Looking after the landscape

All home builders know the value of Curb Appeal. First impressions count and can be the crucial deciding factor in selling that property. Before your buyers even get as far as the front door, they are looking at the surroundings. Is the landscape green, are the lawns healthy, does the development feel welcoming?

In many cases, the answer is no. Developers are all too familiar with the situation where, after a year or two, the grass has brown patches, shrubs have dried up and flowers have wilted. Unfortunately, the general consensus is that this is how things are, and the cost of replacing plants and turf is one that is factored into the annual budget

Let’s take a closer look at a typical situation.
At the start of any development project the irrigation system needs to be planned. It will normally include a pump station which draws water from a lake and feeds it out through a water delivery system. Sounds simple? Well, there are a number of issues to consider at this point which can save large sums of money further down the line.

1. The size of the pump station
If it is not big or powerful enough, the pump will not last and will need to be replaced. Make sure that the pump that is specified will cope with future demand as additional homes are built.

2. The type of water intake
Most residential communities draw their irrigation water from a lake within the development. However, sometimes that lake water will need to be augmented from another source or water will need to be transferred to or from another lake nearby. If the lake bed is very mucky the water intake needs to be set up to avoid blockages.

3. Filters
While, in the past, filters were not always essential, in recent years, due to rainfall and climate changes, contamination levels have increased significantly. Filters are now essential to avoid contaminants causing costly and unsightly damage to grass.

4. Irrigation management
Overwatering. Underwatering. You know your plants are not healthy but you don’t know whether they need more water or less water. It’s a common complaint and while it’s not always easy to address, it can be avoided completely by putting a detailed and expertly planned schedule in place from the start and having instant control to make small changes as soon as conditions change.

5. Maintenance
A controversial point… how much irrigation expertise do your maintenance contractors have? Do they understand the intricacies of creating and maintaining a healthy root zone? Do you perhaps pay them for each time they fix and repair the system? Is it in their interests to recommend a more reliable system? Enough said!

6. Wet checks
Find out how much of your landscape maintenance fee is spent on regular wet checks. A smart irrigation system with total visibility of leakages and other problems will almost entirely eliminate the need for wet checks, saving a large proportion of your maintenance costs.

The consequences of ignoring these issues are not only ongoing costs and less than adequate landscapes, but also, when the time comes to turn over the development to the Home Owners Association, you could be facing demands for remediation, legal disputes and all the associated costs and aggravation, not to mention loss of reputation in the industry.

Consequences of unsuitable irrigation systems
Recently Hoover was commissioned by a Home Owners Association (HOA) in Florida to advise on the way forward with their irrigation system, which had never been fit for purpose as it was based on standardized designs rather than being built to meet the needs of the development. The problems the system threw up had been compounded by maintenance teams with limited expertise which led to frequent repairs and replacements to components, while the beautiful landscape deteriorated year after year. Residents were unhappy and frustrated.

Rather than installing a completely new irrigation system, Hoover’s team analyzed the available data and recommended significant, but smaller scale improvements to the system to adapt it to the site and improve the efficiency of the water delivery.

In addition to replacing two small pump stations with a much more efficient single station, installing pipes of the correct size and more reliable components, Hoover installed its total irrigation solution (HIRIMS) which was the main factor in transforming the landscaping at the residential community.

Using the smart irrigation system, home owners and maintenance teams are able to monitor every aspect of their irrigation. They receive a constant feed of data which gives them total control over the amount of water being delivered to the landscape, prevents over or under-watering and immediately draws attention to problems such as leakages or blockages that require attention – well before they cause larger scale issues.

From the HOA’s point of view, they have seen cost savings on electricity, water and landscape maintenance, and noticeably healthier landscapes in just a year.

In a similar Florida project, a residential community was spending $40,000 a year replacing sod which was dying due to poor irrigation. Investigations showed that sand and sediment from the bottom of the lake were clogging the sprinkler heads in dry weather and the irrigation mainline was breaking on a regular basis.

By changing the water intake system and replacing their 24 pump stations with ten Hoover pump stations which include a smart irrigation system, Hoover helped the community lower their maintenance and repair costs. Their landscape is now green and healthy and they have significantly reduced their spend on repairs, energy use, fertilizer and sod. The smart irrigation system gives the property manager visibility of the operation from anywhere and is therefore able to keep the irrigation field zones balanced, and spot faulty valves or leaking underground pipes instantly.

In both these examples, the irrigation system installed at the start of the development was not suitable for the site and caused a great deal of aggravation for the developers, the landscape maintenance team and the home owners before a sustainable solution was finally found.

Dying grass, constant repairs and the costly replacement of sod is not the way it has to be. Leading developers are now looking for long-term solutions that will work efficiently and save money through turnover and beyond.

Hoover is a Florida-based, family-run business, founded in 1980 by Brent Hoover, an engineer with a background in construction and landscaping. Having established a reputation for high quality, reliable pump stations, the company expanded into remote access that controls the entire irrigation system, making it easy to keep landscapes healthy and prevent wasting water.