Article : LASN September 2011 Ordinances: Landscape Codes Going Green: Broward County, Fla.

Landscape Codes Going Green:
Broward County, Fla.

By Buck Abbey, ASLA, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, Louisiana State University

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An important part of “green” parking is preserving trees, not only for shade and their many intrinsic and ecological values, but also as habitat for the creatures trying to coexist with us in our urbanized landscapes. In Broward County, parking areas typically have grass buffers and mulched or natural ground islands to reduce stormwater runoff. Mulching, attracting wildlife and reducing stormwater runoff are three components of the nine sustainable principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) program.

“Local government shall used these standards when developing
landscape irrigation and Florida Friendly ordinances.”

— Florida Statutes 373.228(4), 2006.

Recently I’ve written several columns on green parking lots and the use of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI). For SSI or LEED standards to be effective it is important the content of these programs be incorporated into community landscape regulations.

This will do two important things. It will shift landscape architecture design to a more criteria-oriented methodology that incorporates science and ecology, in addition to art. Secondly, landscape architecture designs will become less costly to the client, save energy, reduce the carbon footprint and ensure less impact on the environment.

In many ways, traditional landscape design is very consumptive, wasteful and energy inefficient. In Broward County, Florida, 50 percent of potable water consumption is for irrigation of lawns and landscape beds. Irrigation water runoff is also a major contributor to water pollution in the county by carrying yard chemicals toward the sea. Lawn mowing on a regular basis with conventional gasoline and oil-powered engines over a very long growing period leaves its impact in the air of the city.

Landscape Code with History
Broward County is near the southeastern tip of Florida and has a population of 1,748,066 (2010 census). The county landscape codes (some 27 different codes) are among the oldest in the nation. “Old” here means only dating back to the 1970s! These codes, in conjunction with creative landscape architects and artificial irrigation, are largely responsible for creating the look of the designed environment seen from West Palm Beach to Miami. When Spanish explorers first came upon this area in 1513, they could have succinctly described it as sand and scrubby coastal vegetation. Today, this area might be called something of a palm-covered paradise. Landscape architects in South Florida over time have transformed Florida into a magical botanical kingdom somewhat in the vision of Walt Disney.

The existing Broward County Landscape Code (Section 39-81 of Article VIII, Functional Landscaping, in Chapter 39, Zoning, of the Broward County Code of Ordinances, Ord. 93-43) dates back to November 1993. At that time it was a model for other communities in Broward. The code was amended in 1999 to increase attention on water conservation. Xeriscape standards were incorporated, as well as an expanded list of drought tolerant native landscape materials.

Over the last 10 years there have been many changes that have had an impact on local landscape practices and the landscape code itself. These include expansive growth in the county, new research from the University of Florida and even legislative action affecting land use and water use planning. To some extent this has caused a green growth movement to develop in the county, and the establishment of Naturescape Broward and a Grow Green Program in the Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department of county government.

Most central to changes in the landscape codes of Florida was creation of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) Program of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service ( This program has developed nine principles for sustainable landscapes:

  1. Right plant, right place
  2. Water efficiently
  3. Fertilize appropriately
  4. Mulch
  5. Attract wildlife
  6. Manage yard pests responsibly
  7. Recycle yard waste
  8. Reduce stormwater runoff
  9. Protect the waterfront

Taken together, these principles constitute landscape best management practices that mirror the use of LEED and SSI in protecting the environment. The FFL program can be used to measure sustainability of landscape plans. In 2006 the state legislature mandated FFL be included in community landscape standards in Florida. In 2009, model landscape ordinance language incorporating FFL standards was created by the Leven College of Law at the University of Florida.

The Guidance Manual prepared by Leven includes model language and code standards to promote Florida-friendly landscape principles in local land development regulations. This language brings about Florida-friendly landscaping.
All of these activities over the last decade have resulted in a new draft landscape code for Broward County. But what is most interesting is this new code is based upon sustainable landscape principles.

D.G. “Buck” Abbey, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University, is LASN’s Associate Editor for Ordinances.

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June 27, 2016, 12:33 pm EST

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