A goal of many green building projects is to leave the land a better place than it was before. Achieving this goal requires site restoration activities, such as rehabilitating natural drainage systems, replacing wide swaths of green lawns with plants that provide wildlife habitat and replanting ornamental plants with native and adapted species that need far less water and intensive maintenance. As we complete the switch from a predominantly manufacturing economy to one based primarily on services, developers are finding attractive options in paved-over older parts of cities that once supported manufacturing, warehouses and similar industrial uses. Many of these sites were polluted with petroleum products, heavy metals, PCBs and other toxic substances that require remediation before reuse. Even paved-over but unpolluted sites can be converted to offices, retail, hospitality and housing, with considerably more wildlife habitat.
Often the task of the architect and builder is to find a way to place buildings so they don't disturb what's already working on a site. Several
years ago, I visited the National Conservation Training Center of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Shepardstown, West Virginia. Located on an upper tributary of the Potomac River, this site is very hilly, like most of the state. The project designers placed 17 buildings on the site, only on the hilltops, leaving the hollows alone. Because of a number of changes of site elevation, the design required many wooden bridges between buildings, sometimes with entrances on upper floors. However, this approach allowed the project to avoid extensive grading and degradation of wildlife habitat, while promoting the very values inherent in the Center's mission. This is a good example of a smart and wise approach to site planning.
Another interesting project is Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Oregon. Completed in 2005, this park sits on top of about 40 feet of historic fill of the original Tanner Creek. To honor its origins and to provide city residents with a natural park, the landscape architects designed a reconstructed wetlands with a boardwalk over it. This park is now habitat for many creatures including various waterfowl. It is mainly used for passive recreation and helps incorporate sustainability into the fabric of the city.
Was this article helpful?