Sustainability has been a hot topic in commercial building management for a number of years. As a result, many commercial building owners have taken steps to increase the sustainability of their buildings. Whether by installing LED lighting, smart temperature-control technology or energy-efficient HVAC units, owners seem to put much of the focus on increasing the mechanical efficiency of a building.
But what about the property surrounding the building? The truth is, a building’s landscaping can play a major role in increasing overall sustainability. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when taking your eco-friendly practices outside:
DO choose your plants wisely.
One way to define a sustainable landscape is one that is maintained with practices and materials that have minimal impact on the environment—or that even work to improve it. Plants that require a lot of maintenance or moisture are usually not good options for practicing sustainability. Instead, consider replacing difficult-to-water plants with native and more drought-tolerant plants. This approach conserves water, which also reduces your landscape’s carbon footprint.
DON’T allow invasive plants to take over.
On the flip side, it’s important to monitor for invasive plant species. Some species can seriously disrupt the landscape and threaten native plants. Generally, invasive species should be treated like weeds and removed as soon as possible.
DO consider ways to reduce wasteful water runoff.
Bioswales and rain gardens can be great options for retaining water runoff because they slowly reintroduce water back into the soil. Both can be installed with native plants, which will require minimal maintenance.
DON’T overlook the importance of big trees.
Large, well-established trees not only add a great deal of aesthetic value to a commercial property, but they also offer important eco-friendly benefits—from providing shade and oxygen to sequestering carbon dioxide. Just make sure that the trees are properly maintained to ensure their long-term health and the safety of surrounding structures.
DO introduce diversity to the landscape by layering plant material.
This strategy encourages wildlife and beneficial insects, optimizes carbon sequestration and promotes a more complex and healthier ecosystem overall.
DON’T be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to eco-friendly landscaping.
Is your commercial building located in an urban setting, or does it have limited outdoor space for plants? Don’t count yourself out when it comes to increasing the sustainability of your landscaping. Green roofs—vegetative layers on the top of a building’s roof—provide many benefits, including the production of oxygen, cooling and insulation, energy savings, a reduction of storm water runoff, protection for a building from the elements and providing stress-reducing green spaces for people to enjoy. Green roofs can be as basic and simple as a few inches of ground cover to a complete park-like setting with plants, trees and recreational space.
Forward-thinking environmental practices are no longer optional; they are expected from good corporate citizens. When thinking about opportunities to enhance your building’s eco-friendly features, keep in mind all of the options and benefits that come with investing in a sustainable landscape.
Not only are they good for the environment, they also often require less maintenance, offer improved curb appeal and can serve as a selling point for tenants. Ready to get started? A landscape professional can work with you to design an eco-friendly landscape that suits your property’s needs, budget and style.
Missy Henriksen is the vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals. You can learn more at www.LoveYourLandscape.org/commercial.
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Photo provided by Dennis' 7 Dees Landscape, a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.