lively district featuring community events, galleries, boutiques, cafés, theater, and attractions such as The Burroughs Home & Gardens, The Butterfly Estates, and the Langford-Kingston Historic Home. When he’s not leading EnSite’s urban design activities, Matt is doing the important work of being a dad to his two sons, ages eight and nine. Beyond those two jobs, he finds there are even more boundaries to push: having completed the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in Sarasota after losing a bet, he was hooked and has been training and competing ever since. He’s done three Ironmans, but not the big one in Hawaii…yet.

what makes us awesome

"All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions." - George Bernard Shaw

2012 Horizon Council General Business Award

2012 Horizon Council General Business Award

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2012 Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 Award - Jonathan Romine

2012 Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 Award - Jonathan Romine

2012 Florida Commissioner of Education Business Recognition Award

2012 Florida Commissioner of Education Business Recognition Award

2012 Chrysalis Award for Sustainability

2012 Chrysalis Award for Sustainability

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2012 Lee County School District Business Partner of the Year

2012 Lee County School District Business Partner of the Year

2010 Blue Chip Finalist

2010 Blue Chip Finalist

2010 Creating Better Places Design Competition - First Place Overall

2010 Creating Better Places Design Competition - First Place Overall

why ensite

"If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" - John Wooden

EnSite, Inc. has been passionate about improving the Southwest Florida community since it was founded in 2005. The firm is focused on sustainable design that engages and inspires. It achieves its award-winning results through a fanatical commitment to communication plus its unique combination of creativity, technical expertise, project management efficiency, and intelligent teamwork. We believe that any company’s ability to deliver results that exceed expectations is a necessary function of its organizational culture. EnSite’s culture, which is at the heart of everything we do, strongly emphasizes empowerment and accountability, collaboration, innovation, and a meaningful investment in the communities where we live, work, learn, and play. It’s a privilege to offer our services, which enhance the quality of life of the place we call home, including land planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and urban design. Every client receives focused personal attention by working directly with a principal of the firm, while EnSite’s collaborative team structure increases design efficiency and promotes creative problem-solving and creativity, leading to well managed projects and, most importantly, customer satisfaction. EnSite’s unique business model enables our clients to enjoy the talent, assets and results of a large firm, but with competitive fees and top-notch personalized service. Our principals possess great communication skills and are intimately involved in every project from start to finish—they personally plan, design, permit, inspect, and certify every single one. Our community engagement doesn’t end with our many projects. EnSite’s team members are engaged in many service organizations and projects outside of work. And as a team, we reach out to local schools, universities, municipalities, and organizations through our EnRichment program to educate students of all ages and establish relationships and civic engagement to further enhance the experience of living in Southwest Florida.

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EnSite, Inc.

2401 First Street
Suite 201
Fort Myers, FL 33901

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