Friday, August 24, 2012

The Need for Green

     The word green is being bantered about a lot lately.  Save energy and be green.  Treat storm water and be green. Use recycled materials and be green.  To me, green has a very different meaning most of the time.
     I have found that I often have conversations with people that tend to follow a previously worn path, one that is decidedly not green.  There is a body of people out there who believe that plant material should not be used close to any structures or even on sites away from buildings.  They will tolerate grass, as long a it can be easily mowed, but that is about it.  I work with developers of rental property who argue that they do not want trees or shrubs planted near their buildings because they see them as a maintenance problem and a potential hazard.  I have commercial property owners who want me to try to find a reason to remove anything existing and most definitely not plant anything back because they do not want to block the view to their business.  I have homeowners who don't want anything more than a lawn in front of their homes because they are afraid that trees will fall on their homes in a storm and that crooks will hide behind shrubs and use them as easy access to break in.  And let's not forget school and church properties who don't want to spend the extra money to have plants because after all the building is the most important thing and plants are just an after thought that can be 'value engineered' out of a project budget.
     All of these concerns are valid in their own way.  None of them take into consideration the human factor.  What is it really like to live, work or play in a place that has no plants.  Is it really worth saving on a maintenance or a construction budget to eliminate trees and shrubs from a site.  Will removing the trees from a site really save that structure from natural disaster and removing the shrubs really stop break-ins? Do those trees blocking the view of a retail building really prevent customers from visiting that business?
     There are a lot of findings that point to the commercial value of having trees on a site.  Trees increase property value.  This is not usually disputed.  There are even tree value calculators that will calculate the dollar value that each tree adds to your property.  A well planned and maintained planting of trees and shrubs increase no only the property value but the likelihood that a property will sell easily.
     There are also the purely physical aspects that those trees and shrubs provide.  They act to modify the immediate surroundings of a building acting to cool it in the summer and break the cold drafts in the winter.  I've even see BTU breakdowns of what plant material on a site can save.
     What you will most likely not see is a study that determines what those plants do to the people using those spaces on an emotional level.  Although I have seen studies that link IQ with the exposure to trees and nature in the developing minds of children, the feeling of well-being that a person gets just from seeing green is just not something easily quantified.  On the other hand, where do you choose - instinctively to be when you go outside?  Do you prefer to stand in a large paved area or under a tree on a green lawn with some shrubs possibly flowering nearby?  Ok, this is a bit extreme, but you can definitely get the picture.
    What I do know is that sites in which I am allowed to use plantings rent or sell faster than those that do not - regardless of how nice the buildings might be.  Places where green is encouraged and flowers bloom tend to attract people.  Barren spaces remain empty.  Retail and office buildings that have green surrounding them tend to also have increased people traffic using them even when the view of the building is somewhat obstructed.  People are somehow inherently wired to want to be surrounded by green.  Not everyone will choose the same green - some would choose an open pasture and others a forest - but virtually no one chooses the barren paved space.  Think of what makes you happy the next time that you choose to take green out of the picture.  I'd be willing to bet it will be put back in.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Allison, I find your article very thought provoking & interesting! I think that as a part of this industry, we should focus more on thorough / in-depth planning and give enough time frame to every projects that we should accomplish. It would also help if we can rationalize the importance of every structures we build so it will not only benefit our firms / companies it can also help those who directly lives in that area.

    By the way, I work for SocalGreens Synthetic Lawns & Putting Greens I would be glad to contribute my expertise in your blog through a guest post article if you would just allow me to.. Anyway, good luck & more power to the next article that you would be writing.