Feature Article - October 2012
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Sustainable Landscape Design

By Rick Dandes

Keeping Costs Down

Careful planning and design can help to mitigate the costs of maintenance, while still maintaining a high standard of quality for a project.

"Prioritizing areas of a project that receive a higher maintenance versus lower maintenance may be another way to cut costs," Walters said. "This must be anticipated early in the design process as the client may envision a neatly clipped and manicured project rather than the character of a less manicured design."

Ultimately education and training play a part as well. It is sometimes difficult for maintenance managers to "let things go" and reduce the overall maintenance hours spent on a project. When looking at a native approach, commitment is considered key by all stakeholders, as the benefits of a native landscape are often realized two to three years after installation because these landscapes are more difficult to establish.

"Community volunteering may help supplement work of a contractor," Walters said, "which then helps reduce costs of maintenance for a project." Educating the contractor and client of different maintenance schedules and procedures may help to cut costs but still maintain quality.

Hornig said we all know budgets are very tight, so he advises park officials and government operatives to set expectations appropriately. Use durable, tried-and-true materials—that can help control costs. And, as Walters suggested, using in-house labor or grass-roots community volunteers can help.

Use durable, tried-and-true materials—that can help control costs

"Certainly, as we have seen, using some of the sustainable landscape pieces in the design can help," he said. "One of the least expensive design elements can be the earth itself. Sculpted or shaped in the right way, being respectful of the natural systems can have an impact on how the space feels, just by raising ground a little here, lowering it a little there, framing views can be an important element on site, and can really have an impact."