The risks posed by the climate and ecological crises can be overwhelming: their challenges often complex and in need of integrated and holistic approaches, as well as collaboration across many disciplines and specialisms. In these two case studies, Senior Landscape Architect Mary Jansson demonstrates LUC’s commitment to targeting these issues through its work
The extent and seriousness of the risks posed by the human made climate and ecological crisis can be overwhelming. In LUC’s latest company strategy we have set out our commitment to making an impact, by targeting specific issues through our work and by working in partnership with others that share our aspirations. Whilst addressing environmental issues has been at the heart of the company’s work since it was established by Max Nicholson over 50 years ago, the need to redouble our efforts in response to the imminent crisis is becoming increasingly pressing. Specifically, what can we do to mitigate the impact and help our world adapt to the changes that have already started and how do we respond to the damage that will come with these changes to the environment and to society?
As the two case studies demonstrate, the challenges presented by the climate crisis are often complex and require integrated and holistic approaches as well as collaboration across many different disciplines and specialisms.
The AELTC Wimbledon Park Project
Working closely with their client, The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), LUC has developed a landscape-led master plan for the Wimbledon Park Project. The design team brings together master planner and architect Allies and Morrison, LUC and the engineering and sustainability consultant Buro Happold as well as many specialist consultants. Within LUC the project has been led by LUC’s Landscape Design team supported by LUC’s Planning, Environmental Impact, Ecology, Heritage and Visualisation colleagues. Should the project receive planning consent, it will enable an historic evolution for the AELTC, bringing the Qualifying Competition on-site and expanding tennis provision whilst restoring a fragment of Registered Capability Brown-designed parkland. This includes creating a new 9.4ha public park and significant improvements to the historic lake, with new public access.
A factor driving the ambitions for the project from the outset is the AELTC’s commitment to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework and the AELTC Environment Positive Strategy. This comprises four pillars: net zero carbon; biodiversity net gain; circular resource efficiency; and inspiring wider action by 2030. The proposals needed to balance the complex requirements of world-class tennis provision and the site’s considerable heritage and ecological sensitivities with the need to deliver against these commitments. In response, the master plan looks to maximise opportunities to enhance the site’s climate change resilience, recognising the need to build adaptive capacity in relation to shocks and stress including water security, extreme heat, flooding and threats to our native flora and fauna to sustain the site and The Championships in the future. Some of the key measures and strategies adopted in the masterplan are outlined here.
A holistic site-wide hydrology strategy has been developed for the site to address the complexities and interrelationships of the different challenges that need addressing. The site is situated within an area of serious water stress according to the Environment Agency and a key principle of the strategy is the efficient management of water resource across the site, including minimising irrigation demands and meeting them effectively. Rainwater run-off from hardstanding areas will be collected, stored, and treated for use as irrigation water and options for abstracting irrigation water from Wimbledon Park Lake are also being explored. To increase the retention capacity of the site in line with 100-year flood plus climate change modelling, two natural brooks will be de-culverted to alleviate localised flooding, and a network of swales and detention ponds will help build resilience, reduce run-off rates, and help filter water. Finally, one of the most significant features of the Brownian landscape, the lake, one of the largest fresh-water bodies in south London, will be desilted to increase water depth and quality. With extensive planting of reedbeds and pockets of wet woodland around the lake and the richly planted swales and ponds, all these measures are also designed to provide areas of rich habitat for flora and fauna.
A long-term approach has been taken to tree planting across the site, aiming to deliver a strong, healthy, genetically diverse tree population that is both appropriate to the functional requirements and enhances the historic and ecological significance of the site for decades to come. The proposals more than double the number of trees on the site, with a view to planting around 1,500 British grown new trees. This will increase local resilience by cooling air and contributing to improved water management across the site and in time the trees will also contribute to carbon sequestration. With conditions for tree growth likely to become more challenging in the UK, mitigating against the adverse effects of climate change requires the planting of diverse woodlands to protect against uncertainties. Diversity of species and genus is key in this respect and a wide range of species have been specified across the site with consideration given to their disease resistance, heat and drought resilience and ecological value.
A ‘British Sown and Grown’ policy for procuring all trees and shrubs for the project will be followed wherever possible, with all plant material being grown in the UK for a minimum of five years. This has several advantages, including reducing the risk of bringing foreign pests and diseases onto site. It also helps to reduce the carbon footprint associated with overseas transportation. The genetic material of the veteran oak trees is being preserved through a propagation programme, started in 2020. The resulting oak saplings will be planted on-site in years to come providing succession planting for the existing veteran trees.
A series of whole-life carbon reduction strategies have been applied across the site. For example, reductions in embodied carbon have been achieved through the balancing, as far as possible, of site-won cut and on-site fill volume requirements. Emission savings also drove changes between the Stage 2 and Stage 3 proposals for Church Road, which forms the central axis through the site. Modelling undertaken by Buro Happold suggests significant savings will be made because of both alterations in surface finish materials, specifically the reduction in the use of granite in the proposal, the rationalisation of the paving network itself, as well as modifying the paving subbase designs. The lengths and widths of the proposed pathways have been assessed with respect to people flow and vehicle access to ensure that pathway areas do not exceed what is necessary for their required functions.
Hull University Westfield Court
LUC was appointed alongside architects tp bennett to deliver a new student village as part of the redevelop the University of Hull’s West Campus. LUC led the design of the external works, with sustainability and biodiversity guiding our landscape and public realm proposals. The project completed on site in September 2019.
Located on the banks of the River Humber, large areas of the City of Hull lie barely a few metres above sea level. Most of the city, including the University Campus, lies within a Zone 3 high risk flood area. With a constant and increasing threat of North Sea tidal surges because of climate change, the Campus is likely to be highly vulnerable to flooding in the future. Therefore, water management and adaptation were critical components of the campus design.
From the outset, the University set high aspirations for the sustainability of the site. Management of both flood and surface water was embedded into the design concept and optimised to go beyond just delivering flood mitigation but also to create a highly adaptive and habitat rich landscape. The landscape integrates water management with varied planting and the use of recycled materials to maximise the sustainable outcomes for the site.
The flood and surface water requirements offered both challenges and opportunities in the approach to the landscape design. Careful sculpting of the land would be needed to create an effective water management system, this was coupled with BREEAM aspirations to retain existing groundworks material on site and achieve a balanced cut and fill approach. The approach offered the opportunity to play with levels and create a dynamic and three-dimensional landscape with level changes integrated into what was previously a relatively flat landscape. A holistic approach ensured that these issues were tackled together and solutions that responded to multiple sustainability objectives found.
The water management system is designed to cope with both flood events and manage surface water run-off and storage. These combine to create a landscape adaptable to current anticipated future climate change and extreme flooding whilst also incorporating richly planted sustainable urban drainage system features, richly planted meadow grassland and wetland tree species. These have significant potential to become thriving biodiverse habitats, enhancing the long-term habitat value of the landscape within the campus.
COP26 is an opportunity for us all to focus our efforts on driving through changes in our projects and working practices to respond to the climate and ecological crisis. We should also all be reflecting on how we as individuals, as teams, and professionals can contribute. The projects described here hopefully provide useful and replicable examples of the types of approaches and measures that can be taken to support landscapes in adapting to the multiple effects anticipated future climate change will have on our urban environment. Both projects illustrate the close working across multiple disciplines together with holistic planning and visioning that is needed to ensure our landscapes work on the many levels they must do to meet the challenges we face.