Over 50 percent of the global population lives in cities. Despite this – or maybe because of it – it is widely understood that spending time outdoors, in nature, instinctively feels really, really good to people. In fact, science supports that time in nature doesn’t just feel nice – it’s actually extremely beneficial for our mental and physical health. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created a terrific and handy collection of studies that all demonstrate the positive impacts the natural environment has us.
According to Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, CEO of ASLA (as quoted on the ASLA blog, The Dirt), “We created this guide to expand public awareness about the benefits of green spaces, as well as to urge people to get out and take advantage of the designed and natural landscapes available to them…This online resource fully documents the benefits of interacting with nature.” The connection to the ASLA is clear: landscape architects play a significant role in the way nature is – or is not – integrated in to the built environment. According to some people, landscape architects should have more training in designing with nature (particularly trees and soils) than they currently do. Still, regardless of whether you feel landscape architects receive adequate training in the fundamentals of plants and soil, this new guide is a good thing for all of us. A really good thing.
While it’s designed for landscape architects, these studies contained in the guide can help people in the manufacturing, planning, policy, engineering, or architecture fields – basically anyone who is making a case to a client, or even their own colleagues, about the importance of designing for nature. I think the fundamental takeaway here, actually, is that when we design for nature we are also designing for people. Any division between the two is artificial; social and environmental issues are necessarily linked. Strategies to enhance the role of nature in the built environment necessarily impact their social and physical wellbeing.
This is a great industry resource that we can all use for the collective good of our projects, and , as a living document, will be updated as new studies are released. If you know of research, news, or studies that should be included, please email them to ASLA at firstname.lastname@example.org.