Mowing crews won’t be frequent visitors at the new 701 Carnegie Center building, nor will planting crews. Instead of seasonal flowers, the entrance features LEED-friendly ornamental grasses (Pennisetum alopecuroides, hybrid “Hamelin” or Dwarf Fountain Grass) that will grow 18 to 20 inches tall.
These native plants are drought tolerant, grow quickly, are deer resistant, and have no serious pest or disease issues, says Jeff Bottger, group manager of landscape architecture at T&M Associates, which did the engineering for Boston Properties. “They have a nice yellowish color in the fall and look good even into the winter.” And they are mowed just once a year, in the spring.
The areas at the side and back have been planted with another environmentally friendly grass, hard fescue, which despite its name feels as soft as baby hair. “It is quite graceful, especially in the wind, and is quite hardy,” says Bottger. Needing no fertilizing or watering, it can be mowed just once in the fall and then grows to about a foot.
Bottger says West Windsor has a reputation for having the “strictest and best” landscape ordinances in the state, and the township’s landscape architect, Daniel Dobromilsky, welcomed this building’s plan. Dobromilsky traces the use of ornamental grasses to Washington, D.C., some 15 to 20 years ago and says that, “as an alternative to perennial flowers, the idea has grown and become more accepted into the mainstream.”
Even the plantings that line the parking lot aisles play important environmental roles. According to the recent New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulations, water needs to run through a “vegetative swale” on its way to the detention basin, to treat impurities.
The detention basin is designed to capture the run-off rainwater from the impervious portions of the site (the parking lot, sidewalks, and building roof system). It eventually empties into the canal but has high-tech sensors that can help prevent flooding. Canadian geese now seem to like swimming there, but Bottger suggests that, in the future, the native trees and shrubs will proliferate and discourage them from laying nests there. Among the plants are varieties of hibiscus, Yellow and Blue flag Iris, Cardinal flower, Pickerelweed, and Arrowhead.
All these environmentally friendly plantings may look expensive, but aren’t, especially when you factor in the low maintenance costs, says Irene Vogelsong, a LEED expert for KSS Architects.
New Jersey is way ahead of the rest of the nation in protecting the environment, says Ed Klimek of KSS: “Simply complying with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection puts us in LEED territory.”