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Opinions on Building in natures Envelope?

martini

Cyburbian
Messages
679
Points
19
I've got a project for school that I need an opinion on from a 'real' planner. As I don't really know any(only city mgr's here), I thought I'd come here for an opinion or two.

So what is Building in Nature's Envelope you ask? It kind of related to Chets question the other day about Native or Exotic plant on the property.

The key to natures envelope is distrubing as little of the property's natural vegetation as possible during the construction phase. This means roping off the sections that are not to be disturbed. This preserves much of the beauty of the lot in terms of natural vegetation. The only areas to be disturbed are the foot print of the building(SF homes, and business buildings/apartments) and a 5-15 foot buffer for construction materials and workspace(this is the envelope).

There is to be no scraping off of topsoil to level off the lot. The idea here is to preserve the natural fungi/seeds/mulching/composting that already exists in this layer. Trucking in 'clean' topsoil post scraping often brings in noxious weeds that were not present previously, creating a problem that is often solved by herbicides that aren't exactly eviro friendly. By keeping the orignal topsoil, you are preserving native plant species that are adapted to a given region, and require little to no effort to maintain, saving time, money and resources.

With more of a push for natural development, I see this as an increasingly viable option, depending on the attitude of the developer/contractors that are involved. Many communities though, have a weed ordinance that is difficult to get around. Something that prevents predominant vegetation that taller than saaaay, 1.5', something that many native vegatative grasses are. In Minnesota, we're soon to have a severe water shortage due to a quickly depleteing aquifer. If more people used a hardier, more natural lawn, we wouldn't have to water so religiously to maintain our green acres. You see this alot in AZ and other similar warm, deserty climes with xeriscaping, Natures evnelope just takes this one step further.

So what is the Brains thought on this? Is it viable for a community to relax weed ordinances to allow for something like this? I know the Germans around here wouldn't like it much but what about you?
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,436
Points
33
We discussed relaxing the weed ordinance to allow natives when I was in Fairfield. I think the biggest problem from an enforcement standpoint is how you keep the true native area separate from the lots belonging to others who are either too lazy to mow, too cheap to hire it done. I think it would come down to the city hiring a plant expert, to identifiy noxious weeds and natives. I figure it's one of those things that sound good in theory, but need a significant commitment to work in prctice.
 
Messages
7,657
Points
29
I am wondering if you would also promote "Vernacular Architecture" as part of that. Vernacular Architecture is generally the local style that grew out of using locally available materials -- adobe in places like Arizona that lack trees, for example. These days, we tend to build a "style" we "like", with little regard for how much we must import from long distances to do so. Bringing in exotic marble countertops from Italy is Status-y. Building with Locally Available materials is humble and not Status-y. Etc. But it is more environmentally friendly.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Martini - The last palce I worked had a conservation development ordinance which was voluntary but gave the developers substantial incentives to follow them, provided they recorded management and maintenance agreements that the buyers were obliged to follow. They allowed some encroachement into environemtnally sensitive areas but required mitigation of the impacts. PM me if you want the links.
 

vikaas

Member
Messages
7
Points
0
you are looking for sustainable and least obstrusive city towards nature. i know for sute that april last year an international competition was held for design ideas of such cities. try searching that throught the net. besides you can go to www.udri.org, as they had taken part in this competition as Goa2100.
good luck
 

cololi

Cyburbian
Messages
1,186
Points
22
An argument can be made that certain plants are weeds in one area, but not in others. Generally, a weed is any plant that is growing in a place that it is not wanted. Many state departments of Agriculture will list certain species that they consider to be "Noxious Weeds", which are plants that choke out native species and are considered dangerous to other plants, food supplies, etc. This is just my own perspective on what constitutes a weed and enforcing this type of thing.
 

Doitnow

Cyburbian
Messages
500
Points
16
Well we have a new building coming up in an instituional area called the 'Green Building'.
They aren't building in the natures envelope, that I have seen.

But there are houses I have been into which have huge rocks inside and the house built around them. These rockas have been dated to more than 2000 million years ago.
The there are a couple of temples here which have been built around old trees( dating back to a few hundred years.

Now would you call Falling Water as a building in natures envelope??
 

martini

Cyburbian
Messages
679
Points
19
Doitnow!! said:
Now would you call Falling Water as a building in natures envelope??
Actually, its proabably as close to a well known example that can be found. Even though the construction process was typical, the forest has recovered admirably to give it the appearance of natures envelope.

I guess what I'm asking is not if there are examples out there, But I want to know what you as planners think about this concept. Could you insitute this into your city as an acceptable way to build homes or buildings if the deveoloper wants to go there?
 

Doitnow

Cyburbian
Messages
500
Points
16
Well I think that Business wise its not going to work for mass housing.
A few selected projects yes.
For larger projects its better to plan neighbourhoods/communities in the nature envelope.
Maybe some institutional buildings/complexes, YES.
Environmentally sensitive design is a good subject and new projects can have the whole terrain levelled and a new terrain planned and beautiful landscape developed as if it was natural environment,but to study the localised environment and retain it requires expertise and experience.
I have not come across large integrated projects which have done so.
Maybe someone else has.
 
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