One of the biggest priorities for many commercial property owners and landlords in 2021 is cost savings. Like many other industries, the pandemic has proven to be extremely costly, both in terms of lost revenue and additional expenses related to renovations to accommodate social distancing and other measures.
As the economy begins to reopen in Canada, one area where landlords can find those cost-savings is in landscaping. Whether it’s an existing property or a new build, commercial landscaping generates some of the highest costs in terms of ongoing maintenance and consumption of resources.
Of critical concern today is the management of resources in landscaping, particularly water for irrigation purposes. By adopting landscaping best practices and avoiding costly ones, commercial property managers can not only save money for their owners and landlords, but contribute to a healthier, greener environment as well.
Here are some dos and don’ts for commercial landscaping in 2021 from experts in the field.
“Water is becoming very expensive,” says Tim Diamond of Aurora, Ontario-based Diamond Groundskeeping Services. “We are trying to conserve it as much as possible, as it costs a lot to purify water.”
Indeed, with water consumption costs rising (Toronto’s 2021 rate is around $4.2 per every cubic metre up to 5,000 cubic metres of water used*), moderating water use is both of environmental and financial necessity.
“From a planet perspective,” says Diamond, “there’s only so much water, and with a hugely growing population, we are big users of water just for irrigation.”
In 2021, commercial property owners and landlords would do well to make water use management a higher priority than they may have done in the past.
As has been the practice for decades, many commercial properties will turn on their sprinkler and irrigation systems at the start of spring and then leave them on until the fall. As a result, there is large water consumption every day regardless of how much or how little it has rained, leading to unnecessary and costly water waste.
“This summer has been a perfect example of that,” says Peter Diamond of Diamond Groundskeeping Services. “We had a really dry May and June that was very nearly a drought, and July has been extremely wet. Normally we’d set up commercial watering for a seasonal schedule and the systems come on regardless.”
Diamond notes that with smart controllers, property managers have the option only turning them on as needed. “Many of our commercial properties equipped with an irrigation smart controller have not run their water at all in July and have enjoyed cost savings as a result.”
2021 is the time to invest in a smart irrigation controller. “Smart controllers automatically adjust the schedule based on the weather of the day,” says Diamond. “They connect to the internet and they download the daily weather forecasts into the controller, and it changes the watering schedule according to the forecast.”
Smart controllers are fairly new technology, and can be directly operated by commercial property managers via smartphone apps. Property managers can log in, input specific commands and settings, and also get real-time information on current water usage in buildings and properties.
“For example,” says Diamond, “property managers may find that their irrigation consumption is much higher than what they assumed. They can then decide whether or not to turn off the systems. Giving them up-to-date and accurate information will help them significantly reduce water costs.”
For aesthetic reasons, many commercial property owners will plant greenery, especially trees, in their parking lot islands, something that Diamond advises against. “Trying to grow anything in them is very difficult. Trees always struggle. If you can imagine in a big parking lot and you’re trying to put ice-melter around in the winter time, they can be impossible to work around.”
Another good reason to avoid greening up your parking islands is that winter salt is often used in high enough concentration to leach into the soil and kill plants, resulting in new costs for replacing them during the spring months. Anything planted near walkways should be fairly salt-tolerant, especially in parking lots and sidewalks. “People aren’t really thinking about winter salt in the summertime,” says Diamond.
If you do decide to plant trees or bushes in your parking islands, make sure to plant as close to the centre of the island as possible, and use a hard scape around the perimeter of the island.
There is also the option of having temporary greenery in your islands. “Use a big flower pot for the summer,” says Diamond, “or a shrubbery pot that can be removed or stored for the winter. We’ve done that on some properties, but you do have to store them, so there’s some maintenance cost. However, they survive and they look good.”
When planting gardens, use something that is fairly drought tolerant. These will dramatically save on your water costs if you have irritation systems in place. They are also lower maintenance, though weeds can be a problem.
Diamond recommends using mulches to help keep weeds under control. “Mulch is also great for retaining moisture, which further helps with the water aspect”.
“As a company,” says Diamond, “we’re moving more towards perennials and away from annuals. Perennials come up automatically each year with no effort on your part.” The main reason many commercial properties opt for annuals is that, at purchase time, they tend to be cheaper. However, Diamond says that while perennials may cost more in the beginning, they will save you money in the long run. “They look very sharp and they can be flowering through the season and accomplish the same thing. Perennials are also more drought tolerate.”
As one of Canada’s largest commercial property management companies with strong relationships with the top landscapers, Armadale Property Management can help you make the best landscaping decisions for your property in 2021. Adopting landscaping best practices is an import start.
Contact us today!
Read more Repairs and Maintenance tips here.
* Source. City of Toronto website: https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/property-taxes-utilities/utility-bill/water-rates-and-fees-copy