If you could use your commercial landscape maintenance budget to do more for you, wouldn't you take that opportunity? After all, getting the most for your money would look pretty smart, wouldn't it?
That’s what sustainable landscape designs can do for you.
Unsure of what makes a commercial landscape improvement “sustainable?” Let’s review what types of outdoor areas qualify and look at some of the best ideas for your site to see if your facility can benefit from green building principles.
What Is Sustainable Landscaping?
As you consider what you can do on your commercial property to maximize your budget dollars, sustainable landscape enhancements may come up as a key idea, and there are some great reasons why.
First, a sustainable landscape uses regionally appropriate plants to beautify an area. This improves the local environment at your commercial facility, as well as in the surrounding community.
Second, by using native plants and adhering to sustainable landscaping guidelines, you’re also naturally saving money, since this practice reduces your maintenance needs, including inputs like water and fertilizer.
Benefits of a Sustainable Landscape
Environmentally friendly landscape design not only looks good and saves commercial property managers budget dollars, but it also provides these amazing benefits:
- Improve soil health by reducing erosion.
- When used within green stormwater management systems, they can help to reduce flooding and decrease demands on public stormwater drainage systems.
- Native plants and sustainable plant choices reduce routine maintenance costs, as well as fertilizer and pesticide needs, which help to offset any potentially higher up-front costs.
- Provide healthy environments that create wildlife habitats and encourage pollinators.
- A well-planned sustainable landscape design with something like a green roof can reduce the energy needs for commercial buildings. In fact, 50% of the cost associated with installing a green roof can be recouped in the form of lower maintenance and reduced energy usage over its lifetime.
- Improve your local environmental and social responsibilities. You can also earn incentives and rebates by obtaining LEED points as a result of your sustainable landscape efforts.
Here are a few sustainable landscape ideas that adhere to green infrastructure’s core tenets and boost the benefits you can reap as a result of implementing them.
1. Conserve Water
One of the biggest benefits of green landscape design is that it helps save water.
Using native plants for borders and foundations can cut down on the amount of supplemental water you need to keep those plants growing strong. These plants are naturally adapted to your region, and have evolved to be more tolerant to the weather patterns and soil conditions, which means they may require less supplemental watering than introduced species. To maximize the use of your exterior commercial spaces, especially throughout the year, you have to take advantage of Mother Nature’s best features.
Controlling runoff and stormwater is another way to treat water as a resource. Using permeable surfaces like gravel walkways – rather than concrete or asphalt – allows rainwater to soak into the soil, rather than flow into storm drains without benefitting the landscape.
2. Use Native Plants to Reduce Pesticides
You may be able reduce quite a bit of your commercial landscape maintenance costs by using native plants in your sustainable landscape design.
Using plants like Wild Geraniums where they are native in northern and eastern U.S. and Purple Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan, which are native in many areas including the southern U.S., for instance, can reduce fertilization and pesticide use on commercial properties. These plants don’t require these supplemental inputs because they can withstand the varied weather conditions and pests in the region already.
Don’t be alarmed if you see some holes chewed in the leaves of your native plants. It just means that your ecosystem is thriving!
3. Use Trees to Provide Shade for Buildings and Reduce Energy Costs
Another way you can make your commercial site more eco landscaping friendly is by planting deciduous trees on the southern and western sides of your building to block the sun’s rays during the hottest parts of summer days. This reduces your building’s needs for air conditioning – in fact, it’s not uncommon to see up to 50% savings.
During the winter, those trees lose their leaves and enable sun to warm the building, reducing your heating bills. To find out how much the trees on your property can save you – or to estimate the benefits of new trees, check out i-Tree from the USDA Forest Service.
4. Use Ground Cover Plants to Reduce Erosion
Some conditions like rain, wind, foot traffic and overuse can promote soil erosion on your commercial property.
Planting ground cover plants can protect your soil, preventing these areas from wearing away. Additionally, plants with deep roots help stabilize soil particles, and plants’ leaves take the impact of falling rain and help reduce erosion. The rule of thumb? Plants help keep soil in place!
5. Maximize Greenspace Throughout All Seasons
You can use simple environmentally friendly landscape design techniques to create microclimates on your commercial property.
This enables you, as well as your employees, visitors, and guests, to enjoy various areas of your property longer. How does this work? These microclimates can be skewed warmer by using slope, wind, orientation, walls/fences, seating, and plant material choices to your advantage, giving them a chance to be enjoyed longer – even as the seasons begin to shift.
You can also reduce your costs by creating low-maintenance spaces using native wildflowers or mulch on your commercial site – possibly where there is little traffic or use – that require very little mowing, reducing emissions and fuel expenses.
Examples and Components of Sustainable Landscaping
There are quite a few tools used in green building practices that help meet some of these key sustainable landscape principles.
Quite a few of these design tools can help you better manage stormwater on your site.
A rain garden, for instance, features deep-rooted native plants that collect and allow stormwater to soak slowly into the ground, rather than simply rush into the nearest storm drain, filtering pollutants from the water as it flows.
You can even create a system on your site to direct stormwater to preferred channels to ensure it enters a bioretention basin. Think of this as a more advanced rain garden that includes drainage systems.
Water naturally runs more quickly along concrete pathways. Using surfaces like gravel or permeable pavers helps reduce this rapid water flow and allow for more natural filtration throughout your landscape.
In areas of the country that lack water, using drought-tolerant and water-conserving plants in a xeriscape design can also reduce maintenance and costs while keeping your commercial site looking well-maintained.