The importance of sustainable subdivision landscape development (Streetscaping)
Streets are the arteries of a neighbourhood. They are the first place that we interact with once we leave our home, and the last place we see before we return. A lush, tree and garden-lined street provides so many more benefits compared to a bare paved street. People enjoy the soft features, the shade from the sun, and seasonal colours. Regardless of whether we are walking or driving, greener streets calm the mind and help us start our day with improved mental health. Street vegetation also improves air quality and provides a suite of other environmental benefits.
Streetscaping – Investing in Quality
Geoscape specializes in restoring a natural look and feel to newly developed streets that comes with these multiple benefits. We work with all levels of sustainable streetscape design. What we find most exciting about this work is how much a little effort goes a long way. Even the simple effort of placing resilient trees along an avenue can revitalize a neighbourhood.
The key to successful streetscaping is designing spaces that promote plant health, minimize maintenance, and ensure long-term viability. The design must provide adequate soil volume, moisture, and oxygen, which can be challenging in an urban environment. Other considerations include soil quality and texture, steep slopes, overhead and underground utilities, pavement and other impervious surfaces, and proximity to structures.
When selecting species for streetscapes, we help our clients find the best balance of tree characteristics, including growth rate, ornamental traits, size, canopy shape, shade potential, and benefits for wildlife. Species diversity is also important to protect against insect and disease outbreaks. We work with our clients on which species will achieve the most reliable long-term growth while achieving many other benefits.
So Many Streetscaping Options
Many innovative streetscaping options exist within the GTA. Let’s review the latest:
- Green streets integrate the beauty of tree-lined streets with the environmental benefits of natural spaces. Many stormwater controls can be incorporated seamlessly with landscaping. Vegetated swales convey stormwater along the streets, or bioretention swales help infiltrate stormwater and recharge groundwater using sandy soils and the plants’ natural ability to transpire water. By shading the streets and other pavement, the vegetation reduces the overall temperature of the neighbourhood, improving the residents’ health and saving energy costs.
- Green alleys take the concept of green streets to those often forgotten urban spaces. Paving stones interspaced with grass provide low impact travel lanes. These designs integrate planters, rainwater harvesting, and other sustainable practices. The alleys become an inviting, peaceful place while conserving water and improving air quality.
- Complete streets, designed for multiple modes and uses, are gaining traction in the GTA. Designing vegetation for complete streets requires awareness of how all the uses fit together in the design. Geoscape’s designs ensure safety, protect views, and offer all users the best experience.
Subdivision landscaping often requires a distributed approach to street trees and other vegetation. Stormwater trees provide a flexible approach for sustainable subdivision landscape design. More than a street tree planter, stormwater trees are designed to maximize the urban benefits of trees and ensure their long-term health. Multiple design options exist including manufactured structures that allow root growth under pavement, sidewalks with support structures that allow for soil and root growth underneath, and structured soils that support pavement while allowing for root growth.
The Benefits – WOW!
Benefits of street trees and urban landscaping are overwhelming. Studies have shown that urban greening can increase property values (Madison and Kovari 2013), reduce heating and cooling costs, and reduce air pollution (Toronto and Region Conservation).
Researchers have found that people with access to green space enjoy better health and lower mortality rates. Even somewhat passive contact with nature, such as viewing it from a window, can lower blood pressure and anxiety levels. In a Toronto study, residents living near a higher density of trees reported much fewer health concerns when controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors (Karden et al. 2015).
Vegetated landscapes invite more people to use them, ensuring more surveillance that can prevent crime in outdoor spaces. The stress reduction effects of trees are likely to also have the effect of reducing road rage and improving the attention of drivers. In a Portland, Oregon study, Donovan and Prestemon (2012) found that larger, canopy trees are associated with reduced crime.
It’s no surprise that we love trees at Geoscape and want our clients to achieve long-term success and multiple benefits in any streetscaping project. For more information, contact us or read more about our Urban Streetscape and Subdivision Landscape Development services.