Sustainable Design Guides
Public Health + Landscape Architecture
Health Benefits of NatureThe idea that spending time in nature can make you feel better is
intuitive. We all feel this to be true, and many of us have anecdotes of
our own or from friends or family that support that idea. People who
have been suffering from stress, sickness, or a trauma can spend quiet
contemplative time in gardens or taken to the mountains or woods to
heal. But nature is not just wilderness. The benefits of nature can also
be found in our communities’ parks and green spaces. Explore resources.
Climate ChangeLeft unchecked, the increase in the Earth’s temperature is expected to have devastating effects. Global warming is expected to cause melting ice shelves and rising coastal waters; the spread of airborne diseases; extensive species extinction; drought and wildfires, mass human, animal and plant migrations; and wars over shrinking amounts of potable water. There are a range of landscape architecture-based mitigation strategies that, if employed at mass scale, can help reduce GHG emissions. Landscape architecuture-based adaptation strategies are already being used to increase the resiliency of communities. Explore resources.
Green InfrastructureThe idea that nature is also infrastructure isn't new. But it's now more widely understood to be true. Nature can be harnessed to provide critical services for communities, protecting them against flooding or excessive heat, or helping to improve air and water quality, which underpin human and environmental health. When nature is harnessed by people and used as an infrastructural system it's called "green infrastructure." Green infrastructure occurs at all scales. While it's often closely associated with green stormwater management systems, which are smart and cost-effective, it's really bigger than that. Explore resources.
Healthy and Livable CommunitiesWorking with landscape architects, communities can promote human health and well-being by encouraging the development of environments that offer rich social, economic, and environmental benefits. Healthy, livable communities all improve the welfare and well-being of people by expanding the range of affordable transportation, employment, and housing choices through "Live, Work, Play" developments; incorporating physical activity into components of daily life; preserving and enhancing valuable natural resources; providing access to affordable, nutritious, and locally produced foods distributed for less cost; and creating a unique sense of community and place. Explore resources.
Resilient DesignWorking with nature -- instead of in opposition to it -- helps communities become more resilient and come back stronger after disruptive natural events. Long-term resilience is about continuously bouncing back and regenerating. It's about learning how to cope with the ever-changing “new normal.” Explore resources.
Sustainable TransportationTransportation corridors and facilities are major components of the nation’s landscape and public realm. Integrating comprehensive transportation planning with natural systems analysis and land use planning is essential for creating livable communities in sustainable environments. Explore resources.
Sustainable Urban DevelopmentUrban development should be guided by a comprehensive planning and management vision that includes interconnected green space, a multi-modal transportation system, and mixed-use development. Diverse public and private partnerships should be used to create livable communities that protect historic, cultural, and environmental resources. In addition, policymakers, regulators and developers should support sustainable site planning and construction techniques that create a balance between built and natural systems. Explore resources.
Improving Water EfficiencyDue to reoccurring drought conditions worldwide, using potable (drinkable) water for landscapes is increasingly unviable. Homeowners often wastefully irrigate their lawns with water than should be reserved for human consumption. According to the Sustainable Sites Initiative, irrigation of unsustainable residential landscapes accounts for more than a third of residential water use—more than seven billion gallons of potable water per day in the U.S. Explore resources.
Increasing Energy EfficiencyInefficient home energy use is not only costly, but also contributes to the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the major cause of climate change. Residential and commercial buildings use ten percent of U.S. energy. According to Architecture 2030, building construction and operations-related energy use accounts for almost 50 percent of total GHG emissions. Explore resources.
Maximizing the Benefits of Plants Plants are central to a functioning global ecosystem. Plants oxygenate the atmosphere and reduce atmospheric pollutants. Reforestation in both developed and developing countries is a primary strategy for mitigating the effects of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, plants are not only key to the global ecosystem, but also crucial to human health. Explore resources.
Using Low-impact MaterialsNew and non-recyclable materials used in homes and landscapes consume enormous amounts of resources to produce and distribute, and then create additional waste when they are demolished -- they often aren't originally designed to be recycled. Waste materials create waste landscapes: landfills, massive incinerator systems, and multi-square-mile floating plastic garbage islands in the world's oceans. Explore resources.
Economic ModelsSustainability Toolkit: Economic Models focuses on economic sustainability, which involves the development of a healthy economy that supports and sustains people and the environment over the long-term. In a market-driven economy, cost is a deciding factor in determining whether a project moves forward. To be sustainable, projects must not only provide environmental and social benefits, but also offer economic value. Ecosytem service models can also be used to quantify the inherent economic value of services nature already provides for free. Explore resources.
Environmental ModelsSustainability Toolkit: Environmental Models focuses on the environmental side of sustainability, perhaps the crucial component in sustainable projects for the built environment. The toolkit is arranged from macro- to micro-scales, beginning with sustainable regional planning, and moving to sustainable cities & communities planning, sustainable neighborhood planning, and, then finally, site-specific tools related to sustainable landscapes and green buildings. Explore resources.
Social Models"Sustainability Toolkit: Social Models" focuses on social sustainability, which involves the development of resilient communities that meet residents' health and social needs over the long-term. In a socially-sustainable community, residents are empowered; have equal access to green, healthy spaces; can choose among multiple transportation options; and enjoy a high quality of life. At all scales, public participation is crucial for ensuring planners and designers keep existing communities in mind and create social value for all citizens. Explore resources.