Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Ecosystems

Good design mutually benefits human and nonhuman inhabitants. What we design has a direct impact on the ecosystems in and around the site. Understanding the site dynamics will allow us to be more conscious of our impacts. 

  • How can the design support the ecological health of its place over time? 
  • How can the design help users become more aware and connected with the project’s place and regional ecosystem? 
  • How can the design build resilience and support adaptation to climate change through nature-based solutions.
  • How can the project support regional habitat restoration? 
  • How can the project support equitable access to nature? 

Focus topics

  • Environmental limits of the site: land, water, atmosphere
  • Reduce human impacts: light, noise, and heat
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Biodiversity and regenerative design

If you can do only one (or a few) thing(s)

  • ZERO-CARBON: Consider manufacturing, construction, and end-of-life when selecting materials, along with the impacts on source and site ecosystems.  
  • RESILIENT: Assess the attributes of the predevelopment condition, ecosystem services, and the capacity to adapt to a changing climate. Understand the ecosystem and site dynamics, which can help the project adapt to changing climate conditions and impacts.
  • EQUITABLE: Research the history and culture of the land to understand its development over time. Incorporate restorative strategies like enhancing the urban tree canopy in areas of historic disinvestment, reducing the heat island effect, and regenerating soils.  
  • HEALTHY: Identify the most consequential strategies that reduce negative impacts on the ecosystem, improve human health, and eliminate chemical toxicity.

Additional information

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published and distributed with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

Center for Sustainable Landscapes_Denmarsh Photography, Inc_Lower_Level_Terrace

Denmarsh Photography Inc.