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Moving to a surgical approach to landscape irrigation

December 6, 2010  - By

By: Andy Smith, CIC, CID, CLIA

It wasn’t that long ago when the terms LEED, WaterSense and Sustainable Sites weren’t in the vocabulary of the landscape industry. Now they are (and may become) the driving forces of “green” construction and landscaping. It wasn’t that long ago, of course, that green implied a color choice and happened to reflect the hue of plants.

Boy how times have changed!

If there is any doubt as to how fast this trend is moving, consider that the organization responsible for the development of what is arguably the most recognized green building program, LEED, was founded in 2003. The Green Building Initiative was founded in 2006. EPA’s WaterSense program and the Sustainable Site Initiative’s roots go all the way back to 2005.

Now consider the economic boom and bust that has taken place during that same time period. While many organizations and businesses struggle to remain in existence, the presence of these programs has expanded, if not flourished. Chances are pretty good this trend has either encouraged or forced many businesses to rethink their menu of services. If it hasn’t, the probability of another business casualty has increased.

Shifting priorities

When the average person hears the word “landscaping” they think of the collective process of coordinating site elements, turfgrass and plant material in a fashion that makes the grounds surrounding a home or business attractive and functional.

For years, the landscape industry has fulfilled this consumer driven, aesthetic mandate without having to consider the net impact of necessary inputs such as fertilizer, energy and of course, water. In the short time these programs have been around, their influence has caused landscape and turf irrigation to transform from a free-wheeling, hand grenade approach to either a miserly, “surgical application” of water or in many cases, no irrigation at all.

If the landscape industry is to remain viable, we have to adopt this “surgical” approach, because the alternative of no irrigation equates to a very limited future.

The good news is that these programs have a few common elements at their respective cores. Alternative water sources, precision application, smart technology and understanding water budgets are all key factors in compliance and the net understanding of what it takes to deliver these elements. In next month’s column I will outline emerging trends and what I see as opportunities for our industry in the daunting new age of LEED, The Green Building Council, WaterSense and Sustainable Sites.

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