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Rethinking Landscape Practices

Ar. Shahista Bano

Keywords: Sustainability, Landscape Architecture

Sustainable landscape architecture is the integration

of ecological, social, cultural and economic factors in
designing landscape which helps to protect habitat,
contribute to stormwater management, conserve water
etc. when we talk about sustainable in landscape it also
talks about conservation. Sustainability and
conservation landscaping both work with nature to
increase water quality, lower water consumption, utilize
native plants, and reduce usage of pest control.1
Sustainability gives emphasis on addressing social and
economic factors in addition to environmental factors
whereas Conservation addresses the environmental
benefits only.
Figure 1: The Urban Water cycle

''The environment and the economy are really the two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain
the environment we cannot sustain our self''.

Sustainable Site Approach with respect to water

Sustainable sites do not only mitigate negative impacts on the environment but are a mutual benefit to
the site itself and the people who use it. With respect to sustainable landscapes, it is important to
understand water as a system rather than a substance. When analyzed as a system, less emphasis is
placed on controlling location and more emphasis is placed on the effects of surface interventions on
the movement of water locally and regionally.
The hydrological cycle, also known as the
water cycle, describes the way that water
moves through our ecosystems. As it is a
Condensation Precipitation never-ending cycle it is important to protect
water at every step of the process.
There are three major factors which influence
the way that water performs on a specific site:
Surface Runoff Transpiration
the quantity of water, the material over which
Evaporation the water runs, and shape of the land over
which the water runs. A moderate amount of
Plant Uptake Groundwater Intake water flowing over a gentle slope with porous
soil will likely be absorbed by the soil. The
Groundwater flow Aquifers same amount of water on a steeper slope with
the impervious material will run-off to a
Figure 2: The Hydrological cycle different location.

Due to these factors, it is easy to see how construction greatly affects water performance. Soils can
be compacted or replaced with paving materials and slopes can be regraded leading to more runoff
and greater erosion. Conversely, sensitively addressing these factors can enhance a site dramatically
in addition to improving conditions on neighboring sites and enhancing the local watershed. 1


Stormwater is water that hits the earth as precipitation. While stormwater through infiltration is the way
in which our groundwater, streams, and lakes are recharged, there are two major issues regarding the

“Sustainable Landscape Architecture 101.” The Dirt. http://dirt.asla.org/2009/06/03/ sustainable-landscape-architecture-101.
problem of excess stormwater: volume and pollution. Excess volume generally leads to flooding while
surface and atmospheric pollutants can contaminate drinking and groundwater. This excess volume,
when not managed on site, is called runoff. Runoff is also a major source of pollution; for example,
contaminants, including bacteria, pavements are easily washed away and taken into the hydrological
cycle. Pavements and other impervious surfaces are also a major contributing factor to an increase in
the runoff because these surfaces greatly decrease. the absorption of a given area of land

Due to these increases in

pollution and potential flooding,
reduced infiltration capacity is
“one of the single most serious
barriers to sustainability.

In Sustainable landscape
practices of a site the paved
areas should be minimized and
even if it's not being avoided
then the Permeable paving
material should be used on site.
While other non-porous
materials direct water to storm-
drains, these surfaces help
groundwater recharge by
allowing water to flow into open
spaces between the materials. Figure 3: Comparative Surface runoff and Pollutants

These porous materials also filter pollutants and solids from the water as it percolates through the
surface. Previous concrete, porous asphalt, paving stones or concrete or plastic-based pavers, all
these previous materials allow stormwater to percolate and infiltrate the surface areas,
traditionally impervious to the soil below. The goal is to control stormwater at the source, reduce
runoff and improve water quality by filtering pollutants in the substrate layers. 2

Figure 4: Installation of Permeable Paver System Figure 5: Types of Permeable Paver System

Notes :

1. “Sustainable Landscape Architecture 101.” The Dirt. http://dirt.asla.org/2009/06/03/ sustainable-


2. “Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council Home.” Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping

Council. http://www. chesapeakelandscape.org/.

3. “About Us.” Sustainable Sites Initiative. http://www.sustainablesites.org/about/.