Professional Practice

Sustainable Residential Design: Increasing Energy Efficiency

High Point Seattle
High Point, Seattle / Mithun

Inefficient 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.

Through "integrated site design," a comprehensive approach to sustainable building and site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture practices can not only improve the environment, but also increase energy efficiency. If part of a broader integrated site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture can dramatically reduce energy costs over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.

Integrated site design is a framework for increasing the quality of the built environment, and involves maximizing existing natural systems to minimize energy usage. These types of designs leverage the many benefits of natural systems, thereby significantly cutting down external energy use. Decreased energy usage also means homes are more resilient to shifts in the availability of energy and climate change.

Homeowners can use sustainable landscape architecture practice to reduce energy usage. As an example, residential green roof systems, which are often key features of integrated site design projects, can significantly reduce home heating and cooling costs. The energy efficiency benefits of sustainable landscape architecture practices, including age-old practices like tree siting for shading, can be further leveraged through the use of clean energy technologies, like solar power. Additionally, sustainable residential landscape architecture practices help reduce the rate of GHG emission growth. These types of sustainable residential solutions, if scaled up, can mitigate residential building and transportation-related emissions.

State and local governments are working with design professionals to incorporate sustainable residential landscape architecture practices into homes throughout urban, suburban and rural areas.

Green Roofs
Green Walls
Tree Placement for Energy Efficiency


Low Impact Development Center

Sustainable Sites Initiative

LEED for Homes, U.S. Green Building Council

Adapting to Global Warming: A Guidebook, King County, Washington

Introduction to Residential Green Building in New England, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

"Innovations in Sustainable Site Technology," The Dirt Blog, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

Low Impact Development Design Strategies: An Integrated Design Approach, Department of Environmental Resources, Prince George's County, Maryland

Low Impact Development Manual for Michigan, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments 
Low Impact Development: Technical Guidance Manual for Puget Sound, Puget Sound Action Team and Washington State University

"NYC's Greener, Greater Buildings Plan" for Reducing Building CO2 Emissions," The Dirt Blog, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

"Solar Decathalon 2009 Innovations: Integrated Site Design," The Dirt Blog, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)

Sustainable Gardening. Recycle Works: A program of San Mateo County, California

Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings, National Trust for Historic Preservation


"Living Systems: Innovative Materials and Technologies for Landscape Architecture," Liat Margolis & Alexander Robinson, Birkhauser Basel, 2007

"Sustainable Landscape Construction: A Guide to Green Building Outdoors," J. William Thompson & Kim Sorvig, Island Press, 2007


High Point, Seattle, Washington

One Drop at a Time – New Resourceful Paradigms at 168 Elm Ave, Elmhurst, IL
de la fleur LLC


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