Universities across the globe are recognizing the need to implement sustainable landscaping practices in order to support wildlife, improve water quality and positively impact human health and wellbeing. Georgia Institute of Technology learned that such sustainable practices, when properly aligned with overarching campus goals, can also enable continuous, collaborative decision-making and student engagement.
The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) is a leading research university situated on 426 acres of land in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, with a student population of 27,000 (Fall 2017). An urban oasis in the center of town, Georgia Tech's campus offers 312.5 landscaped acres, 3.5 naturalized acres and 110 acres of buildings. The campus is also a level II certified arboretum boasting 12,000+ trees in its urban forest.
Prior to the 1990s, Georgia Tech was commonly referred to as a concrete and brick campus with very little landscape. However, in 1999 all that changed when the Georgia Tech administration decided to invest in sustainable landscaping, including the recruitment of qualified staff with specific skill sets to take on this challenge. The Institute's initial landscape master plan objectives were to reduce impervious surfaces such as surface parking lots, increase woodland coverage and enlarge the tree canopy.
A significant amount of sustainable landscape practices and collaborative methods grew from these initial objectives. Establishing a plan with clear goals, having the support of executive leadership and employing the right team members enabled the Georgia Tech campus to be transformed from a concrete jungle to a forested, urban oasis in less than 20 years.