Sunday, August 12, 2012

Urban Greening, Creating Visual Screens with Plants

Many municipalities and urban governments require screening around infrastructure such as water and natural gas back-flow preventers and other pipe systems found adjacent commercial buildings.

Most insist the screens be constructed from wooden privacy fence panels, concrete or brick walls, chain link fencing with privacy slats or other man-made materials.

Ligustrum japonicum, Visual Screen for Site Infrastructure

Planners and site development reviewers rarely allow these screens to be created from plants.  

Wooden and chain link fence panels are understandably predictable in behavior and provide instant opacity.

Plants on the other hand take time to grow, and if not maintained properly can present a challenge.

Ultimately, many city permitting staff take the easy way out and reject proposals using plants for screening requirements to a site development plan.
Ligustrum vulgare, Visual Screen for Site Infrastructure.  Plants provide privacy,  clean stormwater, sequester carbon, pump out oxygen, offer wildlife habitat and more.

Yet there are some visionary site designers and municipal site plan reviewers, some who are willing to take a risk and allow plants to be used for infrastructure screening.

Plant screens can be highly effective, offering opacity and privacy.  Additionally, plant screens clean stormwater, sequester carbon, produce oxygen, prevent erosion, provide habitat for urban wildlife and mitigate urban heat island effect.

Ligustrum vulgare, Visual Screen for Site Infrastructure.  Though Ligustrum japonicum, Common Privet is not a native plant, she is a drought tolerant landscape species offering much more benefit to the Urban Core than fencing panels.
Here, once again Publix has shown visionary design approaches by specifying plants for infrastructure screens.  Ligustrum or Common Privet, Ligustrum japonicum is not a native plant species however it is considered to be a drought tolerant and reliable landscape plant.

Even more encouraging was the fact that the reviewing county agency approved the use of plants for a visual screen rather than wooden panels or galvanized chain link.

Kudos to the designers and to the permitting staff for allowing and even encouraging Urban Greening.

Hopefully we will see more native plant landscapes serve as site design elements in the Urban Core.

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