Describing and quantifying residential developer infrastructure and landscaping decisions

Authors: Tracy Fuentes*, University of Washington
Topics: Environment, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: residential developers; urban vegetation ecology; green infrastructure
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


To mitigate negative environmental effects of development, local governments have enacted a variety of regulations, policies, and incentives to reduce impervious surface area, retain and plant trees, and install rain gardens on private property. These overlapping policies shape the site-specific decisions of residential developers, resulting in complex urban patch mosaics of buildings, yards, and other green spaces. Existing urban ecology research on green infrastructure has focused on planners, policies, tree programs, or retrofitting storm water management systems with rain gardens. Drawing on a novel dataset created from field sampling, interviews with homeowners, and image analysis, I reconstructed the infrastructure and landscaping decisions of developers who built and sold 60 new single-family homes in a single watershed in Seattle, WA, USA. Exclusive of roads, each newly developed parcel generated about 276 m2 of impervious surfaces and 115 m2 of lawn. A typical developer spent $1,027 to vegetate newly constructed yards. Developers in wealthier neighborhoods created more diverse and more expensive yards. Understanding what residential developers actually build and install will help improve decision-making in urban ecosystems and identify opportunities for intervention.

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