Make Your Building's Landscape Design a Priority

Landscape design involves shaping the ground through the movement of earth or the creation of focal points. There are many benefits to a well-planned landscape design and choosing the right plants.


Plants serve two purposes:
1. Aesthetic 
2. Functional

Aesthetic Uses of Plants

Appearance is a prime factor determining plant use. A plant can create interest as a piece of living sculpture. As the world becomes more crowded with man-made objects, plants can be used to blend together various unrelated elements, such as buildings, utility structures, or differing land usages. Plants can also provide privacy, screening, spatial emphasis, and the progressive disclosure of a view or an object.

A landscape should appeal to the senses—sight, sound, smell, and touch. In landscape planning, the following plant characteristics are considered:
  • Scale and Proportion: the size of an object in relation to its surroundings. The general rule is to keep the size of the plantings in proportion to the size of the lot and building.
  • Texture: the variations in leaf and flower size, shape, and surface give the landscape its textural feeling.
  • Color: the most noticeable aesthetic feature in landscaping.
  • Pattern: the unity and rhythm in a landscape. Sometimes areas repeat color or texture by duplicating specific plant or paving materials. Patterned areas are sometimes blended at the edges for a smooth transition from one area to another.
  • Scent: obtained from plants that emit pleasant aromas to make the environment more inviting, especially at entrances. Not all plants have pleasant aromas. It is important to always check scent when switching to a new plant for an enclosed environment.

Functional Uses of Plants

Plants are able to perform a range of functions. A landscape designer can capitalize on their ability to:
  • Define space
  • Provide a sense of privacy: Plants can be selected and judiciously placed to direct and guide pedestrian traffic.
  • Supply shade
  • Block wind: Placement of plants can reduce or redirect wind.
  • Absorb sound: Plants can effectively soften or muffle sounds in an increasingly noisy environment. 
  • Curtail erosion: During times of heavy rainfall, plants deter soil erosion by their cover and the spread of their root systems.
  • Reduce runoff: Many LEED© case studies have shown that, through integration of landscape design and civil engineering, stormwater runoff can be reduced and the cost of underground piping can lessen.
  • Provide on-site containment filtration: Integrate plants with stormwater management to reduce the rate and quantity of runoff and provide maximum treatment of on-site contaminants.
As you can see, landscape design serves many functions for a building and its surroundings.

This article is adapted from BOMI International’s course The Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Building Systems, Part I. More information regarding this course is available by calling 1.800.235.2664.

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