The Landscape Guide

Landscape HISTORY & THEORY: History, Theory, Sustainability, Books, Vitruvius, Landscape Architecture, Manifesto, Lanship, Mimesis, Professional Oath, Landscape Architecture History and Theory CD, Definitions,

Sustainable landscape design

Sustainability is an awkward concept to define. But so are all the key ideas in politics, like freedom and  democracy. Conscripts are even forced to join armies in the name of 'freedom'. The most popular definition of sustainability came from the Bruntland Commission in 1987: " development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"

The last 40 years of the twentieth century were marked by an increasing awareness that something must be done about the environment. Ian McHarg was brilliant in the timing (1969) of his book Design with Nature, as he was also brilliant with the text and the illustrations. It made him the most influential landscape architect of the century and in 2000 an American group also judged him the most influential planner.

Etymology is sometimes a useful guide to the meaning of words. Sustain derives from sub- [under] and tenere [hold]. It means to hold under, and thus keep up, as in 'a sustained musical note'. Environmentally a sustainable city is one that can keep going because it it uses resources sparingly, avoids waste, recycles where possible and adopts policies that bear fruit in the long term.

Green design

Given the difficulty in defining sustainability, many people prefer to speak of 'green design'. 'Green' is used as in 'green politics', not as in 'vegetated'. The US Green Buildings Council identifies the following benefits for ‘green’ projects:

Environmental benefits:
• Enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity
• Improve air and water quality
• Reduce solid waste
• Conserve natural resources
Economic benefits:
• Reduce operating costs
• Enhance asset value and profits
• Improve employee productivity and satisfaction
• Optimize life-cycle economic performance
Health and community benefits:
• Improve air, thermal and acoustic environments
• Enhance occupant comfort and health
• Minimize strain on local infrastructure
• Contribute to overall quality of life