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Environmental Landscape

Landscaping is not just window dressing anymore.  Properly designed, installed and maintained landscape can be beautiful & good for the environment as well.  The following list is by no means exhaustive of landscape design issues, but rather is intended to highlight certain issues which impact the over-all sustainability of a project and should be included in your considerations for site development and construction phase planning.


  • Use drought tolerant California native & Mediterranean climate plants for large scale plantings
  • Use lawn and other high water use plants sparingly as an "Oasis" around the house
  • Group plantings in "hydrazones" of similar plantings needing the same watering regime
  • Use an irrigation controller that has multiple program capabilities so different zones can get watered differently
  • Use mulches around plantings to reduce weeds and evaporative loss
  • Use drip systems and other low flow irrigation in orchards and areas that conventional irrigation can't water efficiently (steep slopes, small irregular spaces)


  • Identification of native plant species to be preserved
  • Selection and identification of existing trees to be preserved
  • Plan elimination, minimizing, or mitigation grading, drainage, utility runs and foundations within the drip line areas of existing trees. 


  • Designate, with the general contractor, appropriate and limited sites for waste pits for all plaster, paint, & masonry waste produced during construction.  Include a damage responsibility clause in the contract for fines if the contractor does not use designated waste pits.  Also, the contractor should be responsible for cleaning out the waste pits and removal of all contaminated soil upon completion of project.
  • Have a plan for protecting all existing vegetation to be saved before site development and construction activities begin.
  • Chain link fencing around drip lines of all large trees to be saved that are near the construction site to prevent driving and parking of vehicles, foot traffic and storage of equipment and materials which will result in serious soil compaction and possible decline and death of trees.
  • Flagging and or tying off areas of vegetation or habitat to be preserved.
  • A clear damage clause in contract if contractor's activities should damage existing trees or vegetation
  • Plan for removal of all undesirable vegetation around the construction site prior to start of construction activities.  This will simplify the contractor's job and also remove doubt as to what is to be protected and saved and what is not.
  • Sediment and erosion control plan during construction
  • Plan for combining utility runs and minimizing disturbances within drip line areas of existing trees and shrubs.  Bore utilities in root zone area rather than trenching.  Bore minimum 18" depth.


  • Provision for shade trees on east, west and south sides of structures with sufficient rooting area.
  • Alternative shading methods: trellises, overheads, vines, etc.
  • Analysis of existing topography, vegetation and proposed trees to prevent future impact on solar access


  • Early site analysis by an urban/wild land interface specialist to evaluate the degree of fire risk and to make recommendations relative to set backs, brush clearance, erosion control, etc.
  • Sediment control plan for during & after construction
  • Careful tree and shrub selection and placement near vulnerable areas of structures - windows, overhangs, etc., to reduce fire risk
  • Management and preservation of existing native vegetation to minimize need for water and maintenance and preserve habitat while minimizing fire hazard.
  • Selection of ground covers and low fuel shrubs for adequate erosion and fire control


  • Provisions for a material recycling area
  • Provisions for kitchen scraps - composting near kitchen access; space approximately 3' x 3' (not highly visible)
  • Provisions for green waste composting space - approximately 10' x 15' for average city lot, larger sites will need more space.  Hose bib provided near compost bin.  Screen from view.
  • Bins can be made of concrete block, redwood, or recycled plastic lumber.
  • Use of recycled building materials for hardscape.  Used brick, broken concrete, "found art objects" such as old doors, windows, etc., can be used for sculpture or architectural features.