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Sustainable Land Development: Tools and Trends

Sustainable land development works with the site’s existing features, while introducing best practices to promote good land stewardship. In recent years, we’ve seen many developers and design professionals take the steps to improve land in more eco-friendly and sustainable ways.

We approach every project as an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and the community. Our experts aim to protect natural resources and habitats through various techniques.

Here are a few sustainable land development tools and trends to consider for your next project:

1. Native Landscaping

Environmental Benefit: Using native landscaping has environmental benefits including shelter and food for local wildlife and increased air quality. But, did you know native landscaping is also great for your bottom line? Native plants better adapt to existing conditions and thrive with less care. This means they’ll require less water, maintenance, and fewer pesticides or fertilizers.

Additionally, you can get stormwater management credits from the municipality and sustainability credits toward LEED Certification. It’s a win-win approach that we try to utilize in almost every landscape design.

Rain garden with native plants at Lansdale Municipal Complex

2. Green Roofs

Environmental Benefit: Replacing traditional roofing with vegetation can lower the surrounding air temperature, provide water quality benefits, and reduce a building’s energy use.

Beyond the environmental benefits, some municipalities will give you stormwater credits for incorporating these into your site design. For Brightview Senior Living in Devon, we got a modest offset for stormwater management. Many municipalities view green roofs as a preferred stormwater best management practice (BMP).

Check out some other great BMP options.

Green roof at Brightview Senior Living in Devon – rendering courtesy of Hord Coplan Macht

3. Repurposed and Recycled Construction Materials

Environmental Benefit: By repurposing and recycling construction materials such as concrete, you can save energy and reduce landfill waste.

A recycled concrete aggregate is created by pulverizing old concrete slabs and pavement and makes a great sub-base, trench backfill, or decorative landscape cover. This is often incorporated into our commercial redevelopment projects. It is an innovative way to reduce the need to remove waste, especially in an urban environment.

Not one of our projects, but a cool local project at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, D.I.R.T. Studio utilized chunks of salvaged materials to form the porous surface.

Landscape design with salvaged materials by D.I.R.T. Studio

4. Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Environmental Benefit: Electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than conventional vehicles, which helps to improve air quality. They also use a renewable energy source.

The surge of electric vehicle sales in recent years is leading to a greater need for charging stations. Whether a LEED requirement or desired by the property owner, these charging stations are quickly becoming a common addition in parking lots. We also think they will eventually become part of the municipal code.

These charging stations popping up in multifamily communities, commercial office and retail parking lots, and even at warehouse-distribution facilities. In fact, we recently planned for charging stations at our 1103-1113 Ridge Pike project, a new Amazon Delivery Station. The electrical conduit will be in place for future stations, supporting Amazon’s transition to a fleet of electric vehicles and their goal to be carbon neutral by 2040.

5. Bike Parking

Environmental Benefit: Swapping out a car for a bike is another way to cut down on emissions. Bike parking is an inexpensive way to make an impact on the environment and promote a healthier lifestyle.

Thoughtful and accessible bike parking is a great strategy to attract cyclists. They will be more likely to stop, live, or work at your building, especially with the exceptional trail systems in the Greater Philadelphia area.

In some municipalities, the addition of bike racks, stations, or storage allows for a reduction in the number of off-street parking spaces required (possibly up to 5%). For our project with Peron Development in the City of Bethlehem, the Five10 and Six10 Flats, bike parking was built into the buildings’ design to serve residents. In this urban setting, adjacent to the South Bethlehem Greenway trail, bike parking and storage made perfect sense!

If you’re pursuing LEED or SITE criteria, a green roof is a great way to earn credits. In urban areas with little green space, green roofs may improve property values and marketability. They also provide additional amenity space. And in the City of Philadelphia, development requirements strongly encourage green roofs!

Let’s Get Started – Contact Us!

These are just a few sustainable land development tools and trends. To learn more and get started on your next project, contact us!