Do you want your GSI project to be successful?
Then, do not wait until the last minute to institute a maintenance and monitoring plan.
“The sooner you introduce a plan, the better,” said Jimmy Kreider, Field Operations Division Director, LandStudies, Inc.
Introducing a maintenance and monitoring plan during the nascent stages of a project ensures that a project is performing effectively and achieving the desired results. Too often, maintenance and monitoring plans are treated as appendixes instead of an elemental piece to an efficacious project.
LandStudies is a fully comprehensive firm that takes on a wide range of projects that span small and large and include BMPs in urban, suburban, and rural areas. As a firm with a combination of skill sets—civil engineers, ecologists, and landscape architects (to name a few)—LandStudies will often take on the entirety of a project, seeing it through its design, construction, monitoring, and maintenance. Because of this, Bob Gray, Landscape Architect, and Kreider bring a unique perspective to the conversation.
When managing a project from start to finish, they are not only accountable for every step of the process, but they are also able to implement a maintenance and monitoring plan that serves all of the hard work that went into the design and build stages: “This creates an incentive for us to learn from our mistakes. Because we do maintenance and monitoring we get to see some of the mistakes and lessons learned that may not show up for 4-5 years.” As a result, they have long-term experience for specific projects that they self-design and construct. “This allows us to modify our designs and continue to progress,” said Gray and Kreider.
Kreider and Gray stressed the important role that maintenance plays in preserving the ecological function and aesthetic nature of a project.
“The last thing we want to happen is that people get a negative perception of the work because it wasn’t maintained properly,” said Gray. GSI is a dynamic living system; therefore, a maintenance and monitoring plan must include both prescriptive and adaptive practices for both the system’s initial establishment period and for the long term.
But the challenge remains: How can we communicate the value of maintenance and monitoring to clients and public officials?
“We like to educate clients as much as possible at the beginning of the project so they understand the long term maintenance and monitoring plan is critical for a project’s success,” said Kreider. “A lot of the work we do is devoted to fixing mistakes when it is clear that a routine maintenance plan was not in place.”
Maintenance and monitoring have to be seen as a vital and valuable parts of landscape projects so that clients will reserve funding for the inception and implementation of a maintenance and monitoring plan.
To get public officials and other clients to think about it upfront, “specific maintenance requirements must be spelled out and then enforced,” says Kreider. While it is hard to predict how much the exact cost will be, it is important that contracts reflect all components of the project so it’s a full package.
As more and more landscape professionals, project managers, public officials, et al, commit to valuing maintenance is, Gray and Kreider expressed their belief that maintenance and monitoring become a separate line item on public projects.
Additionally, quality monitoring requires funding and it can be difficult in Pennsylvania to get monitoring, expressed Kreider and Gray. Clients will only complete the minimum requirement for monitoring. For many projects, after five years monitoring activity halts and the long-term success of the project can be jeopardized.
While this might require a shift in thinking from landscape professionals, an increased focus on maintenance and monitoring also opens up new possibilities to create a vision for workforce development, continuing learning opportunities and industry-wide collaboration.
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