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18 September . 2019

How Rancho Sienna loves – and preserves – our trees

Drive through Rancho Sienna, and you can see large trees standing majestically in front of many homes, both completed and still under construction.

Look a little closer, and you might notice that quite a few homes and streets in Rancho Sienna don’t follow the typical uniform layout you find in many communities. Instead, streets wind and curve gently around trees, and homes seem to be designed and placed on their homesites so they can co-exist harmoniously with big, beautiful trees.

This is no accident. Rancho Sienna has one of the strongest tree preservation programs of any community in Austin, with developer Newland working closely with homebuilders to preserve as many significant trees as possible.

When a new neighborhood is developed in Rancho Sienna, Newland’s team walks each future homesite to review it for significant trees. Before a builder can start construction of a new home, they submit their proposed site layout for approval. With the tree map in hand, Newland is able to see how the proposed home, driveway and other features relate to any trees existing onsite.

If a major tree appears to be in the path of construction, Newland attempts to work with the builder to reposition the home and to save the tree. Sometimes, this means flipping the home plan, so that the driveway and garage are built on the opposite side of the homesite. Other times, it means setting the home back further, or moving it further to one side. Sometimes, a new floor plan altogether is chosen, with a footprint that is more compatible with the tree.

A Perry home recently completed in Rancho Sienna illustrates how the community works to preserve trees. The homesite itself is impressive, situated atop a bluff with a stone retaining wall in front. A beautiful large oak tree sits at the top of the bluff, near the street. To make sure the tree was untouched, Newland required placement of the garage and driveway on the far side of the homesite, and pushed the front of the house further back. Today, this occupied home is among the most appealing residences in the community.

“It’s a partnership with the builders to help preserve Rancho Sienna’s beautiful Hill Country landscape,” said Rainer Ficken, vice president of development for Newland. “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also in our interest, because we all benefit when we save these majestic trees. Every time we work together to save a significant tree, it’s a win for everyone, including the environment.”

Sometimes, Rancho Sienna designs entire neighborhoods with tree preservation in mind.

One of the community’s newest neighborhoods, offering detached condominium homes by Lennar Builders, offers a perfect example. Newland chose a condominium ownership structure for this neighborhood so that it would be free to align streets to preserve many large oak trees. In a condominium structure, a developer has much more leeway in laying out the street pattern, compared to the street designs required in traditional neighborhoods.

Throughout Rancho Sienna, Newland carefully aligns streets and sites parks to preserve large trees as much as possible.

“Sometimes moving a street just a few feet can save one or more significant trees,” Ficken said. “Curving streets and varying the placement of homes on homesites also creates more attractive streetscapes throughout the community, which further complements the beauty of the trees.”

Read more about why living green is a way of life at Rancho Sienna.