The colour best perceived by the human eye is green. More so, we have so many positive associations with green that it can have a relaxing effect on our brain. The American Psychology Association suggests that green spaces in cities, hospitals, and workplaces are invigorating and increase our physical and mental well-being. As such, there are no doubts that grounds maintenance can only grow in the future.
Attracting consumers with a relaxing environment isn’t the only advantage of taking care of the exterior. The landscapes also add value to properties, increase employee productivity by 20% and decrease businesses’ environmental footprint. Taking these advantages into account, grounds maintenance is important in infrastructures such as:
- shopping centres;
- office buildings;
- sports complexes;
- private condominiums;
- schools and university poles.
What is grounds management and maintenance?
Grounds maintenance includes not just landscape/landscaping, but also all the surrounding hardscape — paths, gates, access ramps, lighting, benches, pergolas, dining tables, drinking fountains, irrigation systems, fountains, and artificial lakes, among others. In fact, in the long run, maintenance of these infrastructures is essential to keep the garden faithful to the original design.
Although gardens need regular maintenance to remain lush, green spaces grow and become even prettier over time. On the other hand, infrastructures deteriorate and lose their beauty and functionality. With the additional problem of being difficult to refurbish without destroying a part of the garden that took so many years to grow.
For this reason, grounds maintenance includes:
Landscaping & Garden Maintenance
Landscaping & Garden Maintenance includes tasks such as mowing the lawn, pruning the treetops, trimming hedges and shrubs, tending ornamental gardens, weeding, watering the soil, fertilising, pest control, clearing leaves and rubbish, cutting trees at risk of falling, removing snow and hail.
Electromechanical equipment maintenance
Maintenance of electric gates, irrigation sprinklers and micro-sprinklers, sensors, lighting, alarms, water recirculation systems in ornamental fountains or artificial lakes, and water analysis. Occasionally it can also include repairing utility vehicles (e.g., golf carts), mini-lawnmowers, pruners, and electric hedge trimmers.
Other hardscape maintenance
In many cases, there is a need to perform maintenance in other landscapes, such as playing fields, playgrounds, dining areas, porches, parking, and access structures. This type of maintenance requires a third group of professionals — besides gardeners and electromechanical technicians — which should be defined according to the features of the area.
Grounds maintenance: how to save water?
Landscape maintenance also impacts one of the more critical questions of recent years, exaggerated water consumption. Whether for environmental reasons, droughts, or simply for the increase in costs, there are plenty of reasons to save water. Here are 5 suggestions to facility managers who need to control water consumption in gardens:
Install drip irrigation systems
Drip irrigation systems allow a 40-70% water saving compared to other irrigation systems. In this type of irrigation, the water flow is calculated according to the type of plant or harvest. Besides, as the water stays closer to the ground, there’s less evaporation and keeps the plant hydrated for a longer period.
Control the automatic irrigation schedule
When a drip irrigation system is not an option (e.g., football or golf fields), one of the measures that maintenance managers can take to save water is to adjust the automatic irrigation schedule. Favour irrigation at the cooler hours, especially early in the day — in the evening, although it also avoids evaporation, there is a risk of “flooding” the roots throughout the night.
Keep the soil hydrated
Improving the nutrient quality of the soil will keep it hydrated for longer. Fortunately, there are compost bins and accelerated composting machines that hotels and shopping centres, for example, can use to produce fertiliser from peelings and food scraps. It is not only sustainable and zero waste, but also saves costs on gardening.
Another increasingly popular solution in building management is to harness rainwater to water garden areas.
Implement a Smart Irrigation System (SIS)
The SIS (which are compatible with sprinklers and drip systems) have several sensors that connect to a management platform. It is possible to control the system remotely and reprogram the irrigation according to information gathered by each sensor. Many of these systems are compatible with soil sensors and rain sensors that stop irrigation when it rains, for example.
In addition to these technical solutions to save water, other landscape architecture measures can make grounds maintenance easier.
Group plants according to their water necessities
By grouping plants according to the type of climate or soil they need, different irrigation zones can be created, and the water consumption optimised.
Choose plants suitable to the climate and more resistant species
Grounds maintenance is easier when opting for native plants. In areas with frequent droughts, choose species that are heat-resistant and need a low amount of water.
Use dry mulch
Covering the soil with dry mulch (like decorative stones or dried tree bark) prevents water evaporation.
Ecologic pest and bird control in Grounds maintenance
Another concern of green areas’ caretakers is pest control, such as fungi, aphids, and other insects. It is a matter not only of comfort but also of health and sustainability. Here are some maintenance suggestions to improve this aspect:
Seek alternatives to chemicals
Pesticides are still common. Look for homemade recipes or organic farming methods (e.g., plant species that repel insects, use barriers, among others) to avoid insecticides and fungicides. If there is no alternative, opt for low-risk phytopharmaceuticals.
Prepare the application of treatments
If applying a pest control treatment in aerosol format, choose (as far as possible) days when the area is least used. Technicians or gardeners applying the product should have appropriate protective gear, including gloves, mask, goggles, or visor.
Bird control with non-aggressive methods
In areas where birds nest and become a problem, don’t immediately jump to aggressive methods such as pigeon spikes or electrified strips, for example. Try scaring the birds away with metallic materials or sonic bird repellents (which use frequencies not perceptible to humans).
When managing a building with an outdoor area and gardens, don’t underestimate the importance of grounds maintenance. With the right care, it is possible to provide a pleasant experience for consumers without wasting water or harming the environment.
10 FM & Maintenance experts share their thoughts.