Coach’s Corner: 3 Enhancement Ideas to Improve Safety, Security, and Maintenance

By: Joe Ketterer

In this issue of Coaches Corner, I hope to share some ideas that will help property owners and managers spend money in order to save money with enhancements that keep properties safe and secure for tenants and the general public. Spending money on enhancements can actually reduce potential insurance costs/claims due to liability from potential hazards in the landscape.

Tree Limb Pruning (a.k.a. Limbing)

Let’s start with some of the more obvious low-hanging fruit—or in this case, tree limbs. While limbing up low-hanging branches—or “eye pokers,” as we call them—is typically included in the scope of work in most full-service base maintenance contracts, there are times when it is not included. This may be due either to an agreed upon reduced scope, or perhaps the previous contractor neglected this operation to the point where every tree needs to be limbed, which then becomes a much more involved operation than routine maintenance and may require a chainsaw and a chipper/truck to complete. A simple walkthrough of the property with the client can allow us to easily identify any specific needs and put together an enhancement proposal. This is especially crucial right after a heavy rain when branches hang even lower due to the extra weight.

During this walkthrough, a trained eye can also identify the not-so-obvious “widow-makers”—large dead limbs higher up in a mature tree that can break off and crush whatever lies beneath. The excessive rain we’ve encountered this spring is a prime example of this, causing tree limbs to fall on cars and homes and cause other property damage. We can also identify completely dead trees that may fall soon if not proactively removed by professionals. This issue is most readily identified when the rest of the landscape is green. A bundled enhancement package, which includes limbing up eye pokers and removing widow makers and dead trees all in one visit, is a cost-effective way to spend money in order to improve the safety and security of your property as well as the landscape’s appearance.

Stormwater Management

Another area to be mindful of is stormwater management and the potential hazards caused by erosion. Such hazards include washed out areas along sidewalks, which we call “ankle-breakers,” which may endanger pedestrians who step off the concrete surface. These areas can be backfilled with good topsoil and either sod or seed, depending on situation. Sod is typically a better, more permanent solution because loose soil and seed is susceptible to getting washed out again during heavy downpours. Be sure to keep curb lines, storm drains, roofs, gutters and downspouts clear and maintained in good condition in order to facilitate water flow without causing damage to your property.

Pictured right: In more severe cases where there is not adequate subsurface drainage, installing decorative “River Jack” stones can help create what is called a “dry stream bed.” This can significantly reduce erosion and sediment pollution, while at the same time adding an aesthetically pleasing hardscape element to the landscape.

Pruning or Replacing Plant Material

We always strive to design landscape renovations with maintenance in mind. All too often, we see poorly designed and maintained landscape plantings grow into public safety and security hazards when they outgrow their allotted space.  Overgrown plant material can block critical signage, provide potential hiding places for vandals and thieves, or impede building maintenance by blocking access to windows, gutters, roofs, fire exits, and HVAC units. Depending on the type of plant material, we might suggest rejuvenation pruning, or if necessary, a full-scale demolition and replanting with material better suited to the location.

Pictured left: Often, the wrong type of plant material is installed in parking islands and building entrances and when they grow too large, they can impede sign visibility and cause a traffic hazard to people entering or exiting a property.

By focusing your enhancement budget on operations that proactively address potential hazards in the landscape, you are making an investment in the safety and security of your property while simultaneously improving curb appeal. To learn more about enhancement options and pricing, contact your field manager or area manager to schedule a site walk-through.