The relationship between building contractors and landscape contractors often isn’t as harmonious as it should be. In almost all cases, the landscape contractor is the last professional on new construction sites, whether they’re homes or businesses.
Complaints that landscape contractors have when finally getting a chance to ply their trade on new-build projects include having to clean up discarded building debris (sometimes buried) and establishing landscape plants, including turfgrass, on soil that has been compacted by trucks and other heavy construction equipment—that is if there is any quality soil remaining on the site. Another complaint is the design and quality of irrigation systems that some builders specify.
Regardless, building contractors and landscape contractors both face the same very serious challenge in the face of severe water restrictions, such as the drought that hammered most of Texas until this past spring’s rains, or the historic drought that is damaging the lawn business in California. Both trades, to survive and prosper, must adapt their practices and the products they use so their clients can meet strict water-conservation guidelines.
Landscape and building contractors working separately but toward a common goal of water conservation is an emerging and welcome phenomenon in some water-stressed regions of the U.S. Texas contains several relatively new examples.
This past spring, the West Texas Home Builders Association set up a water conservation subcommittee that is looking at ways to save water outdoors as well as indoors, starting with commercial construction.
The Home Builders Association of Greater Austin (HBA) has gone further in seeking outdoor water savings. It recently produced “Sensible Landscaping for Central Texas,” a 27-page document with guidelines to standardize regional water conservation landscape practices for both builders and homeowners. The recommendations include soil tests, native soil preservation, the addition of 6 inches of topsoil and 1 inch of quality compost, all trees barricaded at drip lines and construction equipment precluded from landscaped areas. The document also offers recommendations for the installation of water-conserving irrigation systems, including providing owners of new properties as-build plans, water schedules and water budgets.
But what good are recommendations if they are not followed? The homebuilders also recommend the use of licensed, third-party professionals to inspect landscapes and their developments. These professionals would verify that soils, mulches, plants, trees and irrigation systems have been installed to established standards.
All of the aforementioned best practices for outdoor water savings fall within the sphere of the landscape industry, of course. But, the fact that developers and homebuilders recognize their importance seems significant to me. The question I’m left with is whether building contractors elsewhere in the U.S., especially those in waterstressed regions, will consider similar actions to more closely partner with landscape contractors to conserve water.
COVER PHOTO: ISTOCK