Can You Spare The Change?

Have we not all been bombarded enough with magazine articles, training sessions, public service announcements, and warnings from various sources about the importance of low-maintenance landscaping and xeriscaping?

Don’t just keep up with the changes; get ahead of them.

Am I not alone in stating that as experts of our craft, landscape architects certainly care about their practice, have a genuine stewardship attitude about the environment, and actually have a grip on what they’re doing?

If we are so good at what we do, then why do we get lectures about low-maintenance landscaping concerns instead of give them?

Well, it begs the question, “Hey Joe and Jane Q., what exactly is it you think we do around here?” To answer that, the Qs may have to initiate that conversation.

Simply put, “they” really don’t know. It may be because we landscape architects are notoriously lackluster in our efforts to educate our worth to the public. And that same effort is apparent in our interaction with many allied professionals.

Many times the public unjustly associates us with a perception, especially if we stay inside our own professional circles.

One of the public perceptions is with landscape maintenance contractors. The count is lost on the number of times I have been unwillingly composted by a contractor’s interpretation of how best to maintain the design integrity of a project.

And so to my friends in this industry I say this: With the client, quit the “consult-change” of landscape design just for the sole reason that it will expedite your job performance by using a mower or hedge-trimmer. Quick maintenance can be so different from low maintenance, and in so doing could makes us all look “high maintenance”.

Maintenance is a responsibility of landscape architects that we oftentimes overlook. I realize when maintenance specifications are brought to mind, we are usually at the end of a project, up against a deadline, and tapping into the profit margins of our fee budget. But our projects deserve more than a general plan note stating, “The Contractor shall properly maintain the Work until final acceptance”.

Two-thirds of my career has had me working alongside engineers. Although rewarding most of the time, my work with engineers has also been professionally challenging, for each of us, on occasion.

A few weeks back during my company’s business quarterly meeting, I had one of those slap-your-forehead realizations. Mark, our CEO (and engineer), started the meeting with an explanation of our company’s rebranding strategy. He spoke with enthusiasm and confidence.

I was as excited about the change as he. However, Mark was met with some reservation from the group. Not all in the room were sure this corporate change was going to be easy, nor would it be good for us in the short-term.

He then offered up a bit of logical advice: “Guys, we are a changing industry. What will it look like tomorrow, next year, in 10 years, in 20 years? Who knows? We must adapt to stay in the game!”

That’s about the time my hand hit my forehead. Oh my gosh, Mark…you go, guy! You, sir, are talking landscape architecture to my engineer counterparts, and by golly, I’m taking notes!

I admit my moment of professional enlightenment was with engineering, or I should say it was with engineers, being people in a landscape. This engineering association finds my friends striving for low maintenance in their daily project solutions as well.

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