landscape architecture safety

Incorporating Safety in Landscape Architecture

May 10, 2021 8:57 pm  | Published by

Experiencing the outdoors is an essential component of our health. Those of us who spend more time in the open air enjoy lower probabilities of cardiovascular disease, asthma hospitalization, and more. It has even been connected to improved birth outcomes and cognitive development in children. Seaside or amongst the foliage of a quaint park, nature makes us better.

But it’s also less predictable and controllable than our carefully structured interior environments. That’s why incorporating safety in landscape architecture is so important.

By taking a few smart steps to modify our landscape architecture designs, we can help more people enjoy nature. Here are a few of our top tips to achieve it:

windy landscapes

Landscape Architects Need to Consider the Climate 

Do you have clearly defined seasons? Or is it pretty hot most of the year? This type of thought applies in more specific contexts, too. Is the space you’re working with tucked between two buildings and thus, more susceptible to strong wind gusts? These questions—and more so, their answers—are very important when you aim to create safe outdoor spaces for people to enjoy. 

The ideal placement of trees along a street could reduce temperatures on the surface below (and the people walking on it) by as much as 45%. That is no small number! Imagine how that changes the experience of being in your landscape for a person prone to heatstroke. They could likely embrace a summer’s day like never before, thanks to your intelligent design. 

If you are working in an area that welcomes chillier months, think about applying more extensive irrigation techniques, as this can protect plants and hardscape alike from freezing. That maintains the design and helps people avoid slippage!

 When wind will be a relevant factor, be sure you don’t install anything that won’t withstand the top speeds. You definitely don’t want a part of your design to become a dangerous projectile! 

keep bees away from people in landscapes

Discourage Certain Wildlife in Your Landscaping

One of the elements of nature people most enjoy is the observance of birds, bees, bugs, butterflies, etc. But there are certain wild ones that are best directed away from people. The most crucial example relevant to city and rural areas alike is bees. 

We all want to save the bees, but a good many of us are also allergic to them. For some, this can become life-threatening in a matter of moments. For the landscape architect, this means that choosing plants that aren’t especially attractive to bees is a must.

Remember, too, that certain plants attract mosquitoes. Not even the most ardent lover of nature wants to be swarmed by those disease carriers. Keep in mind how you design water features for this reason. Stagnant, still bodies of water will bring them in and give them a place to breed—bad news times two!

lighting in landscape architecture

 In Your Landscape Architecture Foundation, Illuminate Everything

A core principle of safe landscape architecture is lighting. Regardless of whether your space will more commonly be used during the day or at night, you should ensure that pedestrians can see where they’re going should they be there after dark.

Street lights and/or pathway lights along sidewalks are key, as is some type of lighting where benches and other places to rest are located.

One visually pleasing way to incorporate lighting is to add it to a water feature, like a fountain. This will establish a welcoming glow while keeping visitors safe via greater visibility.

commercial landscape architecture bench

Make Landscape Architecture Design for the Pedestrian

If your landscape architecture will be in a location with vehicular traffic nearby, make sure to consider the safety of pedestrians relative to that factor.

Sidewalks shouldn’t edge up too close to the road, and foliage or other features need to be placed in areas where they won’t obstruct a driver’s view of oncoming pedestrians. You’ll also want to think about the pedestrian’s view of oncoming drivers. Here’s an example of what we mean by that:

Let’s say you’re installing a bench in a streetside park area. It might feel natural to arrange the bench so that it faces inward, toward a playground or fountain. But if the street would then be directly behind the bench, this isn’t a great idea. Should a car weave toward the green space, anyone seated on the bench won’t see that they need to get out of the way. While this is unlikely to ever happen, it is something that visitors might be thinking about. By endeavoring to put the bench in a location where it will be backing up to foliage, you eliminate the feeling that one needs to look over their shoulder every time they hear a car.

bird in landscape architecture

Do Your Part to Prevent Crime

Of all the points we’re talking through today, this one might be the most unexpected. But it’s incredibly important when incorporating safety into landscape architecture.

We already touched on the concept of keeping outdoor spaces well lit, and that in and of itself can lower crime rates in an area. It also makes people feel more comfortable at all times.

But the placing of plantings and other features can discourage nefarious activities too. Imagine an entrance gate with tall shrubs on either side. This would be an appealing place for an attacker to hide and wait to jump out at a victim. No one wants to think about such scenarios, but when landscape architects acknowledge possibilities like these, and design solutions, they can help keep people safe.

Another way landscape architects can do so is by incorporating outdoor speakers to play ambient music or nature sounds. Several fascinating experiments (most notably one in Lancaster, California) have suggested that exposing an area to frequent birdsong can result in a tangible reduction of crime! 

 

If you would like to learn more about how landscape architects can help create safer open-air spaces for people to enjoy, reach out to us! We love to talk about landscapes, and we’d be happy to discuss your own project, too.

Or, read up on some of the other goals you should have for your public green spaces!

 

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This post was written by Steve Dana

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