Inefficient home energy use is not only costly, but also contributes to the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the primary cause of climate change. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the residential sector accounted for 21 percent of total primary energy consumption and about 20 percent of carbon emissions in the U.S. in 2013. And according to Architecture 2030, building construction and operations-related energy use accounts for almost 50 percent of total GHG emissions.
Through integrated site design, a comprehensive approach to sustainable building and site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture practices can not only improve the environment, but also result in net-zero or even climate positive homes. If part of a broader integrated site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture can help eliminate the need for fossil fuel-based energy, while creating a healthy residential environment.
ASLA has created a new guide to increasing energy efficiency through sustainable residential landscape architecture, which contains research, projects, and resources. Developed for homeowners and landscape architects and designers alike, the guide is designed to help spread more sustainable and resilient practices.
Homeowners can go net-zero or climate positive by tapping the potential of landscapes. As an example, residential green roof and wall systems, which are often key features of integrated site design projects, can reduce energy use and home heating and cooling costs.
According to The Sustainable SITES Initiative™ (SITES®), homeowners can use trees and dense shrubs to shade their home and any external HVAC systems or block wind and thereby further reduce energy use.
Homeowners can further leverage clean energy technologies, like solar-powered LED outdoor lighting.
The environmental and economic benefits of energy efficient technologies increase as homes are tied together into multi-family housing complexes with shared infrastructure. Research shows dense development lowers water and energy use, conserves natural habitats, and reduces transportation-related GHG emissions by encouraging walking, cycling, and taking public transportation. Communities like Freiburg, Germany and Malmo, Sweden are examples of residential communities that have taken innovative approaches to design and planning by implementing sustainable energy, water, and waste management systems.
Landscape architects can help homeowners by undertaking a comprehensive energy audit and then identify landscape-based solutions for generating renewable power or reducing energy waste.
State and local governments also work with design professionals to incorporate sustainable residential landscape architecture codes throughout urban, suburban, and rural areas. For example, South Miami just recently mandated that new buildings, and some renovations, must include solar panels.
Source: Drivers of U.S. Household Energy Consumption, 1980-2009, U.S. Energy Information Administration
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