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Water Management: An Area Where Facility Managers Can Save Money

Water is a valuable resource. Many regions have an ongoing issue with water shortages and droughts while other areas have occasional dry spells. Here are a few tips from the pros on how you can save water and reduce costs.

One way that landscape companies provide added value is in suggesting ways to save money through smart water usage and other sustainability practices. Many landscape companies have water management specialists and professionals educated in sustainable landscape practices like the use of drought-tolerant, low-water native plants, composting of green waste and installation of water-saving irrigation systems. These companies can also assist with meeting the goals of LEED-certified buildings.

Richard Restuccia, director of water management solutions at ValleyCrest Companies, Inc., suggests that it is important to make sure a prospective company has staff that is certified at the state or national level as a water manger or a landscape irrigation auditor. “People don’t realize how tough it is to become certified, “said Restuccia. “The people who are certified are extremely knowledgeable about water management.”

Implement a smart irrigation plan
A smart irrigation plan can help your facility save water. Restuccia suggests that facility managers ask prospective companies to look at their water usage and suggest ways to save money.

For example, installing smart controllers for irrigation systems not only saves water by sensing the conditions each day and only watering when necessary, but they also offer cost savings of approximately 15-20 percent on water bills.

Convert irrigation spray nozzles
Restuccia also suggests converting irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles which spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace which makes them more targeted and effective.

Choose plants that need less water
You can also talk with your landscape professional about choosing plants that need less water. Make sure the plants you choose are well suited to your climate zone. Plants are typically separated into three water need categories: very low, low and medium. Choose plants that require less watering. When planting a new lawn, choose drought-tolerant turf varieties that are well suited to your climate. Your landscape professional can offer suggestions that work in your area.

Add mulch
Using a layer of mulch around trees and plants helps to reduce evaporation and keeps the soil moist which cuts down on water use.

Implement hydrozoning
Consider planting drought-proof (or low-water-use) plants in a hydrozone. This is the practice of clustering together plants with similar water requirements in an effort to conserve water. A landscape professional can help facility managers decide how to transition to this type of planting approach if it is desired.

Water plants for maximum absorption
In general, the best time to water is early in the morning or at dusk when temperatures are cooler. If you water your landscape in the heat of day, some of the water can evaporate before it gets into the ground. Also, avoid watering on windy days to minimize evaporation. Water trees and plants at a slow rate of speed, or use drip irrigation, so that the water doesn't run-off before it soaks in.

Remember, more damage can be done by over-watering plants than by under-watering, so water as needed. Check with your city or county government to see if there are any restrictions on landscape watering in your area. Talk with your landscape professional and seek his or her advice.

NOTE FROM BLOG MANAGER: For additional reading on landscaping for FMs, read the full article on page 38 of the May/June 2015 issue of IFMA's FMJ magazine (use your member login to view). Not a member? Join IFMA or subscribe to FMJ.

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Designing for Employee Engagement

Submitted by: Shelly Beckemeier – HOK, Regional Consulting Leader

What are your emotions when it is raining; sad, relaxed, or indifferent?

Here in St. Louis we are used to our strong storms and rainy weather in the spring. I find it interesting how people around me are affected by any kind of weather, sun, all day rains, and snow.  You’ve probably read by now the Designing an Emotionally Intelligence Workplace article in the FM Journal March/April 2015 issue. In it a colleague of mine Sofia Fonseca points out the workplace can cause or fulfill employee’s emotional needs. When Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is also applied to employee engagement it states that people are motivated to focus on higher level needs only after they meet their lower-level needs. Fully engaged employees – those who create the most value – work at higher levels of the pyramid. (see graphic). If the workforce is highly engaged this will make people more productive, happier, and successful which after all is the goal.

As facility managers you are already helping employees meet those lower-level needs with Facilities that are safe, clean and equipped.  So now a focus to make the workplace also fulfill those employee emotional needs by providing a variety spaces to recharge, focus, and socialize. This will help alleviate stress and inspire more people to function at these higher levels. In reading the article, Facilities professionals also need to understand the role emotions play in the workplace and use the many tools at their disposal to affect the workspace. All day rains makes me slow down, but if I select my beach songs playlist I can get more work done!


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Capitalizing on Lower Asphalt Prices

By Brett Gaither, Byrne & Jones Construction

2015 kicked off with some great news for long-neglected commercial parking lots and roads – the drop in oil prices drove down the cost of hot-mix asphalt by as much as 30 percent since October 2014.  But while now is the time to consider pavement maintenance issues that may have been derailed as a result of the Great Recession, you still have to make smart decisions.  That’s a two-step process: evaluating your needs and understanding new technologies that can deliver those needs more cost efficiently. 

A typical parking lot has about a 15-year lifespan, but it can be extended with timely maintenance. If you walk your parking lot, it will reveal much about its condition.  Just remember one thing: water is your enemy.  The more you keep water from seeping into the subsurface, the longer your parking lot will last.  Look for the following:

  • Straight line cracks. The single best thing a facility manager can do to prolong a pavement’s lifespan is seal these cracks to prevent water from penetrating and degrading the subsurface. The best time to do it is the fall, when cracks expand in the cooler weather, allowing for more fill and providing a better seal when cracks contract in the summer.

  • Alligator cracks. These look just like an alligator’s scales – cracks that have multiplied in one location.  They are signs of subgrade degradation and are most often found in areas of heavy traffic or where water tends to pool.  These cracks typically require a saw cut to remove the section of asphalt affected and replace it with fresh asphalt.  Sometimes a small asphalt patch is possible, but it is only band aid solution – the cracks will return sooner than you think.

  • If more than 35 percent of a parking surface needs patching, then you’re better off with an overlay. Sometimes a paving fabric is used to strengthen the overlay.  It retards reflective cracking and it helps prevent moisture penetration to the subgrade.

New technologies are also worth considering, most notably, full depth reclamation (FDR).  FDR recycles the existing pavement saving on hauling and disposal costs. It can deliver up to 30 percent savings over a traditional overhaul.  FDR utilizes a machine that scoops up the pavement, pulverizes it and mixes it with an additive to enhance its strength. The recycled material is then laid down as a base, re-graded and compacted.  It is then topped with a thin layer of fresh asphalt, which adds additional strength, sealing the FDR base.  It’s faster than a traditional overhaul and qualifies for LEED points because asphalt is being recycled.

In addition, you may want to consider pavement preservation products such as rejuvenators and seal coating.  As soon as new asphalt is laid, the sun begins to break down asphalt binders through oxidation. Rejuvenators, which are sprayed on, and seal coating which is applied topically protect the new asphalt from the effects of oxidation 

To learn more, contact Byrne & Jones Construction at 314-567-7997 or visit its web site at    

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