What are the benefits of investing in landscape plans for developments in a post-COVID world?

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Associate | Landscape Architectural Intern

The widespread implications of Covid-19 will undoubtedly take decades to repair, and it's important not to forget the losses from this global catastrophe. However, there are some lessons to be learned in how our environments reacted to new demands.

As with every other sector, architecture hasn't escaped the impacts of the pandemic. However, it may be interesting to note that the prevailing circumstances have highlighted particular trends that will aid in future development.

One such trend can be seen as an increased reliance on outdoor spaces and amenities. Many cities still face restrictions on gatherings indoors, and many people are looking to their public spaces to act as areas for social transactions. As we move forward in future developments, we may be looking at potential buyers who have an increased sense of what they require in their parks, streets, and other public outdoor spaces.

By actively using outdoor spaces as recreational areas, living rooms, meeting places, and more, many people realize that access to public green spaces like parks helps counteract everyday stress, especially with the seemingly unending pandemic. The most significant advantage is that these spaces offer ample scope for practicing social distancing and minimizing exposure risk.

In championing developments of the future, landscape plans – and the advantages of investing in green infrastructure – should not be overlooked or unvalued.

Green infrastructure and the right way to do it

The advancement of technology and civilization has put a great deal of stress on nature. As a result, current urban design and landscape architecture are steadily shifting towards green infrastructure to tackle different environmental challenges. The entire network can deliver multiple benefits, including, but not limited to: healthier living, environmental cooling, reducing carbon emissions and, improving the quality of air and water.

It's worth noting that injected small 'pockets' of green into urban areas will not achieve these benefits in any meaningful way. Instead, the investment in green infrastructure is best done at a community scale (or larger) and should be included in the early stages of new developments. At this stage, well-designed landscape plans can be incorporated alongside other networks such as stormwater drainage, streets, and recreational paths to ensure spaces are planned efficiently and effectively.

Well-integrated networks such as these can encourage people to be more active and enjoy their natural surroundings. The famous Highline in New York City is a prime example of this.

Researchers have backed the "healing powers" of nature for increased mental well-being, and as well, outdoor green spaces are becoming increasingly important due to their recreational value. However, even with this rise in awareness, there is a subtle decrease in green spaces in cities, according to researchers Stephan Barthel and Johan Colding (and others). Their argument strongly supports the theory that the amount and quality of public green spaces are directly linked to how readily they'll be used. In short, designing public spaces and parks is not merely a matter of 'build it, and they'll come.'

Tangible benefits

Investing in a landscape plan can significantly influence many aspects of development, including increased property values. Landscaping in almost any form can add up to 7 per cent to office buildings' rents. For example, in Philadelphia, a medium-sized office property could increase over $70,000 in annual rental income.

Similarly, landscaping in residential properties may increase their market value by 2 to 5 per cent. Multiple studies have stated that green roofs can add up to 16 per cent to the average rent of multifamily houses. Furthermore, property developers can avail many incentives, including:

  1. Development incentives like decreased fees, zoning upgrades, minimal stormwater requirements, etc.
  2. Grants issued by concerned authorities for direct or indirect green infrastructure strategies.
  3. Rebates in the form of installation financing, tax credits, reimbursements for common structures, and so on.
  4. Recognitions and awards like eco-labelling, even with green infrastructure practices on the land, if not on the structure itself.


Intangible incentives

Among the significant unquantified incentives is the reduction in the volume of stormwater runoff, which can reduce the frequency and extent of localized flooding. When experienced repeatedly, these events can add to maintenance efforts and costs of new and existing developments. Moreover, mitigating flood risks with green infrastructure has a direct impact on property values.

Similarly, rainwater conservation methods can cut down on water bills for landscape irrigation and non-potable purposes. The extent of saving will depend on the total use and severity of rain in the said region. For instance, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that one large building in Seattle meets about 60 per cent of their toilet flushing needs with rainwater conservation.

Surprisingly, crime reduction is also a crucial advantage related to green infrastructure. When planned to adorn open spaces, shrubs and taller trees can minimize restrictions in the line of sight. Alongside providing pleasant places for gathering, such arrangements correlate to factors like better safety and security, reduced vandalism, low littering, etc.

Summing it up

Considering even a few of the many benefits mentioned above, investing in landscape plans is a wise thing to do- both for developers and potential owners. With a Landscape Architect's involvement early in the process, developers can relish the plethora of incentives up for grabs, and owners will be rewarded with reduced maintenance needs and increased resale values.

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