Creating Community through Common Spaces
Beyond curb appeal, thoughtful landscaping also encourages a strong sense of community.
Creating a sense of place with a variety of common spaces is crucial in multifamily buildings. But this community feel is not limited to the interiors. “It’s really important in housing development that there be [exterior] common spaces that can be used by the community that lives there,” says Los Angeles-based landscape architect Mia Lehrer, FASLA, president of Mia Lehrer + Associates.
Lehrer notes that the number of trees can make a big difference in creating a sense of place, as can having an appropriate number of benches, picnic tables and shade structures that allow residents to understand these areas as designated as an extension of their living spaces.
Adding character to this space is also important, so Lehrer suggests choosing hardscape materials for paths and entry areas that will have an impact. “The materials should be simple but [have] something about them that gives them a lot of character. It can be a material that’s not expensive, like concrete or gravel, but it [should] be detailed and carried through in a consistent way,” she explains.
Maintenance is a top priority
Perhaps the most important aspect to designing the landscape for a multi-housing community, says Lehrer, is in its maintenance. “It’s not just the sales job; it’s what it looks like down the line,” she points out. One of the best—and perhaps easiest—ways to maintain great curb appeal is to choose plants that don’t require significant maintenance. Some developers, says Lehrer, get involved early in the design process to work with the landscape architect and determine a maintenance schedule that will be an appropriate fit with the property’s maintenance crews.
For any designer, though, it is crucial to educate on-site building personnel on the parameters of maintaining the property’s landscaping, Lehrer notes, adding that her firm often provides a bilingual maintenance manual that includes a schedule of feeding, watering and trimming. Once the landscape is established, trees generally need to be trimmed once a year; shrubs should be trimmed three times a year. It is important, however, to periodically check the landscaping for any major problems.
Having a landscaping maintenance budget is key, adds Lehrer, since a lack of such often results in the manager putting off the care of some major issues, which can be detrimental to the landscaping down the line.
For year-round curb appeal, the key is “keeping it fresh,” she says. “If you can afford to have bulbs or other annuals in the spring, especially for people coming out of a heavy winter, it’s nice, but it’s just as important to have the trees looking fresh, shrubs looking healthy and signage and lighting clean.”
Pearl’s Premium Ultra Low Maintenance Lawn Seed is a drought-resistant grass seed that requires less watering, mowing and fertilizer than traditional grass. The seed grows at one-quarter the rate of blue grass, requiring mowing only once a month, and with 12-inch roots, it needs no fertilizer, rarely needs water once established and looks like a lush green lawn year-round (www.pearlspremium.com).
BioNova Natural Swimming Pools (NSPs) are built to operate using the same principles to purify natural ponds, streams and lakes. They consist of several water zones, which help with the cleaning and create the climate required for a mix of microorganisms. Energy-efficient pumps
operate at intervals throughout the season (www.bionovanaturalpools.com).
Dog–On-it-Parks offers a complete line of dog playground equipment that is designed for the average recreational off-leash park user. The equipment features galvanized steel pipe with baked-on polyester powder-coat finish for maximum corrosion resistance, and the company’s PawsGrip texture is slip-resistant (www.dog-on-it-parks.com).
SYNLawn’s grass products are 100 percent recyclable. The company’s HeatBlock Technology with Bonar’s Coolgrass lowers surface temperatures by almost 20 percent compared to ordinary turf products. SYNLawn includes soy-based polyurethanes in its backing systems, and the products can contribute points toward LEED certification (www.synlawn.com).
ForeverLawn artificial grass products offer several product lines designed for specific purposes. ForeverLawn products meet LEED guidelines in several categories. The multi-layered backing system incorporates recycled plastic bottles and BioCel technology created from soybean plants (www.foreverlawn.com).
Architectural Area Lighting (AAL) has expanded its Designer SSL Series with the addition of its Promenade and Flex series of fixtures, as well as higher-lumen, large-scale shapes of its SSL Series’ Providence and Universe luminaires. The second-generation Designer SSL Series features AAL’s patent-pending LifeShield Protection System, which is designed to preserve diode life in extreme temperature conditions (www.aal.net).
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