Landscape Design – University of Hertfordshire: Progress Report

Phase 1 Complete
We are pleased to be able to report that in October 2014 the construction of Phase I of the Hertfordshire University residential area was completed and handed over to U-living (facilities management service for the University of Hertfordshire). This development is currently shortlisted for the BREEAM Awards 2015. This post provides an update of the progress of work on site as well as a brief history of the project.

Landmark provided Landscape Design and Ecology services for the development of Hertfordshire residential campus from inception through to the completion of Phase III. We are currently overseeing the construction stages for Phase II & III of the project, due for completion September 2016.

The Design Objectives

To seek a balance between construction requirements (cut and fill) operational needs (a safe, durable easily maintainable landscape that maximises recreational opportunities) and minimising environmental impact (protect and enhance landscape and ecology features whilst avoiding visual impact). The design must enhance the profile of the University and be sustainable.

Landscape Character Areas

Phase I has two distinctive landscape character areas which focus on the main central green to provide a campus resource. There are two strong north-south thoroughfares; the north-south pathway is a straight line and leads through two large courtyard spaces. The east-west thoroughfare will lead from the Learning Resource Centre to Bishops Rise. The widest part of this has now been built – a wide, tree lined avenue between two courtyards.

The design seeks to differentiate each internal space, to create a legible and varied campus with naturalistic open areas and more formal landscape treatment within the main courtyards. The courtyards are subtly segregated from the main thoroughfares through the use of gateway features, such as dense blocks of trees, raised lawns and occasional shrub beds. Each courtyard presents a slightly different design theme conveying its own character and identity.
The purpose of the courtyards was to create a social space for pedestrians whilst enabling internal access and turning movements for emergency vehicles. This was achieved through the design of the hard paving, leaving appropriate gaps between trees, whilst the shrub beds and lawns will be subtlety reinforced with specially designed structural soils. The design of the courtyards is elegantly simple, which also minimises the landscape maintenance.

Paving is predominantly concrete unit paviors with a high recycled aggregate content which allows surface water to permeate, meaning that drains are not required. Tree species with limited crown coverage were selected to avoid excessive shading as they mature.

The sports pitches provide a transition from Hazel Woods (just west of the main campus) to the amenity parkland, next to the central Hub building. The pitches are orientated to allow improved connectivity between Telford Court and the central services hub. The angle introduces a dynamic element into the landscape composition and limits the impact of flood lighting on the residents of Telford Court.

Ecology and BREEAM

Ecological surveys indicated that the biodiversity value of the existing site was poor. Landmarks ecology and landscape teams worked collaboratively to develop a holistic strategy to meet the design objectives and increase the wildlife value of the site. The design therefore establishes a balance between close mown lawn areas for recreation and species rich grassland areas. Meadows have been established using a variety of techniques (including use of wildflower turf, seeding and redistribution of topsoil) around the central ponds creating valuable mosaic of habitats. Proposed tree avenues and hedges will improve habitat connectivity across the site, particularly for mobile species such as bats.

Landmark’s ecologists are registered SQEs and prepared the ecology element of the BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) assessment for the site. On the 15th January we achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating with a score of 92.4 %, which is a huge success for the design, construction and management team. This development is currently shortlisted for the BREEAM Awards 2015.

On-site

Aftercare site visits, conducted in September and November 2014 clearly demonstrate the success of Phase I. The site is well presented and the planting is establishing well. Some of the wildflower areas were temporarily covered in turf, whilst other areas were still being developed (to be made good during the student winter break). Pictures are provided below.

Phase 2 and 3 drawings are now progress and include four more courtyards, an entrance courtyard (linking the main east-west thoroughfare to Bishops Rise), a bus link road and a large part of the central open space.

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