One-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: Escondido, California
Project Size: 1 acre
Project Type: Commercial
Site Context: Suburban
Former Land Use: Greyfield
Terrestrial Biome: Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub
Budget: $520,000
photo by John Durant

Project Overview

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is a popular craft brewery and restaurant destination in North San Diego County. Greg Koch, Stone Brewing Co. CEO and founder, has a strong commitment to sustainability and community. He enrolled the help of landscape architects Schmidt Design Group to help realize his vision of creating an eclectic setting that would be unique, organic, and versatile. The gardens were eventually built as a one-acre park-like environment for dining, relaxing, exploration, and special events. The eclectic plant palette includes edible plantings and many Mediterranean varieties, providing an organic, southern California feeling to the space. The project was awarded the President's Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects San Diego in 2009.

Regional Context

The majority of the gardens at Stone Brewing are located within a stormwater detention basin that accepts water from the surrounding commercial park. The brewery and gardens play host to dozens of community events every year, including movie screenings, farm-to-table dinners and more. The site links to a regional bike network, and the site utilizes many regional salvaged materials. Additionally, plant materials include edibles and other materials that are regionally appropriate. The Beer Gardens allow visitors to relax, wander, or explore

SITES Features + Practices

Stormwater Basin: The detenion basin, which provides water quality improvements for the runoff through bioremediation and phytoremediation, has become a beautiful site amenity for visitors. The whole site takes advantage of low-impact development, low-water irrigation, and the creative use of the detention basin as a focal point, as well as other water conservation methods.

Native Plants: The planting palette, which concentrates on Mediterranean plants and drought-tollerant California natives, helps to reduce the need for irrigation while the edible plantings provide food for the restaurant and craft brewery. The aesthetic of the plants is meant to give the gardens and patio a rustic, organic feel, which is what the owner of the property envisioned for the site.

Salvaged Materials: Most of the boulders and rock utilized in the garden came from the site itself. Many of the patio materials were made from reused salvaged materials such as used brick from demolished buildings in downtown Escondido. All granite pavers, tables, counters, and bars in the restaurant and patio, plus the retaining slabs in the gardens, are repurposed discards from a local quarry just 15 miles away. Again, the reused materials helped the owner and landscape architect achieve a rustic, naturalistic look to the garden rather than a manicured or polished landscape.

Onsite Food Production: Taking advantage of San Diego's mild climate, the Stone Brewing Co. site manager/master gardener is continuously experimenting with useful edible plants. A small avocado grove supplies fresh guacamole; peppers, and a variety of herbs including oregano and basil provide a portion of the restaurant's needs for fresh herbs and vegetables. The original plant palette included 16 percent edible plants. In addition, Chinook hop vines have been planted in one are of the garden and are harvested and included in certain beer recipes for the on-site craft brewery. A SITES innovation point was awarded to the project for the commitment to edible landscaping.


This project was conceptualized, designed, and built prior to applying for SITES certification. Achieving the time-consuming, very detailed, and challenging certification would not have been possible without the project owner's dedication to sustainability and the landscape architect's practice of applying environmental sensitivity to every project. Researching each SITES credit was indeed a challenge, but it provided a unique opportunity to go back and analyze the processes, procedures, materials, and more to really see how the site measured up and reached the goals set forth in the SITES Guidelines.

Maintenance + Stewardship

Greg Koch, Stone Brewing Co. founder and CEO, is very hands-on, environmentally aware, and has been a collaborator throughout the design/build process. From the very beginning of the project, he made a commitment to involve the landscape architect, architect, and landscape contractor from design all the way through maintenance. Mr. Koch proactively promotes sustianability at his restaurant, gardens, and his newly opened organic farm. He has secured a staff that will meet the SITES maintenance requirements and, in terms of monitoring the site's performance, Mr. Koch can keep tabs on water use, costs, and the overall effect of the garden on the community. The gardens are 100 percent organically cared for by the brewery's resident gardener. He uses byproducts from the brewery process and restaurants to maintain the garden, such as composting with spent grain leftover from the brewing process and using chipped tree and shrub trimmings for mulch. The entrance experience takes visitors from the parking lot through the gardens.

Site Challenges

The biggest site challenge was that the site, as previously mentioned, is located on a large detention basin. Developing a garden in a detention basin could have been viewed as a negative, but through strategic planning and thoughtful design, it was turned into a positive by using and managing the water instead of avoiding it. Providing a fully accessible path of travel into the detention basin was also one of the challenges that, in the end, had a positive influence on the design. The meandering trail that circles the site provides an accessible path and also gives visitors a variety of views and different ways in which to experience the sights and sounds of the garden.

Project Goals + Successes

Sustainability and environmental responsibility were the overarching goals and objectives of the project. Another objective for the project was to avoid the feeling of a heavily designed space. The eclectic and organic character of the design fits the desires of the owner as well as accommodates the goals of the project. Both the owner and the landscape architect were interested in SITES certification because the program encourages measureable goals. The program sets benchmarks and specific standards that can be used by the industry to create better, more sustainable sites overall. The motivation to pursue SITES certification didn't directly influence the project, since we applied after it was constructed, but it was interesting to see how the site measured up.

One of the major successes of the unique site is the utilization of a detention basin for public enjoyment and recreation, which is a model that could and should be emulated in the public sector. Taking advantage of detention basins like this, communities can combine the need for open space and recreation with stormwater management and water quality improvements.

Lessons Learned

This project, and the process of applying for SITES certification, has influenced the landscape architect's approach to other projects in important and meaningful ways. The project managers who worked on researching the project and applying for SITES certification feel much more comfortable and well-versed in communicating the importance of ecosystem services and the overall benefits of building a sustainable site. All the work that went into researching the SITES standards has educated the staff, giving them a tool that will help them to better communicate the ideas and concepts behind a truly sustainable site.

Project Team

Stone Brewing Co.
Greg Koch, Owner

Schmidt Design Group, Inc.
Glen Schmidt, Landscape Architect

Spear & Associates, Inc.
Danny Abada, Civil Engineer

Hamann Companies
John Belcher, General Contractor

Landscape Plus
Matthew Jerman, Landscape Contractor

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