Outside ORNL's buildings the surroundings include planted areas, paved surfaces, waterways, and water features. A phased Master Plan, Sustainable Landscapes Initiative 2020, has been developed to implement natural landscapes and sustainable design. Goals to make those areas more sustainable include using native vegetation and local materials, managing runoff, controlling erosion, and reducing the use of noxious chemicals. A number of recent initiatives have been implemented to help reach those goals. More information is available on the ORNL Landscape Management webpage.
Management activities have recently created additional wetlands on the Oak Ridge Reservation, including around ORNL. These wetlands resulted from activities such as development of a water detention basin during construction of new buildings, creation of artificial wetlands as mitigation for impacts to wetlands, and re-establishment of wetlands by curtailing vegetation mowing. The East Campus pond has been greatly modified and is now a more natural area with a walking path around it for staff to enjoy. These developments provide important additions to the existing inventory of wetlands on the ORR and often reflect a return to the land use conditions that existed prior to the creation of the reservation during the Manhattan Project.
Creating a riparian buffer area (e.g., replacing steep areas of lawn next to a stream with native vegetation) can reduce erosion, minimize energy use, improve water quality, increase biodiversity, create more wildlife habitat, and improve aesthetics. ORNL is creating riparian buffer areas inside the Lab footprint as part of a sustainable landscapes program. These riparian buffers will include a rain garden, a ledge garden, and an area changed from lawn to ecological edge.