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Arlington, VA

Integrating Design into Green Infrastructure Objectives

In March 2006, the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan was created to improve the stream corridor in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County. This project seeks to incorporate architectural design with environmentally-friendly techniques to create a form of green design in order to restore the stream channel and wildlife habitat while still providing benefit to the public. Some of the design aspects introduced address both the needs of society as well as the needs of the environment. These green designs shows that environmentally-friendly designs do not have to be unpleasing to the eye, nor do eye-pleasing designs have to be environmentally-unfriendly; visual appeal and environmental-friendliness do not have to be exclusive from each other but rather, can be quite inclusive as shown in the examples below.

Channel Crossing Design

In the plan, the design committee created an ideal channel crossing design to allow unimpeded storm flow and wildlife movement while still functioning as a bridge for pedestrians across the stream. This design allows wildlife to move from riparian habitat to riparian habitat and fishes to move up and down the stream unlike some of the currently-used structures which would interrupt stream-migration. The riparian vegetation filters sediments, nutrients, and pathogens; stabilizes the stream bank; and controls storm water. Invasive species need to be management lest they degrade the riparian habitat of the area.

Natural Seating Nodes

Along the trail, the committee planned to install seat nodes. The pathway itself designated by the brown coloring will ideally be permeable pavement allowing for storm water to infiltrate into the ground while still providing a clear pathway for people on the trail. If the pavement wasn’t clear enough to act as a trail, flagstone pavers also marks out the pathway providing some depth in what otherwise would be quite one-dimensional. The seating area itself can be made out of natural boulders to provide a more natural feel as well as requiring less maintenance to upkeep and produce. The seating area and trail are surrounded by a gravel buffer area in order to keep the trail from being overgrown with vegetation as well as allowing water to infiltrate between the pebbles. Around the pathway is native vegetation providing wildlife habitat as well shade for the people on the trail. This design can be slightly modify in order to provide a seating node along the stream as well.

Urban Gardens

Another design aspect that the plan incorporates is an urban garden layout. These gardens can help restore the stream while still providing aesthetics for people to enjoy while on the promenade. The plant and vegetation selection should all be native vegetation and in variation so that there are plants throughout the year providing both the ecological benefits as well as aesthetics all year around. Native vegetation will also require less fertilizer and pesticide use which is good for protecting water quality.

In conclusion, there are many design aspects introduced in this plan that allows designers and planners to incorporate human needs in terms of aesthetics and recreational uses, while still providing ecological benefits to the area. As more and more landscape designs take into consideration of the environment and its effect on the environment, it provides more access for people to integrate urban design with the environment thus providing benefits to both parties without being at a cost for either.

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