Grounds Management, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

10 Summer Landscaping Projects for Facilities Managers

Summer is here, and it’s a great season to start working on various maintenance projects. This is especially true as more facilities workers return to their workplaces in person after working remotely during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regular upgrades to outdoor projects may have been postponed due to COVID-19 and staff shortages, making it even more important to check off items on that growing to-do list.

Facilities managers should be looking at their campuses and single-building properties to determine what needs to be spruced up. Campuses such as corporate centers and universities, large-scale shopping centers, hospital sites, and downtown village centers have multiple buildings and parking lots, and single-building properties with one parking lot can include an office building, a restaurant, a retail store, and a small hospital.

1. Property Lighting

At night, facilities managers should inspect current exterior lighting on buildings, along sidewalks and pathways, and in parking lots and do the following:

  • Replace burned-out lights.
  • Add lighting where there isn’t adequate light for pedestrians and vehicular traffic.
  • Install lighting shields to prevent light spillover.

Additionally, all lights should be numbered for easy reference when fixing or replacing light fixtures.

2. Pathways

These can include the following:

  • Sidewalks
  • Exterior pathways such as trails
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps

All of these should be examined to determine if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Short-term fixes for sidewalks include patching with asphalt or a quick cement mixer, while a long-term solution is usually replacement. If there is dead grass near pathways, consider installing new sidewalks, as pedestrians already made their own shortcuts.

3. Exterior Signs

Exterior signs are important because they enable visitors to easily locate businesses and services.

These can include:

  • On buildings: Identify the companies occupying space in the building.
  • Freestanding signs: Identify companies or certain parts of the campus or property for motor vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Freestanding property maps: These are located on campuses and should have a “you are here” sticker to show visitors where they are in relation to where they are going.

All exterior signs should be inspected and numbered, as well as regularly cleaned and fixed. They should also provide up-to-date information to create a positive image in the minds of customers, vendors, and employees. Facilities managers on campuses should advocate for management to use a distinctive unified theme for signage with the company logo and name.

4. Parking Lots

Facilities management personnel should inspect parking lots and do the following:

  • Regularly remove trash.
  • Fix potholes.
  • Reseal and restripe parking lots when needed.
  • Regularly repaint arrows to indicate parking lot entrances and exits.
  • Update signage and markings of handicap spaces pursuant to current federal, state, and local ADA laws.

5. Trees and Shrubs

Growing and maintaining trees and shrubs on campuses and properties is important for several reasons. Therefore, facilities professionals should consult with arborists to ensure on-site trees and shrubs are healthy and regularly pruned to help beautify the property.

Trees help fight climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the air. They also have psychological benefits, which include lowering blood pressure and reducing stress levels.

Shrubs can create property borders and hide unsightly areas like dumpsters and utility boxes, as well as increase security and reduce noise. Most shrubs are also evergreen, adding color throughout the year.

6. Flowers

Facilities professionals should plant seasonal flowers, including:

  • Spring—crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and pansies
  • Summer—lavender and honeysuckle
  • Fall—mums and port marigolds

Flowers can be planted on the roadside and in parking lot islands to add beauty. They can also help people concentrate, encourage educational programs and recreation, help generate happiness, and help people heal quicker, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

7. Drainage

Proper maintenance of stormwater runoff drainage not only is important in protecting the environment but also can help reduce flooding to protect people and properties.

To improve stormwater runoff, consider installing or making improvements to the following:

  • Stormwater swales—shallow ditches to carry runoff water. They slow and filter the water.
  • Permeable surfaces—allow water to pass into gravel layers until the water soaks into the ground.
  • Rain gardens—decorative gardens made of constructed soils and plants to absorb water.
  • Bioretention gardens—larger than rain gardens and include a pipe underdrain system with a valve to manage water levels.
  • Rain barrels and cisterns—capture runoff for later use, usually for water plants.

8. Benches and Outdoor Patio Seating

Facilities managers should follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the proper care of benches and outdoor patio furniture. Power washing outdoor furniture can be harmful, and umbrellas and small cushions should be either covered or stored at the end of each day, as it’s important that cushions not be exposed to rain.

As for specific types of outdoor furniture:

  • Clean steel furniture with mild soap and water.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners on aluminum furniture.
  • Use a mild cleanser and water on faux wood.

9. Fountains

While decorative fountains are more likely to be found on campuses, fountains should:

  • Be regularly cleaned and pumps checked.
  • Be replenished with distilled water that is chemically balanced.
  • Have pumps submerged in water and clean of debris.
  • Have additives to prevent algae growth.

Facilities management personnel should ensure that their decorative fountains don’t cause Legionnaire’s disease, a disease caused by breathing in small droplets of water containing Legionella bacteria, by reviewing the tips on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

10. Roofs

Facilities personnel should inspect their roofs and consider three options. Check out Facilities Management Advisor’s article “Back to Basics: Should You Repair, Restore, or Replace Your Roof?” for more information.

Personnel should consider encouraging management to install a “planted roof,” which uses plants as a technology to bring natural cooling, water treatment, and air filtration to vegetated landscapes, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. Benefits include:

  • Reduced energy use—cools roofs
  • Stormwater management—prevents pollutants from being swept into streams
  • Biodiversity—provides a habitat for animals and plants
  • Roof longevity—lasts twice as long as a conventional roof
  • Aesthetics—adds beauty to a building

While facilities managers at summer businesses may want to delay major groundskeeping work until the fall, those who work at K–12 and university campuses should consider using the quiet summer months to do inspections and major maintenance work. Other sites should do major work when the facilities are being used the least, such as on weekends and during holiday periods.