Professional Practice

Increasing Energy Efficiency: Residential Tree Placement for Energy Efficiency

High Point SeattleThe project reduces electricity costs for the house by leveraging shade from the site’s mature trees. ASLA 2010 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Lily Lake Residence, Dalton, Pennsylvania / Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.

Homeowners can strategically plant trees on their property to increase the energy efficiency of their home. Shade trees can be sited optimally to provide building insulation and minimize heating and cooling costs.

Certain types of trees can provide seasonal benefits. For example, planting deciduous trees or vines on the western side of a home or building can provide cooling effects in the summer.

Tree planting organizations can help educate the public on the benefits, proper care, and maintenance of shade trees. Cities and local governments have programs to encourage residents to plant trees to improve a region’s canopy cover and help mitigate stormwater runoff.  The city of Portland, Oregon, for example, has a seasonal program that incentivizes residents to plant yard trees that coincide with the appropriate time of year to plant trees. The resident receives a credit to their city water/sewage utility bill depending on the size of the tree and its stormwater management potential.

Sources: City Plants, City of Los Angeles tree-planting initiative


Alliance for Community Trees

Arbor Day Foundation

Casey Trees

Human Dimensions of Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington

National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council

Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

American Forests

Tree Planting Programs

Treebate Program, City of Portland

Tree Incentive Program, City of Erie, Colorado

City Plants, City of Los Angeles

Request a Street Tree, NYC Parks


Treepedia: Compare Cities, MIT Sensible City Lab

Energy Saving Landscapes, Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series, University of Minnesota

Free Shade Trees, Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Shade Tree Placement Tool, Sacramento Shade and Energy-Saving Trees Program

Landscaping Your Home for Energy Efficiency, Morton Arboretum

Trees and Home Energy Savings, Washington, D.C., Casey Trees

The Sustainable Urban Forest: A Step-by-Step Approach,” Davey Institute / USDA Forest Service

Government Resources

Green Urban Design, City of Chicago

Landscaping, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

Trees and Vegetation, Heat Island Effect Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  

Urban and Community Forestry, United States Forest Service

U.K. Forestry Commission


"The Passive Solar House," James Kachadorian, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2006

Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design,” Timothy Beatley, Island Press, 2016


Lily Lake Residence, Dalton, Pennsylvania
Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.

Vineyard Retreat, Napa Valley, California
Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture





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