Ecological Design

We work with you to understand your community’s goals and needs and to co-create designs that will assist you in your efforts to live your mission, strengthen your community, and reach your programmatic goals more effectively. Ecological design leverages the natural systems and infrastructure in and around your property to develop a sustainable plan for its future. We provide budgeted implementation schedules and detailed planting and management plans aligned with your resources and programs and offer participatory site analysis and community design sessions.

Case Study: Transforming a Vacant Lot into A Vital Community Space
Principle Designer: Molly Burhans
Client: Garndeing the Community
Location: Springfield, MA


This design, completed for Gardening the Community maximizes the efficient use of resources and energy. Sustainable design addresses the interconnected mechanisms of environmental, economic and social sustainability. One of the most important components of sustainable design is the creation of a design with a long-term vision in mind.

Local materials will decrease the energy expended during the transportation of these goods. Purchasing materials from surrounding businesses will also help sustain the local economy. Choosing materials that are durable will reduce the replacement costs and offset energy use in the future by reducing the need to reinvest in new materials. Understanding what may change in the site and what will remain, even if Gardening the Community’s program evolves, and appropriately constructing these elements will ultimately save time, money and energy.

A water catchment system and solar panels have been included in the design to offset the amount of water and energy brought to the site. The rain garden catches excess runoff that does not infiltrate through the permeable hardscape. The rain garden decreases the amount of water that leaves the site and helps recharge the water table, this contributes to making the design and the resources it needs systemically function in a more closed manner.

Plants that maximize the sustainability of the site and/or that have regenerative proper-ties were chosen. The plant list provided assembles a myriad of species that function to promote local ecological health. Some of these plants, such as Goumi Berry, help ame-liorate the degraded urban soils. Other plants serve as pollinators and provide habitat for various birds and insects. Some of these birds and insects, such as honey bees, may find their home amongst the vegetation in the gardens of 200/206 Walnut Street, while others, such as the endangered Golden-winged Warbler, could use the plants as a refuge during their lengthy annual migratory journey. A handful of the plants also attract species that are natural predators to pests that could potential harm the crops on site, reducing the need for chemical intervention, natural or synthetic, of pests.The plants bring beauty and life to the design by nature of their existence and the animals they attract.
Social sustainability is a broad topic that includes community development, social justice, and health equity. Creating a space that sufficiently addresses the needs of GTC and enables the organization to continue to contend with issues of social sustainability intercon-nects the ecological integrity of the design with the social sustainability of GTC’s mission. The design incorporates space for programs that could strengthen local connections with GTC’s property, such as mural painting and a heritage garden. The front of the property was designed with consideration to potential interactions with passersby; these spaces are meant to be attractive, informative, and welcoming. The education programs that the space has been designed to support will contribute towards addressing local food justice matters.

The design for 200/206 Walnut Street provides an illustration of the site’s potential. It is a design plan for a garden that facilitates the functioning of GTC’s envisioned programs with-in a space that is sustainably designed and incontestably interconnected with its social and ecological context.