Luxury and LEED

First Certified LEED Home in Harding, NJ - A model practice of environmental stewardship and site regeneration

Project Details

This New Jersey residence is a model for the practice of environmental stewardship and site regeneration. The design and construction process tells a story of inspired leadership, the incorporation of systems design, and design team synergy. Innovative landscape elements treat stormwater in unconventional ways. Plantings and site stewardship regenerate soils and groundwater.

Back to Nature as landscape architects, employed a whole-systems-thinking approach to integrate planning, and construction. We worked closely with the property owners, architects, engineers and consultants to blur the lines between interior and exterior spaces as well as between human and natural systems. To meet the resident’s aesthetic and environmental goals the landscape architects created an innovative site design that focused on natural systems and processes to meet the functional needs of the site. In this whole-systems-thinking approach, natural elements such as water, soil, forest and wildlife became recognized stakeholders in the design process. Site regeneration (design to leave the site environmentally better after development) was an important consideration. Crews removed approximately 1.25 acres of invasive trees and shrubs.

PLANTS AS PRODUCERS/SOIL REGENERATION: The intensive use of plantings in the rain garden for function, habitat and aesthetics was inspired by the regenerative design approach for architecture and landscape. Their roles were diverse yet important. Disturbed areas were stabilized with meadow seed or perennial plugs rather than lawn. Perennial plantings played an important role in the environmentally innovative features of this site. In the place of dry wells along the entrance drive, vegetated swales were constructed to accept stormwater runoff. Plantings help to purify contaminated runoff and to slow the speed of runoff flow from the existing grades.

Long and broad sweeps of species such as Rudbeckia, Solidago, Aster, Pycnanthemum, Carex, and Panicum, installed as landscape plugs, thrive in the mixed sun/shade environment, reflect the regional native plant palette, and help to diversity the newly exposed edges of cleared woodlands. A similar palette, along with native shrubs, covers the slopes of the rain garden.

The rain garden starts to take shape during careful planting.
The rain garden acts as a natural filtration system.
Employing a whole-systems-thinking approach integrating site planning and design with construction, the process tells a story of ecological site regeneration and innovative landscape elements including a rain garden.
View of completed rain garden.

PLANTS AND SOILS: Native plants were selected and specifically grown to best match the unique natural conditions of this site.

MAINTENANCE: Long-term rain garden maintenance became an important element in the landscape design and plant selection. Plants had to meet important criteria: vigor, cold hardiness, heat/drought tolerance, no need for deadheading or staking, and resistance to disease and pests. They also had to fit with the woodland character and aesthetics. In keeping with

USGBC/LEED guidelines, landscape plantings were designed to survive without permanent irrigation after being established, the need for weeding and water decreased or ceased. Vigorous plant growth crowded out most weeds. Yearly mulching after a late winter cut back is done every year by residents.

Naturalized meadow is not only beautiful, but does not require fertilizing or heavy watering.

Design Objectives

  • Luxury landscape and sustainability
  • Design the best rain garden in New Jersey
  • Install low maintenance landscape that provides great habitat for wildlife
  • Incorporate an orchard to provide for farmland assessment
  • Harvest rainwater to incorporate into the project
  • Use natural materials in the landscape
  • Use meadows to improve the health of the natural environment
Building Materials

Large, thick beautiful old-world bluestone


Large slabs of stone used as furniture. Kids love it!

Landscape Elements

Gardens are used to improve habitat which is then incorporate into the schools curriculum. Much better than learning about nature from a book!

Meadow Plants

Plants are used to naturally treat runoff form the road in a natural way. This is one of the earliest uses of newly created wetlands to handle storm water in New Jersey

Wetland Plants 1

Various native plants used for storm water and to attract beneficial habitat

Aquatic Plants

An orchard is a great way to keep the family involved in farming. And farming is now cool again!

Apple Trees

A great wildflower that helps continue this pastel palette of plants


These wildflower are amazing pollinators for the local bees and butterflies


Extensive use of wetlands were prosed to handle storm water in a natural way


Native plant

Native plant

An orchard is a great way to keep the family involved in farming. And farming is now cool again!

Various native plants used for storm water and to attract beneficial habitat

Reclaimed barn wood – gets new life for this new house

Extensive use of wetlands were prosed to handle storm water in a natural way

Large, thick beautiful old-world bluestone

Site boulders repurposed for natural retaining devices!

Boxwood used as a traditional hedge with lots of colorful perennials

Amazing sculptures specified by BTN for a hillside garden

Hand crafter NJ made lights

A custom designed covered bridge designed and built for this unique community

One of the premier NJ equestrian facilities was built onsite

Ferns we used to help the forest floor regenerate. And deer don’t bother them!

Stones were reclaimed onsite for this beautiful agrarian inspired home