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Sustainable Urban Landscape > Resource Management


Don Schultz

Phone: (619) 660-4023


Sustainable urban landscaping



Sustainable urban landscape encompasses a wide range of principles and practices that have been developed in response to a variety of environmental, economic and social issues. These issues influence every phase of design, and implementation, construction management, and maintenance operations.

In response to the challenge of developing principles and guidelines for sustainable development, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created The Sustainable Sites Initiative TM (SITES). This set of voluntary guidelines and performance benchmarks is in the initial phase with a pilot program that examines ways to integrate the various stages of design through construction and maintenance. The program proposes a four star rating system on a 250 point scale based on achieving fifteen prerequisites that measure specific sustainable goals.


American Society of Landscape Architects— The Sustainable Sites Initiative

The Sustainable Sites Initiative's 2009 Guidelines for Performance Benchmarks


Materials Selections

The use of Regional Materials supports our locally manufactured or quarried materials and the businesses and employees that they, in turn, support.

Some best practices that are aligned with the SITES objectives include:

  • Local materials are visually harmonious in color and texture.
  • Local products define the regional character.
  • Local materials conserve energy in transportation costs.
  • Local sources support the local economy and provide jobs.
  • Local plants "natives" are adapted to regional soils and climate.
  • Local plant communities often have a symbiotic interrelationship with wildlife.


Minimal Site Impact

Development practices should cause minimal site impact to existing vegetation which contributes to the removal carbon dioxide (a harmful green house effect gas) from the atmosphere and produces oxygen for other important organisms.

Sustainable design and development practices:

  • Make minimal changes to the existing site.
  • Protect geological features like rocky out crops or stream beds.
  • Retain the existing topography with minimal grading.
  • Preserve existing trees & surrounding vegetation.
  • Stabilize the soil.
  • Retain soil moisture.
  • Lower air temperatures.
  • Provide a wind break and reduce dust.
  • Remove carbon dioxide producing oxygen.
  • Protect the "dripline" of the tree canopy.
  • Provide a buffer of shrubs or groundcover under trees.


Minimal Site Grading

Heavy equipment grading disturbs the soil by altering the natural slope profile and compaction which promotes flooding from water runoff. This simple environmentally friendly practice protects our waterways and the lakes that use for our regional water supply.

Care should be taken to:

  • Protect surface water runoff.
  • Maintain natural drainage flow.
  • Retain a vegetation buffer between constructed zones & natural drainage flow channels or water ways.
Rehabilitate Soil

Top soils are the fertile and organically enriched soil often found in the top few inches of soil which can be removed & saved to be replaced after site has been graded. This practice helps to restore the soil fertility to the site and encourages the growth of new vegetation which helps to stabilize disturbed soils.

Best practices efforts to improve soils include:

  • Check soils on new or neglected sites which can be compacted, low in nutrients, or be contaminated.
  • Test for pH nutrient availability and toxic substances.
  • Adding decomposed organic material like compost improves most soils, increases microbial life and allows water penetration and reduces runoff.
  • Use locally produced, weed seed free materials.
  • Remove invasive plants.
Site Restoration

Site restoration refers to the study and practice of renewing and restoring degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems and habitats in the environment by active human intervention and action.

Factors to be considered when restoring habitats address the following causes:

  • Barren or degraded sites are often caused by new home construction displacing native vegetation & wildlife.
  • Spoiled landscapes are often the result of poor management and neglect.
  • "Guerrilla gardeners" are on the frontline of this effort but practices may be unsustainable or illegal.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Low Impact Development

American Society of Landscape Architects - Sustainable Sites Initiative


Career Technical Education

This web site is supported by Carl D. Perkins VTEA IC funds through the System. Office, California Community Colleges,
Grant #08-C01-020

Revised  June 23, 2014
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