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In landscaping, hardscape refers to the built environment including paved areas like streets and sidewalks, structures, walls, street amenities, pools and fountains, and fireplaces and firepits. Also, large business complexes, housing developments, highways, and other industrial areas where the upper soil profile is no longer exposed to the air but is covered with durable materials. The term is especially used in heavily urbanized or suburban areas with little bare soil.
Typical small-scale hardscaping examples include patios and sidewalks. Retaining walls are often used to create boundaries between hardscapes and earth landscaping features, or softscapes. From an urban planning perspective, hardscapes can include very large features, such as paved roads and traffic circles or traffic islands. Most artificial water features are technically hardscapes because they require a barrier to retain the water, instead of letting it drain into the surrounding soil.
From an aesthetic perspective, hardscaping allows workers to erect landscaping features that would otherwise be impossible due to soil erosion, or that compensate for large amounts of human traffic that would cause wear on bare earth or grass. For example, sheer vertical features are possible.[unreliable source?]
Hardscape means any hard surface landscape such as a patio, driveway, retaining wall, or any other hard surface landscaping made up of hard wearing materials such as stone, concrete etc. as opposed to soft landscaping which is grass, bark and other such items.
The water table in and around large areas of hardscape is usually very depleted because the amount of rainwater absorbed into the soil is insufficient to recharge the water table in that (usually urban) area. Such areas must then rely largely on "imported" freshwater from local or non-local lakes, reservoirs, dams, rivers, and streams. On the other hand, most homes in rural areas often use wells and springs as their primary source of freshwater because the local water table is being constantly recharged by the hydrologic cycle.
Without nearby bare soil, a hardscape requires artificial methods of drainage or surface runoff in order to carry off the sometimes massive volumes of water that would normally be mostly absorbed into the ground as groundwater. Lack of capacity can cause major problems after severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, or typhoons.
- "hardscape" Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0) © Oxford University Press 2009
- Kruger, Abe, and Carl Seville. Green building: principles and practices in residential construction. Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2013. 285. Print.
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- "What the Heck are Hardscapes?".
- "Five Cool Hardscaping Elements".
- "What is Hardscape?".
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