Sustainability Theory

Weak sustainability can defined as the substitution of natural capital value for human-made capital value. In this way, it would be considered “sustainable” to sacrifice environmental quality so long as total economic capital increases (or stays the same). In the opposite way, strong sustainability is a view which recognizes that without a healthy environment, long term economic success is not possible and therefore maintains man-made and natural capital must be complementary. All three aspects of the triple bottom line (economy/society/environment) must be promoted to create a “win-win-win” situation. I hope to encourage strong sustainability in my landscape designs for the College of Veterinary Medicine. The area of my design which I believe best demonstrates strong sustainable values is the expansion of the wetland area on the south side of the campus. By expanding the wetland area is possible to increase “patch size”, decrease “edge effect” and helps to filter and clean water runoff from impervious surfaces on site onsite, all of which enhance environmental quality and natural capital.

Human well-being, ecosystem services, biodiversity and ecological processes are all entwined in a web of interdependence. Spiritual needs, psychological needs and survival needs of human beings are all met and enhanced by services which are provided by ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems are a function of biodiversity. Without diversity the ecological processes which provide services for human needs cannot properly function. I intend to foster the healthy function of ecosystems through my design for the College of Veterinary Medicine by installing a Healing Garden. Not only will the garden promote spiritual and psychological wellbeing for humans, but it will also serve as a naturalization of the areas between the buildings on campus therefore increasing the connectivity of habitat areas for species which dwell here. By doing so, more productive function of ecosystem processes will ensue.

A resilient landscape is another important aspect of a sustainable design. A resilient landscape has been defined as one which encourages alternate stable states, adaptive cycles, and transformability. A complex and adaptive landscape is resilient. I believe the most important aspect of resiliency on the College of Veterinary Medicine Campus is the ability for the campus to expand and grow while still maintaining is aspects of strong sustainability. In my design I intend to plan for these adaptations by creating and promoting complexity of uses which can transform over time and provide a framework for “resilient decision making”. For example, if in the future the College needs to build an addition on the back side of the Small Animal Clinic, where I propose to install the Healing Garden, the “idea” of this garden can be transferred elsewhere. Or if the school needs more parking, they will have a framework of a sustainable design with permeable paving and rain gardens which can be copied.

The wetland addition, Healing Garden implementation and planning for “resilient future decision making” are just some examples of how I hope to provide the College of Veterinary Medicine with a landscape which is not only sustainable but resilient and will serve as an example for future development of the South Campus of the University of Illinois.


Wu, Jianguo. Landscape sustainability science: ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes. Landscape Ecology (2013) 28:999-1023.


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