McLane & Associates, Inc. is an advocate of Ecological Design principles. Ecological Design is generally synonymous with the terms Sustainable Development, Regenerative Design and Restorative Design, and employs similar strategies and techniques in landscape design and planning.
The term “Ecology” (Greek oikos, "household"; and logos, "knowledge) is defined as the branch of biology dealing with the relations and interactions between organisms and their environment. “Design” refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component. “Ecological Design”, is a process of developing plans for the human environment, or habitat, which take into consideration the complex interactions between Man, other organisms and the natural environment. It is based on the premise that man and nature are interdependent, and that, ultimately, what is beneficial for nature is also beneficial for mankind. Ecological Design attempts to restore and maintain balance between the needs of man and the wellbeing of our natural environment, and where possible to enhance environmental quality and stability. It attempts to minimize both short term and long terms adverse effects of our actions on the natural environment.
Ecology and Aesthetics
We need not sacrifice the beauty of our landscapes to promote environmental quality. While it is true that we may need to adapt some of our aesthetic concepts to align with the modern ethics of conservation and stewardship, there is no inherent conflict between beauty and a healthy environment. Our aesthetics are largely derived from nature. One definition of beauty is "the perception of health and well-being". Which landscapes do we consider to be the most beautiful? Do we prefer landfills, clear-cut forests, and derelict neighborhoods, or virgin forests, native prairies, majestic mountains, and sandy beaches? If we design with nature, preserving, enhancing and simulating natural processes, we can enhance both the health and beauty of our natural environment. When we design with nature we invite nature back into the garden, enhancing the variety of aesthetic experiences. In a garden that provides food, water and shelter for wildlife, we will have more opportunity to connect with local fauna. As we understand more about natural processes in the landscape our appreciation is enhanced for the subtle seasonal and cyclical changes that take place.
Ecological Design Process
Before beginning a design it is important to develop a design program and conduct a detailed site assessment. The design program is an outline of the goals of the intended users and design objectives for the site. The site assessment is an inventory of existing site conditions, to identify opportunities valuable site resources, as well as features that are degraded or need ecological enhancement. The assessment will help to understand the site’s potential and opportunities for sustainability.
Techniques for Ecological Design
There is a variety of techniques we can use to promote ecological design principles in our landscapes. For discussion I have grouped the various approaches into the following five categories: