When people think of landscape design, they tend to think of rolling lawns and English Tea gardens. These are great, of course, especially for businesses, but many work places don’t have the room to indulge in those sorts of large-scale projects. A restaurant may have only a small front patio or a small strip of sidewalk […]
The driveway that leads up to a business is the aspect of any property that visitors see first. It is what welcomes clients and partners into the organization. This is what greets the employees every day when they get to work. And then there is the walkway that leads up to the front door and the possibility of a patio in an atrium or behind and beside the building. All of these ground coverings make up a large portion of a company’s property. They need to look appealing and they need to last–especially if the owners are wanting to put the property on the market.
The look and the quality of all paved outdoor areas need to be taken into consideration by any business. Pavement cracks and potholes detract from the view. On the other hand, pavement that is made from a quality and environmentally-friendly material that holds up to harsh weather can add significant value to a company’s property. For this reason, many business owners who are planning on adding upgrades to their office should consider repaving their driveway, parking lot, walkway, and/or patio.
When you are paving an area for commercial use, there are various aspects to consider. Cost needs to be broken down. The difficulty of installation should be reviewed. Durability needs to be thought about. All of these factors have to be deliberated on in order to make the best choice. While some individuals want to go with the cheapest price and sacrifice on quality, others would prefer to go with the most fashionable option and forfeit environmental friendliness. But what if there was a paving solution that provided the best of all worlds? Enter porous paving.
What Is Porous Paving?
In short, porous paving is an environmentally-friendly way to pave parking areas, sidewalks, and roads. It lets stormwater through its surface, base, and subbase, all of which are made with sustainable techniques and materials. But porous paving not only reduces runoff, it also filters out any pollutants or hazardous materials as the stormwater seeps through. It’s able to achieve this because while normal paving material is mixed with high amounts of fine sand, porous paving contains very little sand, leaving between 10 and 25 percent of space void. This, in turn, lowers the runoff coefficient to nearly zero.
What Are The Benefits Of Porous Paving?
1. Good For The Environment
There are multiple ways that porous paving is good for the environment. As previously mentioned, the pavement is made with sustainable methods and materials. These factors alone would allow the installer to get LEED Green Building Rating System credits. But additional credits can be earned from other environmental aspects of porous paving.
One such factor is the local heat island effect that porous paving creates. Because the water can filter into the ground, the surrounding area and ground surface temperatures are lowered. When a lighter color of paving is chosen, this lowers temperatures even more. This lower temperature both improves local air quality and the health of surrounding vegetation.
And then there is erosion control. Whether you are remodeling an office in a hillier and mountainous area or in a more arid location, the soil tends to be loose. Porous paving can help with soil retention and erosion prevention.
2. Lowers Costs Over Time
There are several different ways that costs are reduced over time. The first was briefly mentioned above, and that is the lowered temperature. For office buildings, one of the big expenses can be air conditioning. Because of the lighter colored material and the porousness of it, the temperature of the surrounding area will be slightly lower. This, in turn, lowers energy costs for cooling any surrounding buildings.
Another way costs are lowered is through fewer irrigation demands. Many cities and towns have periods of the year when they suffer through heavy amounts of rainfall. Some years are worse than others and sewer systems cannot provide the necessary support. Additionally, the water that falls straight onto soil cannot be absorbed fast enough to provide many benefits. With porous paving, the ground captures the runoff and then slowly filters and cleans it, allowing the water that is eventually collected to be of great use to surrounding areas. This water can also be collected and used during dryer times of the year, meaning a lower need for man-produced irrigation, stormwater management methods, and a reduction in water use.
A final way cost is reduced is through materials used. While the underlying stone bed can be costly, this is generally offset by the reduced need for enhanced irrigation. And when it comes to the actual porous pavement that is used, it costs less per square foot than both asphalt and concrete. It is also significantly less labor-intensive to install than other options. Lastly, the life cycle of porous pavement is long, meaning no to very little money will have to be spent on repairs for many years.
3. Long Lasting
The life-cycle of porous paving is impressive. Due to its strength and durability, it both lasts for years and repairs are few and far between. It is common to see no cracks or potholes in a porous pavement 20 years after it has been installed and heavily used. Additionally, the porousness of the pavement does not wear out either, meaning that after 20 or 30 years there will still be no surface discharge and the water will filter through just as it did when it was installed.
The real reason for this durability is that porous paving is more flexible or rubbery in a sense. The base and sub-base that are used are loose and can move with the soil beneath it as it changes. The top pavement is also not as rigid, meaning that even the heaviest of equipment traveling over it will not harm it. This is exactly why it is so rare to see potholes and cracks in the porous pavement.
This smoothness is very good news for properties that want to provide better-handicapped access. Because potholes and cracks are so rare with porous pavement, it makes it much easier for those in wheelchairs or with walkers to navigate on sidewalks and through parking lots.
4. Good Looking
The final benefit of porous paving is the options you have. The downside of asphalt and concrete is that they offer one look. If you have a unique building, asphalt may not look good with it, whether it is the architecture or the landscaping. Porous paving solves this problem. Porous pavement comes in a variety of styles and colors so that you can find the best look for your parking area or sidewalk. No more of the boring concrete or the smelly asphalt that constantly needs to be repaired. Get the look you want, at the price you want, with all the convenience you can imagine.
The modern idea of a functional workplace no longer revolves around a desk in a large office. Each day, wireless communications become more sophisticated. Younger people, who are more used to these new communications methods, are entering the workforce and employers have a new awareness of how employees work best. These new ideas and innovations make it possible for companies to incorporate nature and the outdoors into a beneficial workplace environment.
Landscaping with Biophilic Design
Many companies are combining the recent trends of biophilia (a human being’s natural affinity for nature) with the landscaping trend of placemaking and recent findings concerning productivity. Placemaking is a recent trend in commercial landscaping. Designers use it to reevaluate unused outdoor spaces and remake them into a practical outdoor space for employees, clients, and customers to relax or do business. This trend partners well with landscaping with biophilic design, which stresses positive interaction with the user’s surroundings.
Working in an alternative space is no longer equated with fooling around. Recent studies have linked it with higher productivity and cost savings for companies. WorkDesign magazine cites a Heschong-Mahone Group study that tracked employee productivity with exposure to nature. Researchers observed call centers where managers placed seats so employees could see outdoor greenery with their peripheral vision. This small change resulted in employees with the view handling calls six to seven percent faster than the group without the view. While it cost money to renovate the office, it ultimately saved the company about $2,999 for each employee because production went up.
Innovative Workplace Trend
As more and more millennials enter the workforce, companies are adjusting to meet their needs and expectations. Because younger employees grew up in a wireless world, companies and municipalities are looking for creative ways to attract them. Blueprint reports that urban areas are increasingly incorporating outdoor office space in communities, not only for freelancers but to add an alternative for professionals who want to meet or work in a professional outdoor setting, rather than a restaurant or a windowless conference room.
A Silver Spring, Maryland project, called The Outbox, has recently been lauded as an innovative way to incorporate outdoor office space into urban life. It is simply a seasonal structure with outlets, a seating area and open walls that allow a clear view of the surrounding area but also provide shade and shelter from any sudden weather issues. This popular destination draws an eclectic mix of different professionals who come together to work and share ideas.
Renovating You Space for Biophilia
If you have an unused outdoor area on your business property, now it the time to consider incorporating a space for working outdoors. Of course, wifi is crucial for an outdoor workspace but there are other needs.
- Consider remaking an unused outdoor area on company property to include any features relative to your employees.
- Shade trees are appealing for a park setting but don’t place seating under them or your best client may end up with bird droppings on her favorite suit.
- Colorful flowers provide a mood lift, so ask your landscaper to fill pots and planters with seasonally blooming plants.
- Ask your landscaping crew to keep greenery closely trimmed so that it does not block walkways or seating, particularly for the handicapped.
- Outdoor furniture should still look professional after being out in the elements for a bit and it should be at the height most comfortable for people working on laptops.
- Plan a structure that can protect employees from the elements. Wind days are a problem if your workplace still uses paper and sunny days create glare on electronic screens.
There are many benefits to landscaping with biophilic design. Renovating your outdoor area to include a place for employees to work is not only good for your current staff but for millennials entering the workforce. Besides creating an appealing space to work in, it will draw in new employees and freelancers who can bring fresh ideas to your company.
Employee Productivity and Health
Landscape design is an important part of your business plan and can provide many advantages to a workplace. One of the most subtle and most valuable effects of good landscape design is the boost in employee productivity and health. This is for a few reasons.
Seeing Natural Environments Improves Thinking
According to an article published in the American Psychological Association, viewing nature rests the mind from the strain of what is called directed attention. This is the type of attention that people use when they do tasks that require a lot of focus, and it is different from the fascination type of attention that people use when they look at nature. After resting the mind, people can focus better. Studies have also found that people can remember better and pay attention longer by 20% when they are exposed to nature.
For instance, there was a study done where people were given 40 minutes of attentionally exhausting tasks and then relaxed in different ways, including a walk in a nature preserve. The people who were exposed to nature did better at a standard proofreading test than the people who were assigned to other types of relaxation.
It isn’t necessary for your employees to work in a nature preserve to get these benefits, either: being able to see or take their lunch in a professionally done landscape that has plants in it will improve their focus.
Exposure To Nature Improves Mental Health
Studies show that people who spend more time in nature feel more hopeful and often have better mental health. They feel more energetic, less stress, and less depression when outside. Being able to see a good landscape from their windows can help employees feel better about work in general and enjoy their job more.
The association between exposure to nature seems particularly strong when it comes to depression, which is a condition that can definitely sap your productivity. A study on twins that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people were less likely to feel depressed if they had ready access to green spaces.
The improvement in mental health can be indirect, too. For instance, the effect of tiring your mind from using directed attention increases impulsivity, distractibility, and irritability. This can increase the stress on everyone who has to work with the person who is fatigued. Many studies have shown that increased stress leads to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.
Green Environments Improve Physical Health
There is a documented association between green spaces and improved health outcomes. This might have something to do with nature’s association with lowered stress levels. Lessening the stress people feel is known to have positive health effects such as improving sleep and making it easier to recover from illnesses.
For instance, there is a famous study that a director at Texas A&M University conducted on patients who were recovering from abdominal surgery. The director surveyed the recovery of patients who were given a view of trees from their window and the recovery of patients who were given a view of brick walls from their window, and he found that the patients who could see the trees recovered faster, didn’t request as much pain medication, and had fewer complications.
But beyond the effects of reducing stress, green landscapes may encourage physical activity. Taking a walk around the campus at lunch is a more attractive idea if the path that you will walk on is hedged with pretty flowers. Increased physical activity promotes general wellness, which in turn boosts attendance at work and the ability to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
These three subtle benefits make good landscaping design something to look into.
Living sculptures take the best of nature and art and combine them into one gorgeous display. Creating these sculptures is a true talent as it requires careful consideration of not just what it will look like upon completion but how it will literally grow and change over time. Living sculpture artists are working with a medium that can be unpredictable and fragile, and their work is a testament to both superb planning and of thoughtful patience.
Because of the nature of this work, some of it is ephemeral, lasting only for a season before it either grows out or is pruned away to become the canvas for another piece entirely. The beauty of natural art is that it, like us, is always changing.
Here are some of the most stunning and impressive examples of living sculptures across the world.
Earth Goddess- Atlanta, GA
Located outside of the Cascades Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Earth Goddess certainly lives up to her name. Her eyes closed in serene contemplation as she raises a cupped hand spilling water onto the earth, she embodies the peaceful effects of nature. Many different shades of cascading plants make up this 25-foot display.
Green Animals Topiary Garden- Portsmouth, RI
Topiary features a push and pull between the human sense of order and nature’s tendency to override it. More than 80 pieces make up the Green Animals topiary collection including bears, birds, and abstract shapes. This collection of sculptures has a long history, as it was started under the careful attention of the property’s superintendent back in the early 1900’s. The creators carefully carve the sculptures from yew, English boxwood, and California privet shrubs.
The Circus Trees of Gilroy Gardens- Gilroy, CA
Swedish horticulturist Axel Erlandson used a process called inosculation to shape trees into elaborate designs and patterns, creating dozens of living sculptures out of trees on his property in California in the early 1900’s. While some of his creations were featured by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, by the time the property was bought in 1964, many of the trees had died. Today, more than two dozen of his creations survive at what is now the Gilroy Gardens. You can see a tree with a trunk woven like a basket that you can look right through. The “Revolving Door” offers a 3D cube in the middle of a tree trunk.
King’s Cross Picnic Display by Anna Garforth
U.K.-based artist Anna Garforth makes graffiti with moss instead of spray paint. She uses natural elements embedded directly into man-made structures to create stunning and beautiful displays. One such example is her installation at King’s Cross Picnic, a commissioned piece for the London Festival of Architecture. With geometric zigzags and diamonds embedded directly into the wall, this piece is both calming and intriguing.
These stunning displays of living sculptures are meaningful reminders of our connection and dependence upon the Earth to sustain us just as we sustain it. Putting this reciprocal relationship into a piece of art is a challenging undertaking with breathtaking results. Some of these sculptures (like Erlandson’s trees) will outlive their creators, taking on new shapes over time. Others are temporary displays. Still, others take on different shapes each season, ensuring that no two visits will ever be the same.
Bringing pieces of living art into our own spaces via living walls of cascading plants, topiary, and sculptures can liven up space, bring us closer to nature, and remind us of our connectedness to the Earth and each other. These powerful pieces speak to us on a deep level.