Expert says landscape companies need greater sustainability knowledge
Keeping green Sustainability in landscapers’ offerings is necessary
Sustainable landscape management is a philosophical approach to creating and maintaining landscapes that are ecologically more stable and require fewer inputs than conventional ones. The majority of the labour force in this field does not feel responsible for the environment and does not understand the interrelation between the natural and human system.
Now that more clients are taking the idea of sustainability seriously, there is a need to educate landscape providers about practices and approaches that will move the region in a sustainable direction.
Having the landscape maintenance mostly outsourced, the FM service provider has a challenge to encourage sub-contractors to implement continuous improvements to meet the market needs, which can be achieved by training and development.
The fast growing FM market in the region is associated with a demand for an operating plan that embraces the certification processes that include a building’s exterior landscape. LEED, Sustainable SITE Initiatives and other guidelines for sustainability are included in most new contracts. The landscaping providers have to align themselves with this and be prepared with their SOPs to go up on the list of the approved and preferred suppliers/vendors.
Firms will also start to see savings in its operating cost in the long run. They may have to invest some money at the beginning as initial cost, but this will pay back shorter than expected.
Horticulture waste management is one way of doing so. As grass constitutes a considerable percentage of the total potted land area in most of the projects, reducing horticulture waste generation can be easily realised by reducing grass clippings collection.
This can be achieved by recycling at source and returning it to be a natural organic fertiliser and soil amendment agent. This was proved to be practicable, with no side effect on the grass growth, by using mulching mowers that are widely available.
I appreciate that in the short term the firms may have to spend extra money as an initial cost for these machines, but I would like to highlight that in long term, SOL will benefit from saving organic manure cost, chemical fertiliser cost, plastic bags cost and labour intensity cost.
More importantly, clients and service providers will collaborate to reduce chemical leaching to the underground water table and to reduce gaze emission from the track used to dispose the waste generated from the grass cutting.
Another method to save costs is fertilisation management. We, at EFS for instance, worked closely with our sub-contractors and the service providers we are managing, and succeeded in educating their grounds team, by training and open workshops on the importance of balanced fertilisation with the soil testing that constituted a very critical part of their annual program.
This has not only helped us to minimise the impact on our environment, but has improved the quality and appearance of our landscape, and reduced the cost of unnecessary chemical applied purposelessly.
The climate in the GCC countries is arid and semi-arid. Rainfall is erratic, and temperatures are generally high, reaching 50°C at times in some places, and relative humidity is also high. Desertification was recorded in more than 90% of the total land area.
All these factors have made the selection of the native plant material limited to certain species and have encouraged landscape providers over time to introduce invasive species in the landscape projects to match the desired design and to increase the satisfaction of the stakeholders. These invasive plants require, in most cases, increase in irrigation, fertiliser and maintenance.
The high temperature during the summer, where most of the plants are in the fast growing season, also affects productivity of labour. Grounds maintenance during that period is limited to few hours in the morning and few hours in the afternoon. To overcome this drop in productivity, the service provider has to increase the labour force in order to maintain the performance at the required standards.
Salah El-Tawm is landscaping and horticulture manager at EFS Facilities Services.