Sustainable Landscapes: Designs That Work On Multiple Levels

Home & Garden Blog

Creative landscaping has always played a major role in adding value and beauty to homes and commercial properties. Today, however, there is a new and rapidly growing field of landscape design. This segment of the profession is focused on the use of Eco-sensitive and sustainable landscaping methods, materials and concepts. Understanding just a few of these innovative potentials will encourage any property owner to consider effective green approaches to their landscaping needs.

New Designs from the Roots Up

The American Society of Landscape Architects has taken a lead in proposing and testing innovative approaches to sustainable landscapes. It continues to add to its database of resources and designs, and the group's website provides a growing number of case studies that help designers push the environmental envelope.

For example, one example shows how long tradition is effectively combined with a look to the future at the California Academy of Science. One of the nation's oldest natural history museums, this facility has added a 2.5-acre green roof to its uniqueness. The design incorporates an amazing 1.7 million native California plants, all selected for their lack of a need for irrigation. This approach has motivated many other landscape architects in water-deprived areas by showing how the living, six-inch deep roof reduces runoff from storm water and rain by more than 90 percent.

Additionally, the roof produces nearly 213,000 kilowatts of clean energy from the 62.000 photovoltaic cells included in the design. This one installation shows how landscaping can prevent erosion, generate clean energy, and even lower the heating and cooling needs of the structures where it is installed.

A Holistic Approach to Green Communities

Another use of sustainable landscaping in the overall design of a community is seen in Pennsylvania's Lily Lake Residence. The carefully planned development includes 88-acres of land where the natural grades are used to facilitate collection and storage of storm water. Even the roofs of the homes use gutterless systems to filter and collect the storm water. This accumulated water is then used to care for the many beds of native plants, keep the local pond full, and to reestablish and maintain an aquatic ecosystem that had been destroyed by earlier development.

While these are both major landscape design projects, the concepts are readily applied to any home environment. Many firms now offer sustainable landscaping options, and there is a growing community of online experts and resources to help the homeowner increase their eco-sensitive landscaping options.

Combined with solar panels, composting, and other green initiatives, many homeowners are reaching their goal of being a "net zero" home. This means living in a structure and environment that has zero negative impact on the economy from a power, waste, and water consumption perspective. Saving money and helping the environment at the same time is an attractive proposition for many.

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8 December 2014