The drought that’s become a fixture in Southern California is causing all sorts of clients to rethink their landscaping — residential and commercial properties alike.

The owners of the Carlsbad, California-based Palomar Tech Center are taking the problem particularly seriously, however. Enlisting the aid of locally based Heaviland Landscape Management, they’ve gone through a recycled water irrigation system conversion and landscape redesign that’s estimated to save them more than two million gallons of potable drinking water annually.

Heaviland’s Rajan Brown, vice president of design, construction and sustainability, says the property’s management group, Covey Commercial, and real estate firm Rexford Industrial reached out to Heaviland in late 2014 based on their previous experience with Heaviland, which includes the Tech Center’s maintenance.

“We have a strong relationship with the property management group that was formed through years of providing landscape management services to other properties within their portfolio,” says Brown. “When they were looking for a landscape update, they came to us.”

Palomar Tech Center

PHOTO: Heaviland Landscape Management

With almost 25,000 square feet of industrial office space on 8 1/2 acres, more than 42,000 square feet of open space was available for renovation. Brown — who designed, built and managed the project — says the clients were specifically seeking to update the visual appearance of the property while reducing water usage.

“The landscape renovation was also designed to complement the contemporary architectural renovation of the building façade,” he adds.

A big assist came when the property gained access to recycled water during the planning process when the city of Carlsbad expanded its recycled water infrastructure to the area, so Brown was able to include a recycled water retrofit as part of the project.

Both the landscape renovation and the recycled water conversion started during June of 2015. The landscape was completed by August 2015, and the irrigation retrofit wrapped up the project in September. Brown says anywhere from three to seven Heaviland employees were on the site during construction.

For the conversion to recycled water, Brown explains that, “The standard cross connection test had to be performed, then all the public health requirements, including signage and color coding, had to be installed.”

The project is watered by a combination of methods, with the majority of the system utilizing high-efficiency rotors, although some drip irrigation is also included.

A key component of the job is the plant palette which includes agaves, kangaroo paws, succulents and salvias.

“The project utilizes a vibrant and diverse drought-tolerant plant palette that complements the contemporary architectural renovation,” Brown says. “For this property we used a combination of California-native and Mediterranean-climate plants.”

PHOTO: Heaviland Landscape Management

PHOTO: Heaviland Landscape Management

As with many projects of this size, the budget — as well as the clients’ goals for the project — were the greatest challenges, Brown says.

“We leveraged available turf removal rebates to help the client save $66,880 in construction costs,” Brown notes. “The cost of the project was approximately $120,000 after the rebates, and we worked to maximize the rebates available to the client.”

Not surprisingly, the project recently won the Achievement Award for Turf Conversion (Large) in the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) San Diego chapter’s 2016 Beautification Awards.

While good looks are important, Brown says he’s most proud of the fact that through the low-water plant palette and recycled water irrigation, Heaviland was able to reduce the demand on the potable water supply by cutting nearly 2.3 million gallons of drinkable water consumption annually.

Additionally, the clients are saving on maintenance (which Heaviland is still providing), which has totally eliminated mowing in favor of weeding and selective pruning.

Even better, the project has given Brown and the firm additional experience that he’s confident will translate into more work in the future.

“It really taught us how we can combine design, planning, water management and rebate administration to create an award-winning, sustainable landscape,” he concludes.