Feature Article /
Mar 28, 2016

New Survey Reveals Top 10 Outdoor Design Trends in 2016

Rainwater harvesting

As water conservation becomes an urgent topic in many parts of the country, a new survey from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) concludes that sustainability, particularly rainwater harvesting, will be the top residential outdoor design trend in 2016.

“Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.”

The outdoor trends list is an annual survey that ASLA conducts every year with its members. For this year, landscape architects were asked to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements in 2016. The survey was fielded February 4 through February 18, 2016, with 803 architects responding.

“Respondents expected the greatest demand for outdoor living spaces that are environmentally sustainable, reduce water costs, and are low maintenance,” the report says.

The top 10 project types with the expected highest consumer demand are:


1. Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 88%

2. Native plants – 86%

3. Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants – 85%

4. Low-maintenance landscapes – 85%

5. Permeable paving – 77%

6. Fire pits/fireplaces – 75%

7. Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 75%

8. Rain gardens – 73%

9. Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 72%

10. Reduced lawn area – 72%


“Water-focused design elements dominated this year’s top 10 list and reflect consumers’ growing commitment to landscapes that reduce water use and stormwater runoff,” Somerville says.

Additionally, the report says the top three most popular outdoor design elements include fire pits/fireplaces (74.95 percent), lighting (66.67 percent), and wireless/internet connectivity (65.86 percent).

The top landscape and garden elements include native plants (86.02 percent), low-maintenance landscapes (84.55 percent), and food/vegetable gardens (74.95 percent). Pergolas (50.94 percent), decks (47.40 percent), arbors (44.32 percent), and fencing (44.07 percent) are expected to be the most popular outdoor structures.