Photographer Unknown | Source: https://www.api.intechopen.com
An improvement to an existing space’s design that enhances ecological function while enhancing flexibility and use is referred to as “ecological design.” Ecological designs emphasises the removal of existing materials over the addition of new ones, whether they are organic or inorganic, as a design strategy. Ecological minimalism provides a practical method for repurposing existing landscapes to create new ones in this way.
Humans are descended from and dependent upon nature, and over time, their connection with nature changes. However, there has never been a particular historical time when humans have been able to resist altering nature, for better or worse. The concept of “Ecological Design” in this article presents a chance for innovation that will benefit the ecosystem, and its residents. The concepts demonstrated in this demonstration project could be used to concurrently revamp over urban parks.
Table of Contents
Historical Development of Ecological Design
The self-formed, informal application of regional materials as created by farmers may represent the origins of ecological design. For instance, farmers plant crops and use them as a source of food, or they gather organic compost to develop and bolster other farmlands. This idea of local knowledge or natural knowledge entered the realms of architecture and landscape architecture because of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s concept of “organic building.” As a result, contemporary architecture frequently makes use of recycled materials, vernacular forms, and renewable materials.
Ian L. McHarg, a landscape architect and writer, stated in 1969 that “decisions on the meaning of human appropriation of land for development should be based on biological processes mirrored in natural landscapes.” John Todd, a scientist, later created the “Living Machine” in the 1970s. It provided excellent inspiration and a fantastic chance for ecological design in landscape architecture because it is particularly well-suited for wetlands. Good design “studies nature’s models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human issues,” according to Benyus, who first proposed this theory in 1997.
Photographer Unknown | Source: https://www.land8.com
The use of eco-design in landscape architecture is now extensively accepted and recognized in academic courses, professional journals, and workplaces. Particularly, ecological systems are increasingly taken into account in the context of human wants and requirements. The use of ecological design concepts in the creation of natural settings has been the subject of extensive debate. However, large-scale locations are where the ecological design technique is most frequently used.
The majority of the existing research on ecological design concentrates on ecological planning and design, which are typically used in expansive parks. Unfortunately, small-scale sites usually only contribute a minor part to the overall picture; their isolation and disconnectivity rapidly reduce the value and significance of ecological design.
Ecological Design Principles
Fan and Freedman state that the following basic ecological design principles should be included in and understood as part of any design for human ecosystems:
Principle 1: Locally Sufficient Economic System
Photographer Huijun Wang | Source: https://www.issuu.com
A “locally sufficient economic system” entails, first and foremost, a shift toward resource sustainability. The location of the designers of landscape architecture is important, as is their understanding of what can be done with the resources in the area by humans.
A stunning example of a vernacular landscape is the “Hani Terrace” in Guizhou province, China. This environment was not created by a designer, but rather by generations of local farmers working their land. Water flows from higher heights to a hill’s base; as a result, the energy flow is flexible, natural, and energy-efficient.
The terraces can regenerate their soil nutrients after harvesting thanks to the usage of local resources, making them potentially accessible for many generations. Comparatively, while burning up non-renewable resources like petroleum and fertiliser may temporarily support economic expansion, if a replacement cannot be found, a number of issues will eventually arise.
Second, “natural debt” is more likely to be eliminated in economies that are locally sufficient. It is acknowledged that just pursuing short-term, unsustainable objectives will impair future earnings. For instance, the concrete riverbank can serve as a recreational area, but the water separation from the soil can result in long-term issues, such as a decline in natural biodiversity or difficulty controlling flooding. One instance of how ecological design can do away with natural debts is this.
Principle 2: Maintain Ecological Integrity
An ecosystem is a whole living system made up of several types of energy and life nodes. An ecosystem’s components interact with one another, are linked to one another, and depend on one another. A broken or fragmented ecosystem will result from the destruction of any one of its components. It is vital and meaningful to maintain the dynamic process of natural flows. Designers should have a thorough understanding of the biotic communities, energy flows, operating system, and other components of the ecological system in order to prevent ecosystems from being destroyed.
Principle 3: Letting Nature Do the Work
An ecosystem changes continuously throughout time, offering creatures a range of goods to meet their regular needs, which includes meeting human needs. Natural filtration can be used to purify water; over time, pollutants in the soil will break down; natural flora is pollinated for flowering, fruiting, and reproduction; and the microclimate is controlled.
These processes can occasionally be disrupted by human activity, which causes environmental issues. Letting nature cleanse, rejuvenate, or renew itself is a much better option compared to the work needed to fix new issues we made.
Principle 4: Simulate Natural Ecosystems
Since natural ecosystems have been continuously improving for thousands of years, the makeup of natural variables can serve as a source of inspiration for anyone looking for efficient design solutions. In many design domains, the benefits of natural composition are evident. For instance, “the waste material of one process becomes a resource for another” in the design of an industrial park.
The design of other domains, such horticultural landscaping, should imitate biological processes, using native species to create replicas of natural communities. Not only will energy and resources be conserved in this way, but native species and the way biodiversity has co-evolved together also serves as an optimal rule, preventing the invasion of native plant communities by non-native species.
Non-native species can occasionally be riskier than native species due to a lack of natural enemies as well as fragility, which increases the risk of losing and wasting resources and energy.
Principle 5: Protect Natural Resources and Habitat
The loss of wildlife species is one of the worst effects of overexploitation. Wildlife needs a natural habitat to live, especially in heavily populated areas. Urbanizing a place while attempting to maintain its complete environment is not an easy feat. To strike a balance between human and natural resource loss and gain, designers must use logic.
Compared to other built spaces in a city, an urban park’s ecological design can significantly preserve existing resources while also enticing people to visit and enjoy their everyday activities. Ecological concerns can be “mitigated” to some extent by planning such landscapes for locations that are not always heavily populated by people. Protecting natural resources and urbanising a region are often not mutually exclusive goals; thoughtful decision-makers may be able to fulfil both of these objectives.
Principle 6: Increase Environmental Literacy
Designers, corporate investors, governments, citizens, managers, and individuals from various academic sectors collaborate on several practical initiatives. When one or more of these individuals lacks environmental literacy, a conflict may result, making it impossible to apply ecological design to actual sites or to make the design balanced and advantageous.
When it comes to sustainable development, environmental literacy actually reflects “how much individuals are willing to ‘pay’.” The entire community should be knowledgeable about the causes and effects of ecological harm in order to improve environmental literacy. Getting people from different backgrounds to agree on ecological design and the future of humans is not an easy challenge, but it is the best approach to advance ecological design into actual practises.
Applying ecological design to heavily altered, hard-paved urban parks without having a significant negative influence on the environment is challenging as the field gains popularity and attention throughout the globe. Unquestionably, humans have ruled the majority of the earth’s surface. However, ecosystems are inextricably linked to and dependent upon all human endeavours, including culture. Thus, a thorough justification for ecological designs can be created by linking urban situations to the natural environment.
The responsibility of protecting the planet from environmental deterioration should not fall primarily on the profession of landscape architecture. However, by obeying natural laws and using a win-win strategy, landscape architects may design landscapes that have an impact on how people interact with and comprehend them.