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More than just attractive spaces with curb appeal, landscapes can and should serve a purpose if designed correctly. From reducing cooling costs to filtering storm water runoff, smartly-designed landscapes help accomplish many environmental sustainability goals. At Brian-Kyles, our team adheres to a stewardship concept for the commercial landscapes under our management. But in addition to being stewards of our client’s landscape investments, we are also stewards of the environment. In this post, sustainability is explored through the vehicle of landscaping, a subtle yet kinetic technique to add value to commercial spaces beyond just pretty trees and flowers.

Landscaping to achieve sustainability goals can be grouped into matters of both theory and practice. Put differently, environmental benefits can be reaped through landscape design, execution, and routine preventative maintenance. Those benefits are maximized if theory and practice are married together as a consistent, holistic strategy. From a theoretical perspective, landscapes can be designed to serve a variety of essential and/or desired functions. This is a great starting point, but it is the art of execution and maintenance that drive the benefits home via sound practice. An overview of this simple yet effective process is outlined below:

Sustainable Design

Color Landscape DesignA functional landscape starts with a pencil, not a shovel. The landscape design process is important in many respects, from the inclusion of native species to the proper placement of plant material. Both of which are key components to reducing annual maintenance requirements and, thus, long-term resources, both fiscal and environmental. High-maintenance landscapes consume more labor, more fossil fuels, more water, more fertilizer, and more dollars. Not only does the design impact future maintenance, but it could also help achieve certain desired functions…

Sustainable Function

Put the landscape to work in order to serve essential functions like conserving energy by planting large shade trees on the West exposure of buildings. These deciduous trees will act as a natural coolant during the summer months yet allow for winter warmth since leaves drop each fall allowing the sun to penetrate. Landscaping can also prevent erosion along embankments and filter runoff from paved surfaces. The latter has become a hot-button issue of late, especially along the shores of our beloved Lake Erie. Landscapes serve a useful and natural filtration purpose when it comes to air and storm water mitigation. The use of bio-retention swales, green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavers are growing in popularity in the commercial market for instance. Bio-retention swales are taking the place of more and more drain tile piping since they not only convey but filtrate runoff away from critical infrastructure. This is where theory and practice intersect, partly because landscapes are living ecosystems that need continual care to make sure they function properly…

Sustainable Practice

The ends are important, but so too are the means. How we do things matters and should not be overlooked. Following industry best practices and proper landscape cultural programs when planting, mowing, pruning, irrigating, fertilizing, and other routine maintenance services can ensure the desired functions of a landscape are realized and maximized. Responsible landscape stewards not only bring theory to life, but they limit environmental damage by using the right type of products in the right applications at the right time. Our urban waterways are polluted by the use of synthetic fertilizers rich in phosphorus and rock salt. Using better products is one step, but applying those products at the right application rates is just as important. And of course how those products are secured matters as well…

Composting operations at Brian-Kyles

Composting operations at Brian-Kyles

Sustainable Sourcing

The green industry collects a host of yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings and fallen branches and limbs. These materials make great compost and should be reincorporated into future landscape installations. Materials like plants, mulch, pavers, rock salt, and fertilizer should originate from local suppliers when possible. Green industry tools, from small engines to large equipment, are becoming cleaner and more efficient. Organic fertilizers are becoming more readily available as well. The importance of sourcing is only magnified by the amount of materials actually used and/or applied during the course of a normal winter or growing season.

The best part of a sustainable landscape is knowing that the environmental benefits do not come at the expense of the cost benefits. Even if the installation cost of a sustainable landscape is no different than that of an extensive high cost landscape, the ongoing maintenance costs will be lower, which translates into considerable savings. So when it comes to saving green, however it is viewed, consider sustainable landscape design and management.

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