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Get to Know LEED: Water Efficiency and Sustainable Landscaping

In the next few weeks, you're going to see the Sunset Green Home's landscape take shape.  We have assembled an amazing team of experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the landscaping business, and have selected the highest performing products to make the landscape as sustainable as it is beautiful.

Image: Araiys Design

Image: Araiys Design

It's hard not to notice a beautifully done landscape.  But when we're admiring a well done landscape or garden, most of us don't think enough about whether it was crafted to support a healthy environment.  The LEED® for Homes green building program aims to change that by asking us to address the environmental impact of our landscaping choices.

A project can earn credit toward LEED certification by making irrigation and landscape design choices that support a sustainable site plan.  Here are the specifics:

  • Earn up to four points by installing a rainwater collection and storage system that holds the water from a one-inch rainfall on at least 50% of the roof
  • Earn up to four points by designing and installing a high-efficiency irrigation system and performing a third-party inspection to ensure it is working correctly
  • Earn up to seven points by including "landscape features to avoid invasive species and minimize demand for water and synthetic chemicals" (LEED for Homes Reference Guide)

Getting it right requires a good deal of coordination...which is why Sunset Green Home has assembled a team of irrigation and landscaping professionals with deep experience in the industry, and also in the local environment.

With over 20 years of experience in the region, Marcus Stinchi, of Marcus Stinchi Landscaping, is a true plant expert.  Marcus will incorporate native and adaptive plant material selected for its ability to do well in the variable conditions of the site, which is often windy and occasionally subject to salt-water flooding.  As we approach the plant installation date, Marcus has been working with his wholesale nurseries to identify healthy plant material that will support the landscape design.  "We do a lot of work on the ocean, and with environmentally sensitive seaside buffers.  I like to work with native plants, which are more beautiful than invasive species," Marcus explains.  

Tim Pogue, principal of Resort Lighting, a Hamptons-based irrigation and landscape lighting company, is a LEED Green Associate and is dedicated to supporting sustainable landscaping design with irrigation systems that meet WaterSense requirements and respond to the microclimates where they are installed.  Tim advises, “before designing and installing an irrigation system the local environment, soil, plant type and water source all need to be reviewed. LEED projects provide a gateway for success in water use, conservation and efficiency."

Even the best designers and installers need quality products and materials to make their work a success.  That's why Sunset Green Home reached out to a handful of important suppliers.  

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue is engineered to provide a deep, strong rooting system that quickly becomes established. This deep rooting means less watering is required as the grass plants derive their moisture from lower in the rootzone. As temperatures climb into the summer season, the sod will stay green and lush with less water. It also exhibits a self-repairing capability because of the rhizome it creates, where new shoots are formed underground and then develop into new grass plants. There is technology in turf, and RTF sod is on the forefront.
— Scott Geiser, DeLea Sod Farms
Rhizomatous Tall Fescue

Rhizomatous Tall Fescue

LEED rewards projects that limit the use of conventional turf (i.e., lawn), and Sunset Green Home has designed a lawn comprising less than 60% of the home’s designed landscape – which enables the project to earn one point toward LEED certification.  For several reasons, our team made the choice to install sod rather than seed the lawn:

  • Grass seed is best planted in the fall.  However, autumn is also hurricane season, and Sunset Green Home is particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of strong storms.  We believe installing sod in the spring and giving it time to take root before storm season will be the best way to protect the site against storm erosion.
  • But we couldn't have made the decision to install sod had DeLea Sod Farms, one of the Hamptons' premier sod farms, not recommended its Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) sod, a LEED compliant drought tolerant variety whose root system grows deeper than that of conventional turf varieties.  DeLea Sod's Scott Geiser comments, "Rhizomatous Tall Fescue is engineered to provide a deep, strong rooting system that quickly becomes established. This deep rooting means less watering is required as the grass plants derive their moisture from lower in the rootzone.  As temperatures climb into the summer season, the sod will stay green and lush with less water. It also exhibits a self-repairing capability because of the rhizome it creates, where new shoots are formed underground and then develop into new grass plants. There is technology in turf, and RTF sod is on the forefront."
  • Finally, it has been nearly three years since Hurricane Sandy set off the events that brought about the Sunset Green Home project.  Frankly, we're eager to see the site finished.  Installing sod gets us that much closer to the finish line!
Poly-Mart's 1,000 gallon Rainwater Harvesting Tank

Poly-Mart's 1,000 gallon Rainwater Harvesting Tank

Creating the Sunset Green Home landscape will require the installation of hundreds of individual plants.  And, even though we have selected the majority of those plants for their drought tolerance, we're still going to need supplemental water to keep them healthy.  It doesn't make sense to irrigate a landscape with municipal water that has gone through resource-intensive purification.  According to Sean Bravo of Poly-Mart, this is particularly true in a region that receives abundant rainfall and where a rainwater harvesting system becomes cost effective.  So, we are installing a rainwater harvesting system that features Poly-Mart's 1,000 gallon rainwater cistern as the centerpiece. 

ATAS Aluminum Roof on Sunset Green Home

ATAS Aluminum Roof on Sunset Green Home

Sunset Green Home will capture rainwater from the standing seam ATAS aluminum roof of the pool house, an ideal surface for rainwater capture according to several recent studies.  A 2011 study published in the journal “Water Research” concluded that water captured from metal roofs has lower levels of dissolved carbon and carries less bacteria (e.g., coliform) than water collected from other roofing surfaces.  But that's not the only advantage of an aluminum roof.  Chris Kroeter is a LEED Green Associate and Product Representative for ATAS International, Inc.  As Chris explains, “In addition to its rainwater harvesting properties, metal roofing contributes to a sustainable building with its durability, longevity and recycled content.  The ‘cool roof’ pigments that are used in the paint finish of metal roofing offer higher solar reflectance values, which results in a building’s increased energy efficiency.”

Hunter Irrigation Controller

Hunter Irrigation Controller

To deliver water to the plants, we will be using Hunter Industries’ WaterSense labeled irrigation system.  Featuring the Solar Sync ET and Rain-Clik components that read actual rainfall, temperature and other site conditions, the system will adjust itself to the specific microclimate of the Sunset Green Home site.

The final element of Sunset Green Home's irrigation system is the EZ-FLO automatic fertilizing system, which will allow us to use micro-dosing of organic fertilizers and compost teas.  The benefits of "fertigation" include:

  • Enhanced control over nutrient application
  • Nutrient application timed to coincide with ideal plant growth stage
  • Lower risk of environmental damage from leaching and runoff
EZ-FLO Injection Tank

EZ-FLO Injection Tank

In fact, we will use two EZ-FLO systems - one for the vegetable garden and one for the lawn and ornamental plantings.  EZ-FLO's National Sales Manager, Darin Brasch, explains his company's involvement in the Sunset Green Home project: "Environmental stewardship is paramount for the continued growth and success of the irrigation and green industry. EZ-FLO is proud to be a selected partner for the Sunset Green Home project. Projects such as this will only further the industry’s and public’s awareness of sustainable landscaping practices."  Click here for more information about Fertigation.

Check back with us over the comings weeks as our landscape solution is installed.  We can't wait to see the beauty that a sustainable landscape contributes to Sunset Green Home.

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