Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Ecosystems

Good design mutually benefits human and nonhuman inhabitants.

  • 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 while reducing maintenance?
  • How is the project supporting regional habitat restoration?

Focus topics

  • Earth forms: Evaluate the different geographic conditions on-site.
  • Life forms: Identify and protect the species of the site.
  • Impacts: Understand how human interaction has impacted local ecosystems.

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

  • Develop a project-specific indexing framework that assesses attributes of the surrounding predevelopment, quantitatively and qualitatively.
  • Design landscaping composed of 100% native plantings, especially species that attract pollinators. Avoid all decorative turf grass.
  • Integrate bird collision deterrent design strategies. ​
  • Create natural nighttime habitat conditions by eliminating unnecessary artificial light and sounds while no humans are present.

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.

Albion Public Library-03

Double Space Photography

Arizona State University Polytechnic Academic District

Bill Timmerman

Georgia Tech EBB

Chris Cooper