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This article was written by Carter Hartong, associate content marketing writer for Vectorworks. Read more from Hartong on the Vectorworks blog.

Governments and lawmakers across the globe are increasingly introducing green initiatives to address the ever-growing importance of sustainable infrastructure. But not all change necessarily has to come from these higher institutions. Designers have the power to influence sustainable infrastructure as well.

Consider Your Natural Surroundings

As designers already know, before you begin any grading, planting, or hardscaping, you must first consider the project site’s existing conditions with an intent to make the least amount of adverse impacts possible.

Aside from walking around and taking inventory of your client’s project site, the next best way to understand this space contextually is with GIS. If you are already familiar with the support GIS data can provide, such as parcel data, zoning overlays, building footprints and topography, you should also note the even broader range of information available from online services like Esri’s ArcGIS Online. This data can be brought into Vectorworks Landmark via a connection to online feature services to offer a site real-world context, essential to making better decisions for each project.

GIS data allows you to document and inventory existing trees and vegetation into your design. As well, GIS data can also account for protected areas, natural watersheds and flood zones within the site and surrounding area, which is vital for an understanding of how you’re impacting nearby waterways.

Take inventory of tree and ground cover with GIS directly in Vectorworks. Image courtesy of RaeburnFarquharBowen.

Favour Permeable Pavement Systems to Rigid Hardscapes

There’s a natural tension between green infrastructure and hardscapes like concrete since the latter are installed to the detriment of the former.

Moreover, most concrete doesn’t properly manage the flow of water. After a heavy rainfall, water may pool in certain areas or, if a grade is present, race towards the lowest points. In both situations, flooding becomes a great risk.

A permeable pavement system allows water to be absorbed by the soil beneath the concrete or other paved surface. Because the water can soak into the layers of soil and porous rock underneath the system, it can benefit the moisture content of the soil in nearby plantings, enter an underground drainage system, or perhaps recharge the water table in that area.

Add Green Roofs to Your Repertoire

A long-standing yet still-growing trend in sustainable design is green roofing. Rooftop gardens and urban agriculture are becoming more and more popular in urban areas.  Not only does rooftop farming provide building tenants with fresh vegetables or beautiful greenery, but they also help control water runoff and carbon levels in urban areas.

Not all rooftops are conducive to harbouring rows of plants, however. So, there must be more intentionality and consideration in the design process. When designing intensive rooftop gardens and extensive green roofs in Vectorworks Landmark, it’s important to consider structural loads, water management systems, climate, and the ability to access the gardens. All these details can be considered and recorded using Vectorworks’ powerful worksheets.

But don’t stop with rooftop gardens — green roofing can be taken to a whole new level with solar-integrated green roofing. This is a practice of combining greenery and photovoltaic panels. The greenery will keep your panels cool — and, therefore, more efficient. In turn, the panels will promote more variety in the plants that can be used on the roof. This is due to areas of greater sunlight and of greater shade.

Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion | Courtesy of PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.

For more information on how you, too, can design sustainably with the software built for the way landscape architects work, visit

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