Climate change mitigation driving outdoor design

Community projects are particularly interested in design that helps control the effects of climate change
[Photo: Musat Christian | Dreamstime.com]

The demand to build outdoor spaces that help mitigate climate change is on the rise, according to a survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

ASLA surveyed over 560 professionals, including architects, designers and landscape architecture educators, in the United States in October 2021 for the report. ASLA found that over three-quarters of landscape professionals saw an increase in client demand of at least 10% over the previous 12 months. Of those, 38% said demand increased at least 50%.

“The survey data shows that communities are greatly concerned about a range of climate risks and impacts. They are looking to landscape architects to provide nature-based solutions that both store carbon and increase resilience to extreme heat, flooding, drought, sea level rise and other climate impacts,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO. “There is also concern about biodiversity loss, particularly the loss of pollinators and the native habitat they rely on, and landscape architects are providing solutions that address the twinned climate and biodiversity crises.”

The top concerns that respondents said they’re helping their clients address include:

  • Increased duration and intensity of heat waves: 47%
  • Increased intensity of storms: 44%
  • Increased spread and intensity of inland flooding: 40%
  • Loss of pollinators, such as bees and bats: 36%
  • Changing/unreliable weather and “weird weather”: 32%
  • Increased invasive plant intrusions due to stress on ecosystems from climate change: 31%

Most of the increase in demand is coming from large-scale projects spearheaded by city and local governments, according to the survey. Other key stakeholders include nonprofit organizations, state governments, community groups (ASLA notes community groups may also include nonprofits) and homeowners.

[Related: Lack of style leads outdoor remodel triggers]

Those large-scale projects typically include stormwater management to reduce flooding in communities, and solutions that reduce reliance on vehicles including walkability improvements, trails, bike infrastructure, and “Complete Streets,” a design principle that embraces long-term accessibility of roads regardless of the method of travel.

Landscape architects themselves play no small role in driving demand for design and landscape solutions that address climate change. ASLA found that 65% of respondents are actively recommending mitigating strategies to “all or most” of their clients.

Half of respondents estimated the construction value of their climate mitigation projects to be over $1 million, while 45% estimate they’ve created as many as 25 jobs in their communities.

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