Case Studies

JW Zunino Landscape Architecture

Las Vegas based award-winning environmental design

For more than 27 years JW Zunino Landscape Architecture (JWZ) has been one of the top landscape architecture, land planning and environmental design firms in the western U.S. Since forming in 1989, the firm has been using drip irrigation, native and indigenous plants to create beautiful, highly functional outdoor spaces that balance environmental sensitivity and sustainability with aesthetics. Parks, trails, streetscapes, highways, schools, golf courses, resorts and urban redevelopment and master planning — JWZ does it all, having completed 3,000-plus projects over the course of its history.

JWZ offers concept on through development and implementation of landscape architectural design, helping to educate its clients and the general public about the importance of the right surroundings.

JW Zunino Landscape Architecture

Jack Zunino, owner of JWZ and fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, moved to the Las Vegas Valley from Salt Lake City in 1983 and was intrigued with the idea of water conservation and water-efficient plants and indigenous plant materials specific to the Southwest. “I did land planning for a large residential community while working for an engineering company,” says Zunino, who holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture and environmental planning. “I went on to become a partner at an architecture firm for two years before starting my own business.”

Ahead of the curve in sustainable landscape design

Zunino set up the Las Vegas JWZ office in 1989 and the Carlsbad satellite office in 2009. “Back then, a lot of people didn’t want to do desert projects,” he says. “For a long time it wasn’t a glamourous thing. Now people are seeing the beauty of living here and the value in the right landscape architecture.”

Zunino says people are also seeing the value in environmentally conscious and responsible landscape architecture and design, but to him and his fellow landscape architects, the concept of sustainability is nothing new. “It’s interesting to us that it is such a new phenomenon; it’s commonplace for us and not anything new,” he says. “There have been sustainability issues since the Great Wall of China was constructed. We’re very in tune with water conservation and drought, long before the massive California drought. And for us, simple design changes such as shading from summer sun, solar access in the winter and water harvesting are part of the day to day job. All of these ‘innovative’ things are the things we’ve been doing for years.”

Today, JWZ is licensed in seven states (Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Mississippi, Texas and Utah) and the company has also completed projects as far as Aruba and an award-winning design in Busan, South Korea. JWZ has seven employees, including three landscape architects and support staff.

JWZ works to educate clients and the community at large that the desert is that — a desert and this environment should look entirely different from others around the country. “We focus on aesthetic education,” says Zunino. “You don’t necessarily need lawns and certain plants in this region. We show our customers more appropriate uses of plants and turf and they see that it can still be beautiful. We’re all about using native plant species, but we’re always looking for new kinds of plants from similar climates that will do well here.”

Bringing parks, community spaces to life

JWZ has carved a niche in parks and community spaces and has just completed the $8 million Equestrian Park and $6 million Paradise Pointe Park for the City of Las Vegas. The company has been a central part of NDOT (Nevada Department of Transportation) and has just started design on six gateways into the state; four along the California border, one at the Hoover Dam and one in Jackpot, Nevada.

“We also were involved in the design of the original master plan and green architecture design for the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, which at one time had the largest LEED Platinum building in the country on-site,” says Zunino.

With a long history of designing drip irrigation systems, JWZ incorporated a sophisticated subsurface system, using 1/60th of what traditional overhead spray water would demand. “We also reduced run off, allowing more water to percolate into the ground, which helps form a water bell at the root of the plant.”

A close connection to surroundings

Part of JWZ’s work is helping people feel a close connection to the environment. “Landscapes should be fun and there should be surprises; we like to sneak in some educational material into our designs,” says Zunino.

This was the mission behind Mountain’s Edge Regional Park in Clark County, Nevada, one of JWZ’s landmark projects. JWZ completed the full park design, layout and complete landscape architecture scope.

As visitors approach the entrance of Mountain’s Edge Park, they’re greeted by several red 40-foot high gateway rings; these colorful structures also serve as a climbing course. The 16-acre park incorporates a multisport wall with targets and goals for everything from soccer to lacrosse, baseball, handball and more. In the center are two large custom picnic shelters and a state-of-the-art tot lot with interactive play equipment. A first-of-its-kind innovation for county and city parks is a mobile app dedicated to the park which allows users to identify activities and track their fitness, including total time exercising and calories burned. “This is really cutting edge for parks,” says Zunino.

The park also includes a lot of signage from a little town identifying different shops and trades to an educational garden, including more than 100 indigenous or southwest-adapted plants. “People stroll through the garden and it’s not only beautiful, they also learn something,” says Zunino. Not only is Mountain’s Edge Park ADA compliant, the design also promotes universal accessibility, allowing persons with mental or physical disabilities to enjoy the various features.

The design of Mountain’s Edge Park included some creative thinking on behalf of JWZ to design a system where all on-site water is collected and redistributed for irrigation. “None of the water leaves the site,” says Zunino. “The parking lot water drains into the vegetated parking lot islands and if there’s enough water it flows into the lower islands. The bike trail is also complete with road markings and solar-powered traffic signals.”

Incorporating practical, sustainable components and telling a story through thoughtful design helps JWZ’s work stand out. “As a profession, we’re responsible to the earth and environment,” says Zunino. “Everything we design, everything we build ultimately affects the earth. We have to ask if we’re being responsible about this and that’s how we move forward with great ideas that benefit everyone.”

Offering full concept to completion planning and design, JW Zunino Landscape Architecture continues to create memorable public and community spaces that educate and make people appreciate and want to preserve the environment.

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