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Tips for Improving College Landscape Design

Tips for Improving College Landscape Design
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Colleges and universities often go all out to attract students to campus. They market their flagship academic programs and send out glossy brochures that feature students talking quietly in the campus library or relaxing on the well-manicured, tree-lined campus grounds.

Your landscape design company can be influential in helping those well-manicured campus grounds serve their purpose, both as a quiet advertisement for the college and as a beautiful, revitalizing place for students to come together.

How can your company enhance its landscape design to provide the most value to the college community? We’ve compiled some tips and college landscape design ideas to help get your next project started.

Importance of College Landscape Design

Investing time and energy into landscape design is critical

Investing time and energy into landscape design is critical for a well-designed, attractive and inviting campus. Here are a few of the benefits of creating outdoor spaces with enhanced landscape design for students:

1. Raising Interest Level in the School

When students are looking for the right college, their academic interests, learning styles and career goals are all important factors. The look and feel of the college campus combine for another key variable.

When a campus looks well-maintained and attractive, its appearance makes a positive impression on prospective students. It tells them the university is invested in improving and maintaining itself — that it’s proud of what it offers and strives to make the school the best it can be.

When parents and prospective students come to campus for a tour, they take in the appearance of the school and its grounds right away. A well-cared-for campus lets students see the level of investment and care the university puts into itself, which can tell them something about the level of care and support they will find there.

Keep in mind that interest level in the school doesn’t come only from students. Prospective faculty members are also trying to assess whether a college is the right fit for their career interests and goals. An elegant, maintained landscape design helps the college make a good impression so it can recruit talented new thinkers and leaders.

2. Presenting a Polished Image for Donors

Presenting a polished image for donors

Donors to a college or university want to see that their money is being managed well and spent properly. The right campus landscaping design makes a positive impression here. When donors come to visit, the condition of the grounds can instantly tell them about the school’s management, direction and investment in itself.

If the school looks good, the donors can rest assured that their donations are in capable hands. If not, they may start donating less or stop donating altogether. An attractive, well-planned-out landscape design helps make a good impression and keeps benefactors invested in the school.

3. Enhancing Students’ Comfort and Well-Being

Enhancing Students' well being and comfort

Although image is important, landscape design is hardly all about show. The right landscape features can also help students feel more energized and enjoy their time at school more.

For example, plants are well known as carbon scrubbers. They remove carbon dioxide from the air and use photosynthesis to turn it into metabolic fuel, and they release oxygen into the air as a byproduct. If a campus landscape incorporates trees and vegetation, students breathe less carbon dioxide as they walk to class or lounge on the campus lawn. They’ll be able to take in more oxygen and feel more alert.

Research has also shown that spending time in nature can improve mood. One scientific study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a nature-filled area exhibited decreased activity in a part of the brain that has been implicated in a person’s risk for mental illness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 30% of college students report having felt depressed in the past year, and about half report symptoms of overwhelming anxiety. Incorporating natural elements into landscape design is one small step your company can take toward boosting mood and mental health on campus.

Facts and figures aside, a beautifully landscaped and well-cared-for college campus is also easy on the eyes. If the grounds are inviting, they make students feel good about the place where they’ve chosen to spend several important years of their lives. A quality landscape design helps boost that sense of happiness and well-being.

4. Encouraging Connection and Collaboration

A quality landscape design project does more than just make the grounds of the college look pretty. By giving students inviting places to come together, it can foster a sense of connection among students and encourage collaborative learning and thinking.

A campus landscape design might incorporate attractive, weather-resistant seating among the trees to encourage students to hang out and talk outdoors. It might offer an open path where students and faculty members can walk between classes to discuss an idea for a paper or research project. Or, it might make use of strategically placed shade structures to make the grounds an ideal place for discussion and collaboration during the warm spring and summer months.

5. Improving Grades

Although even the most beautiful landscape design may not do as much for student grades as a focused study plan, it might be able to help boost concentration and recall somewhat.

For example, we know that in young children, more exposure to greenness in the environment is associated with a 5% increase in working memory, a 6% increase in superior working memory and a 1% reduction in inattentiveness. Similar benefits are demonstrable in older students.

Improved Cognitive performance for spending time in a green area.

One study found that among university students, taking a break to look at a green area for 40 seconds resulted in improved cognitive importance when compared to taking a break to look at a concrete roof. Students who looked at the green roof had more consistent response times on cognitive tasks, suggesting more sustained attention. They also made fewer omission errors. These results could potentially extrapolate to college coursework and exams, as well.

6. Enhancing Safety

Landscape design enhances visibility on campus. Regular trimming of shrubs and other plants reduces overgrowth, so it gives students heightened visibility of their environment and the people around them.

Good landscape design and regular maintenance can also eliminate cracks or overgrowth that could harbor pests, and the strategic design of walkways can reduce the risk that pools of standing water will form when it rains, causing students to slip.

How to Plan College Landscape Design

As your company begins coordinating its next college landscape project, keep several factors in mind, including costs, maintenance, longevity and resilience to harsh weather and other threats.

1. Consider Cost

cost is an important factor when planning college landscape

Cost is an important factor in planning college landscape design because the college or university will likely have a budget for the work. In some cases, the college may have an ambitious landscaping project in mind — one that won’t be feasible within its price range. Your job is to work with the college to figure out how your business can help it achieve its goals within its desired budget.

Fortunately, your business can develop an elegant, functional and long-lasting design even without spending millions of dollars. Begin by being upfront with your contact in the administration about what the college can realistically afford. You may find it helpful to have a few alternative ideas in mind in case the costs for the initial plan end up exceeding the college’s price range.

2. Account for Maintenance to Boost Longevity

Budgetary concerns often involve the costs of the maintenance the finished landscape design will require. Your business will likely want to communicate about what upkeep the project will require and how that upkeep will affect its longevity.

In considering the maintenance needs and longevity of a proposed landscape design, your company may find it helpful to ask questions like:

  • How often will the proposed landscape features need to be repaired or replaced?
  • What sort of equipment will be necessary for maintaining the landscape features?
  • What alternative designs might require less equipment or allow for more time between upgrades?
  • Does the budget for the project and maintenance allow for the possibility of decreased funds in future years?
  • How does the proposed landscape design integrate with other planned upgrades, such as the construction of new classroom buildings or campus facilities?
  • How could the proposed landscape design complicate other planned upgrades? For example, would the addition of a new water feature or structure be costly to relocate?

As your company considers the potential maintenance requirements of a proposed campus landscape design, keep in mind that many universities employ work-study students or recent graduates for groundskeeping work. Therefore, your business may need to incorporate features with simpler or more limited upkeep.

While you plan a new campus landscape design, you may want to keep the local climate and weather patterns in mind. Think about how they might affect the required maintenance. For example, the university might be located in an area where severe rain could damage delicate landscape features and necessitate expensive repairs.

Finally, consider how subsequent projects like new buildings, road construction, new utilities and other infrastructure might affect your campus landscape design in the future.

3. Build in Resilience

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has posited that the future of campus design will likely include a focus on resiliency.

Many events can threaten the future integrity of landscape design projects. The new global weather patterns that result from climate change have wreaked havoc in recent years, causing extensive wildfires, extreme storms and other unusual weather events that can damage buildings and landscapes.

More resilient campus landscape designs stand up to extreme weather events better. Now and in the future, landscape architects who work on college campus design projects will likely want to find innovative design ways to accommodate and minimize the impacts of these events.

These innovations can be a selling point for your company. A college choosing between a few landscape design firms may not always have the industry knowledge to assess their relative capabilities. However, if your company can show that it’s forward-thinking and proactive in developing resilient designs, it can set itself apart.

For example, in a stormy area, campus landscape design might incorporate stormwater solutions through the use of elements that can retain water close to its source point, minimizing its impact on the campus overall. Or, the project might include elements that can deter the timing of the water’s entry into the stormwater collection system, reducing overload potential.

The college might also be able to use the new landscape design project as a learning tool for students. The design process could become an avenue for new environment-focused ideas and engagement, even as it sculpts the landscape and creates fun and relaxing places for connection.

Tips for Improving College Landscape Design

When your company is thinking about how to improve college landscape design for its next project, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1. Know the Value of Curb Appeal

An attractive and Carefully landscaped campus makes a striking first impression

An attractive, carefully landscaped campus makes a striking first impression. It helps showcase a professional image and boost school pride.

For these reasons, your business will likely want to make aesthetic appeal a high priority in your college landscape designs. Well-placed flowerbeds and tree-lined walkways create a beautiful, inviting atmosphere, and structures like ponds or sculptures can enhance the effect.

2. Develop a Master Design Plan

The elements of your company’s campus landscape design will blend more harmoniously if they’re part of a comprehensive master design plan. Using the same approach for college landscape design gives you a road map to follow to ensure everything works together as it should.

Developing a master plan for landscape design often has the added benefit of keeping the project within the proposed budget. By drafting a master plan, your company can ensure it spends the college’s carefully earmarked funds on elements that will add the most value for the campus.

Your master design plans may vary depending on what different colleges want and have the budget for. For some institutions, your company may focus on improving the grounds only, while others may ask you to develop designs that encompass signs, entryways and various special projects or installations across the campus.

3. Use Natural Seasonal Cycles to Your Advantage

Many college landscape design ideas start by incorporating elements of the landscape’s natural beauty. In numerous parts of the country, the colors of the campus environment are likely to change from season to season.

In the winter, the grounds and buildings may collect thick blankets of snow. In the spring, flowers and buds emerge, filling the campus with vibrant colors against the bright new green grass. During the summer, rich green foliage abounds, and depending on where the school is located, the fall may bring an abundance of beautiful red and yellow leaves.

Consider planting bright flowers

Landscape design can take advantage of these colors to bring vibrancy and life to the campus throughout the year. Consider planting bright tulips and other annual flowers around the campus entryways or main buildings. Incorporate broad trees that can provide leafy green shade in the summer, or plant maple or honey locust trees that will turn brilliant colors in the autumn. For wintertime, consider incorporating a large coniferous tree the campus could decorate during the holidays.

Considering the seasons in the college’s location also sometimes involves accounting for harsh winter weather and including landscape design elements that enhance safety. For example, if the college deals with heavy snow and ice for several months of the year, your company might consider adding textured walkways for increased traction.

Elements to Enhance Landscape Design

Incorporating shade structures into your company’s work helps to keep the university community cool in hot weather and make outdoor spaces more usable all year.

Although shade doesn’t change the ambient temperature, it can make people feel much cooler than they would in the sun. Direct sunlight and solar radiation can make areas in the sun feel hotter than the ambient temperature in the shade. So, people who spend time in the shade on hot summer days tend to feel significant relief from the heat of direct sunlight.

Researchers also recently created a 3D digital model of Columbus, Ohio, to study how much cooler areas in the shade are than areas in direct sunlight. They found that when the high on a particular day was 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature could have been nearly 5 degrees cooler if the small trees in the area had been fully grown shade trees.

The shade was able to counterbalance the urban heat island effect, in which many concrete buildings and pieces of infrastructure tend to reflect heat, making urban areas between 1 to 7 degrees hotter in the daytime on average than in comparable rural areas.

Incorporating shade structures also extends the time the area is usable. No matter how beautifully designed, an open courtyard or grassy space is unlikely to be a desirable meeting space with the hot summer sun beating down on it. Shade structures can change that — they give the campus community cooler places to gather outdoors, even in the summer, so students and professors can enjoy the college’s grounds year-round.

For these reasons, incorporating shade structures into landscape design is an excellent way to keep the campus feeling cool and comfortable.

Stylish, Durable Shade Structures From USA SHADE

USA SHADE proves shade structures in many attractive styles and shapes to help your landscape design teams provide cooling on your next campus project. You can choose from appealing options like these, from the unobtrusive and elegant to whimsical options that use color and flair to stand out:

stylish, durable shade structures from USA SHADE

  • Squares and rectangles: Square and rectangular shade structures feature simple, durable, cost-effective structures with clean straight lines to provide shade while complementing the look of nearby buildings.
  • Multi-sided structures: Our multi-sided structures offer more or fewer than the traditional four sides. Choose from among triangles, hexagons, octagons and five-point sails to add fun geometric flair to a campus landscape design.
  • Sails: Shade sails offer a more compact, triangular design that allows your company to provide shade in a project while obscuring less of the landscape. These kite-like shapes provide a way to add fun to a campus design.
  • Cantilever structures: Cantilever structures use side supports. They’re ideal for spaces in a design where your company wants to create an open, inviting space free from internal columns.
  • Single posts: Single-post designs are somewhat like oversized umbrellas, with a single column supporting a spreading overhead shade panel. They offer an eye-catching aesthetic while maximizing open gathering spaces by reducing the number of support posts.
  • Specialty designs: Specialty designs offer unique shapes for a one-of-a-kind project aesthetic. Your company might choose shade structures in the shapes of flower petals, butterfly wings or other whimsical and art-inspired designs.

We offer full design and build services that include everything from the initial concept design to installation. Our range of services ensure you get the shade structures that are right for your project — including site-specific analyses, conceptual design and engineering, project engineering, project management, fabrication and construction management.

When you work with USA SHADE, your company can also request custom shade structures, which give your college campus landscape design project an aesthetic appeal you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Our in-house design and engineering teams have the knowledge and experience to get you custom shade structures that will blend with other elements of your design, enhance the appearance of the campus and provide spaces that allow the community to enjoy the beautiful grounds all year.

Request a Quote for College Shade Structures From USA SHADE

Get College shade structures from USA SHADE

Quality landscape design helps a college boost its appeal to students, faculty and donors and creates a more healthful and collaborative space for students. If you’d like to enhance a campus landscape design project with attractive shade structures, work with USA SHADE. We’re here to help for everything under the sun.

Our shade structures for colleges and universities enable your company to help a college realize its goals of incorporating cooler year-round gathering spaces while enhancing the campus’s appearance. Our custom structures give your company the freedom to plan any landscape design you like, knowing you can get shade structures to complement and enhance it.

Check out our architectural studio page to learn more about how we operate. Feel free to request a quote today, or contact us to discuss enhancing your company’s next campus landscape design project with shade structures.