Research Design Connections
Studies examine converting desert to lawns, playgrounds that
make kids more active, how culture affects preferences for sun over shade, and
mystery in forests.
By Sally Augustin
Architecture, in partnership with the web-based newsletter and daily blog Research Design Connections, uses this
column to report current research of interest to landscape architects from a
wide array of disciplines. We welcome your comments, suggestions about future
topics, and studies you have encountered in your own practice.
Why Do Residents Change Desert Landscapes into Lawns?
Home landscapes in the American Southwest consume a
tremendous amount of water every year, a fact that does not always influence
residentsí preferences for outdoor plantings. In fact, residents of desert
areas generally prefer relatively water-intense plantings around their homes,
even though they claim to find desert landscapes aesthetically pleasing. A
study by Scott Yabiku and his colleagues has found that a residentís gender,
and the length of time he or she has lived in the desert, influences such
preferences even more than pro-environmental attitudes.
In Phoenix, where this study was done, residents use 226 to
400 gallons of water per day, compared to the national average of 100 gallons
per person per day. In Phoenix, outdoor watering accounts for 60 percent of
total domestic water use. The large percentage of water home owners use
outdoors makes their planting preferences significant, as landscapes composed
largely of turf grass and shrubs require irrigation and more time to maintain
than landscapes composed of desert plants. The current prevailing policy is to
reduce outdoor residential water use to allow economic and population growth to
continue in the area, yet residential water remains relatively inexpensive in
Phoenix compared to other parts of the United States.
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