community,  Environment,  Sustainability,  Sustainable Landscapes

Landscape Master Plan

Did you know that NAU has sustainable landscaping tactics to keep our campus green in every sense of the word? I had a chance to talk with Janel Wilcox, one of the people behind the Landscape Master Plan.  She explained the plan to me, with particular focus on how this plan contributes to the culture of sustainability on campus! The goal of the Landscape Master Plan is four-fold; its guiding principles are landscape architectural design, sustainability, winter considerations, and accessibility. These factors each contribute to the overall aesthetic and function of the landscape you see across the NAU campus, including plant life, benches, and the multi-modal pedways.

 Tallgrass native meadow at Babbitt Admin bldg. (in South Mountain Campus zone), installed one year ago. AZ Fescue is the primary grass in this mix

The Landscape Master Plan considers the sustainability aspects in each of its individual projects. In terms of plant life, each species is chosen based on water intensity, overall appearance, and locality. Most of the plants on campus are native to the Northern Arizona region, and some are even chosen for campus in order to support preservation efforts. Ponderosa pines are a great example; they are ideally suited for a low-rainfall climate, are native to the area, and need a little extra love. Aside from regional inspiration, some of the campus plants are chosen and placed to serve alternative purposes. The ornamental grasses outside of Campbell Hall were designed to enhance the landscape’s appearance as well as to mitigate flooding during heavy storms and snowmelt periods. This way, the storm water can be collected and used as a resource instead of being wasted.

Ornamental grass swales at Campbell Hall, designed to be a landscape feature as well as mitigate flooding and treat stormwater as a resource

Along the same vein, building materials and features are selected with the same care as the campus plants. Part of the Landscape Master Plan involves limiting the amount of stark gravel areas around campus, with the intention of decreasing the heat island effect (link to a definition) and increasing beauty. The materials used to build benches, tables, and chairs around campus are selected with environmental impact in mind. Many of the new standard benches on campus are crafted using sustainably harvested bamboo wood, rather than wood sourced from rainforests! Not only does this help NAU pursue its sustainability goals, it helps save our natural world.

Bamboo bench at Liberal Arts, which is one of our new standard benches. It was chosen partially because it is made out of sustainable bamboo rather than rainforest sourced Ipe.

NAU is committed to sustainability in many ways across campus. If you have any questions about the Landscape Master Plan, email Janel Wilcox at Interested in seeing us feature a specific topic on the blog? Email with your requests and suggestions!