Distributed Renewable Energy Generation is renewable energy near the point of use instead of a centralized facility like a power plant. Much like the windmill in this image, windmills are littered across the Australian Landscape and have been a form of this renewable energy generation since the early 1800’s.
How can we integrate more distributed renewable energy in our urban environments without detracting from the character, sense of place and built form?
What effect does a community wind turbine in a public park have on sociological and psychological park experience?
How would Distributed Renewable Energy Generation modify ‘sense of place’?
How can public or private open space be maximized for Distributed Renewable Energy Generation?
Can streetscapes be modified to incorporate Distributed Renewable Energy Generation?
As renewable becomes a major energy source, we have a lot of design challenges to overcome.
NOTE: The windmill was first designed by Daniel Halladay, who began inventing windmills in 1854.
Adding more and more hard finishes such as glass and concrete to our cities and towns has a direct impact on the temperature of the surrounding environment.
Landscape Architecture has an important role to ensure the development of urban and rural areas are well designed and managed to reduce the impacts of urban heat.
Landscape Architects play a significant role in designing these areas and gone are the days when the landscape budget is simply ‘whatever is left in the can at the end of a project’.
How do we Reduce it?
It really shouldn’t be that difficult. Reducing the heat island effect should be one of the first priorities in any project. This is particularity relevant in infrastructure projects such as road, rail, bridges and large built form projects.
If we are serious about climate change and global warming we need to do better. Landscape Architect’s have the natural ability to see projects from a different angle. Our profession is passionate about things such as impacts on biodiversity, amenity, environment, flora and fauna, visual impacts and increases of temperature due to human decisions.
It is quite amazing to see that large infrastructure projects still do not consider the landscape as the key to a success of a project.
Engaging a Landscape Architect from the beginning of the project at the planning stage, should be a priority for any project. Landscapes shouldn’t merely be a ‘shrub up’ regardless of the project size or scale.
From 2 lanes to 4 lanes to 8 lanes
Let’s consider for example a 4 lane highway that has been upgraded to 8 lanes.
The success is typically about the:
“celebration of the ease of no congestion that the new, wider 8 lane highway has created, or the speed at which it is now possible to get to the airport to catch an urgent flight.”
Let’s take a minute to think back in time before the road was previously upgraded from 2 lanes to 4 lanes. The same thoughts maybe 10 years ago would have been:
“celebration of the ease of no congestion that the new, wider 4 lane highway has created, or the speed at which it is now possible to get to the airport to catch an urgent flight.”
All we have done is kick the can down the road.
Infrastructure Builds Countries
It’s true. Infrastructure builds countries and provides jobs for families and this in turn provides income for many. However, at what cost to the environment?
There are plenty of opportunities to build infrastructure that enhances and protects our environment. Something that is not often seen.
We need to pressure government to not just widen roads for the sake of making things faster. Let’s think about our children’s future carefully and take it seriously. Because that is what matters.
Responsibilities for Future Generations
As business owners, developers, consultants and Local and State authorities, we all have a responsibility to ensure our projects are truly well designed and sustainable and not just ‘lip service’.
We should always be considering storm water harvesting, heat, materials, a reduction in concrete, more shade, recycling, flora and fauna, biodiversity and social needs all within reasonable economic desires.
Development chasing a fast buck at the cheapest possible price for the maximum profit are irresponsible toward our country, cities, towns and urban communities.
Sprawling suburbs of large homes built with zero lot configurations, no rear yards and minimal parklands are destroying our environments. We must do better and we can.
Depending on the location and the approval type of your landscape, you are likely to require the landscape to be certified.
Landscape certification is a process where a Registered Landscape Architect inspects your new landscape. They ensure it meets the Local Authority Conditions of Approval that were granted at Development Approval Phase.
What is the Landscape Certification Process?
To complete this process, you will need to engage a Registered Landscape Architect. A Registered Landscape Architect is one that has sufficient experience to ensure the quality of your landscape build is satisfactory. It needs to meet the Development Approval requirements.
There are specific requirements that must be adhered to for your landscape to pass certification. These requirements differ dependent on the local shire your project is in. Also, the specific local authority requirements in their Planning Scheme and numerous other factors come into play.
Typically, regular inspections are required throughout the construction process. This ensures the quality of workmanship is satisfactory and all Development Approval Conditions are being met.
If you have had a builder construct your project in a Design and Construct arrangement, chances are the landscape will require constant monitoring throughout construction. This is to ensure specific requirements are not compromised throughout the build.
For example, there might be specific setback requirements or deep planting requirements to meet. These spaces must be maintained through any design changes that could occur on site.
What are the Risks with Certification?
If you don’t certify your landscape you could have issues with Plan Sealing amongst a number of other things. Also, Local Authorities are constantly reviewing recently completed projects to ensure they meet the Development Approval.
Should your landscape certification not meet the Development Approval plans, Council are likely to require you to meet these conditions of approval. This means significant rework or rectification to a landscape that has just been completed.
The best thing to do is involve a Registered Landscape Architect early in the construction process to ensure all Conditions are met throughout the construction phase.
What Specifically is Required?
Each Local Authority has different requirements, however generally there are a lot of principles that are similar.
Elements such as an appropriate number of trees are planted on site that meets any Development Approval documentation. Also, the numbers of plants are sufficient, the quality of plants are excellent and also meet Standards Australia. The soil type, soil depths, landscape buffer widths, deep planting dimensions and plant species need to also be appropriate, in accordance with detailed drawings and Standards Australia.
Landscape certification is dependent on the scale and complexity of the project. A small landscape may only take a few hours to certify if it is constructed well and in accordance with all the landscape conditions and landscape code.
A larger more complex landscape could take several site visits, defects and rectification tasks that could stretch out to weeks or months.
It really depends on the quality of workmanship, complexity of the landscape and skills and experience of the professionals involved in certifying the works.
Ensure you use a competent landscape architect to certify your landscape. It is a good idea to avoid any potential issues that could arise should the Local Authority decide to inspect your project once complete.
Citicene has Registered Landscape Architects that can certify your landscape and we have certified many landscapes across Australia. Contact us for further details.
Brisbane City Council have proposed changes to the City plan in regard to landscape and greenspace on podium. ‘On podium’ or ‘on structure’ landscapes include landscapes in planter boxes, green walls, trellises or landscape that is not growing in ‘deep soil’ earth.
There has been a huge amount of interest in this area in an attempt to reduce the heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is where city temperatures are rising due to the amount of hard surfaces and reflective finishes – i.e. to put it simply to much concrete and glass.
The changes are do to with rooftop gardens and on structure landscapes. You can view the proposed changes here or click the image below to open the BCC website.
Increase the quality of green space to multi-storey buildings
The proposed amendments include a range of initiatives to increase the quality of green space to multi-storey buildings.
The changes include:
changes to zones where rooftop gardens are being supported.
additional rooftop garden standards and provisions.
required standards for a rooftop garden to not be considered a storey.
and proposed changes to the Landscape work code and supporting planning scheme policies.
This is a great idea and will certainly make a difference to the quality of development in the Brisbane area. Due to these changes we should see more and more high density developments in Brisbane become more like the type of development commonly experienced in Singapore.
If you have been to Singapore, they certainly have a large range of quality developments that include large components of green walls and on podium landscaped spaces.
Further Changes Needed
In addition to the above, it would also be great to see Brisbane City Council also make further changes including:
refine the design, construction and certification of these types of on podium landscapes.
Include all zones within the changes from educational facilities through to multi-level carparks
Focus more on the amenity and reduction of the heat island effect
define specifications for construct-ability and soil within these structures
Requirements for experts to provide advice on these types of landscapes including but not limited to horticulturalists, arborists, waterproofing specialists, soil scientists, and landscape construction and maintenance contractors.
While infrastructure projects provide valuable improvements to our cities, adequate consideration of their visual impact is critical so that they are not only functional, but also contribute to the visual quality of the landscape, or at the very least, not degrade it.
Landscape Assessment provides a comprehensive summary of the landscape context and values and the manner in which they should be managed. A comprehensive assessment ensures that landscape considerations are not overlooked.
One example is Brisbane’s Veloway 1 project. A quick online search and phone query could not confirm whether a visual assessment was completed as part of the planning for this project.
This is often a requirement for significant and complex transport and road projects. Whether Veloway 1 is classed as a major project or not, a landscape assessment would be beneficial, particularly considering the close proximity of Veloway 1 to existing dwellings.
AILA Guidance Note – Landscape and Visual Assessment
It references a number of other established guides and outlines five key steps for visual assessment. Applying this to the Veloway 1 site area, some observations are noted below.
Australian Institute of Landscape Architects 2020, Guidance Note for Landscape and Visual Assessment, viewed 27 May 2020. https://www.aila.org.au/
It references a number of other established guides and outlines five key steps for visual assessment. Applying this to the Veloway 1 site area, some observations are noted below.
The Veloway 1 consists of removal of several stands of established trees, construction of new bridges at three locations and a new raised concrete structure, that is the bikeway, to the Bapaume Street verge alongside the M1 Motorway.
By no means or interpretation were the existing site conditions extraordinary, or hold significant visual or cultural value.
The presence of trees to the western side of the M1 Motorway was a noticeable feature that provided intermittent relief from the adjoining M1 Motorway.
There are some significant stands of vegetation along the Veloway 1 corridor. There also doesn’t appear to be any features of cultural heritage significance located in the area.
The stands of vegetation are not likely to have held any significant ecological value, but they did contribute to the amenity of the corridor along Bapaume Road. They were effective in providing relief to the continuous Motorway barrier and retaining structure.
In addition to this, they created a visual backdrop when traveling along the motorway. They also provided a visual and acoustic separation between the Motorway and adjoining suburbia.
Was the existing vegetation investigated as part of an ecological study or Arborists assessment?
The impact of the project varies along the route. The scale and bulk of the new structure is disproportionate to existing motorway infrastructure. The sections of the Veloway 1 bridges are bulkier than the adjacent motorway itself.
A number of dwellings are in close proximity to the Veloway 1 route. This proximity, the removal of vegetation and new built form constitute a significant change to views from these properties.
Other locations could be argued to be minimally impacted. For instance, the new overpass over Marshall Road is positioned on the same alignment and height of the existing motorway overpass, imposing minimal change to views in this location, so it could be argued that this change is relatively minor.
In the vicinity of the Holland Park busway station, the new works consist of pavement on grade, without the need for any bridge, resulting in minimal impact.
Opportunities to Modify and Mitigate
While not affecting the majority of road users, a handful of specific locations along the route will experience a high degree of change primarily viewed by local traffic on the approach from side streets and from adjacent residences
TMR’s Tree Removal Strategy includes the intent to re-vegetate the remaining cleared areas with trees, shrubs and ground covers. At the time of writing, no detailed landscape treatment proposals could be obtained.
Possible mitigation measures could have included:
New street tree planting along Bapaume street
Buffer planting of trees, shrubs and groundcovers to embankments and front of built form where space permits.
Additional planting within green spaces to the opposite side of Bapaume Street could provide additional screening to dwellings.
Final finishes of the built form may also bear some influence on the overall impact of the structure.
Effects and Residual Impacts
The constructed Veloway 1 will impact the visual character the road corridor of Bapaume Road – dramatically in some locations and minimally in others.
New planting of trees and understorey to the road reserve will in time contribute to softening the impact of the new structure from the road corridor and nearby dwellings.
Some dwellings will continue to experience a high impact due to the orientation of the dwelling in relation to the built form (i.e. dwellings that face new bridges where there is no space to establish screen vegetation.
Adequate consideration of the above steps is important to forming a Landscape Integration Strategy that has the potential to guide a project to an outcome that considers the visual experience.
No doubt the decision-makers involved in public projects have numerous issues to consider in order to meet the project time-frame and budget.
The logistics involved in the different design options no doubt impacted the design, time-frame and budget.
Many of the foreseeable design constraints are likely the result of other issues being prioritised. As a result, some amenity considerations do not always receive due attention.
This begs the question – what is the best way to determine a tangible value on landscape amenity so that it can have an impact on decision making?
The completion of the Veloway 1 and establishment of vegetation should prove to provide an interesting case study in gathering information on the delivery of transport infrastructure.
A deep planting zone is an area that is dedicated to landscape and is able to sustain large subtropical shade trees.
The aim is to retain or provide significant vegetation to urban areas for shade, amenity, offset of carbon emissions and to mitigate the heat-island effect in urban areas caused by dense built-form and hard surfaces that fill cities.
No driveways, maneuvering or hardstand areas and pedestrian paths
No underground development (basements, tanks) or infrastructure (services)
In natural ground (not in cut/fill area or a planter)
Can incorporate existing trees
Sometimes must meet a minimum dimension
Clearly, not all of the landscape area typically indicated on a site plan meets these requirements.
Multi-storey apartment buildings often include garden areas at entry areas that are located beneath upper levels. Multiple services and structural footings are often located beneath landscape zones.
4 Common Intrusions to Deep Planting Zones
(transformers, fire boosters, water meters, switchboards)
A common and significant (size) intrusion to a deep planting zone is the introduction of a pad-mount transformer. Ironically, the requirements for locating transformers are quite similar to deep planting zones so of course this is exactly where they end up.
Understandably, the requirement for these is often not certain until after a DA is achieved. Because of this, it is now common for Brisbane City Council to require transformers to be indicated on site plans for development approval.
Overland flow zones are often accompanied by restrictions to the density and type of vegetation that can be planted within it.
Sometimes it means no planting at all. Where a stormwater pipe is shallow, any large tree planting will pose a risk to the integrity of the pipe. Many tight development sites make use of underground stormwater treatment devices.
But when the need to an open bio-retention area is identified late in the design process, often the only location left on the site to put these are landscape areas.
At times a bio-retention area may be designed to accommodate trees, but this falls short again, as the very design of a bio-zone involves replacing the filter media at a future time, thereby removing any vegetation.
Footings to walls and structures can significantly impact landscape areas in terms of the amount of growing media that is available to plants. Boundary walls that require footings to be contained within the site can result in significant footing extents that commonly impact landscape areas.
For instance, a typical landscape buffer zone might be 2 metres wide, which normally allows small columnar trees and screen shrubs to be planted.
If such a buffer happens to be located adjacent to a wall that has a footing intruding 800mm into the landscape area, it could mean that no trees can be planted in that zone unless footings are greatly lowered, adding significant cost to the whole exercise.
(footpaths, hardstand, parking spaces, driveways)
Fire exits and access paths to service areas are items that are at times resolved quite late in a project. Where landscape areas are minimal, these can have a big visual impact on the resulting amount of planting area, as well as affecting what areas can be counted as deep planting.
The challenge here is that many of these components remain in a conceptual form throughout the DA phase. Often their resolution occurs after key structural components of buildings and structure and it is then simply too late.
While each may be small individually, their combined impact on the amount of deep planting can be significant to the point where landscape conditions cannot be fulfilled.
The key is to factor in realistic area estimates required for all components and services at the early stages. Getting a Landscape Architect involved early in the site planning phase allows an opportunity for feedback that can lead to a more robust proposal that will withstand inevitable change.
What does the Client need to know?
An area designated as deep planting should be treated as a planted garden bed area that includes trees. Turf is not considered an acceptable solution.
It is important that a client/developer understands this as there are reasonable design and cost implications.
Commercial Landscape Architects deliver services for projects in a variety of industry groups. Commercial projects often require a more intense level of detail and service.
Everyday commercial landscapes are designed and constructed by professionals, landscape contractors and builders.
These particular projects can range from Government infrastructure upgrades, private residential developments through to wetlands re-rehabilitation.
Delivering these projects requires a lot of skill and expertise. Engaging a registered qualified landscape architect will make a difference to the end result.
Landscape design and delivery of commercial projects include a range of factors that should be considered. Throughout the design and construction phases of the project there are many things to consider.
This can include:
Existing site features and value;
Consideration of aspect;
Landscape contractor capability and experience;
Landscape contractor alliances with suppliers such as nurseries and sub-contractors.
However, with innovative thought the landscape can become an integral part of the project instead of simply added on as an after-thought.
Early input at the preliminary stages of a project will ensure an outcome that often results in a design that better accommodates the natural elements of the site. This can include physical elements such as topography, drainage, existing vegetation and other valuable features.
Contribution from the landscape architect at a preliminary stage of the project can often result in less delays through the Council approval process.
Therefore we ensure that we are ready to assist promptly at this critical phase of the project and deliver answers when they are needed.
Landscape Architectural Advice
Often we see commercial projects that do not engage a landscape architect at the beginning of the development approval process.
Often there is significant vegetation or a design proposal that ignores the natural landscape as an initial proposal to the Local Authority.
Significant time and money is spent negotiating with the Local Authority with minimal result achieved. Often Council’s expect the landscape to be the priority of a development and this is often ignored much to the detriment of the developer.
Engaging a qualified landscape architect at the preliminary stages of a project process will often save a lot of time and effort. Typically the project will also achieve development approval faster.
We have a proven track record of successfully delivering a large range of commercial landscapes from small lot developments to large corporate office and residential subdivision and high-rise projects.
Contact us now to discuss your next commercial landscape.
Roof Gardens, Roof Terraces and Gardens in the Sky
It is amazing to see some of the ideas of Roof Gardens and Roof Terraces within high rise buildings popping up everywhere. Architect’s are racing to see if they can have a crack at Landscape Architecture as well as Architecture.
Successful projects seem to have got the hang of establishing greenery into the vertical concrete jungles created by Architects.
However, is it really all it is cracked up to be?
Picture this – a lot of skyscrapers with 50% or more vegetation amongst the footprint of the buildings.
Imagine the fire inferno that could potentially be created by combining dry weather, limited or poor maintenance and close combination of highrise structures in a densely populated area.
Wow – that could potentially be a huge risk.
Really, why are we trying to shove landscape into a place where it doesn’t really want to go?
After all, a landscape in a podium environment is only going to have a limited life span before it needs to be replaced.
5 years? 8 years at the maximum before it starts looking tired and the nutrients of the building contractors cheapest podium mix have been sucked out of each planter box?
Lots of planning documents are now appearing with the obligatory landscape tacked onto the side of a building or draped over the facade to make the artists impression more ‘impressive’.
However the reality is, creating these types of landscape spaces above ground for the long term is not a cheap exercise. Let alone a maintenance nightmare for body corporate down the track.
Additional weights for the building structure, additional watering systems and waterproofing issues.
More maintenance, limited life spans and numerous other challenges ensure these ideas are ‘booted’ as soon as the builder gets hold of the contract.
More Open Space?
Is a better approach to plan ground plane areas for more open space?
Open vegetated corridors in and amongst cities and urban areas is always at a premium. Not paved open parks, but significantly vegetated environments with large trees.
Not manicured lawns and water features but naturally occurring native bushland or forest space. Good for bush walking, mountain bike riding or general appreciation of the outdoor environment.
What about bigger communal deep in-ground recreational areas around the base of buildings that spread across sites?
Encouragement of residents to be a true part of the local community. Facilities that are hard to resist. Limited pavements and hard surfaces. Large urban vegetable gardens. Heavily vegetated in-ground spaces around entry points of buildings that adjoin neighboring sites, green spines, and parklands.
It is almost like the policy of squeezing water filtration devices into every development. Jammed onto the site boundary so the landscape buffer is then limited due to the Hydraulic Engineer’s horror of adding trees to their underground pipework.
A better approach is to treat the water downstream in a larger filtration basin – therefore eliminating the need for conflicts of interest on small lot developments.
Is trying to add significant landscapes to podiums the same scenario?
It is important to consider measures to make these developments liveable, functional and sustainable. Gardens of all kinds have been shown to have a positive effect on human well-being. In addition to this also achieving positive environmental effects.
One viable and practical measure is to incorporate productive vegetation for the benefit of occupants/users.
Vege Gardens in the City?
While the idea of a vegetable and/or herb garden may not be for some the ideal landscape solution for a high-use area, it is important to consider the potential social benefits.
Communal gardens can provide a means of bringing people living in close proximity together to share and build relationships.
Many herbs, fruits & vegetables require good sunlight, so a rooftop location is an ideal situation for maximizing productivity.
As with any other climbers, fruit and vegetable vines can be trained to maximize the use of small spaces.
A significant design consideration is that edible and productive plants must be easily accessible as they will generally require more maintenance, as well as the obvious need to access the produce.
This is why it makes sense to position vegetable gardens near high pedestrian traffic areas. It is more likely that it will be maintained in a place that people walk past every day rather than a hidden corner.
In a highly built up urban environment, extremes in heat, cold, shade & sun are likely to occur, and only the right plants will thrive.
Design considerations are:
Make the gardens easily accessible;
Position vegetable gardens near high pedestrian traffic areas;
Consider extremes in heat, cold, shade & sun;
Provide maintenance guidelines for users.
In any case, only a small percentage of residents may actively take ownership of gardens to maintain and reap the benefits, which will normally be the people who know what they are doing.
The long-term management of productive gardens in any communal setup therefore requires flexible approach, as well as a backup plan if community participation does not happen automatically.
It worth considering the benefits that may come with a development that is recognised as an environmentally and socially conscious development. Productive vegetating of buildings can contribute to EnviroDevelopment recognition.
BHCL Creating Livable Communities and Citicene recently endeavored to include herbs and vegetables amongst the new planting of a few high-density housing developments.
Different herbs and vegetables were planted in communal areas and individual balcony gardens to encourage sharing between residents. At another development, a number of new residents have planted herbs and vegetables of their own initiative.
The successful incorporation of productive gardens into our urban environments could allow more of us to enjoy local produce while contributing to the sustainability of our cities.