Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept.

Sustainability. A simple word, but a complex concept.

We are often challenged to describe sustainability and its most efficient practical application. Many see the word sustainability and think “going green.” In the world of development, this can mean small-scale actions, such as switching to LED lightbulbs or installing low-flow faucets.

These are noble efforts that certainly make an impact, but we believe Jeff Speck, co-author of “The Smart Growth Manual,” put it best when he said, “The changes we are making to individual buildings are like moving deck chairs on the Titanic. We can change them all we want but it’s only when we fundamentally begin to address the organizational structure of our communities that we can really have an impact.”

Fellow author and “Green Metropolis” writer David Owen expanded on this thought when he said the flaw in the conversation around sustainability is the focus on “what can I buy and add to what I’ve already got, to become more sustainable?”

Instead, we must begin to shift our focus from buying our way into sustainability and assess how we can create around the idea of sustainability itself.

As landscape architects and urban planners, we strive to create concepts with a big-picture perspective and provide for the growth of the community. A recent example of this is our work with Alliance for the Arts and the master plan we helped develop.

This plan reimagines the property and creates an enhanced development that supports not only the arts but the surrounding community and economy as well. Enhancements to the western edge of its 10-acre campus, which serves as a gateway to the City of Fort Myers, are just the beginning. This project seeks to improve the urban landscape through naturalization and expansion of an existing retention pond, regenerating the land and establishing a beautiful, thriving pocket of Florida flora.

The focal point of this project is the Caloosahatchee Water Wall, designed by internationally acclaimed environmental artist Michael Singer. In addition, we partnered with the Florida Department of Transportation to solve the pedestrian safety and connectivity challenges along McGregor Boulevard. Reinvigorating the property’s event space on the south side opens the door for neighborhood gathering activities such as farmers markets and concerts.

Solutions like this master plan create a more walkable environment for the community and provide a sustainable foundation from which to build. This upgraded property will serve as a park for the 500-plus residential homes in the surrounding areas, reducing the need for automobile transportation to similar facilities, while also promoting the local economy by providing a space for local businesses to showcase their products and services. By rethinking how we enact sustainability, we hope to build a better world for tomorrow.

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