Sustainable design initiatives are at the heart of the architecture and design industry. This is especially relevant in urban areas, where the public transportation infrastructure, green and living roof trend, and renewable energy systems are some of the ways design professionals are getting creative to combat the urban heat island effect. In this article, we will explore some additional ways that sustainable design can transform urban spaces, focusing on the realm of city parks, landscaping, and other exterior downtown spaces. 

Elite Drainage

Water is essential for life, but when left unchecked, it can cause unmitigated disaster. Flooding, erosion, and puddling are just a few of the concerns that can wreak havoc on urban exteriors. As such, it is essential to ensure the ideal flow of water to protect your landscaping. Gutters, graded soil, and landscape drainage grates are just a few of the features that can help protect the exterior environment in the face of heavy runoff and prevent you from having to commit resources to restoration. 

Functional Shading

No exterior space is fully functional without adequate shade, making pergolas, gazebos, trellises, and awnings essential aspects of creating premier landscapes. However, not only do they make for a more comfortable environment, but they reduce the landscape’s exposure to UV rays and inclement weather. This can extend the lifespan of the landscaping and reduce the resources required for upkeep and maintenance. 

Low Maintenance Lawns

Although there is no denying the power that some green contrast can bring to an urban environment, keeping grass in top condition can be a significant drain on resources. In addition to mowing and watering, fertilizers pose a potential threat to the city’s water. Therefore, it is a great idea to explore artificial grass suppliers and look for turf alternatives to natural grass. Many of the most innovative infill turf options look strikingly similar to natural grass, with none of the watering and few of the maintenance requirements. Turf does not degrade in the face of heavy foot traffic, either. This can help keep urban exteriors looking lush in all seasons and conditions. 

Smart Lighting

Statement lighting can make a major impact on any exterior, helping it take center stage at all hours of the day. Nonetheless, without careful planning, exterior lighting can create a drain on resources. As such, be intentional with lighting when designing urban landscapes. Orient city parks so they can most effectively use the sun, placing trees and shrubbery around high-traffic areas for natural shading. For walkways and patios, explore solar-powered LED lighting that stores the sun’s energy during the day and uses that to power the lighting once the sun goes down. 

Durable Pathways

Concrete is the material that immediately comes to mind when thinking of urban sidewalks. However, while concrete is an affordable surface that provides ample benefits when new, it has a tendency to degrade rather quickly. Heavy runoff can cause erosion to the substrate, creating cracking and buckling that can be difficult to remedy. Concrete also stains rather easily and often requires toxic stain removing products to return to pristine conditions. As such, it is advisable to construct gravel pathways held in place with permeable pavers. The innovative paving grids hold the gravel infill in place, preventing the clumping and rutting that has traditionally marred gravel surfaces. This helps them achieve a stunning natural aspect that performs remarkably well in the face of traffic. 

Efficient Water Use

Not only is water essential for keeping exteriors looking their best, it can also be used as a breathtaking design feature in its own right. Therefore, look beyond features such as automated sprinklers and drip irrigation systems when levering water in your exterior environment. Use pools and fountains to harvest rainwater and recycle it back for visual effect. Equip pergolas and gazebos with rain chains to decoratively divert water and prevent erosion from runoff. Install bird baths to create a more thriving ecosystem.

Sleek Railings

All exterior areas need a means of defining space without encumbering scenic views. This helps improve the aesthetics and safety of the environment. In this regard, cable railings are a premier option for decks, walkways, and bridges, as they provide a strong, weather-resistant system for securing a perimeter. Typically made of stainless steel cables tensioned between metal stanchions, cable railings offer all of the protective prowess of more robust railing systems with minimal encumbrance of the surroundings. 

The Most Sustainable Design Ideas for Urban Spaces

Sustainability is at the heart of modern design practices. This is especially relevant in urban spaces, where green initiatives in designing parks and other outdoor spaces can significantly reduce the resources they consume over their lifetimes. By considering the ideas listed above and other resources at HB+a Architects, you can get started on the right path toward creating more sustainable downtown spaces. 


Author Bio:

Natalie Akins is a freelance writer that loves sharing her knowledge and expertise in interior design and remodeling. She also has a background in the Hospitality and Real Estate Industry. She lives in her hometown of Austin, Texas where she enjoys spending time with her husband and decorating with her children. Natalie’s work as a freelance writer can be found on Building Product Advisor, a new construction industry resource site.