Landscape architects adapting to changing climate when designing outdoor spaces in Austin

Weather & Traffic In-Depth

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the world warms, doing things the same way is unsustainable. The same goes for designing outdoor spaces.

“When you go back a couple decades that’s where you see the major change. So there are a lot of plants that our grandparents would have planted, that we no longer do, because they just needed so much water,” said Chris Jackson, a landscape architect with TBG Partners in Austin.

His company is responsible for the landscaping around Q2 Stadium, Oracle’s campus, Butler Park as well as at Alliance Children’s Garden. Reducing the demand for water is one of his top concerns.

“The plants that you see in here are all native and adapted to Central Texas, so they come with a lower water coefficient, which can reduce the amount of water that you put on it as compared to a typical landscape,” said Jackson.

After the record freeze, many of these plants proved rather resilient.

“At the time we were pretty shocked, ultimately we’ve been really pleased to see how much has come back. It’s been most actually,” he added.

Extreme heat can also damage a park’s landscape.

“It really comes down to the soil depth and the composition and making sure that that soil does not get very baked to the point that that heat is absorbed, and the plants can no longer live,” said Jackson.

To counter this, they use soil that can hold moisture longer. Keeping the plants cool is also good for all of us.
Parks like Alliance Children’s Garden in Austin aren’t just great parks to come with your family, look at and visit, but they also serve a purpose — to keep Austin cool!

Buildings and concrete absorb and hold onto heat, but urban parks can help lower the temperature.

“All of these trees were planted here to help that heat island mitigation in the space that a lot of people and families are being, right next to the city,” said Jackson.

This makes these sustainable outdoor spaces a method of making our lives more sustainable too.

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