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Water-Sensitive and Ecological Design: Hebei Province, China

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
April 2016

This report provides a ‘handbook’ approach to ecological and water-­sensitive design in order to guide the incorporation of environmental resilience into the work of SPD (Beijing) International Urban Planning and Design Co., Ltd., a planning and design firm located in Beijing. SPD requested the development of an urban and landscape design strategy to incorporate with water sensitivity (scarcity and pollution) and ecological design for its projects in China. More specifically, our project and this handbook focus on their design work in Baihe township, Hebei province, where our team spent ten days on a charette alongside SPD’s landscape designers. This project, and SPD’s work more broadly, present a unique opportunity for the growing firm to provide innovative, dynamic, and sustainable urbanization approaches in one of the world’s fastest-­growing economies, and play a major role in establishing the inception of ecological design in China. Our handbook analyzes and evaluates approaches to water-­sensitive urban design with an emphasis on urban, agricultural, and industrial areas. Where relevant, we examine opportunities for ecological solutions through the lens of pollution at the air, water, and land levels. This report finds that while SPD requested a ‘drop-­in’ solution approach to ecological and water-­sensitive design, each site and its particular geological attributes, contamination status, positioning within a watershed and other characteristics must determine the specific design that is implemented. In the absence of a drop-­in solution for ecological and water-­sensitive design, we seek to provide frameworks, methods, and tools in order to optimize SPD’s ability to best influence the physical environments in which it operates. This project seeks to inform SPD’s work while also acknowledging the inherent limits of a design firm to improve long-­term environmental conditions given that design firms end their work often before construction of a site even begins. Given the fact that design firms generally do not remain involved at sites after the design has been implemented, we emphasized the importance of incorporating ecological expertise in situations where SPD plans to incorporate ecological and water-­sensitive design. Limitations to our work included difficulties with communication across languages and over distance;; a lack of alignment between the master’s capstone project and SPD’s own deadlines for the Baihe project;; and our client’s limited financial resources that have thus far limited their ability to incorporate ecological expertise among their staff. To this end, we provide recommendations for resources SPD should add to their practice to best implement technologies and concepts from this guidebook into their future designs.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment

China, Environmental Planning, Landscape Architecture

Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Barnes, Megan, Elizabeth Baskerville, Kathleen Carroll, Dannan Hodge, Wenjuan Liu and Yuye Zhang. (2016) “Water-Sensitive and Ecological Design: Hebei Province, China.” Master’s Project, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor: 1-50.