Integrating Hardscaping and Sustainable Landscape Design

Hardscaping plays a critical role in almost any landscape.

It allows areas for people to move, such as pathways, stairs, and driveways. Patios and decks provide places where people can spend time. These can be more enjoyable with hardscaped extras, including fire pits and barbeques.

Pools, fountains, artificial ponds and streams also utilize hardscaping elements to keep water in the desired area. Hardscaping can even support the rest of the landscape. For example, retaining walls are necessary for some locations and help protect the softscape from erosion and damage.

Although hardscape plays a positive role in many landscapes, care must be taken to ensure that the hardscape materials and design are chosen in a way that meets sustainable landscape design goals.

Hardscape’s Role in Sustainable Landscapes

Hardscape encompasses elements in a landscape made from hard materials. These materials can include wood, concrete, and stone, among other options. If unsustainable materials are chosen, the hardscape can lead to negative impacts. In the same way, too much hardscape in a landscape, or poorly chosen elements, can also detract from the environment.

4 West Las Olas Hardscaping

Hardscapes provide areas for people to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Trench drains help keep these areas free from excess water.

Many hardscaping materials, including concrete and stone, are impermeable. Rainwater and other types of water can accumulate on pathways and other areas. If too much water accumulates, streams of water can flow through the landscape, carrying away precious soil and causing damage to the softscape.

These impervious areas also prevent plants roots from growing adequately. Smaller plants may be stunted, while larger tree roots can cause pathways to buckle. Certain materials may also absorb heat and contribute to higher ambient temperatures. This can make the environment unsuitable for plants and wildlife. In addition, it can become uncomfortable for people to use.

Hardscaping might be avoided in an area to make it more sustainable. However, this can significantly detract from the purpose of the landscaping to begin with and is not a viable or worthwhile option. Instead, the solution is to incorporate hardscape elements to create a more sustainable landscaping design and can even provide positive impacts.

Incorporating Sustainable Design Elements

Tree grates are a great way to improve sustainability in hardscape areas. These grates protect trees’ roots, allowing them plenty of space to grow, even when surrounded by hardscaping. Moreover, tree grates allow air and water to penetrate the soil, promoting its growth.

Florida State Capital Building Integrated Drainage SystemIntegrated drainage systems are a way one can make hardscaped areas more sustainable.

Excess water can cause erosion and damage buildings, plants, and landscape elements. An adequate trench drain system ushers water away before it can become a problem. Trench drains and their accompanying trench grates are essential for integrating hardscape into a sustainable design.

Sustainable landscape architecture sometimes needs to include hardscape-based elements that enhance the area. Retaining walls are commonly added to slopes as a way to reduce erosion. These combined with trench drains can ensure that soil and nutrients are not simply carried down slopes.

Choosing Sustainable Hardscape Materials

Many of these elements are available in different materials. Choosing sustainable hardscape materials goes a long way in reducing adverse environmental effects.

Start by choosing materials that are reused or recycled. Modern sustainable landscape design ideas can often twist recycled materials into fun and unique elements. For example, used railroad ties make great retaining walls and are more environmentally friendly than new timber.

One can also look into energy-efficient materials, which take less energy to produce. Locally-sourced materials are also more sustainable as less energy is used on transportation. When choosing hardscape materials, it can go a long way to pick sustainable ones.

NUHS Tree GratesTree grates made from Jonite’s reinforced stone offer a beautiful and sustainable protection option.

Strong, durable materials last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often. While the obvious benefit is in saving money and labour, this also means new materials and energy do not need to be used to produce the new element.

Grates are often made out of metal. This type of material adds to the ambient heat of the area, making it more uncomfortable. It also corrodes over time, leaching elements into the soil. Instead, look for materials that don’t have these adverse effects. For instance, Jonite’s reinforced stone is the perfect material for tree grates and trench grates because of its sustainability.

Integrating Hardscapes with Sustainable Landscapes

In addition to hardscaping, other aspects can also improve sustainability. For example, a solar panel system can be installed above a car park. This would not only provide power to nearby buildings but would also shade the area below. Trees are also an effective way to increase shade in any area. However, it is critical to support the trees’ growth and protect them with tree grates.

Trench drain systems are effective in taking care of drainage for a landscape. However, this system can be integrated with the drainage system from a nearby building or even with green roofs.  

SkyView Parc Greenroof Trench DrainTrench drains can make other sustainable elements, such as green roofs, possible.

Include Hardscaping in Your Sustainable Landscape Design

Hardscaping provides a valuable role in many landscapes. However, sometimes, certain elements and materials can negatively impact the environment. By choosing environmentally friendly elements and materials, sustainable landscape design can integrate with hardscaping.