Air Force Sheild Sustainability Toolkit
spacer spacer
Design Strategies


Design Strategies section image
  Design Strategies ::Xeriscape
spacer spacer

See Strategy in ActionXeriscape™ landscape designs utilize plants that require little or no supplemental irrigation beyond natural rainfall. Native or adaptive plants are most often utilized for xeriscape design to decrease maintenance requirements and the need for fertilizers once the plants are established.

Figure 1. Exterior rendering of the landscape plan with native plantings for a hangar facility at Buckley Air Force Base

Figure 1. Exterior rendering of the landscape plan with native plantings for a hangar facility at Buckley Air Force Base

A common misconception associated with Xeriscape is that turf should be excluded from landscape designs. This is not the case. Selection of the appropriate plant species, including turf, is a fundamental of Xeriscape design. Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), for example, is native to many areas across the United States as well as parts of Mexico. In addition to species selection, placement of turf should be appropriate for the function of the area it is planted. Buffalo grass is heat, drought, and cold tolerant but it does not hold up well to heavy traffic areas. Placement of turf should also consider maintenance requirements. Turf placed on steep slopes may be cumbersome and time consuming to trim. A successful Xeriscape design relies, not only on proper plant selection, but also the most efficient placement of those plants.

Figure 2. Florida Friendly landscaping project at Xeriscape principles do not rule out plants which require water. A Xeriscape design strategically groups plants with similar watering requirements together to avoid wasting water on plants that do not require it. The same is true for light and soil requirements. Plants which require water should also be placed either in natural drainage divides or near the water source to reduce time and energy needed for irrigation. This may be especially important if a rainwater cistern that relies on gravity for water pressure is the irrigation source.

Figure 3. Hydric zones delineated at Ramstein Air Base

Figure 2. Florida Friendly landscaping project at
Eglin Air Force Base

Figure 3. Hydric zones delineated at Ramstein Air Base


Proper soil condition and composition is important for an effective landscape. Soil amendments are often required to ensure the ground is infiltrating and retaining water. A soil analysis will indicate required amendments to promote targeted plant life. In addition to landscape design, this process will also facilitate designing a stormwater management plan. See the soil amendments page for more information.

Once vegetation and proper soil conditions have been established, organic mulch (i.e. wood chips) or inorganic mulch (i.e. river rock) should be utilized to control erosion and weed growth as well as prevent water loss through evotranspiration. Inorganic mulch tends to transfer heat increasing evotranspiration, but it rarely needs to be replaced, therefore it would be most effective in areas that receive little sunlight. Organic mulch keeps the ground and plants cooler; however, it will occasionally need to be replaced.

Figure 4. Organic mulch around native plantings to conserve water

Irrigation system design and use should focus on the most resourceful use of water as possible. The following guidelines should be applied where feasible:

  • Avoid watering during warm hours of the day. Morning and evening watering prevents loss of water to evotranspiration.
  • Time and control irrigation to ensure the right plants receive the correct amount of water.
  • Use efficient irrigation delivery devices such as drip systems and micro-sprinklers.
  • Where sprinkler systems are used, make certain water stays close to the ground to avoid loss to the wind.
  • Implement rain cisterns or barrels to collect and reuse rainwater.

A landscape design that utilizes xeriscape principles is a potential method to achieve the intent of LEED WE Credit 1.1 and WE Credit 1.2. Refer to the LEED Guidance section for specific requirements.

See Strategy in Action