Soft Engineering

05/09/2017 - 00:00

The ideal is alive and kicking at the City of Melville, Australia. Sitting and working side by side in its local government offices are the City’s civil engineers and landscape architects.

And while this is not new in itself, Melville’s projects are changing form thanks to the two disciplines bouncing ideas off each other. One in particular - water sensitive urban design - is a growing accepted practice across many professions, producing results using ‘soft engineering’, aka plants.

Landscape architect, Zoe Williamson, explains how landscape and engineering work together at Melville, using the recent Esplanade works as an example. The hard landscaping directs and slows the water before capturing it in the TerraCottem laced planting zone, and then it’s the plant roots and living soil which filter pollutants from the run-off before it reaches the river.

“It’s about creating beautiful, accessible spaces for all people, that function as habitat as well as providing environmental services - in this case filtration.”

The team: Zoe Williamson (Landscape Design), Debbie Goodwin (Civil Engineering) and Mike Powell (Civil Construction).
Taken during construction it’s easy to see what the team were up against in terms of sandy, nutrient poor soils.
This shot says it all – a great deal of thought and communication sits behind the design of this trial. (L to right) Melville team members: Mike Powell, Zoe Williamson, Strini Govinder, Debbie Goodwin and Michael Chan.

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