Incorporating Sustainability into Hardscaping

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Photo courtesy of Santa Rita Landscaping.
Picture of landscape durecting runoff to a catch basin.

Incorporating Sustainability into Hardscaping

Hardscapes, which encompass paths, patios, walls, and other non-plant elements, provide structure and organization within a landscape. When implemented thoughtfully, hardscapes can significantly contribute to sustainability efforts.

Strategic placement of permeable hardscape materials can mitigate erosion and runoff issues. Permeable materials allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground, preventing surface water runoff and supporting groundwater recharge. This simple yet effective measure aids in water conservation and reduces strain on local drainage systems.

Hardscapes can serve to optimize energy efficiency within a landscape. By strategically placing walls or structures to provide shade or channel breezes, one can reduce the need for excessive air conditioning or heating, thus lowering overall energy consumption.

Here are some elements to consider while planning hardscapes with sustainability in mind:

  1. Permeable Paving: Include permeable hardscape materials that allow water to soak into the soil underneath. Pea gravel, river rock, decomposed granite, permeable interlocking concrete pavers, decomposed granite, porous asphalt, and pervious concrete used in paths and driveways allow rainwater to infiltrate the soil and reduce runoff.
  2. Xeriscaping with Hardscapes: Combine drought-resistant plants with hardscapes like rocks, boulders, or gravel to create visually appealing and water-efficient landscapes.
  3. Slow it, Spread it, Sink it: Utilize dry creek beds or swales made of rocks and pebbles to mimic natural water flow patterns during rainfall, to direct and absorb rainwater effectively for plant use.
  4. Rainwater Harvesting Features: Integrate hardscapes such as rain barrels and cisterns to collect and store rainwater for later use in the landscape.
  5. Rock Retaining Walls: Include rock retaining walls to prevent and manage erosion, to create terraced planting areas for vegetation, while aiding in water retention and conservation.
  6. Reclaimed or Recycled Materials: Use recycled or reclaimed materials for hardscapes, such as reclaimed wood for decking, urbanite (recycled concrete chunks) for walkways or retaining walls, or salvaged metal for decorative features.
  7. Native Stone Features: Incorporate native stones or rocks for features like seating areas, fire pits, or artistic installations, reducing the need for transportation and encouraging a natural, sustainable aesthetic.
  8. Vertical Gardens with Hardscape Elements: Integrate vertical gardens using hardscape structures like trellises or living walls to maximize greenery while saving space and reducing irrigation needs.
  9. Artificial Turf Patches: Implement small patches of artificial turf for play areas or decorative purposes, reducing water usage and maintenance typically associated with traditional grass lawns.
  10. Outdoor Living Spaces with Energy-Efficient Lighting: Design outdoor living areas using energy-efficient LED lighting integrated into hardscape elements, minimizing energy consumption and enhancing ambiance.

By incorporating these sustainable hardscaping ideas, desert Southwest landscapes can be both visually appealing and environmentally responsible, showcasing the beauty and resilience of the region.