June 12, 2018

The Importance of Landscape and Site Design

Architects are trained to evaluate a site to design a building that takes advantage of the site’s natural features, complies with zoning and code requirements and provides the building’s occupants with a convenient, safe and ADA accessible access to the building. Landscaping and site planning is the design element that ties these elements together and makes use of the spaces surrounding the building. Whether we are designing a single-family residence or a large-scale public building, landscaping ties the building to its surroundings and creates outdoor spaces that invite people to stop and spend time or pass through to define a building entrance.

A recently completed university campus included a distinct programmatic requirement to develop the building’s site to integrate the building into the existing university campus and improve pedestrian and vehicular access in this section of campus. The site was also designed to provide ADA access between two levels of campus divided by twelve feet of steeply sloped grade. Terraced landscaping with ADA compliant sidewalks was designed to connect the two levels of campus and create a focal landscape element at a busy pedestrian intersection. The building itself acts as a pedestrian path by providing an interior passageway through the building linking the core of campus with student housing. The site development and landscaping remove a former pedestrian barrier by redirecting vehicular traffic around the campus perimeter.

On a smaller scale, I used landscape design to create semi-private outdoor space at my own home. Patio hardscape, gravel pathways, and planted landscape berms help define outdoor spaces in a formerly unused and uninviting space between the garage and house. A water feature creates soft background noise to complete a peaceful outdoor experience. This outdoor space effectively extends the living space of a small house.

Both projects utilize landscape lighting to further enhance the building’s site. Lighting accentuates design features and provides safely illuminated pathways. In our northern climate where winters are long and daylight short, landscape lighting allows the exterior space to be viewed and enjoyed from within the building.

The Architect, Civil Engineer, and Landscape Architect work closely with the Owner to identify the best and most effective use of the building site while complying with the various zoning, code, and ADA requirements. The Architect evaluates the site and orients the building to take advantage of views and daylight and create the best vehicular or pedestrian approach to the building. The Civil Engineer develops the grading and drainage plan to ensure the site drains properly and designs vehicular parking and circulation when required. The Landscape Architect evaluates site conditions and regional climate to develop an appropriate planting, irrigation, and landscape lighting plan. Hardscape including sidewalks, patios, plazas and retaining walls are integrated into the plan where required. To create an effective site design all these aspects are carefully coordinated by the entire design team. When planning a new facility or addition to an existing facility all building owners can benefit from the design expertise such a team can offer.

Photos are courtesy of Peaks to Plains Design.

Kory Kennaugh-AIA, LEED AP, GGP- Vice President

Kory’s expertise spans across retail, commercial, industrial and transportation facilities. With an early passion for architecture, Kory enjoys working with clients to find innovative approaches to challenging projects. Kory is a member of the Optimist Club, the Helena/Lewis & Clark County Consolidated Planning Board, and the Architectural Society of Helena. Kory enjoys exploring Montana, camping, dirt bike riding, fishing and hunting.