Maintain Your Way to a Great Lawn

By: Tracey Gould

Some lawns are earned—not made. And they’re hard work, but they don’t have to be. There’s something to be said about immaculately maintained yards. There’s a lot to be said, in fact. The most talked about landscapes aren’t always the ones masterfully designed by landscape architects with dozens of different plants, trees and flowers. They aren’t necessarily the ones with water features, benches and built-in gardens. Sometimes the most celebrated landscapes are simple and simply maintained.

Neal Beasley, PLA, Landscape Architect and Horticultural Specialist with Timmons Group, suggests that anyone can have a great lawn by simply maintaining what they have—especially before investing in something new. Regular maintenance is a lot easier and more economical than starting anew. With the right execution, lawns can do what they’re designed to do—add value to the property they surround, while elevating the site experience for owners, occupants, and visitors. Many owners believe that landscaping is installed and self-sufficient, with the exception of some watering, and because of this, they don’t touch it for years. Then, they’re surprised at how much it costs to overhaul it to be presentable when they want to sell it, for instance.

Here are some short term strategies that will not only make landscaping plush, beautiful and healthy, but will demonstrate to everyone that the property is well-cared for, which potential buyers want to know if ever owners want to sell. Even better, a well-maintained landscape will provide immense joy for the occupants for years.

Assessment

Evaluate your current maintenance regimen, landscape assets and physical property assets to identify opportunities to dress up your property, especially the entrance. Often, a property’s entrance is the first impression, as people arrive to the office building, campus, neighborhood, retail center or home. Are there driveways? Trees? Grassy curb areas? Grand entry features? All of these physical features built into the property and landscape naturally have opportunities for landscape design and maintenance needs. What does your entry say about you? Your organization? Your brand?

Disease

Regular maintenance can help deter disease from taking over plantings. Incorporating native plants can also help ward off these issues. Beasley and Timmons Group is seeing a lot of pest and disease hitting commercial landscape areas in recent years. By infilling with native plants and cultivars, maintenance needs and costs long-term are diminished. They are more adaptive to our climate.

Filler

For new developments, especially large-scale commercial developments with immense open spaces and plantings around the foundations, seasonal color can fill voids. Simple seasonal filler plantings also add color, interest and texture. It’s a one-time planting that, as they grow and fill in, enable the voids to become less noticeable. They are planted one time to get through a season and then, going forward, you decide to plant them again based on the fullness. During this time, all the plants are growing, eventually reaching maturity and filling in to the desired level. This makes landscaping look fuller, while permanent plants are rooting in and sizing and growing.

Irrigation

Water is the most important nutrient for plants—just like people. Properties that are irrigated look healthier because they are. Beasley discourages all property owners from neglecting irrigation. At the same time, be cautious not to waste money. If needed, hire someone to maintain the irrigation system for efficiency and performance. Spring time is the time to be looking at the irrigation systems.

Mulching

Adding fresh mulching several times a year—around trees, flower beds and bushes—gives lawns a fresh look with minimal investment, while protecting the plant’s roots. Mulch has many benefits, including preventing loss of water, reducing weed growth, keeping soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, preventing soil splashing, and protecting plants from soil-borne diseases. Mulched plants will even produce more roots than non-mulched plants.

Pruning

A lot of owners don’t realize that trees, for example, require maintenance after planting; yet, trees are our biggest investment. This is where most of the expenses occur during landscaping installation. Often, localities require trees to be planted with new developments. Developers oblige, but then new owners or property managers assume mother nature takes over from there. Years two through 10 of a tree’s life is the prime time for structural tree pruning. Trees need training to teach them how to grow. Arborists can make strategic pruning decisions to help the tree live 10 years longer. Without this, trees cannot grow to their full potential, and the planet doesn’t reap from all of the inherent benefits, “We need to promote the fact that we need trees to survive. They need to be a priority,” said Beasley.

Three Strategies to Lower Your Utility Bills

Low Utility Bills Feature ImageIf you are an adult, then you know that bills can be frustrating. It seems like no matter how hard we work or how much money we make, we still end up spending so much on our basic expenses to live that we have little to nothing to spend on our families, communities, or ourselves. One of the reasons that we all seem to struggle with this problem is that we don’t cut our costs as well as we can. Fortunately, we have a number of methods of doing just that! Among the best methods to cut down on your costs is to pay attention to your utility expenses. Utility bills—unlike rent, mortgages, and others—are subject to change based upon your consumption. If you want to spend less on your utilities, you just have to use them less, more efficiently, or more intelligently. Here are three strategies for you to do just that.

 

1. Turn Off Energy Sources When You Aren’t Using Them

Your parents may or may not have ingrained into your daily life a habit of turning off the lights upon exiting a room. Though these parental concerns seemed nitpicky and annoying to us when we were children, we may come to feel the pain of higher-than-expected light bills as we age! Why in the world, the reasoning goes, should we throw away money to light up a room which is empty and unused? As useful as this attitude is in thinking about shaving down your utility bills, many people do not apply it to other parts of their utility bills. In addition to lights, there are other things we can turn off to save energy. Ceiling fans and air conditioners are great examples! What good does it do to keep your home’s temperature comfortable when no one is actually in the home to be comfortable? Your house isn’t likely to get too hot in your absence, and you can turn the A/C right back on as soon as you return. Think about all the things you can turn off or unplug when you are gone and it will pay off!

2. Don’t Pay for Wasted Energy

Paying for unused energy isn’t the only problem we run into that unnecessarily adds to our utility bill. Paying for wasted energy can be just as damaging to our wallets and far more irritating. At least when we fail to turn off unused energy it is actually functioning properly. In other cases, we may find ourselves paying for utilities which are not functioning properly and are basically just money sinks. For example, leaks result in water dripping—even flowing—out of your pipes or hoses without it providing any actual utility to you. Be sure to check your plumbing regularly to ensure it isn’t wasting water. Even if a utility isn’t broken, a user error or oversight may hinder its ability to do its job. Perhaps someone could close their vents to cut off A/C circulation when they are uncomfortable and forget to open them up again later! They’d be befuddled when the home’s temperature doesn’t change rapidly. Yet, even with the vent closed, the air is still being generated and a bill increase with it. Situations like this offer the worst of both worlds since you are paying for things which literally aren’t working right. Be sure to avoid them!

3. Know When to Use Your Hot Water

A final set of strategies that your household should make use of as it works to reduce its utility bill involves proper use of your water heater. One small-lifestyle change you can potentially make is to take shorter showers whenever possible, eliminating much of your water heater’s energy consumption throughout the month. Even if you can’t take any shorter showers or have no desire to, you can find other ways to limit your hot water consumption. Laundry machines and dish washers are other sources of enormous hot water-based energy consumption which contribute to your bill. In laundry machines, consider using cold water to wash your clothes whenever possible. Some clothes, such as darker ones, wash just as well, or even better, when washed with cold water since it bleeds less of the color. For your dish washer, you should attempt to use it as efficiently as possible. Make sure that it is full of dishes when you run it, that way you aren’t running it so often and paying for more hot water than necessary. If you use dishes scarcely, consider handwashing as much as possible. Alternatively, you may circumvent the dish washing process entirely by making use of disposable dishes.

 

Though it may seem overly scrupulous to worry about turning your ceiling fan off or whether you are using too much hot water, methods like this will surely reduce our energy consumption. After all, high utility bills are not generally the result of one-time splurges which can be easily avoided. They are more generally the result of higher-than-necessary electricity and water use which compound every day. If you take the time to find ways to use less energy or use it more carefully, you can save money and spend it elsewhere.

Four Ways to Fit a Workout into Your Schedule

Workout Article Feature ImageEvery year, people tell themselves that they are going to start working out because they are dissatisfied with their bodies or want to live a healthier lifestyle. Exercise offers numerous advantages to both your body and your mind, and you can do it in numerous ways. Running and swimming build up your cardio muscles and reduce your risk of heart disease. Weight lifting increases muscle mass and helps you to lose weight. Flexibility exercises such as stretches can substantially improve your balance and relieve you of pains and aches. Sadly, the gains of exercises are avoided by people who fail to work up the motivation to spend the money, time, and energy on routine trips to the gym. Fortunately, the time and resource costs of exercise are significantly smaller than often perceived. Here are three ways you can fit a workout plan into your busy schedule.

1: Find Ways to Be Time Efficient

It is obviously far easier to fit a workout into your busy schedule when the exercises do not take two hours. As a result, many people who start to exercise eventually decide to stop due to a “lack of time” brought about by their emphasis on long and tedious exercises. Thankfully, there are a vast assortment of exercises which you can complete in 30 minutes to an hour. Some, even shorter, can be done in 10 minutes! The key to including exercise in your busy schedule is to reduce its intrusiveness as much as you can. Try exercising close to home to circumvent a drive to the gym and back. To do this, you can consider going for a jog in the neighborhood, swimming in your pool (if applicable), or investing in some exercise equipment which you can keep at home. Another way of increasing efficiency is to think of good exercises which you can do anywhere, so you don’t have to stop doing them when you travel out of town. Finally, no matter how much you tell yourself that you “don’t have the time to exercise” it is vital to remember that the time spent exercising gives you the energy and stamina to accomplish daily tasks much quicker. The marginal time spent exercising, therefore, ultimately creates free time more than it syphons it away.

2. Tailor Your Workout to Your Tastes

Everyone knows that working up the motivation to exercise can be a difficult task. How much more difficult it is, then, when the workouts are something that you despise doing? One mistake people make when they are formulating a workout schedule is to include exercises they hate when others provide the same benefit. When people include exercises in their schedule that they have absolutely no desire to do whatsoever, it leads to burn out and they will often talk themselves out of sticking to their new exercise routine. As a result, you should think of exercises you actually enjoy and substitute those whenever possible. For instance, if you can’t stand to go running, consider building your cardio muscles by going for a swim instead. Additionally, be sure to schedule your workouts wisely. If you are not a morning person, don’t torture yourself by waking yourself up at 5 AM to start exercising. Make space for it later in the evening. Overall, you know you better than anyone else, so be sure to tailor your exercises and times to your unique character.

3. Find Ways to Entertain Yourself During the Workout

One potential deterrent to exercise is it prevents us from enjoying our already-limited free time. You spend all day working and fulfilling other necessary obligations, the thought goes, so why spend extra time on the side doing something as thoroughly exhausting as working out? Well, as it turns out, you do not always have to choose between exercise and entertainment. Oftentimes, you can find ways to guarantee both. Even if you cannot find a single exercise you enjoy at all, an unlikely scenario, there are undoubtedly ways to make your work out session enjoyable to you. Consider bringing a friend as a workout buddy to keep you company and help you be sociable while exercising. For example, many home gyms include a television across from the exercise equipment. If you feel the need to watch the news or a movie while you are burning calories and lifting weights, then you can by all means do so! Even in exercises where this would be impossible, you can find other ways to take your mind off of how exhausting the workout process is. If you were jogging through the neighborhood, for instance, you can help make the time pass by listening to music, the radio, or podcasts at the same time. If you spend time during the day watching television or listening to music anyway, why not find a way to do it while at the same time doing something productive for your body?

4. Find Ways to Exercise on the Job

Some careers, such as that of being a REALTOR®, provide people with a seemingly 24/7 work day with very little free time in your schedule to do anything besides your job, much less exercise. Is the situation hopeless for people in this busy position? Thankfully, no. One of the best options for people who need to squeeze exercise into their unrelenting work schedule is to find ways to integrate the exercise into their actual work schedule. There a variety of approaches that you can take to do that, and your needs may vary depending on the actual job. For one thing, you can always opt for more physically demanding options when you have the chance. Take the stairs and not the elevator. Park further away from the building to add to the time that you spend walking at work. Even when you are at your desk, you have an increasing supply of options! You can invest in a standing desk or a treadmill desk to include some physical activity into your daily schedule. Even if you don’t want to buy extra equipment, there are dozens of exercises that you can do at your desk normally.

 

Though many people find their attempts to add working out to their schedule thwarted by disinterest or time constraints, it is clear that there are ways to keep exercise both interesting and time efficient. Coming up with ways to make exercise take up less of your time is far easier than people often think because workouts present you with so many different options. Workouts become even easier, though, when you don’t see it as merely a time sink but also view it as an opportunity to enjoy yourself. By focusing on workouts which you actually enjoy and tailoring your exercise to your unique schedule and personality, you take the chore out of this beneficial activity. Then, as if that wasn’t enough of an incentive, you can bring other methods of entertainment to your workout session with you or integrate it into your job to multitask! Fit in a workout schedule today using these techniques and you can enrich your health as well as your lifestyle.

Tips for an Easy Move into a New Home

Easy Move Into New Home Feature ImageThe time has come for you to pack up your house and begin the process of moving into a new home. Whether the impetus for the move is a new job opportunity, a better financial situation, or something else entirely, everyone who has moved before knows that it’s a daunting and time-consuming process at best. While the experience of leaving your old house to begin life in a new one can be exciting, it can also be challenging. To streamline the process and ensure your move is as simple as possible, we recommend following these tips.

Tip 1: Avoid Procrastination

A famous quip says you should “never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.” In the case of moving, this advice is exactly the opposite of the strategy you should follow. Waiting until the last minute to start moving out of your house can be nightmarish. In a rush to meet your deadlines, you will be liable to forget things and throw things out that you didn’t want to get rid of. The best thing that you can do to move more easily is to prepare early—maybe even as soon as you know that you will be moving! Get the drop on the process by thinking about the items you need to dispose of and those you wish to keep. Consider putting things that you don’t want in a donation bin or selling them. It is easier to move if you have less to pack! As for the items you will bring with you, begin packing early, but make sure that you pack the items first which you need the least. That way, you will not pack something up weeks in advance that you need to unearth again later.

Tip 2: Prepare by Having the Right Equipment

Nothing is more annoying than attempting to pack everything up hastily only to find out that you don’t have enough boxes or storage containers. Another scenario is discovering your current furniture doesn’t fit into your new home. Just imagine you are lifting a heavy couch with the movers, and you cannot figure out a way to fit it through any of your new home’s doors! To avoid irritating scenarios like this, preparation is key. When you are faced with the task of moving out of an old home and into a new home, you need to ensure that you are adequately supplied. Having a healthy supply of boxes of different sizes, plastic containers, and bags will ensure that you have a place to store all of your possessions during the move, regardless of how big or small that they are. When you are moving huge items, like furniture or washing machines, you need to make sure that you take measurements of the home’s entryways to determine the best entry point. All in all, it would be a serious mistake to fail to prepare for the move since a lack of storage space may force you to part ways with things you actually wanted to keep.

Tip 3: Pack Smartly

A number of strategies for packing can significantly alleviate the difficulty of moving into a new home. One method for packing smartly is to think critically about what you can pass on packing and simply get rid of, either by selling, donating, or throwing away. For example, if you intend to upgrade something and buy a newer model, it may be wise to do it after your move and get rid of the old model instead of spending valuable moving space packing the obsolete item. During the actual move, it is always good to know how to pack your possessions. Put your heaviest items into smaller boxes. If you put a bunch of gargantuan books into one massive box, the end result will be an insurmountably heavy box which is difficult to transport. Smaller boxes for heavy items also make it easier to navigate staircases during the move-in. Heavy items are not the only possessions that you need to pay special attention to, however. Fragile items are just as important, and the result of throwing them into the wrong box could be a prized possession broken into a million different pieces! To avoid a mishap like this, labelling your boxes is really useful—that way you can easily keep your things organized and ensure that fragile items are accounted for with special safety provisions, such as bubble wrap, foam, or packing paper.

 

Moving can be a scary process, but it does not have to be! A new housing environment can bring tons of new opportunities, new friends, and great changes to your quality of living. Your first impression of the house, though, can easily be marred by a rocky move-in. People who move homes are often besieged by problems which are avoidable, such as rushing to meet deadlines, failing to account for all the supplies needed, and placing items in wrong locations which cause them to break. These tips can make your transition out of an old house and into a new one as seamless as possible and ensure that you get your new beginning off to a great start!

Useful Tools to Keep in Your Car

Everyone who owns a car knows that it is one of the places that they want to feel the most comfortable, relaxed, and experienced. After all, most car owners use their automobile nearly every single day of the week and form habits of driving to the same places and doing the same things. Sometimes, in the midst of our relatively simple routine, a problem will strike out of nowhere. As much as we hate to think about scenarios like this happening to us, flat tires, dead batteries, mechanical problems, and other unfortunate events could happen and cause you to be stranded on the side of the road somewhere, impacting our schedule, business, and personal lives due to delays. Fortunately, you can reduce these potentially tumultuous experiences by equipping your car with tools for the right situations. Here are some suggestions.

Spare Tire and Tire Pressure Gauge

Some people may think that a suggestion like this should be a given, but a surprisingly high number of people today are unprepared for tire problems. According to Fleet Equipment, about 54 percent of all roadside breakdowns have something to do with defective tires. An astonishing seven tire punctures occur every second, resulting in 220 million flat tires per year. As if these statistics weren’t frightening enough, a new AAA study indicates that 20 percent of all drivers don’t know how to change a flat tire at all, and almost 30 percent don’t even own a spare tire! An increasing number of cars today are not sold with a spare tire, so you need to be prepared to buy one if an extra was not included when you purchased your car. Besides storing a spare tire in your car for use after an unexpected flat, you can stave off the problem entirely by routinely checking the tire pressure and keeping your tires inflated. A tire pressure gauge can measure your tire’s air in mere seconds, and some gauges even include an electric pump so you can fill it up then and there. Investments in these items can save you a load of time, money, and anxiety, as well as save potential listings and clients.

Jumper Cables and Portable Battery Charger

Tire problems are not the only potential source of an unexpected delay when you are driving to your next destination. Another common problem that drivers are often not sufficiently prepared for is a dead battery. A variety of owner/driver errors can result in a dead battery, including forgetting to turn the headlights off for long periods of time and not closing the door or the trunk all of the way, causing some of the lights inside the vehicle to stay on. Alternatively, a battery problem may not be the result of your own mistake at all and could stem from a more serious issue, such as an aged or defective battery. Whatever the problem is, you should be prepared for it by keeping a set of jumper cables in your car. Even if the battery has become defective, jumping it off using the cables can keep it alive long enough for you to drive your car to an auto repair shop. Finally, though it is possible that someone may pull over on the side of the road to help you get moving again, it may be smart to circumvent this unreliable need by storing away a portable battery charger with your jumper cables. With one of these, you can plug in your cables and spark your car battery to life again almost immediately after the problem arises.

Survival Items

For obvious reasons, car tools would come in handy during a breakdown or some mechanical issue. Unfortunately, even more dire events could take place and it therefore behooves car owners to prepare for the worst possible situations. For instance, imagine that you are in a serious accident and you are left with a hopelessly dysfunctional car beyond all hope of repair. Also imagine that this takes place on a remote highway where it may take hours, or even days, for someone to eventually find the location. What items would you need? A First Aid Kit comes to mind immediately. After all, such an accident would likely injure you, potentially seriously, and it would be lifesaving to have emergency medical supplies on hand. A supply of water, additionally, would make sure that you have something to drink in the event of an accident. The chances of an accident such as this may seem remote, but these things happen! Even more importantly, you don’t have to be stranded to make use of items such as these. A First Aid Kit and a supply of extra water could prove to be immensely useful in a variety of circumstances, including random injuries or fires.

 

This list only scratches the surface of the tools that you may find useful when you drive somewhere and run into an unexpected setback. Options exist for virtually any potential problem, and you may have to prioritize accordingly. For instance, if you live in an area prone to winter weather, an ice scraper would be absolutely indispensable, whereas if you live on the Equator, it would be almost useless. Think about the auto problems you’ve had and the needs you’ve ran into and prepare yourself accordingly. The best way to marginalize potentially devastating and lengthy car problems is simply to prepare yourself and try to prevent them from happening in the first place. These items may not be completely exhaustive, but they would certainly be a great place to start!

Why You Should Hire a GRI Designee

Buying property is a complex and stressful task. In fact, it’s often the biggest single investment you will make in your lifetime. At the same time, real estate transactions have become increasingly complicated. New technology, laws, procedures and the increasing sophistication of buyers and sellers requires real estate practitioners to perform at an ever-increasing level of professionalism.

Hiring a GRI designee ensures that you will get a high level of professional service when buying or selling your home.

In this video, the National Association of REALTORS® explains why you should look for a real estate agent that’s a Graduate, REALTOR® Institute.

Find a GRI: https://www.realtor.com/realestateagents/

Three Ways to Keep Your House Clean This Summer

Keeping Your Home Clean Feature ImageJune 21st has come and gone, and that means that the summer has officially arrived! For many families, summer is the most enjoyable time of the year. The kids are home, the days are longer, and the pools are open. All of this excitement is sure to keep things interesting, but it also makes it more likely that your home is going to become messier. When guests visit your house for an event which you are hosting, you do not want them to ask themselves how your house came to be so littered with junk. Here are three tips for making sure that your house stays clean this summer.

Stick to a Schedule

For better or worse, people are creatures of habit. We often do things at a certain time of the day or week simply because it is how we normally operate. One of the keys to an attractive home is to make sure that these habits are cleanly and not dirty. Consider assigning certain tasks to the family on a certain day of the week. For example, you can take care of the bathroom every Monday and vacuum the bedrooms on Fridays. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your family by trying to take care of everything in a single day. If you break it up into smaller pieces, the job will be less daunting.

Another important method to keep a cleaning schedule is to actually write the weekly tasks down on your calendar or scheduler. If we actually schedule the task, it will become more “real” to us and we will actually be motivated to carry it out. Whenever we tell ourselves that we will clean up “when it gets bad,” the job often fails to get done entirely, since vague abstractions do not motivate anyone. Even if we do eventually clean up the house after it “gets bad,” the task will be much more difficult than it would have been had we maintained a weekly cleaning schedule. All in all, a weekly cleaning routine will make things significantly less overwhelming for your family.

Delegate Tasks to Your Family

Your cleaning schedule does not just have to be for yourself. In fact, the best way to keep the home clean is by having each person in the family participate in maintaining the household. Homes, after all, are a team effort. It would be almost impossible for one person to do absolutely all of the home’s cleaning. Division of labor between the household lightens the load and results in a much cleaner house. Split things up in such a way that the best person possible for each job is given it. If one member of the family desires to take care of one particular chore then, by all means, let them have it.

Another way to delegate tasks to the whole family is to encourage each person to take care of tasks more independently. The time taken to do many cleaning chores would be substantially trimmed if each family member took the initiative to clean things which they dirtied by themselves. For example, dishes often pile up and a single family member has to take care of them. If family members independently washed their own dishes, then the need for a chore devoted to washing dishes would be reduced and perhaps even eliminated entirely. Similarly, should an individual mess up the carpet on their own somehow, then they should know to take care of it themselves and not just leave it for the person who vacuums. It is much easier for one person to address an isolated problem than it is to take care of a bunch of problems at the same time, so keep your family as involved in the cleaning process as you are!

Find Ways to Reduce Clutter

Clutter is always a thorn in the side for everyone who wants to keep their home presentable. As each year goes by, we accumulate more and more stuff and it becomes more difficult to take the time to organize things. Big families are particularly prone to this problem since it is more difficult for parents to keep up with all the new things that their children bring into the house and lay down somewhere where it doesn’t belong. Still, even in a family of two or three, it is easy to let things pile up. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can stave off this problem and keep your home organized and tidy.

The easiest way to address clutter is to prevent it from accumulating in the first place. Reduce impulse buys, which add unexpected things to your lives and over time make organization significantly more difficult. Often times, we do not even need or particularly want the things that we pay for spur-of-the-moment. Who hasn’t, for example, bought a book or a movie that looked interesting at the store which proceeded to be ignored? If your home already has an unbearable amount of clutter, you can consider having a yard sale to give some of your unused stuff to a new home while also making money. The things that you cannot sell can be taken to the thrift store or a Goodwill. Some of the most common clutter which you should look out for are old clothes which do not fit anyone, out-of-date electronics / chargers, and anything which you do not find useful anymore.

 

Keeping your home clean is a daunting task, but it gives your home a tidy and presentable character which everyone needs, especially in the summertime. These tips are a great way to make sure that your home is the talk of the neighborhood for all of the right reasons. Sticking to a good cleaning schedule, keeping your family involved, and finding ways to cut clutter are sure ways to give the interior of your house the polish that it deserves. Keeping a home clean is not just a good way to impress people; it installs proper habits in your whole family and provides an incentive to responsibly care for your property. As the summertime heats up, do more than live in your home. Make it one that you are proud to live in.

What’s Trending in Landscape Architecture?

May 2018 Insight: Landscape Architecture featured imageBY: TRACEY GOULD

When most people think of architecture and design, they naturally gravitate towards grand images of the physical building. They see the façade, layout, number of stories, windows, roofline, intricate details, materials and front entry. If welcoming and striking, the landscaping will often catch the imagination, spurring fantasies of rolling in the grass, swinging from a tree swing or fishing in a pond. In fact, landscaping helps to shape a property’s first impression. It can make the difference between a passerby or a person buying.

Rarely does the average person consider the landscaping as being integral to the structure, site, performance and occupant experience—all more important than just curb appeal. Landscape architecture, a technical professional service requiring a four-year degree and official license and/or registration in most states, is so much more than trimmed grass and trees. Designed, strategically executed and integrated as part of commercial and residential design at the very beginning of the process, landscape architecture can serve as a solution to social challenges, environmental issues, security concerns, medical conditions and more.

Thomas R. Travella, FASLA, a contributor for TriplePundit, highlighted these high-level benefits and more in a 2012 article, Landscape Architecture is Not Just Decoration. He commented, “landscape architecture provides essential infrastructure that does much more” than decorate. Some landscapes contribute to water conservation efforts and prevent soil erosion. In some cases, it can even clean storm water runoff, as some plants can serve as filtration tools, and landscaping materials and features can reduce erosion and flooding.

With such a big role in overall design and the built environment, as well as communities as a whole, let’s look at some of the latest trends that are influencing and shaping landscape architecture in real estate today.

COMMERCIAL/GOVERNMENT

Perhaps the biggest demand for true landscape architectural services are with commercial and government campuses and properties. In these cases, the landscape architect works with the area’s surrounding landscape to develop a site solution based on the owner/occupant needs and goals, geography, topography and natural environment. One of the most popular commercial development types today is mixed-use property, which poses unique challenges and benefits from a landscape architecture perspective. “When you start mixing commercial with residential and office, the focus of the site is now more dependent on pedestrian traffic and less dependent on vehicle access,” stated Neal Beasley, VCH, horticulture specialist/landscape designer with Timmons Group. “Obviously, there is still a need to plan for cars, since that’s how most people to travel to and from, but developers need to plan for people and wayfinding after people park their cars. Bike and walking paths also need to be planned well in advance. Th is is where landscape architecture comes into play from a masterplanning perspective.”

WALKABILITY

As a whole, commercial developments and communities are becoming much more walkable by design. Connectivity is important in residential and commercial developments and multi-use trails that bridge developments with community amenities, as well as connect larger corporate campus buildings, are popular. Localities are also trying to connect people and space throughout the community and are integrating these trails into their new masterplans, which are serving to drive traffic to revitalized areas, such as Main Street retail areas, and also spur health and wellness. If there’s a network of trails the county is trying to achieve, developers may need to integrate a trail into the site design. This only benefits the developer and community in most cases, as it translates to more people accessing the development and driving more traffic.

The integration of trail elements to developments drives a greater need to focus on safety, especially for aging employees and residents who aren’t as confident on their feet. Trails need to be paved and large enough to allow bikes to cruise safely past pedestrian traffic.

WATER FEATURES

While water features aren’t as popular with commercial developments today as they used to be—at least in Virginia due to stricter regulations, according to Beasley—on-site stormwater features are now being integrated into the design up front and becoming part of the site experience. Kingsley, a new commercial and residential masterplanned community in Fort Mill, South Carolina, is centered entirely around the lake, which is being used as a vista complete with trails and bench seating. “We’re seeing these features a lot in the commercial sector,” stated Beasley. Th is live-work-play community includes two hotels, 120,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 1.2 million square feet of office space and multifamily housing.

ENTERTAINMENT

Many mixed-use developments are looking beyond traditional common spaces, amenities and social gathering spaces and creating entertainment venues. “The creation of outdoor spaces for people is important,” stated Beasley. “There’s a renewed emphasis to get back to the outdoors and back to nature.” Integrating activities in outdoor spaces is trending right now and run the gamut from bocce ball courts, outdoor chess boards and active sports venues, including whitewater rafting.

One such development in Richmond, Virginia, has a lake with a whitewater feature that blends an exciting level of entertainment in the mix of the site, which has townhomes, high-end multi-family apartments and first-level commercial with upper-level office and/or residential spaces. “Whitewater is an active activity, but four out of five people won’t participate in whitewater activities. They will, however, be an active spectator and experience other people doing it. People can get a beer, sit back and watch people do crazy things in the water. That’s real entertainment value.”

Entertainment value also drives interest from other areas. Restaurants want a piece of the action and want to be located at the end of the strip with an outdoor experience to go with it, including a pergola, live band and specialty lighting. Suddenly a restaurant isn’t just a restaurant—it’s an experience. “This is really popular with the craft beer industry, where most of the social and drinking areas are outdoors.”

What drives developers to make these types of investments in their sites? It’s all about competition and the bottom line. Just like retail businesses, developers compete with other developments for traffic and tenants. If one development has added amenities and entertainment value, and a similar development down the street does not, the development with added features becomes highly sought-after—even commanding a premium price.

While incorporating these components is easier with new developments because developers are working with a blank slate so to speak, existing sites can include similar features. Developers, owners and designers simply need to get creative, embrace the development and let the landscape and site really influence the design. With the right approach, renewed developments can include terraces, green roofs and green areas, such as courtyards, that add to the overall usability of a site. The secret is for planners to understand this and actively seek opportunities before the property is redeveloped, so opportunities aren’t overlooked.

RESIDENTIAL

Residential developments have their own unique challenges and opportunities with landscape architecture. For larger, single-family, masterplanned communities, the biggest goal is to design spaces that are usable for all people, including senior citizens, and are not ordinary, common spaces, either. Developers and designers need to incorporate features and equipment that homeowners can’t include in their own backyard. In a 2018 survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Residential Landscape Architecture Trends, three must-have design elements stood out for residential spaces by consumers, including fire pits, outdoor yoga spaces and charging stations, and the hottest landscape and garden elements include native plants, low-maintenance landscapes and rain gardens.

Let’s explore two of the most popular and luxurious landscaped areas in residential developments.

PLAY

Buyers want the coolest community playground—not the discount warehouse wooden set. Standard recreation pools are no longer desired by the developer or the consumer. Consumers still want water play but in the form of splash pads, and developers want more maintenance-free options.

DINING

Outdoor dining is all the rage today. Small outdoor areas are being integrated into the design with small plazas where people can gather and socialize over food. Complete with fire pits, fireplaces, landscaping, flexible seating, lighting and access to multimodal trails, landscape architects are accommodating more social spaces into masterplans than ever before.

What’s driving this new, higher-end standard for common spaces? According to Beasley, the trends are in part being influenced by millennials, “College students are graduating, entering the workforce and moving into their own place. Their quality of life during college—for most of them—was much more luxurious than baby boomers and even Gen Xers,” Beasley stated. “Th ink back to your college dorm life. It was likely bare bones. We didn’t even have air conditioning. Today’s dorms are full-on, hospitality-style suites with all the amenities.” These are the adults transitioning into single- and multifamily units, demanding luxury amenities as the standard.

Two Ways to Revolutionize Your Family’s Safety This July 4th

July 4th Safety ImageJuly 4th is on its way, and for many families, that simply means that the time has come to prepare your pool, buy some fireworks, and get ready to enjoy patriotic celebrations with your friends and family. Unfortunately, many families find their hopes for a happy Fourth destroyed unexpectedly. July 4th is statistically the most dangerous holiday of the year. In 2016, thousands were injured or killed on this day alone—not even encompassing related incidents on the days immediately before and after the holiday. Here are two ways to make sure that your July 4th stays joyful and does not include any unanticipated trips to the emergency room.

 

Drive Safely

During the July 4th season, the risk of driving drastically increases. According to the National Safety Council, almost 600 people were killed on the roads, and approximately 67,000 were seriously injured during the July 4th weekend last year. More people are on the road than usual, heightening the likelihood that someone’s vehicle error may have fatal consequences. Many of these drivers are traveling longer distances to visit family and friends who live far away, increasing everyone’s average time on the road and compounding the chances of an accident even further. As if these factors were not deadly by themselves, more people than usual are driving under the influence of alcohol. Almost half of the accidents during the July 4th holiday in 2017 involved alcohol.

To avoid an unexpected disaster while you are driving to a July 4th celebration with your family, there are a number of driving tips which you should keep in mind. Buckle up, and ensure that your passengers do so as well. 48% of all fatalities from car accidents in 2016 were people who were not wearing seatbelts, and the United States government estimates that 14,668 lives were saved by seatbelts. Also make sure that you never use your phone while driving, no matter how important your REALTOR® business call is! If you must absolutely must take a call, pull over and delegate the driver’s seat to a passenger so that you can use your phone without endangering anyone. A final way to keep yourself safe on the road is to avoid drinking and driving. If you plan on drinking alcohol, also plan on having a designated driver.

Use Fireworks Responsibly

Dangerous drivers are not the only threat you face on the Fourth of July. In fact, fireworks, one of the most enjoyable staples of any July 4th celebration, result in thousands of injuries each year. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that, in 2016, there were 11,100 people seriously injured and even a few people killed as a direct result of fireworks. Not only are fireworks prone to random malfunctions, the slightest personal misuse can have disastrous consequences. In 2016, one person lost most of the fingers on his left hand when a reloadable mortar blew up unexpectedly in front of him. Another man tried to make his own fireworks and his kitchen exploded, demonstrating that the risks of fireworks extend to our property. Even house pets can be terribly injured or distressed by the blast. Many pets are fearful of the loud sounds which fireworks make, which can cause them to panic in the house and damage furniture, or even run away from home.

Keep fireworks fun and not fatal this July 4th by following these safety tips. For one thing, you may want to consider attending a professionally done fireworks display, as that would substantially cut down on the risk that something serious could go wrong. If you still desire to set them off at home, you can keep your family safe by preventing young children from lighting and igniting their own fireworks, make sure that they have adult supervision because even seemingly harmless fireworks can be very dangerous. Over 900 fireworks-related emergency room visits involved sparklers, 400 had bottle rockets, and 1,300 with firecrackers. Secondly, you should ensure that all of your fireworks are legal in your area. Never—Never—make your own fireworks! All but one of the firework-related deaths last year occurred when people set out to illegally craft their own fireworks. When lighting legally obtained, store bought fireworks, you should follow the instructions scrupulously and stand back at a safe distance to prevent potential harm from a random malfunction. Light them up somewhere that they can remain stable, so that they do not fall over and fly towards you.

 

Do not let these dangers prevent your family from having a festive celebration on the nation’s 242nd birthday! Keep your family safe this July 4th by driving safely and using fireworks responsibly. Even after the holiday is over, you can continue to benefit from these safety tips. Driving is dangerous even on normal weekdays, so do not get travel carelessly just because it is not a holiday. Fireworks, though they are at the height of their popularity on the 4th, are still used at family celebrations throughout the year. Take advantage of these safety tips and have a happy 4th of July!