Everyone these days talks about sustainability. Indeed, many corporations and jurisdictional agencies demand sustainability in structures, processes, and even landscapes. The real challenge in business though, is convincing the unconvinced management team that sustainability goes well beyond the usual emotional “feel good” response to the issue, and indeed makes good business sense in ways that will add significant value to the bottom line.
Jim Ricker, Vice President, Corporate Services with CresaPartners, wrote an article about the differences between property management and facilities management. He stated that the former work for "investors who own real estate for the cash flow from operating income and for the gain in value during their ownership term", while the latter work for "the users of real estate who either own or lease their properties".
A recent survey done in partnership with the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) reveals that there is a real interest on the part of property managers to learn more about what "going green" can mean to them. Not surprisingly, the most interest in actually making "green" property improvements came when cost-savings were involved. However, they were not willing to pay a premium for green improvements and retrofits.
To arrive at a truly low-maintenance landscape takes careful planning - that according to a garden design article in the Home and Garden Section of the Miami Herald. The basic idea is "less work, more pleasure". In commercial landscapes, the basic idea is saving costs while not compromising the appearance of the landscape. While accomplishing that goal does involve careful planning, we have found that a bit of applied science helps as well. Knowing the direct cost of a design decision that is under consideration will shed light onto the decision-making process. How many man-hours will be required to care for these plants over the course of a year? What about equipment time and material costs (amount of fertilizer, water, mulch)?
A recent post on LSUAgCenter.com urges: "Don't let landscape maintenance become burdensome." Rick Bogren has it right - reducing the amount of maintenance does not mean eliminate! The key, as Rick states, is to "reduce the amount of work it takes to maintain your landscape". The thing I like about the "Green Movement" is the concept of the Triple Bottom Line: sustainability affects people, the planet, and provides a profit. The fact that wise choices to reduce the manpower requirements of a landscape directly impact the cost of maintenance is significant. It is the basis for our approach to Living Asset Management. In these economic times, it is nice to know that beyond the "feel-good" effect of good stewardship is the underlying strong business case for sustainability.
In an article published on October 28, William L. Hamilton describes how "A new economy and a new state of mind have changed the way homeowners are landscaping their properties". While the photo example used at the top of the article does reflect a design simplicity, a closer look reveals that the image does not depict a truly low-maintenance landscape.
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently posted the results of its third quarter Business Quarterly Survey. When asked, "How many of your clients are familiar with sustainable design techniques?", the results were that only 10% were "very knowledgeable", compared to 52% as "somewhat knowledgeable", and only 3.7% as "not knowledgeable or interested". Not surprisingly, the primary reason given for incorporating sustainable design into projects was "saving money on utility or maintenance costs". Who doesn't want to save money? When it comes to landscape operations and maintenance, labor costs are the biggest expense. Therefore, it is important to be able to gauge what is driving your labor costs, and to know effective ways to reduce that expense - without sacrificing the appearance of your landscape.
Extra rewards, not extra costs - that is the result of sustainability, according to a recently published article in the Harvard Business Review. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)'s blog, The Dirt, cites one salient quote from the article: