What’s Trending in Landscape Architecture?

May 2018 Insight: Landscape Architecture featured imageBY: TRACEY GOULD

When most people think of architecture and design, they naturally gravitate towards grand images of the physical building. They see the façade, layout, number of stories, windows, roofline, intricate details, materials and front entry. If welcoming and striking, the landscaping will often catch the imagination, spurring fantasies of rolling in the grass, swinging from a tree swing or fishing in a pond. In fact, landscaping helps to shape a property’s first impression. It can make the difference between a passerby or a person buying.

Rarely does the average person consider the landscaping as being integral to the structure, site, performance and occupant experience—all more important than just curb appeal. Landscape architecture, a technical professional service requiring a four-year degree and official license and/or registration in most states, is so much more than trimmed grass and trees. Designed, strategically executed and integrated as part of commercial and residential design at the very beginning of the process, landscape architecture can serve as a solution to social challenges, environmental issues, security concerns, medical conditions and more.

Thomas R. Travella, FASLA, a contributor for TriplePundit, highlighted these high-level benefits and more in a 2012 article, Landscape Architecture is Not Just Decoration. He commented, “landscape architecture provides essential infrastructure that does much more” than decorate. Some landscapes contribute to water conservation efforts and prevent soil erosion. In some cases, it can even clean storm water runoff, as some plants can serve as filtration tools, and landscaping materials and features can reduce erosion and flooding.

With such a big role in overall design and the built environment, as well as communities as a whole, let’s look at some of the latest trends that are influencing and shaping landscape architecture in real estate today.


Perhaps the biggest demand for true landscape architectural services are with commercial and government campuses and properties. In these cases, the landscape architect works with the area’s surrounding landscape to develop a site solution based on the owner/occupant needs and goals, geography, topography and natural environment. One of the most popular commercial development types today is mixed-use property, which poses unique challenges and benefits from a landscape architecture perspective. “When you start mixing commercial with residential and office, the focus of the site is now more dependent on pedestrian traffic and less dependent on vehicle access,” stated Neal Beasley, VCH, horticulture specialist/landscape designer with Timmons Group. “Obviously, there is still a need to plan for cars, since that’s how most people to travel to and from, but developers need to plan for people and wayfinding after people park their cars. Bike and walking paths also need to be planned well in advance. Th is is where landscape architecture comes into play from a masterplanning perspective.”


As a whole, commercial developments and communities are becoming much more walkable by design. Connectivity is important in residential and commercial developments and multi-use trails that bridge developments with community amenities, as well as connect larger corporate campus buildings, are popular. Localities are also trying to connect people and space throughout the community and are integrating these trails into their new masterplans, which are serving to drive traffic to revitalized areas, such as Main Street retail areas, and also spur health and wellness. If there’s a network of trails the county is trying to achieve, developers may need to integrate a trail into the site design. This only benefits the developer and community in most cases, as it translates to more people accessing the development and driving more traffic.

The integration of trail elements to developments drives a greater need to focus on safety, especially for aging employees and residents who aren’t as confident on their feet. Trails need to be paved and large enough to allow bikes to cruise safely past pedestrian traffic.


While water features aren’t as popular with commercial developments today as they used to be—at least in Virginia due to stricter regulations, according to Beasley—on-site stormwater features are now being integrated into the design up front and becoming part of the site experience. Kingsley, a new commercial and residential masterplanned community in Fort Mill, South Carolina, is centered entirely around the lake, which is being used as a vista complete with trails and bench seating. “We’re seeing these features a lot in the commercial sector,” stated Beasley. Th is live-work-play community includes two hotels, 120,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 1.2 million square feet of office space and multifamily housing.


Many mixed-use developments are looking beyond traditional common spaces, amenities and social gathering spaces and creating entertainment venues. “The creation of outdoor spaces for people is important,” stated Beasley. “There’s a renewed emphasis to get back to the outdoors and back to nature.” Integrating activities in outdoor spaces is trending right now and run the gamut from bocce ball courts, outdoor chess boards and active sports venues, including whitewater rafting.

One such development in Richmond, Virginia, has a lake with a whitewater feature that blends an exciting level of entertainment in the mix of the site, which has townhomes, high-end multi-family apartments and first-level commercial with upper-level office and/or residential spaces. “Whitewater is an active activity, but four out of five people won’t participate in whitewater activities. They will, however, be an active spectator and experience other people doing it. People can get a beer, sit back and watch people do crazy things in the water. That’s real entertainment value.”

Entertainment value also drives interest from other areas. Restaurants want a piece of the action and want to be located at the end of the strip with an outdoor experience to go with it, including a pergola, live band and specialty lighting. Suddenly a restaurant isn’t just a restaurant—it’s an experience. “This is really popular with the craft beer industry, where most of the social and drinking areas are outdoors.”

What drives developers to make these types of investments in their sites? It’s all about competition and the bottom line. Just like retail businesses, developers compete with other developments for traffic and tenants. If one development has added amenities and entertainment value, and a similar development down the street does not, the development with added features becomes highly sought-after—even commanding a premium price.

While incorporating these components is easier with new developments because developers are working with a blank slate so to speak, existing sites can include similar features. Developers, owners and designers simply need to get creative, embrace the development and let the landscape and site really influence the design. With the right approach, renewed developments can include terraces, green roofs and green areas, such as courtyards, that add to the overall usability of a site. The secret is for planners to understand this and actively seek opportunities before the property is redeveloped, so opportunities aren’t overlooked.


Residential developments have their own unique challenges and opportunities with landscape architecture. For larger, single-family, masterplanned communities, the biggest goal is to design spaces that are usable for all people, including senior citizens, and are not ordinary, common spaces, either. Developers and designers need to incorporate features and equipment that homeowners can’t include in their own backyard. In a 2018 survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Residential Landscape Architecture Trends, three must-have design elements stood out for residential spaces by consumers, including fire pits, outdoor yoga spaces and charging stations, and the hottest landscape and garden elements include native plants, low-maintenance landscapes and rain gardens.

Let’s explore two of the most popular and luxurious landscaped areas in residential developments.


Buyers want the coolest community playground—not the discount warehouse wooden set. Standard recreation pools are no longer desired by the developer or the consumer. Consumers still want water play but in the form of splash pads, and developers want more maintenance-free options.


Outdoor dining is all the rage today. Small outdoor areas are being integrated into the design with small plazas where people can gather and socialize over food. Complete with fire pits, fireplaces, landscaping, flexible seating, lighting and access to multimodal trails, landscape architects are accommodating more social spaces into masterplans than ever before.

What’s driving this new, higher-end standard for common spaces? According to Beasley, the trends are in part being influenced by millennials, “College students are graduating, entering the workforce and moving into their own place. Their quality of life during college—for most of them—was much more luxurious than baby boomers and even Gen Xers,” Beasley stated. “Th ink back to your college dorm life. It was likely bare bones. We didn’t even have air conditioning. Today’s dorms are full-on, hospitality-style suites with all the amenities.” These are the adults transitioning into single- and multifamily units, demanding luxury amenities as the standard.

Two Ways to Revolutionize Your Family’s Safety This July 4th

July 4th Safety ImageJuly 4th is on its way, and for many families, that simply means that the time has come to prepare your pool, buy some fireworks, and get ready to enjoy patriotic celebrations with your friends and family. Unfortunately, many families find their hopes for a happy Fourth destroyed unexpectedly. July 4th is statistically the most dangerous holiday of the year. In 2016, thousands were injured or killed on this day alone—not even encompassing related incidents on the days immediately before and after the holiday. Here are two ways to make sure that your July 4th stays joyful and does not include any unanticipated trips to the emergency room.


Drive Safely

During the July 4th season, the risk of driving drastically increases. According to the National Safety Council, almost 600 people were killed on the roads, and approximately 67,000 were seriously injured during the July 4th weekend last year. More people are on the road than usual, heightening the likelihood that someone’s vehicle error may have fatal consequences. Many of these drivers are traveling longer distances to visit family and friends who live far away, increasing everyone’s average time on the road and compounding the chances of an accident even further. As if these factors were not deadly by themselves, more people than usual are driving under the influence of alcohol. Almost half of the accidents during the July 4th holiday in 2017 involved alcohol.

To avoid an unexpected disaster while you are driving to a July 4th celebration with your family, there are a number of driving tips which you should keep in mind. Buckle up, and ensure that your passengers do so as well. 48% of all fatalities from car accidents in 2016 were people who were not wearing seatbelts, and the United States government estimates that 14,668 lives were saved by seatbelts. Also make sure that you never use your phone while driving, no matter how important your REALTOR® business call is! If you must absolutely must take a call, pull over and delegate the driver’s seat to a passenger so that you can use your phone without endangering anyone. A final way to keep yourself safe on the road is to avoid drinking and driving. If you plan on drinking alcohol, also plan on having a designated driver.

Use Fireworks Responsibly

Dangerous drivers are not the only threat you face on the Fourth of July. In fact, fireworks, one of the most enjoyable staples of any July 4th celebration, result in thousands of injuries each year. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that, in 2016, there were 11,100 people seriously injured and even a few people killed as a direct result of fireworks. Not only are fireworks prone to random malfunctions, the slightest personal misuse can have disastrous consequences. In 2016, one person lost most of the fingers on his left hand when a reloadable mortar blew up unexpectedly in front of him. Another man tried to make his own fireworks and his kitchen exploded, demonstrating that the risks of fireworks extend to our property. Even house pets can be terribly injured or distressed by the blast. Many pets are fearful of the loud sounds which fireworks make, which can cause them to panic in the house and damage furniture, or even run away from home.

Keep fireworks fun and not fatal this July 4th by following these safety tips. For one thing, you may want to consider attending a professionally done fireworks display, as that would substantially cut down on the risk that something serious could go wrong. If you still desire to set them off at home, you can keep your family safe by preventing young children from lighting and igniting their own fireworks, make sure that they have adult supervision because even seemingly harmless fireworks can be very dangerous. Over 900 fireworks-related emergency room visits involved sparklers, 400 had bottle rockets, and 1,300 with firecrackers. Secondly, you should ensure that all of your fireworks are legal in your area. Never—Never—make your own fireworks! All but one of the firework-related deaths last year occurred when people set out to illegally craft their own fireworks. When lighting legally obtained, store bought fireworks, you should follow the instructions scrupulously and stand back at a safe distance to prevent potential harm from a random malfunction. Light them up somewhere that they can remain stable, so that they do not fall over and fly towards you.


Do not let these dangers prevent your family from having a festive celebration on the nation’s 242nd birthday! Keep your family safe this July 4th by driving safely and using fireworks responsibly. Even after the holiday is over, you can continue to benefit from these safety tips. Driving is dangerous even on normal weekdays, so do not get travel carelessly just because it is not a holiday. Fireworks, though they are at the height of their popularity on the 4th, are still used at family celebrations throughout the year. Take advantage of these safety tips and have a happy 4th of July!

Preparing Your Home for Natural Disasters

Storm season ahead road signPeople often assume that drastic, unexpected dangers to their houses have no chance of happening. Unfortunately, many people find this expectation gravely disappointed when natural disasters strike their neighborhoods abruptly. All homeowners need to take steps to prepare for dangerous weather because it can—and often does—strike here in North Carolina. The state annually experiences many natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Here are useful pieces of advice for homeowners to prepare their families for natural disasters.

Why Prepare?

During the busy and eventful summer season, it is especially easy to get caught up in your life and neglect home safety. Parents may ask: “Why devote so much time and energy to prepare for a natural disaster which is unlikely to even happen?” Well, the first thing to point out is that it is much easier to prepare your family for an emergency than it is to keep them safe without having taken any precautions. More importantly, a natural disaster is not as unlikely as you might think—especially in North Carolina. According to a recent study, the state ranks fifth in the country for the number of homes that are at high risk or very-high risk of natural disasters. To make matters even worse, they can strike during each season. Summers in North Carolina are prone to hurricanes, and the start of hurricane season was June 1st, so there is no better time to prepare yourself. Tornadoes can strike at any time, with the peak of the state’s tornado season being in the Spring. Winters often experience snowstorms, icy roads, and power outages. Finally, the Fall can experience anything from flooding to wildfires.

How to Prepare?

Thankfully, the situation for North Carolina homeowners is not at all hopeless! There are many courses of action which families can take to prepare themselves for natural disasters. Obviously, one of the first steps which you should take is to know what you most need to prepare for by discovering which natural disasters are most liable to strike your neighborhood. It may be wise to ask your neighbors what kind of inclement weather happens in the county most often and do private research online. After taking into account the peculiar weather of your area, you can begin to prepare. Assembling an emergency supply kit can mean the difference between a very dangerous situation and a safe one after a disaster strikes. Include in your kit a gallon of water and a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Canned foods would be a good option, but if you opt for them be sure to include a manual can opener. Other supplies, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and blankets can also keep your family safe in the event of home damage and extended power outages. Be sure not to forget items specific to your own personal family needs, such as food for your pets and baby supplies. Keep everyone in your family informed about the proper course of action and place to go in the event of a disaster. During disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, windowless rooms low to the ground, such as underground shelters, basements, or bathrooms, are the best option.


Since 1990, the U.S. government has announced 20 federal disaster declarations for tropical storms and flooding in North Carolina. Many areas of the state experience frequent tornadoes—with Hoke, Cumberland, and Robeson counties featuring in the nation’s top 100 at-risk counties. Winter weather frequently leaves tens of thousands of people across the state without power for days and imperils your ability to travel. Far from being an unnecessary chore, taking the proper precautions to keep your family safe is one of the most useful things that you can do for them. As North Carolina begins Hurricane Season, take action to prevent the worst-case scenario from becoming your new reality.

4 Tips for Boosting Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal ImageAn old saying has it that “your first impression is your last impression.” In no arena is this quip more accurate than in the real estate market. Visitors would be wary of entering a sketchy house, and potential buyers would be reluctant to even come after seeing photos of an ugly home. Whether you are selling your residence or simply want to have the most attractive house on the block, these tips for boosting your home’s curb appeal are sure to improve both your property’s look and value.

Tip 1: Keep it clean!

So much attention is generally given to cleaning a house’s interior that homeowners often forget that its exterior is seen by more people and carries just as much weight. A trim and proper yard, for example, does wonders to make your home more approachable. Mow the lawn, remove overbearing weeds, and prevent the accumulation of unseemly lawn items. The house itself should also be effectively maintained. To make worn, aged houses look brand new again, consider pressure washing the exterior to remove decades of built up dirt and mold.

Tip 2: Vibrant Colors

In addition to general cleanliness, houses with curb appeal need appealing color schemes. Houses with drab and dull colors give off a sterile and even gloomy atmosphere. In contrast, those with lush and vibrant color schemes radiate warmth and life. It helps to update your paint job if the color has faded or is simply unattractive. A fresh coat of paint is not the only way to brighten your home’s color palette. Gardens, plants, and trees add a burst of natural color to your home and a rich look sure to captivate guests and potential buyers.

Tip 3: Seasonal Decorations

A well-maintained, colorful residence has a lot going for it, but keeping it up to date with the season provides curb appeal by adding timeliness and personality. During the summer months of June and July, displaying an American flag is an appropriate way to celebrate Memorial Day and Independence Day and give your home a patriotic edge. In the fall, pumpkins and leaves provide a dash of autumnal festivity. The winter months, abundant with holidays, enjoy tons of possibilities—from Christmas lights, to snowmen, and wreaths. The springtime is sure to make your yard’s floral decorations stand out, so be sure to keep them beautiful.

Tip 4: Don’t forget the seemingly-innocuous factors

Though they are often overlooked, the seemingly minor elements of a home’s exterior can greatly improve your home’s curb appeal. For example, almost no owner thinks very much about their house numbers. But personalized house numbers can add character or distinction to your home. Other more under-the-radar factors which can bolster a house’s curb appeal are driveways and garage doors. Ensure that your driveway is well-maintained by removing grass growing in cracks and repairing damaged portions of concrete. Garage doors take up a lot of your property’s space and have a commanding presence, so keeping them classy through routine paint jobs and cleaning off grime can greatly enhance your house’s image.


Improving your home’s curb appeal improves both the financial value of your property as well as its visual appeal. Though these tips are by no means exhaustive, they will serve as great starting points for you as you work to make your house the standout of the neighborhood!

Preventing Opioid Misuse and Diversion

Every day in North Carolina, approximately three people die due to opioid overdose. Nationally, the President’s Economic Advisory Council estimated that the opioid epidemic cost our nation more than $500 billion in 2015.

Home Sellers have an important role to play in confronting this crisis. Open houses have become a target because they present easy access for those who seek prescription drugs. To prevent drug diversion during home showings and open houses, please review the following guidelines.

Before Open Houses or Showings:

  • Safely dispose of addictive prescription painkillers. Take advantage of medicine drop box locations. Flushing these drugs down the toilet or throwing them away is not a good alternative to safe disposal. A list of disposal programs can be found below.
  • Home sellers who need their prescription medication should secure any prescription drugs in locked containers or remove them from the house to a safe location the same way they would a wallet or a dangerous weapon.

Medicine Disposal Programs

Holiday Aftermath – Removing and Storing Decorations

Rows of shining christmas baubles in boxIt’s the first week of January, and the annual ritual of delicately taking down dozens – if not hundreds – of holiday decorations is staring you squarely in the face. (For those of you who intentionally take them down before the new year due to the fear of a year’s worth of bad luck, this article isn’t for you – this year.) Aside from hosting distant (eh um, non-favorite) relatives, the annual storing of holiday decorations is one of the most dreaded parts of the holiday. Yet, it must be performed no later than early January or else you risk being labeled as “that family.” You know the ones – who keep their lights up year-round and dare we say even the decorated tree. The audacity. But that’s not you, is it?

So, let’s explore some simple, cost-effective methods for storing and organizing these precious decorations that turn your home into a warm, festive winter wonderland for three to four weeks out of the year.

Plan Ahead

As best as possible, think ahead to where and how your holiday decorations will be used, so you can plan storage space and options accordingly. Depending on the layout of your home or business, it may make sense to break up the collection into different storage areas. For example, for a multi-story structure, it may make sense to store first-story decorations on the first floor and the second-story decorations on the second floor, thus eliminating the need to lug large trees, wreaths, figurines, and light sets from floor-to-floor.

Dedicated Storage Space

It’s best to have dedicated storage space for holiday decorations. Perhaps a corner in the attic, a spare closet, or off-site storage unit (for the expansive holiday collections) is available. By keeping the collection together and easily accessible, you won’t “lose” precious decorations each year or forget about timeless pieces due to them being scattered about different storage areas. Dedicated storage spaces also allow for easier transportation. Don’t forget to pick storage areas that are dry, temperature controlled and away from direct sunlight to prevent weathering and deterioration.

Wreath and Storage Boxes

Protect your wreaths, ornaments, and lights in sturdy, clear boxes dedicated for their purpose. When possible, keep the original boxes that the ornaments were sold within. They can be used each year to store ornament collections in a safe way to prevent damage during the holidays. Also, consider investing in a label machine or permanent, thick black marker, so you can clearly label boxes. It’s best to group ornaments and decorations by purpose and room for ease of decorating year after year. For example, if you have more than one holiday tree, group ornaments together by tree in its own box, so ornaments do not get mixed up.

Post-Holiday Decoration Purchases

Considering investing in a high-end, pre-lit tree or large outdoor decorative statements that are on post-holiday clearance? While the 70 percent off deals may be too good to pass up, be sure you have room to store the new tree or holiday-themed lawn inflatables 11 months or so out of the year before you buy it. You definitely don’t want to bring them home only to find the only space large enough to store them is your dining room. That makes for awkward dinner party conversation.

With a little pre-planning, having the right storage solutions, and organizing your holiday decorations, you can make the decorating – and storing post-holiday – more enjoyable and less stressful.

New Year, New (Home) Resolutions

2018 goals list
Goal, Plan, Laptop, Letter, List, computer Keyboard

If you’re like most of us, you rang in the new year with at least one ambitious resolution. Start exercising more? Travel more? Be a better person? Get more organized? Any of these are noble resolutions for 2018 and find themselves on tripsavvy’s Top New Year’s Resolutions list for 2018. But what about those resolutions for one of your life’s most valuable investments – your home? Here are some home-worthy New Year’s Resolutions for you to consider for 2018 that will make your house an even better home this year.

  1. Finish that “Honey-Do” List

One of the biggest barriers to completing your to-do list around your home is that the items on the list keep piling on faster than other projects on the list are completed. Perhaps try tackling the current honey-do list first – before adding any new projects. One helpful strategy may be to separate the lists into priorities, such as 1) Critical 2) When possible 3) Wish List. Another strategy is to tackle those existing projects on your list in order of time commitment, finishing the quickest projects first. Additionally, consider setting aside designated time to tackle these projects – perhaps a half day every other Saturday.

  1. Paint cans and colored brushes on white background
    Ultra Violet collage with paint cans and colored brushes on white wooden background. House renovation concept.

    Update Paint Colors

Almost nothing is as comforting as a fresh coat of paint and updated colors to bring the best out of your home – and its occupants. The right paint colors can be inviting, inspiring, comforting, and soothing and can positively impact the health, morale, and attitude of its occupants. Pantone’s color of the year is Ultra Violet 18-3838. While perhaps not suitable to deck all the walls in your home in this color, an accent wall with the right colors, furnishings, and lighting might just work. Keep in mind that Pantone selects a new color each year, so be sure not to pick colors in haste that you can’t live with for a few years – or until you want to paint again.

  1. Declutter

Nothing hinders progress (and Feng Shui) more than clutter. Psychologists have long theorized and proven that clutter is a form of mental baggage, weighing down the minds and spirits of those who keep it. Regina Leeds, professional organizer, bases her work on the premise that learning to organize is one piece of the puzzle – that cluttering is merely a symptom of a greater inner psychological issue. A decluttered home (and business, for that matter) environment will enable greater concentration, increased creativity, improved sleep, and many more invaluable benefits. The new year is the perfect time to take the first step and declutter your home – and your mind – to make room for the personal goals you have in store for 2018.

When you work on your New Year’s Resolutions for 2018, don’t forget to include some for your home on your list. Your home – and your psyche – will reward you for it.