The exterior appearance of your facilities is vital in communicating the image of your business. Well-designed and properly maintained grounds can greet both visitors and occupants with a pleasing appearance, minimize the time and resources needed to keep your landscapes looking their best, and contribute to your organization’s sustainability efforts.
The role of facility managers in achieving these goals starts well before maintenance begins. Getting managers involved early in the design process can ensure the efficient and cost-effective maintenance of landscaped areas.
As a facility manager, you should get involved in the landscape design and planning process to avoid landscapes that are costly and difficult to maintain. Any landscape undergoing extensive rework typically involves designers with a promising idea of what looks good. They might not consider long-term maintenance needs, which is where you can come in with practical advice. Involving maintenance early in the process to guide decisions helps ensure problems are minimal.
Several problems often arise because landscape construction is, seemingly, the lowest priority of subcontractors when it comes to conflicts and engineering.
By getting involved in the planning, facility managers can be proactive – in many cases, landscape architects make decisions that sometimes puts facility managers in a reactive role. The renovation of an existing building is a wonderful opportunity for the facility manager to get involved. Your common objective is to understand the cost to maintain the property and determine the right resources needed for the job. The design phase presents an ideal opportunity for managers to emphasize the project’s total cost of ownership, which includes the ongoing cost and the resources required to properly maintain the landscape. Ideally, managers want to minimize inputs such as water, fertilizer, and fuel that powers pruning equipment and trucks.
Another way that you, as a facility manager, can contribute to the design process is helping make the landscape more sustainable. Planting at the right density is big way to make your landscape more sustainable. Property owners want lush-looking plants, but facility managers want to plant smaller quantities at the right density to minimize future maintenance requirements and water needs, as well as the inevitable costs to prune more or to remove overcrowded plants. It’s all about putting the water where it is needed. Facility managers need to review the amount of water the landscape requires, and the way the irrigation system is designed. Large areas with high-volume, high-output spray heads for watering turf areas, shrubs and ornamentals require a drip or bubbler system to control water application.
The frequent problem of weeds interfering with the establishment of new plants is likely caused, for example, by poor planning of the watering of the plants and the landscape. A critical solution to minimizing weed problems is getting the water right. New landscapes often feature a mixture of large plants, trees, and small specimen plants that all are trying to get established. Managers often feel as soon as they turn on the irrigation system, everything will be watered perfectly. But, trees with large root balls might not get enough water if the irrigation system is set to deliver water for plants with shallower root systems. The reverse also is true, where systems can overwater smaller plants, an unintended result of ensuring trees are well irrigated.
For example, regional differences are important in considering landscape needs. Irrigation is often the major concern in terms of management and the expense of repairs and upgrades. In markets with expensive land, not enough room for trees is an important consideration.
Facility managers might want to ask about design changes that will reduce the amount of water needed. They also want to avoid specifying plants prone to insects or disease, minimize the amount of debris generated, and rethink the use of fertilizers.