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The Benefits Of Sustainable Landscape Architecture

One of the most exciting things about urban design is how every aspect can be optimized for a more sustainable future. True to this concept, landscape design offers opportunities to foster sustainable practices. Anyone planning uses for land can implement sustainable landscape design.
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Villa D’Este, Italian Renaissance Garden is an example of sustainable landscape architecture. Image via Wikipedia.

The Basics of Landscape Architecture

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is the leading authority on landscape design. Their description of sustainable landscapes is as follows:
“Sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, re-generative, and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and, environmental benefits.”
Simply put, an intentional sustainable landscape can help counteract the many consequences of landscaping. Issues of soil, water, pollution, and energy continue to be issues for like-minded city molders. Through implementing sustainable landscapes, however, such problems can be addressed.

Methods to Obtain a Sustainable Landscape

How does one create a sustainable landscape?  The University of Minnesota’s Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series (SULIS) provides an excellent outline of the sequence of steps to implement an effective sustainable landscape.

  • The first step is design. The design step is multi-faceted and provides structure for the other steps. The landscape design, its sequence, and the base plan are all steps toward implementing sustainable landscapes.
  • The plant selection stage aims to ensure that designers choose the best-suited plants for sustainable landscapes. Such factors include type, form, width, among others.
  • The implementation step creates the landscape. Preparing, installing, planting, and building are sub-sectors within this step. Projects within this step are categorized by hard-goods, plants, and soil.
  • Finally, once the sustainable landscape is completed, maintenance of the landscape is required.

ASLA also features a plethora of animations on their website that provide information on a variety of methods. This is not a definite list, but ASLA covers helpful topics such as infrastructure, home landscapes, urban forests, and others.

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The General Maister Memorial Park in Slovenia by Bruto Landscape Architecture. Photo by Miran Kambič.

ASLA Case Studies

The American Society of Landscape Architects has provided numerous case studies of real-life sustainable landscapes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Viet Village Urban Farm Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, this urban farm was made in response to Hurricane Katrina. The farm uses sustainable techniques to grow food. According to ASLA, the urban farm offers environmental benefits such as the removal of toxic chemicals, the reduction of urban heat, and the conservation of water.
  • Crosswater Ecolodge Located in China, this resort aims to provide a sustainable hotel for travelers and other patrons. Throughout its development, the Ecolodge created their hotel in regards to sustainable land use and landscaping. The lodge aims to sustainably preserve, restore, and recycle the environment.
  • James Clarkson Environmental Discovery Center Located in White Lake Township, Michigan, this center for sustainability education is where wildlife can thrive. The center is particularly known for its ability to ecologically manage storm water.
  • Pacific Cannery Lofts Located in Oakland, California, this cannery seeks to turn a former brownfield into a site for sustainability that provides cleaner water, salvages materials, and reduces Co2. The loft is just one of many locations targeted for sustainable transformation, as the project aims to expand throughout Oakland.
Feature Image: Crosswaters Ecolodge in China is an example of sustainable landscape architecture. Image via ASLA.org.

Copyediting by Scott Lindquist

About The Author

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Alex Ageno earned his degree in Urban Planning in 2013 from Arizona State University. Alex's interests in Urban Planning include Urban Design, Sustainability, Form Based Codes, Zoning, and Environmental Planning. He resides in Arizona.