Big Box Retailers Ahead of the Curve

Ryan Petree

Kudela & Weinheimer is a unique firm that gives its architect’s the ability to work on a wide range of projects. These can range from high-profile sky scrapers to big box retail. Surprisingly enough, it happens to be the retail market that is leading the charge for better building practices at the moment.

More and more retail projects are asking for advanced technology in regards to irrigation systems to better allow them to manage their typically large systems. This in turn leads to lower water bills. Large parking lots require much larger looped irrigation systems to reach the entire project site parameter planting and parking lot islands. Large systems can often mean more opportunity for a break in the system that can go unnoticed. Breaks can result in thousands of dollars in excess on water bills. High tech controllers (evapotranspiration controllers with weather stations) allow for a computerized system reports and monitoring that instantly recognized unusually high water usage for the irrigation zone with the break. The controllers can even shut off a particular zone, while the rest of the system runs and maintains a healthy landscape. These high-tech controllers in tandem with drip irrigation for planting areas often mean more efficient and more economical landscapes.

Controller used to detect breaks in large irrigation systems

Irrigation isn’t the only way retail projects are ahead of the curve. Landscape guidelines, from the client, have become more detailed and refined. This is not only in plant selection, but installation practices as well. The requirement of native and/or adaptive plants ensures the landscape is more tolerable in times of drought. This can be as simple as native or adaptive grasses and groundcovers in high heat areas such as parking lot islands. It also means that the material is grown closer to the project and reduces costs on shipping and ultimately the installation cost. Native and adaptive plants, in addition to responsible design help ensure that the project site fits in with the local style of the surrounding area.

Native & Adaptive Plants Example

Lastly, thorough construction administration (site inspections, monitoring and field reports) requirements help to lower overall maintenance costs. More site visits for inspections ensure less construction mistakes and a better finished project. This can mean higher consultant fees up front, but the inability for contractors to cut corners with more supervision on the project can pay dividends in the end. More material submittals also guarantees that plant material installed is consistent with the size and type specified in addition to being a better quality. Some clients are even requiring the more costly material such as trees to be tagged at the nursery by the Landscape Architect to ensure the best available plant material is installed on the site.

Retail projects often have less landscaping than other projects we work on, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior by any means.  If more projects took on the better building practices this part of the industry is embracing, development in general might be better off.

Written by Ryan Petree

Ryan spends a lot of time doing hands-on field work. Tasks including punching projects, tagging trees and ensuring installation quality control on site.

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