As residents of the concrete jungle, we cherish our green space, and over the last few years, we’ve seen quite a few new parks unveiled thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC. But a public park should be more than just a beautiful place — it should be a healthy ecosystem, too. This idea inspired the New York City Parks Department to partner with the Design Trust and create “High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC,” a comprehensive, municipal design primer for building sustainable parks and open spaces — the first guideline of its kind in the nation.
The 270-page document is the third of a series of sustainable guidelines that the Design Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the city’s pubic spaces, has created for the city, the first two being for buildings and infrastructure. The landscape guidelines will change the way that parks are designed, built, and maintained, ultimately improving the life of New Yorkers and reducing the city’s environmental impact. The document includes hundreds of practices that should be implemented, which were developed by studying the scientific make-up of the soil, water, and vegetation and through case studies of current city parks.
The guidelines ensure that our parks will help to clean city air, absorb storm water, reduce the urban heat island effect, provide habitat for city critters, and address the effects of climate change. The practices include things like harvesting rainwater to use for watering plants in the park rather than sending it to sewers; expand tree beds to increase the health and survival rate of street trees; building green roofs on park structures; designing parks to reduce labor needs, thus cutting costs — the list goes on and on.
If you’re interested in sustainable design and building a greener city, we highly recommend downloading the document and reading through. It’s super informative about the ecological make-up of the city’s land, but more importantly, it’s thrilling to see such intelligent design!