Property Management & Landscaping: Minimizing to the Maximum

Landscaping costs money.  Maintaining landscaping costs money.   The old adage “anything worth doing is worth doing right” certainly applies to this category because doing it wrong can make cutting the grass and trimming the trees a larger expense category than is necessary.

Think before you sink…. plants into the ground!   Your choices directly impacts the cost of landscaping maintenance in the future.   Sustainable landscapes are healthier and require less resources in the future (things like; money, time, water, brain power) .  The more time you devote to this mode of thinking at the beginning of planting, the less time it will require to maintain long-term.

Sustainable landscapes are becoming the norm rather than the exception.  “Going green” is an economic decision.   Whereas installing solar panels, for example, has dubious benefits based on a cost/benefit analysis,  following the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) can have immediate positive benefits to the operations of a multifamily property.   From the General Administration Office of the State of Washington:

The U.S. Green Building Council is a national consensus-based organization of government agencies, design firms, product manufacturers and developers. The primary product of the U.S. Green Building Council is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating Criteria. The LEED rating system is recognized nationally and internationally as the green building design standard.

Suburban multifamily properties very often have green space equal to or greater than the land area covered by buildings.   Some properties have courtyards, or in some instances landscaping is used exclusively at the building entrance.  Regardless of the expanse, landscaping cannot be viewed exclusively as an expense because in many instances it is part of the physical and aesthetic value of your multifamily property.   Landscaping can be a “calling card” in advertising and represents, for many, their first impression of the property.

Landscaping can create an aurora, a certain mystique that wraps buildings with a presence.  A living space defined by its’ surroundings

Think of landscaping in terms of “sustainability”.     With landscaping our objective is to maximize the value of foliage to the property and its’ inhabitants while minimizing the expense of maintaining same.  Landscaping is labor intensive, therefore, the use of plantings that can reduce continual manual labor is preferable.   Choosing geographically correct grass and plants creates long-term savings in water consumption, fertilizers and expensive pesticide treatments.

In an article from Environmental Design + Construction magazine entitled “LEED in the Landscape” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by Jose Almiñana and Theodore Eisenman, Andropogon Associates, Ltd. (2003):

Landscape architects and environmental planners are uniquely equipped to facilitate this process of integration and should be incorporated from the beginning of a project. One of the early tasks of landscape architects and planners is to understand the biophysics interactions that impact the site and the experience of the user at a variety of scales.

Why is this important?  You don’t have to be a fanatical ‘greenaholic” to have a sincere interest in minimizing our ecological footprint in and around our multifamily properties.  If better planning makes for better sustainable, livable space along with improving our customer experience, then, I see minimal downside to implementing LEED.  Granted, this requires scale (of sorts).

I recommend asking a local landscaping Architect or Engineer to review your property and provide a “conversational” overview of possible costs savings.   A $5,000 investment in environmental planning may save your property $25,000 in costs over the next ten years.  You don’t ask, you don’t get.  Saving the planet can sometimes be profitable!

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