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Smart Design Begins with Easy-Care Plan

Miami Herald, April 18, 2010

Image from Miami Herald articleTo arrive at a truly low-maintenance landscape takes careful planning – that according to a garden design article in the Home and Garden Section of the Miami Herald.  The basic idea is “less work, more pleasure”.  In commercial landscapes, the basic idea is saving costs while not compromising the appearance of the landscape.  While accomplishing that goal does involve careful planning, we have found that a bit of applied science helps as well.  Knowing the direct cost of a design decision that is under consideration will shed light onto the decision-making process.  How many man-hours will be required to care for these plants over the course of a year?  What about equipment time and material costs (amount of fertilizer, water, mulch)?

Drilling down to this level can yield some interesting results.  For example, we recently found a simple project example involving the wrong type of plant in the wrong place.  A shrub that was genetically pre-disposed to grow to a height of at least 12′, with a spread of 7′ had been planted in a parking lot island.  It was being maintained at a height of 3′.  The maintenance crew will never win that battle!  When we calculated the time and labor rates required to maintain the shrubs – we quickly discovered that by simply removing the plants, the owner would immediately save $932 per year.  The cost to remove the plants, and install a dwarf shrub that would not grow  over 3′ tall was around $400.

Learning “C.F.O. Speak”

Here’s where it gets interesting – the Net Present Value of that one-time $400 investment, leveraged against the annual cost savings of $932 (over the anticipated 20 year lifespan of the plant material) worked out to be $11,794.  The Internal Rate of Return on that investment amounted to 933%.

Where can you expect to receive that kind of return?  Not in the stock market.

If you present this kind of information to your Chief Financial Officer, you should have no problem receiving authorization to allocate the capital to your project.  The question should be, “Why NOT allocate the money to this project?”.

Simple Change; HUGE Results!

This is just one example of how the principles of applied economics can be used in the arena of landscape management.  Our Living Asset Management Program™ (LAMP) is based on this kind of thinking.  Living Assets (the trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawns in the landscape) may not appear on the balance sheet, but they are assets and should be managed wisely.  Managing Living Assets for Sustainability and Economic Enhancement – that is what the LAMP™ is all about.

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