Green Grounds

Sustainable landscaping can save money and the environment.

Commercial property owners and managers know that maintaining a building’s exterior grounds can be a significant balance-sheet factor. Increasing curb appeal through landscaping can impress current and potential tenants as well as boost a property’s market value. Building a relationship with a commercial landscape contractor who specializes in design, irrigation, and horticulture consulting can help property owners and managers identify and execute cost-saving measures to improve property appearance and value.

Reduce Water to Increase Cash

Implementing an effective irrigation system is the first step toward saving money through landscaping. Depending on a property’s prior water usage, the use of proper irrigation techniques often saves property owners 20 percent to 40 percent annually on water bills, according to Landscape contractors can help determine a property’s most-effective irrigation system and maintenance process.

Existing irrigation systems always should be analyzed before a new system or renovation is implemented. The audit of the existing system will identify common problems such as water spraying onto sidewalks, old and faulty nozzle heads, and inefficient nozzle-head placement and size. In the long run, these problems can result in significant water loss. Simply removing or replacing outdated sprinkler heads can result in water savings of 5 percent to 20 percent. Once the current system has been reviewed, a landscape contractor can provide guidance as to which irrigation system best meets the property’s needs. Some options are discussed below.

Drip Irrigation. This popular system uses “drippers” to maximize moisture levels in the soil by slowly applying water directly to plants’ roots. This process limits the amount of water lost due to sun or wind because the appropriate moisture level is focused directly in the soil where growth occurs.

Microsprinklers. These areused to disperse water over plants covering wide, large, or odd-shaped areas. These sprinklers are spread farther apart than drippers, dispersing water over a larger area.

Smart-Water Application Technology. This approach uses sensing equipment that adjusts water application to accommodate conditions such as slopes and soil density. SWAT provides just enough moisture to maintain a healthy landscape without wasting water.

Following the audit of the current system and implementation of the new system, property managers should design a seasonal inspection plan to maximize efficiency and minimize water usage. Landscape contractors can assist in determining any necessary changes.
Overall, efficient irrigation systems not only reduce water waste, they also prevent plant loss. Over- or under-watering can kill plants, which are costly to replace. Installing a well-managed irrigation system helps to minimize this risk.

The Right Plants

The plant material used in the landscape for a commercial property also is an important cost-saving factor. A horticulturist can help to determine which type of landscaping is the most appropriate and efficient for a property based on factors such as climate, property size, and location. As the landscape is developed, the landscape contractor can identify plants that will prosper on the site. It’s wise to choose climate-appropriate plant materials and to consider factors such as sun exposure, natural rainfall, and soil type. Knowing the evapotranspiration rate, the rate at which a plant uses and loses water, is very helpful in determining which plants will thrive. Plant diversification also is important to promote the increase of beneficial organisms while decreasing pest problems.
After plant types are determined, there are additional ways to save using ongoing maintenance practices. Hand pruning plants when possible creates a natural appearance while minimizing the use of gas-powered equipment. Mulching around plants and trees also decreases the need for mowing and line trimming, as well as preserves soil moisture. These minimal efforts maximize energy consumption while reducing costs.
A long-term maintenance plan is key to protecting a property’s landscape. Throughout the landscape’s life cycle, regular inspections help identify any needs for updates or improvements. For healthy turf, regular soil testing will determine the need for soil amendments, which could help reduce dependency on fertilizers as well as excessive irrigation.
A well-planned landscape, irrigation system, and maintenance schedule maximizes a property’s value. By working closely with a landscape contractor, property managers and owners not only maintain visually appealing surroundings, but they also can reduce water waste, energy consumption, and costs.

Margie Holly

Margie Holly is communications manager for Brickman, a commercial landscaping firm based in Gaithersburg, Md. Contact her at