Here at Inhabitat we’ve showcased thousands of green building and sustainable landscaping projects that save water, conserve energy, and minimize waste. But did you know just how much more efficient building green can be? Back in 2004 a project called Garden / Garden launched in Santa Monica to compare how different sustainable building methods stacked up against more traditional plans. The project tracked two neighboring houses and recorded data on water use, labor required, waste produced and other relevant information – and it found that the green house used one fifth the water, produced only a third the amount of waste and required about a quarter of the labor to maintain.

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The conventional home’s landscape consists of 70 percent turf, beds filled with thirsty plants, no mulch, an overhead sprinkler system, and a time-based “dumb” controller. From scratch this design cost $14,000 dollars to design and implement (approximately $7.50 per square foot). Strangely, although this was considered to be a traditional design for a front of house landscape in the region, none of the chosen plants were actually naturally equipped to survive the California climate, hence over time the use of water, pesticides and therefore labor required was quite significant.

Next door, a more holistic and sustainable philosophy was employed. The sustainable landscape is made up of native plants, water-conserving mulch, a water-harvesting system consisting of a dry streambed and an infiltration chamber,pervious paving, a drip irrigation system, and a satellite-driven smart irrigation controller. Using permeable paving such as granite as oppose to concrete allows rainwater to return to the ground rather than run off the property and into the sewers, helping maintain a natural aquifer in the soil. The drip feed irrigation system added to the initial cost (the sustainable landscape cost $22,000 to implement at the outset), but ensures the correct amount of water is provided and reduces labour required. The native plants are more able to deal with diseases etc. and thus pesticides were not used to any great degree.

The results are still being updated, and the current state of play over 8 years of records shows not only a stark difference in how the two have grown, but also in how the green home’s initial extra investment has proved a wise move. The latest data from the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability shows that the green house is much more efficient than the traditional home, and the extra $8,000 initial investment was recouped in the first two years, largely from savings in maintenance.

Add to that the fact the sustainable site is beautiful and eye-catching, flowery, artistic, and engaging (unlike the barren traditional landscape) while providing habitat for native birds and insects, and the project can be deemed a great success on many levels.

+ Santa Monica Office of Sustainability & Environment

Via Chance of Rain

Images Used with permission from City of Santa Monica