As homeowners seek more sustainable, energy-efficient homes, developers are recognizing the role that effective landscape architecture combined with shade can play.
In recent years, the demand for "green" has focused primarily on the residential structure. Now, builders and developers are turning their attention to the landscape surrounding each dwelling, to help create greater energy efficiency inside homes.
Shade trees, hedges and vines
Landscaping professionals have long promoted the benefits of trees, hedges, and vines to provide cooling summer shade. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, trees placed strategically around buildings can save up to 56 percent on annual air-conditioning costs. Trees also reduce stormwater runoff and remove carbon dioxide and other harmful air pollutants. (For more information, visit Trees Pay Us Back .)
Pragmatically, not every dwelling can be surrounded on all sides by shading greenery. And in new developments, it can take up to 15 years before the benefits of newly planted trees and shrubs are fully realized.
Awnings and canopies
Where location, climate or existing hardscape prevent the planting of trees, shrubs and vines, or around newer buildings with less mature plants, fabric awnings and canopies are an energy-saving addition to sustainable landscape design.
When added above windows and doors, awnings can significantly reduce home cooling energy use. "Energy efficiency is really the number-one concern with green or sustainable buildings, and awnings can directly affect energy use by simply blocking the sun," according to John Carmody, Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota. "Heat gain through the windows is one of the main reasons why buildings need air conditioners. We found that awnings make quite a difference in the cooling energy equation. In some climates you can save 20 to 25 percent of your cooling energy just by using awnings."
Awnings and canopies add style, functionality and sustainability to hardscapes, and are more economical to build and maintain than comparable masonry and wood structures. From a conservation landscaping perspective, awnings placed on or near a home can significantly reduce energy consumption for cooling.
To promote the benefits of adding fabric structures to landscape designs, the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA) launched www.DesignWithAwnings.com . The site provides landscape architects and designers with ideas and information about incorporating awnings and canopies into their designs.
The Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA), a division of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), is the only international trade association committed to the awning industry.