Award-Winning UCLA Project Utilizes Silva Cells to Support Plaza Trees

Eight olive trees are flourishing in the Luskin Conference Center plaza, offering students and visitors a welcoming, shady gathering space


Officially opening its doors in October 2016, the Luskin Conference Center on the UCLA campus is a beacon of design and sustainability, winning LEED Platinum certification in 2017. An important element of the design process was the plaza landscaping, spearheaded by AHBE/MIG in which they “emphasized the arrival experience” with a pair of connected courtyards. In line with the university’s sustainability principles, the plaza design embraced green infrastructure with eight olive trees planted in DeepRoot Silva Cells for continued health and vitality, heightening the landscape resiliency and providing a shady respite to campus visitors.

Installation Summary

Number of Trees: 8

Type of Project: Plaza/Streetscape

Project Designer: AHBE/MIG

Project Contractor: Valley Crest Landscape Companies

Installation Date of Silva Cells: Summer 2015

The Project

With a goal of “bringing people together to share knowledge and address some of society’s most vexing problems,” the UCLA Luskin Conference Center officially opened on October 7, 2016. The building features 254 guest rooms, 24 state-of-the-art meeting spaces, restaurants, a fitness center, and a total of 25,000 square feet of space. According to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, the center was built “expressly for leading experts in their respective fields to gather and create the future… that will lead to scientific and social progress.”

A crucial element of the project’s design plans was addressing the new conference center’s entryway. The team at AHBE/MIG was tasked with creating an inviting space worthy of the beautiful, modern interior — and greenery and sustainability were prioritized from the outset. To ensure the area was usable as a gathering space for students, faculty, and visitors, two connected courtyards were constructed as an inviting plaza, flanked by California-friendly plantings — in this case, eight olive trees.

This green element helps heighten the landscape resiliency. And, by utilizing the DeepRoot Silva Cell system, these trees are provided access to appropriate levels of quality, uncompacted soil volume, ensuring robust canopy growth and a shady gathering space for area visitors.

DeepRoot Silva Cell Success

Silva Cells were installed near the entryway courtyard in the summer of 2015, supplying proper soil volume conditions to eight mature olive trees. These trees’ healthy, continued canopy growth provides cooling shade in the seating area of the plaza, while also offering a welcoming ambiance for pedestrians and visitors.

The plaza area itself was built upon a parking structure, meaning that geo-foam was used as a buffer between the structure beneath and the courtyard above. The Silva Cells were then installed and filled with uncompacted soil in support of the trees — which were delivered in box planters and transferred to decorative metallic planters in the plaza seating area.

The UCLA Luskin Conference Center has since been acknowledged with a pair of coveted awards, including LEED Platinum certification and the 2017 Los Angeles Business Council’s Sustainability Award — and the courtyard serves as a flourishing example of the benefits of embracing greenery in shared campus spaces.

Project Awards

2017 LEED Platinum Certification

2017 Los Angeles Business Council’s Sustainability Award

Additional Resources

See more Silva Cell installations at campuses across America by reading our case studies here, here, and here.


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