Services & Maintenance: Site Maintenance

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By Alan Aukeman, ASLA, Tom Ryan, ASLA, and Kimberly Turner, ASLA
Published in the June 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Asuccessful and comprehensive site maintenance program is one that notonly takes into consideration the seasonal needs of a landscape(mowing, pruning, leaf removal, shoveling, etc.), but also considerssite use patterns and the evolution of the landscape itself over time.

Seattle, WA In this space which is part of Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, WA,the new landform crosses the highway and train tracks and descends tomeet the water’s edge. Charles Anderson was the landscape architect onthe project. (Photo: Paul Warchol.)

User Needs

When it comes to exterior maintenance, there are many tasks that aresite specific based on user needs. For example, university campuses,retail facilities, and office complexes are three very differentfacility types with specific patterns that dictate response. All threehave intense periods of use and high expectation, and management of thesite could play a crucial role in an important event or commercialseason.

At school.At an academic campus, facilities managers should consider the need tomove students safely from classroom to dormitory to dining hall. Thereare also the needs of the parents who assist in move-in/out and attendgraduation. Finally, there are the alumni and outside guests who visitduring special sporting and fundraising events.

Passagewaysbetween dorms, classrooms, quads, and other buildings and spaces needto be maintained with open sightlines and ample lighting. Plantingsmust look colorful and lush during the school year and importantweekend events. Areas of congregation and passageway often need to berepaired at the end of the school year or following a big event, andthe short June to September construction season must be abided.

In stores.In retail facilities, important priorities include safe passage betweenparking lots and retail shops and ample parking spaces during peakholidays and on weekends. In many regions, the holiday shopping seasoncorresponds with snowstorms, making the balance between snow removaland storage and peak parking demands an important consideration.

 

Plantingsmust be attractive year-round and able to withstand high levels ofradiation from asphalt and buildings. Facilities managers need toconsider irrigation, pruning, deadheading, and/or replanting ofseasonal greenery to assure constant color and improve marketing. Innorthern climates, roadways and sidewalks should be kept safe and clearof cracks, heaving, and snow and ice to prevent hazards and liability.Litter control is always a concern.

At work.Office complexes, corporate parks, and government campuses offer athird set of user needs that reflect a nine-to-five workday. Facilitiesmanagers need to ensure safe and efficient passage into and out of thecomplex during rush hours, along passageways, between parking lots, andto or from public transportation sites.

Areas where employeesenjoy lunches and coffee breaks should look their best, and thefacility needs to be secure after hours. If the office hosts manyoutside visitors, main entries need to be inviting and marketable aswell. Because of the traffic patterns created by workers, manymaintenance tasks are best performed early in the morning or onweekends.

The Evolving Landscape

Just as furnaces, roofs, and appliances have a useful life, so do manytrees, shrubs, lighting fixtures, and other hardscape features.Managers should know where the landscape is in its useful life in orderto understand and care for it appropriately.

Inthe young landscape, it is often imperative to amelioratepost-construction soil compaction so newly planted seedlings have achance to mature and thrive. Irrigation systems need to be monitoredclosely. Newly planted hillsides must be protected from erosion, andstorm drains must be checked to avoid puddling and turf damage.

It’simportant to remove tree stakes and guys after the first season, soplants can adapt to wind patterns, and cables don’t girdle growingbranches. Meanwhile, the cycle of annual maintenance must begin as soonas plants are established.

Mature landscapes have their ownset of maintenance requirements that include rejuvenation pruning andother tasks that keep them thriving. Moreover, use patterns and cycleschange over time, just as plants age and their context alters. A maturelandscape will bear traces of earlier uses and intentions and willadapt to new ones with varying degrees of ease.

The Long-Term

Pruning is an example of a task that too often gets treated like amatter of short-term care when it should be regarded with long-termimportance. Facilities managers should assess trees and shrubs fortheir intended function and prune plants early to assure proper growthhabits.

Pruningbranches back to outward pointing buds ensures canopies and shrubs donot become too dense and shade out inner portions. Periodic scoutingfor pests and diseases may reduce or eliminate infection.

Pedestrianroutes are an example of a use pattern that should be assessedperiodically to address potential soil compaction. Solutions includeaeration or the introduction of new walkways or barriers to divert foottraffic away from mature trees and shrubs whose eventual decline mightonly appear long after the damage is done.

Otherbotanical maintenance tasks should continue: mulching, fertilization,mowing and other turfgrass treatments, pruning, scouting for pests anddisease, and so on. However, since established plants require lessirrigation and fertilization, it’s important to cut back irrigation toplant beds (not turf areas) and top dressing with compost instead ofchemical fertilizers.

Pruning remains of utmost importance. Inmature plantings, it may be necessary to cut back vigorous shrubsaggressively (called rejuvenation pruning) to promote new, healthierwaves of growth.

Of course few landscapes are either mature oryoung. Most all will have elements of both. As previously stated, theimportance of record keeping and maintenance logs is critical to thejudicious delegation of time and resources to the care of the landscapeat every stage.

Surrounding Environs

While much attention is obviously given to plant care and theimportance of a well performing landscape, the same holds true for theproper care and performance of the hardscape. In fact, the relationshipis often a close one, as seen in the case of pedestrian patterns orwith unaddressed utility/sidewalk/tree root competition that can causedrainage problems and material failure. Heaving sidewalks, crackedpaving, puddling, and icing are all liabilities that compromise notonly safe passage, but also influence the success of the facility todeliver its intended use.

Thefinal outcome of any maintenance plan should always be the same: ahealthy landscape. Designers want to see their plans age gracefully,facilities managers want operations to run smoothly, and owners want tosee their clients happy. The value of a landscape appreciates over time(unlike their static building counterparts, which tend to depreciate).With a comprehensive understanding and treatment of landscape elementsand plantings, facility managers can maintain the value of the site andhelp it achieve that appreciation.

Aukeman, Ryan(principal), and Turner work for Waltham, MA-based Ryan AssociatesLandscape Architecture and Planning. For more information on thecompany’s services, visit www.ryan-assoc.com.

How comprehensive is your landscaping maintenance plan? Share your experiences by sending an e-mail to [email protected].

 

Bird Control Measures Improve An Exterior Maintenance Program

By Mona Zemsky

Asfacility managers plan for typical seasonal exterior maintenance tasks,many are forced to consider a seemingly innocuous component—birds. Yes,bird droppings are no minor matter.

A flock of birds canrender a location unwalkable by humans. Not only do the droppings makefor an unpleasant environment, they pose a slip and fall hazard and canbe a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

There is alsothe matter of cost. Acidic droppings can shorten the life of buildingsand grounds. And for facilities plagued by recurring bird problems,maintenance personnel may spend large amounts of time and moneycleaning the mess and creating a safe environment. In fact, OSHA andother regulatory entities can cite, fine, or shut down companies(particularly in the food preparation industry) for bird mess problems.

It is possible to rid facilities of pesky birds withoutresorting to lethal methods that may be considered unacceptable bymembers of the employee population or local community. A successfulplan will make the area undesirable and unappealing (via sound, visual,or physical methods) to stubborn birds while maintaining an importantdegree of environmental sensitivity.

If a bird problem isespecially severe or has been untreated for years, a combination ofmethods will teach the birds that the facility is no longer fun,relaxing, or inviting. Three possible methods include sound deterrents,visual devices, and physical barriers.

It is always easier tokeep birds from roosting at the beginning of a season than to rout themout once they’ve established a living pattern. For this reason, laterwinter is a great time to have “bird check” on the facility maintenanceschedule. The solution will be cheaper and faster if the facilitiesteam begins bird-proofing then.

However, facility managersjust getting a start on the issue now will also benefit. First, thecontrol plan will be established early for next year, and there isstill time to perfect it. Second, there is a good deal to be said fortesting a plan during the most challenging time. It will be easy to seewhat works, so the plan can be adjusted for even greater results nextspring.

Bird-X, Inc. Photo: Bird-X, Inc.

As with most plans, success takes time to build. Facilitymanagers shouldn’t expect perfection immediately, but they should keepat it and establish zero tolerance towards stubborn birds. Rewards forthe facility will be realized in terms of saved time and money,decreased liability and disease risk, and improved and beautifiedsites.

Zemsky is a veteran of the bird control industryand has been cited as an expert on the subject on dozens of occasionsin both the print and broadcast media. She has submitted this articleon behalf of Bird-X, Inc. (www.bird-x.com).

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