Water, Sustainability, and Legend Bruce Lee’s Warning for Landscape Architects
by Ed Ball
“Water can flow or it can crash.”
Those are the simplistic and yet profound words of the great Bruce Lee – the martial arts legend and actor as he discussed the philosophical nature of his fighting style Jeet Koon Do during a TV interview.
Ironically, this famous Bruce Lee quote happens to also be a fundamental and crucial premise that good landscape architects will consider when designing for any major outdoor project — water can flow or water can crash.
For starters, from both a smart landscape design perspective as well as a sustainability point of view, being responsible about how we are dealing with rain water (water can crash) is really important.
For example, having a sense of that natural water flow could be crucial to protecting your home or property from unnecessary water drainage or potential water damage.
Also, there are a lot of guidelines for zoning and building permits on how to reduce the amount of runoff (water can flow) but many of those guidelines aren’t really focused on putting water back in the ground water table which should be part of the goal.
Another consideration: are we reclaiming or re-using our rain water? Would it make sense?
In other words, are we reclaiming as part of our own water solution for purposes such as irrigation or watering our plants or are we returning it to the ground water?
If the landscape is designed in such a way as to hold water temporarily, for example, the water will have time to percolate back into the ground water system and by doing that, you’re going to naturally filter out a lot of the impurities and you’re replenishing the aquifers which is good.
Another factor affecting water runoff are trees. Anywhere we can add or plant trees will reduce water runoff. That’s because as the rain hits the leaves of the plant materials, it slows down so that it allows more water to be absorbed into the ground water table and it also by layering plant materials, we’re helping to foster more dynamic eco-systems. And since we are deforesting and taking down trees in the U.S. and all over world at an incredible rate, it counters that negative trend as well.
Whether for commercial or residential needs, most people have no idea on how to reduce their impact on the environment other than solar, wind, and recycling, which are the big three. And yes while the major goal for most of my clients is to spend more time outside, I find that by educating my clients on how they can create outdoor living spaces that truly harmonize with their environments, rather than work against it, it seems to allow for greater solace in their space and home design.
Water can flow. Water can crash. Think about it and don’t forget to watch the Bruce Lee video… he said it best!
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