Coordinated Beautification System

Sustainable Residential Design: Maximizing the Benefits of Plants

Plants are central to a functioning global ecosystem. Plants oxygenate the atmosphere and reduce atmospheric pollutants. Reforestation in both developed and developing countries is a primary strategy for mitigating the effects of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, plants are not only key to the global ecosystem, but also crucial to human health.

Through “integrated site design,” a comprehensive approach to sustainable building and site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture practices can not only improve water and energy efficiency, but also use plants to eliminate chemical fertilizers, produce food, restore ecosystems, and clean air. If part of a broader integrated site design, sustainable residential landscape architecture can extend the many benefits of plants.

Integrated site design is a framework for increasing the quality of the built environment, and involves maximizing existing natural systems to create productive and healthy residential environments. These types of designs leverage the many benefits of natural systems, thereby significantly cutting down the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Decreased chemical fertilizer use means homes are healthier, and ecosystems more resilient.

Homeowners can use plants to recreate healthy ecosystems in residential areas, and reduce some of the adverse effects of residential buildings on ecosystems. There are a number of ways to extend the benefits of plants: restoring native plants to residential landscapes, using plants as food sources within residences, creating wildlife habitat through the strategic use of certain plants, adding indoor plants to improve air quality and human productivity, and creating residential composting systems for efficient waste removal.

Local governments are also partnering with non-profit organizations to increase public awareness about using sustainable residential design practices to create productive plant systems.


Botanical Society of America

Center for Plant Conservation

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Nature Conservancy

Sustainable Sites Initiative

U.S. Botanic Garden

U.S. Green Building Council