Integrated Landscape Design

Oct. 1, 2008

Four essentials in optimizing landscape design

When competing with new corporate plazas and retail outlets, the exterior appearance of your property substantially affects the bottom line. Commercial landscaping requires attention to detail and knowledge of the building's operations and purpose, as well as a developer or facility manager's ultimate vision for the property—as long as it's feasible and practical for the site. A landscaping design should:

  • Enhance the value of your property.
  • Provide a unified aesthetic that projects your company's image and goals.
  • Function in a way that supports the use of the building.

Ultimately, the finished product should not only make the exterior of the building more attractive to appeal to new clients, but also give the employees and other individuals who interact with the space a sense that the building owner cares about the business, the property, and customers and personnel.

A landscape design is more than just trees and shrubs. In addition to greenery, landscaping encompasses everything from outdoor lighting, sidewalks, benches, and trash receptacles to stormwater management and other environmentally friendly practices. When it's time to make a decision, four essential factors must be kept in mind: budget, maintenance, climatic conditions, and environmental impact.

Spend the most dollars in high-impact areas and focal points, such as the front entrance. Splurge on items that give you the most bang for your buck, like generous tree cover, rather than expensive pavement that might go unnoticed. Accessories, like benches, tables, and lighting, may seem frivolous, but a tenant or passerby is likely to appreciate a comfortable seat and attractive light posts. Generally, the more these items cost, the more durable they are.

If you don't implement a comprehensive maintenance plan after installation, the investment is for naught. Choose the lowest-maintenance landscape plan possible without sacrificing quality design. Seasonal plants can add a dramatic color impact, but they require replanting each year (as opposed to perennials). Also, spending more money upfront on an irrigation system could save substantial money in the long run. It will require more budget and work to install an irrigation system after the landscaping is complete vs. implementing a system during installation.

Climatic Conditions
While incorporating native plants may be highly desirable, sometimes it doesn't make sense. A native choice might not be as hardy as a more adaptive alternative. Remember: What was once native might not thrive today due to changes in soil, climate, and air quality. If a building is in an area that experiences all four seasons, visualize how the landscaping will look throughout the year instead of only at the time of installation.

Environmental Impact
Having a flourishing landscape is naturally environmentally friendly, but there are choices that can further reduce carbon footprints and earn LEED credits. Green the landscape in more ways than one by using sustainable materials, hiring local contractors, focusing on tree canopies to provide shade, incorporating light-colored concrete to reflect light, and choosing lighting fixtures that use the least amount of energy.

Joan Floura and Aaron Teeter are registered landscape architects and principals at Baltimore-based Floura Teeter Landscape Architects Inc.

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