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Landscape

What is sustainability?
The idea of sustainability is far from having a clear and agreed definition. Although the core of the vision seems simple --- a lasting and nondestructive way to live on this Earth --- the questions are many. Probably the simplest widely used definition of sustainability is meeting the needs of today’s population without diminishing the ability of future populations to meet their needs.
 In the landscape, beginnings and endings overlap. Healthy landscapes are ecosystems, and they survive by constant change. In a self-sustaining landscape, marsh becomes meadow becomes forest, then returns to meadow after fires, or even to marsh after floods. Individual plants and animals die, but the community --- the landscape --- lives on through a constant “recycling”
process. The sustainable landscape does not exclude human presence or even human engineering; however, it does not blindly glorify human intervention nor equate gentle human influence with massive human domination.
For those of us who love landscapes, it is troubling and confusing to think that our creations damage the environment. How can a green growing place hurt the Earth? The question can be answered both in a technical way and in terms of attitudes and cultural trends. First of all, the choice of materials and process of landscape construction can be crucial factors which cause ecological problems. For example, materials like PVC that is highly valued while in use but cause serious disposal problems. Also, ignoring site and habitat protection limits the ability to transform construction into more environmentally friendly forms. This implies that without site protection as a goal, green building can become a little like fat-free cookies --- an excuse to consume more because it is better than the other brands.
    Besides appropriate techniques and materials, site protection relies on positive attitudes toward the landscape. Designers and construction workers often get great satisfaction from their power to change and rearrange the site. In many cases, designers choose to limit the plant species permitted in a particular landscape; contractors install paving to control mud and dust. How much control, and how formal or controlled a style, depends on the individual’s unconscious respond to the land. Similarly, some construction workers view site and materials as adversaries to be overcome. This combative attitude is expressed when existing trees are hacked unnecessarily, or equipment is driven carelessly, or construction scrap is thrown around the site.
    As one can start to realize, landscape-making is a complex activity. It requires collaborative effort from not only landscape professionals but also their clients and their communities. It is certainly possible for one person to build an entire landscape beautifully, if the site is small enough and the time for building is quite long. For larger landscapes, for those that are ecologically complex, or for ones that must be built in a hurry, teamwork is inevitable. The general principles that one should be aware of when working on a sustainable landscape project are as followed:
•    Site and soil protection
•    Using local / renewable / recycled materials
•    Efficient irrigation
•    Pervious paving
•    Managing construction waste
Turn barren roof spaces into Ecoroofs
Conventional roofs are impervious to water and exposed to high wings; they cause severe microclimates by absorbing or reflecting heat. No wonder they are nearly barren of life and resistant to environmental improvement. Every square foot of sterile roof corresponds to a square foot of life missing from the ground surface.
    Conventional roof gardens do not adequately address the problem of sterile roof expanses. In fact, constructing a roof garden requires very high energy inputs and costs. Beefing up the structure of a building to withstand the added weight of soils, shrubs, and even trees; imported soil that must be lifted to great heights; extra irrigation and maintenance for plantings to withstand exposure and drying winds. Conventional roof garden may be delightful to the favored few who have access to them, but they do little for the urban environment as a whole.
    The ecoroof, a concept pioneered in Europe, offers new possibilities for integrating buildings into the living environment. These ecological roof gardens require little or no modification to a building’s structural system and hardly any irrigation or maintenance, but covered urban roofs with a living carpet of vegetation. The requirements of an ecoroof are relatively modest, yet the environmental benefits are considerable:
•    Improves the building’s thermal insulation.
•    Reduces the urban “heat island” effect, by absorbing less heat.
•    Produces oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide, and filters air pollution.
•    Stores carbon.
•    Provides wildlife habitat, especially for birds.
•    Absorbs up to 75 percent of rain falling on it, thus slowing stormwater runoff.
What is Permaculture? 
According to Bill Mollison, who coined the term, permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.  The word permaculture was derived from “permanent agriculture” and also “permanent culture”.   The sustainable design system focuses on the interrelationship between humans, plants, animals and the earth.
Permaculture principles focus on considerate designs for small-scale intensive systems which are labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels.  For example, the use of certain types of natural materials such as bales of straw (see Casa de Paja, New Mexico) to create thermal mass at a cost effective. Designs stress ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is design and the working relationships and connections between all things. Each component in a system performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements. Key to efficient design is observation and replication of natural ecosystems, where designers maximize diversity with polycultures, stress efficient energy planning for houses and settlement, using and accelerating natural plant succession, and increasing the highly productive "edge-zones" within the system.
Permaculture is a response to caring for the earth and being sensitive to limited energy resources. Furthermore, it is a means of finding ways to mutually benefit the environment humans live in as well as benefiting the earth.
Below are some principles and ethics behind permaculture: (Taken from http://www.thefarm.org/permaculture/ethics#
System yield is the sum total of surplus energy produced by, stored, conserved, reused, or converted by the design. Energy is in surplus once the system itself has available all its needs for growth, reproduction and maintenance. Unused surplus results in pollution and more work.
•    Permaculture is not limited to plant and animal agriculture, but also includes community planning and development, use of appropriate technologies (coupled with an adjustment of life-style), and adoption of concepts and philosophies that are both earth-based and people-centered, such as bioregionalism.
•    Many of the appropriate technologies advocated by permaculturists are well known. Among these are solar and wind power, composting toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying.
•    Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems, permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that integrate annual and perennial crops-such as alley cropping and agroforestry-take advantage of "the edge effect," increase biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in mono- culture systems. Thus, multi-cropping systems that blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable techniques for large-scale farming. Ecological methods of production for any specific crop or farming system (e.g., soil building practices, biological pest control, composting) are central to permaculture as well as to sustainable agriculture in general.
•    Since permaculture is not a production system, per se, but rather a land use and community planning philosophy, it is not limited to a specific method of production. Furthermore, as perma-culture principles may be adapted to farms or villages worldwide, it is site specific and there-fore amenable to locally adapted techniques of production.
•    As an example, standard organic farming and gardening techniques utilizing cover crops, green manures, crop rotation, and mulches are empha-sized in permacultural systems. However, there are many other options and technologies avail-able to sustainable farmers working within a permacultural framework (e.g., chisel plows, no-till implements, spading implements, compost turners, rotational grazing). The decision as to which "system" is employed is site-specific and management dependent.
•    Farming systems and techniques commonly associated with permaculture include agro- forestry, swales, contour plantings, Keyline agriculture (soil and water management), hedgerows and windbreaks, and integrated farming systems such as pond-dike aquaculture, aquaponics, intercropping, and polyculture.
•    Gardening and recycling methods common to permaculture include edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, bioswales, and vermicomposting.
•    Water collection, management, and re-use systems like Keyline, greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the integra-tion of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture), and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines) play an important role in permaculture designs.
Infiltrate road and parking lot runoff in Bioswales
Beyond (or instead of) the curb, install grassed or vegetated areas called bioswales --- linear, planted drainage channels. A typical bioswale moves stormwater runoff as slowly as possible along a gentle incline, keeping the rain on the site as long as possible and allowing it to soak into the ground --- contrary to conventional engineering practice. At the lowest point of the swale there is usually a raised drain inlet that empties any overflow (during particularly heavy storms) into the nearest waterway. Since well-designed bioswale are capable of infiltrating most or all of the rain from normal showers. Along with the infiltrating function, bioswales cleanse runoff via their plants and soil microbes.
Bioswales function particularly well in parking lots, which generate runoff laden with pollutants that drip from cars and collect on the parking lot surface. It is important that the “first flush” of rain off a parking area go to a grassed or vegetated area. If stormwater is routed first to a bioswale, and enters a drain system only if pounding is deep enough to reach an overflow outlet, most of the first-flush pollutants will be contained in the bioswale.
Whether or not a road or parking area incorporates a bioswale or similar system, it is a good idea to break up paved areas so that they drain directly to an unpaved area rather than to a storm drain. Directly connected impervious areas should be minimized in design.
Use pervious paving materials
Another way to decrease the stormwater impacts of paving is to make the pavement more permeable so that infiltration occurs through the surface of the paving itself. Pervious paving combines surface stability with permeability. Since the 1970s, landscape professionals have been pioneers in its development and use. These materials are gaining acceptance, but unfortunately are not as well known as they deserve to be. Considering how often the professional is involved in (and frustrated by) pavement design, familiarity with these materials is a must for being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Porous asphalt and porous concrete are two commonly used materials for pervious paving system. Both materials are strong enough for parking, pedestrian use, and some road surfaces. The asphalt version was originally developed for airport runways, where it prevents dangerous surface ponding.
In addition to porous asphalt and porous concrete, among the most permeable parking surfaces are grassed paving systems that allow turfgrass to grow through an open cell of concrete or plastic that transfers the weight of vehicles to an underlying base course. A variety of commercial products is available, including large sheets of plastic mesh, precast open concrete blocks, and form systems for casting concrete cells in place. The environmental benefits of grassed paving can be considerable. Every 1000 square feet of grass paving infiltrates nearly 7000 gallons per 10 inches of rainfall, which would otherwise be runoff; converts enough carbon dioxide to oxygen to supply twenty-two adults for a year; provides significant cooling, and recycles more than 400 pounds of plastic in the product itself.
Some recommendations…
“The edges” are defined as the planes where different types of vegetation meet.  For example, at the place where forest meets an open field, “the edge” condition is created. The “edge effect” is the effect that occurs at these meeting points of different landscape where different ecosystems can occur simultaneously.  This creates a richness of diversity that can occur in these places where there exists a multiple of mutual environment beneficiary resources. 
Because of these already existing conditions, it would be better to further improve these conditions rather than changing what has been established by nature.

Consider the possibility of creating ‘edges’ around the landscape. On the rear of the site, there are two different types of vegetation. On the side of the rocky wall, there are rushes that line the entire foot of the cutaway rock wall.  The rushes also line the path that is currently unused for several reasons (e.g., not well lit, overgrown with rushes and also water collected on the surface.)  The other side of the path has a row of deciduous trees, creating a different type of vegetation that meets the path.  The trees are a lot smaller because of the shallow depth of the soil. By using the idea of bioswale to design a better drainage system along the path, the path can be turned into a beautiful ……..which stays dry for most of the time and allow pedestrians to observe ……….from both side while walking through it.

When dealing with a large open field, wind direction and wind velocity are always important considerations for the landscape designer. In reference to the wind direction that comes through the site, perhaps there is a need for a ‘windbreak’ from the south west corner of the song along the edge of the reservoir to the pump house. Although the gradual sloping of the boundary around the site creates an already existing wind barrier against the winds from the south west, the access ‘path’, on the corner of McTavish and Doctor Penfield is exposed to the wind from that direction. Trees could be planted there perhaps to slow down the air velocity.

To incorporate and use the indigenous plants that grow on the site for the new proposal could also be a thoughtful design strategy.  There was an abundance of wild daisies of different colors on the site, especially along the path.   In these shallow soil conditions, plant life can exist. Although some of these plants do not have popular names, they are as valuable and natural as the ones you can find in the forest. The landscape designer should look at the existing plants and somehow, find a way to “reveal” their beauty and value instead of trying to “manipulate” and “cultivate” them to beautify the landscape.
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. school of architecture . mcgill university .