The 21st century has brought about rapid urban development. With all the benefits this development has brought forth, it has also given its fair share of disadvantages. We are facing unprecedented environmental degradation, habitat loss, and the disappearance of green places. Simply reducing urban development is not a viable solution, as urban development caters to the needs of a growing population. To address these problems, it is vital to find a solution that integrates the natural environment with urban space for a sustainable future. Landscape architecture proves to be helpful here!
In this article compiled by MPR Landscapes, we will talk about landscape architecture, its features, and the importance of sustainability in landscape design. Lastly, we will discuss easy ways so that you can make your own landscapes sustainable.
❇️ WHAT IS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE?
Landscape architecture involves careful design, planning, and execution to create outdoor spaces. These spaces result from collaboration between natural features, such as land contours and natural terrain, and human-made elements, such as traffic and building usage—landscape architecture endeavors to form outdoor spaces that are operational, aesthetically pleasing, and sustainable. Such cohesive designs merge the natural features with surrounding artificial objects and contexts. It balances well the natural environment and the built environment. Landscape architecture can include outdoor spaces such as gardens, commercial or residential parks, and urban open spaces.
Moreover, landscape architecture is a complicated discipline that also involves the investigation of existing social, ecological, and soil conditions in the landscape. It enhances the natural features of an environment in urban settings. Most importantly, it focuses on many relevant issues in today’s era. These issues are sustainability, ecology, climate change, and global warming. Landscape architecture requires technical understanding, teamwork, and an acute aesthetic sense to create balanced environments. Only professional landscapers can offer you this unique skill set to work on varying-scale projects. You can always contact experts like MPR Landscapes to work on external spaces in the landscape, incorporating hard and soft materials with a special focus on sustainability.
❇️ 8 FEATURES OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
Certain elements are incorporated into the landscape to amplify its practical aspect and make it more aesthetic. These features help to create harmonious and functional spaces. The top 8 features of landscape architecture are:
⭕ Water features: these features include fountains, pools, and streams for pleasing visuals. They also act as natural habitats for aquatic plants and animals. Water can also be diverted towards trees and vegetation.
⭕ Walkways and paths: these crucial features are used for pedestrian movement and provide circulation purposes within a space.
⭕ Hardscaping: hardscape features involve all the ‘hard’ materials like concrete, gravel, brick, and wood. They are used in the building of artificial features like concrete floors.
⭕ Softscaping: elements of soft scaping include shrubbery, trees, flowerbeds, and natural vegetation.
⭕ Recreational areas: recreational areas can include playgrounds, parks, or sitting areas explicitly designed for fun activities. When merged with the surrounding buildings, these features enhance an area’s appeal.
⭕ Sculptures: often, stone sculptures act as focal points of a landscape. They also provide a poetic feel to your otherwise monotone garden.
⭕ Landscape Grading: refers to the sculpting and manipulation of land for many purposes. It can aid in drainage and establish a flow of land for vegetation.
⭕ Landscape Furniture: furniture like benches or sofas can make outdoor landscape spaces fun.
❇️ SUSTAINABILITY AND ITS IMPORTANCE IN LANDSCAPE DESIGN
Sustainability refers to preserving natural resources on the Earth to extend their use to present and future generations. It focuses on reducing the negative environmental impact and carefully using resources such as water, air, and soil. Sustainability, in the long term, is highly beneficial from the ecological, economic, and environmental perspectives. When sustainability is incorporated into a landscape, it becomes sustainable landscape architecture. This type of architecture requires careful analysis of the environment, ecology, cultural context, topography, soil study, and natural terrain. After careful consideration, sustainable practices are introduced alongside architecture to achieve maximum positive results and mitigate adverse effects. The climate crisis and rapid depletion of natural resources govern the present era. Burning fossil fuels and garbage results in high air pollution, which is detrimental to health. To solve the abovementioned problems, professional landscapers execute designs that prove energy-efficient and conserve vegetation.
With global warming at its peak and melting glaciers causing floods worldwide, sustainability is the need of the hour. It is a dire time to take immediate action. Otherwise, our resources will be depleted at an alarming rate. The negative consequences will be high pollution of air and water, habitat loss, endangerment of wildlife, and much more. By embracing sustainable practices, such as reducing waste, conserving energy, preserving wildlife habitats, and utilizing renewable resources, we can ensure a better future for ourselves and future generations. Sustainability presents long-term solutions. It endorses economic and social stability by protecting natural resources. Sustainability is the ultimate key to the continued survival of humankind on this planet.
There are several reasons why sustainability in landscape architecture is essential. Let us have a look at the top 5 reasons:
⭕ To protect biodiversity:
Biodiversity refers to all kinds of life on this planet. Humans, animals, fungi, and bacteria come under this category. Sustainable elements enhance biodiversity. They provide habitats for a variety of species and promote their complex ecosystems. These species include small birds, mammals, insects, tiny microorganisms, etc. Sustainability in landscape strengthens the environment and health of its residents.
⭕ Focus on human well-being:
Sustainable landscapes offer several benefits to the community. These practices visibly reduce air and water pollution so that children in urban settings can have minimum detriment exposure. In addition, people can focus on their physical fitness and mental well-being by designing green outdoor spaces like gardens, parks, and pathways. Sustainability in landscape architecture also discourages toxins, pesticides, and other chemicals as they inevitably flow into streams and rivers.
⭕ Conservation of natural resources:
Professional landscapers turn to sustainable practices to conserve natural resources as much as possible. For instance, they apply apt techniques like irrigation, rainwater harvesting, drought-tolerant plants, and green roofs to manage natural resources efficiently. Water in this way can be stored and used without any wastage—this minimal use of resources, reduction in waste, and recycling results in a low carbon footprint.
⭕ Contributes to economic stability:
Sustainable practices rely on the conservation of resources and efficient maintenance. In the long term, these practices reduce maintenance and repair costs and contribute to economic benefits. They also increase property value by improving the environment’s appearance and stimulating economic growth.
⭕ Protection of the environment:
Last but not least, sustainable practices promote environmental protection and preserve the natural ecosystem. They reduce runoff, soil erosion, and the use of fertilizers. Sustainable landscape architecture can protect the environment.
❇️ TOP 5 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR OWN LANDSCAPE SUSTAINABLE
Making sustainable landscape architecture involves incorporating sustainability principles into the design and management of landscapes. The scale and scope are pretty large in making landscape architecture sustainable. However, sustainability principles are the same whether you are creating a sustainable landscape in your backyard or designing a large-scale landscape architecture project. The common aspect here is the environmental impact of your choices. Let us take a detailed look at five easy ways you can make your very own landscape more sustainable.
⭕ Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers:
Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are toxic chemicals. Water gradually carries them off down streams, whereby they pollute drinking water also. They are bad for humans and animals alike. Instead, you can use organic fertilizers or compost. Both are used for better soil quality and good produce but differ in composition. You can make compost from food waste, fruit skin, and manure. It helps to retain moisture, increase nutrient availability, and promote the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms.
On the other hand, organic fertilizer provides extra nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to the soil for plant growth. In addition, it does not have any chemicals or toxins. Therefore, fertilizers contain large amounts of nutrients as compared to compost.
⭕ Control water wastage:
The critical aspect that sustainability offers is the conservation of natural resources. A simple way to make a sustainable landscape is to ensure water is not wasted. To achieve that, you can add drought-resistant plants as they store water for long periods and require less to thrive. Add a rain barrel to store rainwater and use it later. You can use any large container if you do not have a rain barrel – the end purpose is to store water. Also, make sure the water coming through your community channel is not wasted.
⭕ Choose the suitable materials:
Using renewable resources is an integral part of sustainability. You can substitute your materials with sustainable ones like bamboo, granite, slate, clay, recycled glass, and organic mulch. For example, you can use granite or slate in retaining walls or pavements as they are durable and low-maintenance. Bamboo and organic mulch are renewable resources. Mulch helps improve soil quality, and bamboo can be grown much faster than other wood. Interestingly, bamboo also absorbs much carbon dioxide, which is good for the environment. Another material you can use is long-lasting clay. Avoid using materials like concrete and cement with a high carbon footprint.
⭕ Add green roofs:
A green roof is also known as a vegetated or living roof. Green roofs are becoming the talk of the town with their multiple functions. First, they foster environmental protection and biodiversity. They aid in energy conservation by insulating the buildings to cut energy costs. Interestingly, these roofs can extend the usual lifespan of a structure by protecting it in all weather conditions. So there will be no need to repair your roof structures or walls constantly! These roofs protect well against heat, cold, rain, and UV rays.
Here are a few quick steps that will give you a rough idea of where to start the process:
💠 You need to consider the orientation and slope of the roof and the direction of sunlight. Next, make sure your roof structure is strong enough to bear the weight.
💠 Next, you need to install a waterproof membrane that prevents water from seeping into the house.
💠 Thirdly, add a drainage layer to circulate water and stop it from accumulating in one place.
💠 Decide the type of green roof that you want. There are mainly two types: extensive and intensive. The former is much lighter, whereas the latter is thicker and more complex. An extensive roof is low-maintenance and very cost-effective.
💠 Choose what type of plants you want on your roof. Avoid plants with invasive roots that can damage your structure significantly. Instead, you can add herbs, shrubs, grass, and succulents onto your roof as they require little maintenance.
Adding a green roof can be time-consuming, requiring careful consideration at every step. Yet it can be pretty rewarding in the long run.
⭕ More vegetation is the way to go!
Planting more trees is the ultimate win-win situation. There is no harm in it, and the benefits are abundant! Trees play a crucial role in our environment: they provide shade, nourishing fruits, and improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide. They also reduce soil erosion and act as a natural habitat for various species, promoting biodiversity. By incorporating more vegetation, you can increase your property’s value and create a more sustainable community. To maximize their impact, consider planting native trees better adapted to your local area. Investing in more trees is an investment in a greener and healthier future.
In conclusion, sustainable landscape architecture seamlessly integrates people’s and the environment’s needs. It is a harmonious blend of natural features and artificial structures in urban settings. There is a growing demand for sustainable practices now. With careful planning and implementation, sustainable landscape architecture can profoundly impact the environment and people’s lives. The sustainable landscape offers many benefits ranging from energy conservation and improving quality of life to positive ecological effects. In addition, a sustainable landscape significantly boosts your property value and helps to create fun and functional outdoor spaces. Achieving a sustainable landscape has never been easier with the help of experts like MPR Landscapes. Our professionals consider the larger context of the area and assess the terrain, environment, and potential of the landscape to contribute to community resiliency. While the design process and implementation are time-consuming, the outcome is worth it. You can turn your outdoor space into a sustainable hub with our expertise!