An expert in creating exterior landscaping designs, Jon LaDow takes pleasure in helping his clients achieve their design goals through environmentally sustainable means. Jon recently newly designed an inviting exterior garden for a customer who manages a prestigious 12-story office building located at 475 14th Street in downtown Oakland, California. It was both beautiful and helped the customer receive the maximum LEED points.
The lovely exterior garden featured two dozen 4’-wide hexagon-shaped concrete containers, and one 30’ x 7’ raised bed. Created 10 years earlier, the containers featured annual plants and foliage that required replanting every other month. Fertilizer and pesticides were a part of every change-out, and maintaining the seasonal plant display required frequent watering, trimming and pruning.
A change for sustainability
The goal of the container garden redesign was to help achieve the LEED Gold level certification by improving the garden’s sustainability through decreased water usage, fertilization and chemical applications as well as related costly landscape and maintenance requirements.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a program established by the US Green Building Council that provides third-party certification of sustainable buildings based on different site-appropriate rating systems.
“The garden redesign was initiated in conjunction with our application for LEED Gold level certification because landscaping is one component of that,” said Signe Anderssel, property manager for the office building. “We approached Ambius, the interior landscaping design firm we were working with, to see if they could help us achieve this goal.”
“John researched and recommended the kinds of plants he envisioned for the planters, which were local and native drought-resistant plants. They meet our other sustainability objectives as well,” said Anderssel.
Careful choices reconfigure the garden
LaDow selected plants based on their minimal need for water during warmer seasons, and those that would not need fertilizer or other chemicals. He sourced the plants from a nursery within 100 miles of the office building, which also boosted LEED points. The plants include anigozanthos, coleonema sunset gold, sedum tri-color, angelina and euphorbias. Combined, the plants create a pleasing monochromatic color theme, highlighted by eye-catching yellows, soft sunset hues and pastel greens and blues.
Ambius accomplished the work over two weekends to avoid disrupting pedestrian traffic in the enclosed commercial area. Of the initial 24 concrete containers, six were broken down on-site and disposed of at a local recycling center.
“Before, we had flowers that were replaced every other month, which was colorful but didn’t achieve our sustainability goals,” Anderssel noted. “Now, there are more greens, more grass. There are more succulents and rich yellow and blue hues. It’s a very pleasing, natural landscape.”
Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective
The new garden installation has been a success for the building’s LEED initiative. There is an 85% reduction in water usage and the use of fertilizer and chemicals has been eliminated. No gas-powered equipment is in use at the site, and maintenance is now about one third of what was required previously.
“It’s a total win-win for us,” Anderssel said. “We received the maximum LEED points and keeping our operating expenses down is a benefit not only to us, but to our tenants as well.”
To view Jon LaDow’s online portfolio of design projects, click here.
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