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The Power of Landscape Architecture

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By: Jennifer Davidson, CMLI, OBMI Landscape Architect

In its simplistic form landscape architecture is the art and practice of designing the outdoor environment. In reality, landscape architecture is an extension of architecture in using outdoor spaces to bring real and perceived value and benefits to the built world, evidenced by the close relationship and works of influential British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll and English architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 1900’s. Today landscape architecture is used for a multitude of reasons by Bermudian homeowners including to aid in flood control and add value to their homes and commercial property. Recently OBMI used landscape architecture to aid in water management and flood control in the Bermuda Airport design project.

Aid in Flood Control

Recently Bermuda has seen record-breaking rainfall with last year rainfall averaging 15 inches above normal. And all indications is that this trend will continue. The National Climate Assessment predicts a continued dramatic increase in severe rainfall for the next 30 years. More rain means more flooding, and to landscape architects, this is no surprise, more houses and hard surfaces inhibit the rainfall from filtering back into the groundwater supply.

Although we still cannot control the weather, landscape architects can help control flooding through a scientific understanding and strategic use of typology, hydrology, and ecology to create systems that divert, absorb, or capture water. This flood control is accomplished through the use of swales to control the movement of the rainwater, rain gardens to utilize plantings to absorb collected rainwater and the use of permeable surfaces in drives, parking areas, patios, and sidewalks to allow the rainwater back into the ground.

Curb Appeal

In addition to flood control, landscape architecture improves a home’s curb appeal and aesthetics. Rain gardens camouflage their flood functions as beautiful, seasonal gardens while holding, filtering and slowly releasing surface water back into the ground. Replacing concrete surfaces around a home with permeable paving also improves a home’s curb appeal while reducing maintenance needs.

Landscape architecture isn’t only used for flood control however, research shows that investing in a home’s landscape is one of the best investments a homeowner can make in their home. Sophisticated design with color and large plants can improve a home’s perceived value and add as much as 15 percent to its value over comparable homes.

Extend Indoor Spaces Outdoors

One of the most enjoyable benefits of a well-planned landscape programme comes not just from the real value it offers but from the luxury and connectedness it can offer the homeowner. A variety of surfaces can be used to extend interior living spaces into the outdoors. It is at this intersection that Jekyll and Lutyens found a symbiotic relationship between architecture and landscape architecture that resulted in designing human spaces that not only inhabit but enhance its surrounding environment.

And it is good for you. It is intuitive that spending time in nature can make you feel, but now there is ample evidence of the true positive impact on your health. A study published by Environmental Science & Technology found that just 5 minutes of activity in natural areas resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood. Furthering this concept, a study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, found that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients have shown to decrease symptoms after spending time in gardens or being exposed to horticultural therapy.

With the research showing that a well-designed landscape aids in flood control, positively impacts the price and curb-appeal of real-estate, and can improve public health and well-being it's no wonder Gertrude Jekyll dedicated her life to the development of the profession. The good news is you don’t have to go far to realize the same benefits, local Bermuda landscape architects including those at OBMI can help you develop a landscape plan for your backyard can unleash the power of nature.