Get the Lay of the Land: How to Incorporate Landscaping Early in the Sustainable Design Process

By Bob Hursthouse, President, Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors and Core Member, NextHaus Alliance

Spring is the time our gardens come back to life and we begin to move outdoors for summer living.

As we head outside, we can also live in a more sustainable, resilient way that protects the property as much as it protects the planet. For example, while you are reviewing your existing outdoor area and choosing new plantings to add this year, be mindful of avoiding invasive species, look for drought-resistant plants and consider more native plants that look and grow like they “belong” here and are therefore more resilient. When adding hardscapes, ask about how the material, such as stone, wood or brick, was sourced, and look for other options, like permeable paving that allows for the absorption of more stormwater. If you are adding outdoor lighting, check for eco-friendlier energy sources.

Take a step back and consider other environmental factors when making landscape plans. To alleviate flooding and stormwater, you can add a simple rain barrel or create a rain garden area on your property, where you can grow trees, plants and shrubs that will capture and hold water on the surface of leaves and release water more slowly into the landscape. As a way to live more sustainably (and for a fun experience!) grow more of your own food with garden beds and containers dedicated to edibles.

 

 

April – a prime time for landscaping — also happens to be National Landscape Architecture month. By partnering with a landscape architect as part of your home building team, you can take advantage of their unique skill set to guide you on the what, where how and why of outdoor living. Landscape architects are trained in land use planning, managing site conditions, horticulture and how people relate to nature. For the best results, they should be included in the design discussion while your architect is designing your home and before the final site engineering is completed. There are three areas in which a landscape architect’s gifts can be utilized early in the design process for sustainable, resilient homes and properties:

  • Siting of the home. Trained in site planning, a landscape architect can ensure the home’s placement for desired curb appeal. Considerations like vehicular and pedestrian circulation as well as the creation of outdoor living spaces can be planned at this time to align with outdoor activities. An evaluation and the protection of existing trees are important to protect the property’s value.
  • Site Grading. Your landscape architect will understand grading and drainage. Rainwater harvesting, site drainage and Best Management Practices need to be addressed on most home construction projects.
  • Special Features. As a landscape architect designs the spaces for your ideal outdoor living, he or she will help articulate your vision for patios and terraces, spaces for outdoor cooking and entertaining and areas where privacy is needed or a long view could be enhanced. The incorporation of fire features, pools and spas, fountains or ponds , outdoor illumination as well as gardens and plantings will all be considered, too.

 

 

Your NextHaus Alliance team embraces the unique gift of each of our design and construction specialists. Just as indoor and outdoor areas fuse an array of features and elements, each discipline plays a part in perfecting your living space and making it more sustainable.