Let’s be honest, doing less bad is not very exciting. We are DESIGNERS! Inherently optimistic, forward thinking (and probably a little bit high maintenance and needing new things to keep us interested:).
For some of us, hardscapes, and especially concrete, are our guilty pleasure and make our designs super stylish. For others, they are a necessary evil for circulation and code compliance.
Either way, hardscapes are the most difficult to design and build with any level of ecological literacy. They are linked to mining and an industrial process that are mostly out of our hands. We end up with few alternatives and doing “less bad” as our main option.
Make no mistake, it is our responsibility to find every unseen opportunity here and to pressure our suppliers for better options (some are here, some are coming, but nothing ideal as of yet).
Until then, we have the 3 pillars of ecological literacy to guide us.
I developed this to provide a clear meta framework to view our landscapes. These three pillars can often be leveraged to impart as much ecoliteracy into our projects as possible by providing truly valuable ecosystem services. This is the low hanging fruit we can all leverage.
This framework has been used by Elder Creek for over 20 years and is the basis for the Sandbox line of apps.
High carbon inputs with concrete? How many trees can you plant on the project to sequester it? How many gardens can you plant? How many of those gardens can provide diverse insect habitats and food sources? How much of your grading and drainage can actually capture and percolate water rather than rushing it to our streams and sewers?
There are so many opportunities for overt and subversive ecology in our design processes.
Innovation thrives within constraints. We have fertile ground here.
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