Notes From the Field Station: Building Location and Invasive Species Mitigation

21 Oct

Future Building Location

The Site Petal of the Living Building Challenge Standards aims to clearly identify locations suitable for building, how to protect and restore a site once developed, and to encourage communities based on the pedestrian rather than the automobile. All proposed building sites must be classified as brownfields or greyfields, previously developed sites “the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” The Bechtel Environmental Classroom has received an exemption from this imperative, as it is a project “whose primary purpose is related to the protection or interpretation of the virgin land.” However, despite the exemption, the design will in fact still fulfill the spirit of the requirement.

The minimal forest being cleared for this project was poorly stewarded in the past and is currently overrun by invasive species. The area was clear-cut about 30 years ago for what was intended to be a black walnut orchard. However, it was never planted and subsequently abandoned. In the 1850s the site had served as a stone dump for the adjacent sheep farm. All records of the site indicate that it was never productive agriculture. Prior to the clearing, the site was home to boulders and masses of Japanese Barberry and Multiflora Rose. In the GIS map below you can seen the general locations of the three invasive species identified on site (Note: each point is equal to a mass of individuals, not a single plant).

As mentioned in my previous post discussing the Bechtel Environmental Classroom design, the planting plan will include permaculture gardens, native trees transplanted from on-site, and a native wildflower meadow. Although the site fails to be classified as a greyfield or brownfield in the traditional sense, based on the current state of the area and the future improvements proposed, it is obvious that this project will overall create a net benefit for the surrounding forest ecosystem, despite the initial disruption it may cause. More specifically, through the removal of the harmful, dominant invasive species that currently control the site, and their replacement with a variety of native species, the plan for the classroom and surrounding areas actually creates a more highly functioning ecosystem than is presently there, only with the addition of a building.

-Jessa Finch (’12)

CEEDS MacLeish Intern

Location of Major Invasive Species in Building Impact Zone (Brittany Innis, ’13)

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