It’s not just about the building! The site and its landscaping and infrastructure is a key part of a building’s overall environmental performance. The following primers from the pages of Environmental Building News explore five strategies for sustainable sites.
Invasive Plants: Taken out of their native ecosystems and away from natural predators and other limiting factors, some plant species multiply excessively, taking over and damaging an ecosystem. Even “sterile” cultivars of these species may not be trusted.
Permaculture for Urban Design: Permaculture focuses on the interrelation and placement of plants, animals, buildings, and infrastructure in the landscape, emphasizing food production while working to conserve energy and resources. Using “zones” to differentiate land uses, permaculture tries to emulate ecosystem functions on a site.
Constructed Wetlands: By filtering wastewater through a system of aggregate and plant roots, constructed wetlands do what conventional septic systems cannot: remove nitrogen and phosphorous. They may also allow project teams to downsize drainfields. Like all landscapes, constructed wetlands require maintenance.
Porous Paving: By stopping stormwater from pooling and flowing away, porous paving can help recharge underlying aquifers and reduces peak flows and flooding. This, in turn, helps filter pollutants, keep streams flowing at a constant rate, support healthy trees, and limit the urban heat island effect.
Graywater Collection and Use: Graywater can be collected using separate drainage pipes, then filtered and temporarily stored before being distributed in subsurface outdoor irrigation. Using it this way is illegal in many places, but has many environmental benefits, most notably water conservation.