Bringing the great outdoors into the concrete jungle: Integration of green space

Posted on Aug 19, 2014 by Theresa Lehman

One of Miron’s key (and most well-known) drivers is sustainability, particularly in regard to sustainable construction. One way to reduce the ecological footprint of a building is through the integration of green space. By integrating renewable energy features and building science technology, we are able to implement economically and ecologically-sensible solutions that make structures greener while lessening the impact on the environment, all while providing benefits for the individuals in and around them.

On an environmentally-conscious level, the ecological impact of a structure comes from more than the materials used to build it. Buildings consume more energy over time than they do throughout the course of construction. Adding green space, a vegetated green roof for example, to a project’s design is one way to lessen its environmental impact. Green roofs absorb rainwater, provide insulation and help lower urban air temperatures. It can help decrease the “heat island effect” in cities and will make the building more aesthetically pleasing in general. From a lifecycle cost analysis perspective, green roofs, especially those that contain native or adapted plants, last longer than conventional roofs and typically require less maintenance.

Rain gardens are another type of green space growing in popularity. Used primarily for storm water management, a rain garden is a sunken vegetated area that allows rainwater runoff from impervious areas such as roofs, driveways, walkways and parking lots to be absorbed into the ground. This prevents the water from standing or from flowing into storm drains and also prevents extensive erosion and flooding. Since the water filters through soil layers before entering the groundwater system, it also decreases water pollution and improves the quality of nearby bodies of water.

Native plants such as wildflowers, rushes, ferns and small trees are recommended for rain gardens because they generally do not require fertilizer and pesticides and are more tolerant of local climate, soil, and water conditions. They also attract local wildlife, such as native birds. Native plantings also reduce and/or eliminate the need for irrigation, which accounts for 30 percent of the 26 billion gallons of water consumed on a daily basis in the United States.

Adding green space has a positive effect on health and well-being, especially in urban areas where poor respiratory health, sedentary lifestyles and mental stress are highest. When used to promote physical activity or reflection, green spaces promote positive feelings for users of the building and, in turn, toward the building itself.  The use of native plantings also provides educational opportunities that increase environmental literacy, enabling people to better understand and appreciate the relationship between human ecology, natural ecology and the building.



About Theresa Lehman

Dedicating her entire career to sustainable practice, Theresa has worked on more than 70 projects seeking LEED® certification utilizing the LEED®-NC, LEED®-CI, LEED®-CS, LEED®-EBOM, and LEED® for Schools green building rating systems. She has successfully certified projects that have earned LEED® certification at all four award levels including: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Her portfolio of LEED® projects includes many “Wisconsin firsts” such as the first State of Wisconsin LEED® certified project, the first healthcare facility, the first LEED®-EBOM Schools, the first LEED® for Schools project and the first zero-net energy / carbon neutral project–the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center–the “greenest building on the planet” according to Rick Fedrizzi, former President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council.

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