||Every year, more than a million new residences are constructed in North America, and with them comes the development of yards and gardens that allow the occupants of these new dwellings to move their daily lives outside. In addition to new gardens, hundreds of thousands of existing gardens are improved and remodeled each year.
A well-planned and well-constructed yard extends the living space of a house in innumerable ways. In southern climates, where the weather is agreeable more often than not, the convenience of usable outdoor spaces in the form of porches, terraces, and lawns is taken for granted. And in northern climates, where enjoyable weather is less frequent, the use of outdoor spaces is more precious and their importance elevated. Even when the site is used for neither social activities nor play, there are usually a number of exterior items to be designed and built that make a residence complete.
The development of a yard is not a simple thing. Even the most basic outdoor space with a deck, a fence, and a lawn require knowledge of materials, structure, drainage, soils, planting, and detailing for the weather. And more developed gardens that contain lighting, pathways, retaining walls, irrigation, and other complex components require deeper knowledge. Most people are not familiar enough with these systems to start building them without some research. So it occurred to us that this basic information, collected into one volume, would be a useful tool for builders, designers, homeowners, and students alike.
This volume complements two other Graphic Guides -- Graphic Guide to Frame Construction, a reference for the construction of wood frame buildings; and Graphic Guide to Interior Details, a reference for finishing the interior of these (and other) buildings. This Graphic Guide provides the necessary tools to complete the site construction so that, with all three guides, details are provided for an entire residential building project.
The scope of the book
Unlike the other Graphic Guides, the scope of this book is limited to residential projects. This was necessary because sitework changes dramatically when it moves from the domestic to the public scale. But within that single limitation, the intention in selecting the material for this guide was to include information typical to all sites. Thus, this volume will serve as a reference for all residential-scale projects in North America, including both new construction and remodeling. It covers all aspects of site development up until the time that plants go in the ground.
The reason that plants are excluded has to do with the complexity of the subject. There are so many different climatic zones and so many plant species, each with unique requirements, that even a condensed guide to planting scarcely can be forced into one volume. Add to that the idiosyncratic nature of people's relationship to plants, and the task becomes even more formidable. But the groundwork of site construction -- the grading, drainage, utilities, paving, and elements such as fences and decks that form the practical and spatial framework for the planting--is more or less universal. Principles and details employed in New Orleans will translate directly (except for frostline) to Minneapolis.
Although all topics are covered, not all are treated with the same level of detail. The intent is to provide details for the construction of elements that contractors or homeowners are likely to build themselves, but only an overview of elements usually subcontracted to a specialist. Thus, the construction of fences and walkways are covered in detail, while the design and construction of septic systems and swimming pools are explained only conceptually. In all cases, references for further research are cited.
Focus on sustainability
Although the details in this book have been selected primarily on the basis of their widespread use, there also has been an attempt to include procedures and details that contribute to environmental responsibility. Partly, this involves selecting practices for their efficiency of material use, their low-energy use, their use of renewable and recyclable resources, and their nontoxic components. And partly, it involves the inclusion of practices and materials that are durable to avoid the consumption of resources (both environmental and economic) required by frequent rebuilding.
Sustainability, however, is a complex concept that involves judgment and the balancing of numerous factors for an elusive long-term goal. For example, is it better to use preservative-treated wood for increased longevity or untreated wood for decreased toxicity? This type of question can best be answered on a project-by-project basis because it is subject to a variety of site-specific variables such as annual rainfall and intended use. We have attempted to include practices and details that should be considered when weighing these variables.
Every effort has been made to ensure that the statements and details included in this book conform to building codes. Codes vary, however, so local codes and building departments always should be consulted to verify compliance.
How the book works
The book's six chapters follow the approximate order of construction, starting with site grading and working up to the finished landscape -- ready for planting. Most chapters cover more than one major subject and are divided into subsections, also roughly ordered according to the sequence of construction. Chapter titles and major subsections are called out at the top of each page for easy reference.
The pages are numbered at the top outside corner, and all the drawings are lettered. With this system, all the drawings may be cross-referenced. The callout 'see 119B,' for example, refers to drawing B on page 119. (See the example on facing page.) Drawings may be referenced from the text or from other drawings.
Any notes included in a detail are intended to describe its most important features. By describing the relationship of one element to another, the notes sometimes go a little further than merely naming the feature. Material symbols are described on page 195. Abbreviations are spelled out on page 197.
A final note
Our intention in writing this book has been to assist designers and builders who are attempting to make practical and beautiful outdoor spaces that endure. With the drawings and text, we have tried to describe the relationship among all the common components of such spaces. Alternative approaches to popular practices have been included as well.
We have relied primarily on our own experiences but have also drawn significantly on the accounts of others. In order to build upon this endeavor, we encourage you, the reader, to inform us of your own observations and/or to make critical comments. Please send them to us care of Books Department, The Taunton Press, P.O. Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506.