With the growth of development in the Surat Basin, Toowoomba is changing at a rapid pace. Therefore, delivering landscapes and urban developments of a high standard is critical to ensure a quality standard of living for the residents of the city.
Toowoomba is a diverse region. The types of landscapes across the region are varied and include many picturesque rural landscapes. These are typically made up of flat agricultural black soil plains and rolling low hills. The forested range and an urban plateau makes up the Toowoomba City and Highfields areas.
Enhancing the amenity of these areas is a priority for Toowoomba Regional Council. Landscapes also need to comply with standards of the Landscape Code contained in Part 9.4.4 of the Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme. This ensures they are suitable for the type of development proposed and also the micro-climatic conditions.
The overall landscape aim is to ensure aesthetically pleasing environments. Places where people work, live and play are to be comfortable and functional.
The landscape should be functional to the context it envelops. Each project is different and response to the local environment is important.
Protection and enhancement of existing vegetation and ecological values is important. Contribution to streetscapes, local characters and cost-effective maintenance are all important aspects of landscapes under Toowoomba’s Regional Planning Scheme.
Landscape Architectural Design in the Toowoomba Region
Enhancing the amenity of urban areas is a priority for Toowoomba Regional Council.
Citicene have been involved in numerous commercial developments in the Toowoomba Region including:
Grounds for education facilities should be a great place to gather, relax, play and learn whilst protecting children with clear sight lines and good surveillance.
The grounds of any school or childcare facility are areas to provide learning opportunities that can address needs of students from a range of perspectives.
Excellent surveillance for administration personnel, shade, ease of maintenance and robust plantings are desired landscape design principles for schools.
Needs of Students
School grounds should be environments that address the needs of students from a range of perspectives. Student’s needs may include:
a sense of inclusion;
a sense of ownership.
The landscape environment should also:
provide a safe place to be;
provide equitable access to all areas;
allow multiple use areas for a variety of activities;
provide passive and active recreation opportunities.
Achieving these outcomes should be a priority for any masterplan when designing a new school.
Simple grassed areas or plain open concrete spaces with no other elements are no longer good enough. Students need spaces that encourage interaction and connection to landscape.
Providing high quality outdoor experiences for students ensures they are receiving the very best opportunities to develop and grow. Particularly in younger primary aged children.
Landscape Design Principles
The Queensland Government identifies four key principles which underpin the landscape design requirements for school grounds. These are:
context and character;
the natural environment;
and flexibility and change.
Establishing appropriate landscape design principles at the outset of the project will assist in delivering a cohesive landscape design. Specifics of the principles listed above include:
the existing environment, site location, topography and existing landscape elements;
sense of place and ownership;
cultural backgrounds of students;
shade, colour and spatial arrangements;
overland flow and storm-water requirements for large areas such as sporting fields.
School grounds often have a range of uses and therefore need to be flexible and accommodate various community groups.
A priority for the landscape of any educational facility is to provide an environment for learning and appreciation of the outdoors. This will assist in ensuring consistent and high performance outcomes from students.
Citicene have been involved in numerous Schools, Education facilities and Child Care Centres including the following:
Buildings that Breath, Green Walls, Vertical Gardens or Podium Landscapes Whatever you want to call them, these types of landscape elements are an important aspect of modern Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
They are making a significant difference to the living and working spaces where we spend so much time.
These elements have some notable benefits when incorporated into the urban fabric. There are important considerations that must be addressed both during construction and for the lifetime of the building including additional maintenance requirements.
Gardens in the Sky
Essentially, planning for ‘green space’ for each individual apartment throughout each level of a building takes a reasonable amount of planning.
However, through clever design, incorporating the interior and exterior space provides huge opportunities to maximize living spaces. Utilizing every part of the minimum floor allowed within the building footprint constraints is desirable.
In addition to this, ‘aspect’ plays a critical part of planning these areas as each side of the building receives different climatic conditions.
Careful consideration of light and numerous other conditions is required to ensure the success and longevity of any particular species.
Green walls are simple solutions to provide vertical green elements without taking up significant space. There are now countless products available and methods to installing a green wall.
Two main types of green walls that are becoming more and more popular are;
those that are really facades of vegetation growing up a wall, trellis or wires
those where plants are directly planted into a vertical structure that includes a growing media.
All forms of green walls require on-going long term maintenance. The amount of maintenance expected can be less than you think.
The most cost effective method to achieve a ‘vertical green effect’ is to train a suitable climber to an existing wall or fence.
An effective example is the ‘Creeping Fig’ (FICUS pumila) pictured growing directly on a concrete wall.
It will work just as effectively on timber, brick or stone, and will provide almost 100% cover in a suitable position.
However, most climbers will require some kind of trellis system and training to suitably cover a wall. Particularly many of the flowering species.
Another example of flowering species trained to a wire cable system. A fairly dense cover has been achieved with this species rather quickly due to the sunny position.
Using several climbing species can provide more colour and texture variation, but could look messy if not controlled.
One advantage of a utilising a trellis is that it is not restricted to a flat plane. Trellises can be designed to include varying shapes and angles, and can be designed to include something 3-dimensional as demonstrated below.
The many design possibilities can provide significant impact, particularly when dealing with a large monotonous building facade.
The challenge with climbers is to provide for their longevity, which is essential to the success of the green wall. Climbers will require access to deep soil at ground level or planters of a suitable size.
These factors need to be considered early in the design process to ensure required loads are factored into the engineering of structures.
Maintenance requirements depend on the desired effect, but providing access to all areas is a good idea so that maintenance can be carried out if and when required.
The main advantage of this option is that is can be installed nearly anywhere, particularly when a space is not purpose built, and the weight of significant podium planters is not an option structurally.
Installation of a living wall of any significant size will require a survey of the structural features of a building or wall to ensure safety. Permits may also be required in some situations.
A substantial green wall made up of a variety of plants can provide the instant effect of a lush vegetated wall.
There are a number of suppliers around that specialize in installing these types of green walls. This example in King George Square provides a rich variety of colour, texture and form to what otherwise could be a very dull space.
Something like this may cost up to $2500/m2 to install, depending on the overall size and complexity of the project.
Hydroponic systems contain no soil so rely on the nutrients being added to irrigation water. Some sources report that these systems may be environmentally damaging as these nutrients may be released with waste water and end up in the sewer system.
The fact that these systems are made up of a few layers of felt means they can only support small plants. If plants get too big, these areas of the wall will need to be replaced otherwise large plants can rip the matting apart. Because of this, a hydroponic setup is more suitable for smaller areas.
This type of system is ideal for using epiphytic plants. Epiphytes derive nutrients and water from the air and water, and are therefore an ideal option for a wall. The use of epiphytes as green walls is one way easy way to achieve a striking result, as long as site conditions are suitable for the plant selection.
Other systems are effectively a large flat bag of planting medium in a supporting cage structure. This is managed much easier with small vertical gardens. A large area is normally broken up into multiple panels for ease of maintenance.
Module systems are made up of plastic interconnecting modules containing planting mix. These also require the mix to be replaced on a regular basis depending on position. The benefit is that modules can be replaced individually as required, the volume of growing media allows for more significant planting. These systems are generally the most expensive to install.
The cost associated with any type of vertical garden depends on many factors such as location, plant species, height, framing, lighting and irrigation requirements.
A professional installer will need to know specific details about the project to provide an accurate quote.
Finally . . .
All forms of green walls require on-going long term maintenance. Not only the installation cost, but accessibility, practicality and the desired outcome should be considered thoroughly.
Does the space warrant the expense of an instantly stunning feature or will ‘greening up’ the area be adequate?
Is ease of maintenance a priority or are you happy to pay for specialist maintenance personnel where required?
To determine if this target is credible, the Queensland Government established the Renewable Energy Expert Panel in early 2016 and a draft report was released in October 2016.
Already there has been an uptake in the number of Development Applications for renewable energy facilities such as PV Solar Farms particularly in the West of the State.
These types of facilities are significant in size and spread and as a result many issues are raised within the Planning Approval process to address Community concerns.
Due to the nature of these types of developments, understandably communities are concerned about the impacts on their surrounding environments and therefore Local Authorities are requiring detailed, specialist advice.
The Role of Landscape
Landscape Architecture plays an important role in the approval of these types of renewable energy facilities and can greatly assist owners achieve development approval while helping to put communities minds at ease.
Inherently, the landscape is a major factor in such broad, areas of land that these types of projects cover and many aspects within the landscape need to be considered carefully. Visual Impact is an important consideration and Visual Assessment should be completed to determine the likelihood of impacts on view-sheds and possible mitigation strategies to address these impacts.
Any Landscape Character is often considered unique by any one community and analysis of the landscape character is an important consideration throughout the assessment process.
Other important considerations are reflectivity, stormwater and overland flow impacts, changes to surrounding infrastructure and levels of activity during operation.
As the Queensland Government is committed to increasing the uptake of renewable energy to drive jobs, investment and emissions reduction, there is an underlying importance to deliver these facilities to a high standard to protect our communities and importantly our landscapes as these types of facilities will be around for a very long time.
Citicene have been involved in delivering development approval for PV Solar Farms including delivering landscape architectural advice and visual impact assessments. Contact us to learn how we can assist with your renewable energy project.