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The last step of the project

A project is never finished until the last of the landscaping is completed

Despite the thousands and thousands of dollars invested into new construction, the project isn’t complete without the landscaping.

Whether it is a home, manufacturing plant or multi-storied business complex, landscaping is truly the proverbial icing on the cake that completes and compliments the structure.

According to the American Nursery & Landscape Association, nearly $30 billion a year is spent on professional landscaping services in the public and private sectors.     

Landscaping is big business, especially in the construction industry.  Professional landscaping can not only cost a job thousands, but hiring the wrong landscape contractor could cost the project more than just money.

“Landscape architecture is about aesthetics, but it’s also about the environment and sustainability issues that surround large construction projects,” said Sadik Artunc, head of the department of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University.  “Proper landscaping for a commercial construction project can minimize the impact on the existing environment.”

The conventional wisdom for most construction companies, says Artunc, is that the landscaping portion of a project is the last thing to be considered.  

“(Project managers) say they don’t want to spend a lot for landscaping, especially with the downturn in the economy,” he said.  “I beg to differ with those opinions.  I think these days the environment and sustainability are buzz words that shouldn’t be taken lightly when designing the construction of a new building, shopping center or any other project.”

Artunc offers the example of the State of Nevada, which offers tax credits for contractors and businesses that are environmentally friendly.

“I know on existing properties like casinos and the like, they are tearing out the turf grass and designing rock scapes and adding native plants like cacti for water conservation concerns,” he said.  “Not having to water grass is huge in states like Nevada and California, where water resources are at a premium.”

Landscape architects use their technical and artistic talents to plan and design the ‘build’ environment surrounding a construction project.  In addition, they also formulate graphic and written criteria that govern the allocation and construction of land elements and water resources.

But along with other aspects of the construction industry, the landscaping business has been hurt by the downturn in the economy.

A landscape architect in Jackson, Overton Moore says the issue is the lack of construction projects.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and it’s affected my business,” said Moore.  “The public sector is busy but most of my work centers on private clients.  We had a period of extended prosperity but most (companies) are scaling back.”

JBHM Architects landscape architect Brad Stringer says that aside from beauty, the landscaping process of a construction project can make all the difference in its success.

“Landscaping sets up the whole picture for the building site.  To some clients, it’s extremely important to have a nice foreground to his building and to others, they just want to know that their building attracts customers on the business side,” he said.  “But landscape architects do a lot more than decide where to place flowers and shrubs.”

They also do “hard scape” design, specifically retaining walls, and grading and drainage plans.  Stringer meets with each client pre-construction to formulate a master plan and glean from the client and the contractor exactly how the property should look after the job is complete.

“We plan around and work with the environmental aspects of a project.  It’s a lot more than working with ‘living material,’” he said.  “One of the top five items that gets cut in a construction budget is the landscaping.  The importance (of landscaping) to a project sometimes gets overlooked.”

“A good project has a civil engineer and a landscape architect working together,” he added

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