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In Focus: Reshaping the Landscape of Commercial Facilities

You might think landscaping an industrial property is fairly simple — a few shrubs here, a tree or two there. In reality, professional landscaping for Class A buildings is an art and science that requires careful planning, correct installation, and strict maintenance. That’s because landscaping can do more than just enhance a building’s exterior. If done right, landscaping can also improve energy efficiency and make the environment more pleasant for workers and visitors. The economic rewards are not bad either; good landscaping can boost a property’s value by up to 15 percent.

Kelli Delozier, VP of Real Estate Management, IDI (Q2 / Spring 2013)
Essential Elements
A comprehensive landscaping plan has many elements, each with its own visual and functional purposes. The three primary elements are vegetation, landforms, and water features.

Vegetation consists of trees, shrubs, ground covers, annuals, perennials, vines, and turf. Strategically placed, they can add visual interest, deflect wind, control erosion, and reduce noise around the building. The shade vegetation provides can lower temperatures, which reduces the demand on air-conditioning systems. Foliage and shade also soften glare and reflection from man-made materials. Finally, vegetation naturally removes dust and pollutants from the air and provides habitats for wildlife nesting, shelter, and food.


Landforms are elements such as earth berms, terracing, and retaining walls. When designed in harmony with the site’s natural topography and architecture, they can create spatial enclosures, screen undesirable areas from view, and reinforce architectural forms and features. These structures can create useable areas on slopes, which preserves vegetation, minimizes grading requirements, and offers visual interest in strategic sites on the property.

Water features include ponds, lakes, fountains, and pools located along green space corridors or in plazas. Aesthetically pleasing water features provide visual enjoyment and create focal points in the landscape. Functional benefits include masking vehicle and equipment noises, providing a localized cooling effect, providing onsite storm water retention and detention facilities, and reducing the demand for potable water resources.

What To Consider
Quality, low-maintenance landscaping is very market-specific and site-specific. Among the variables that must factor into landscaping plans are local and state regulations affecting everything from irrigation to the percentage of native plants required in various locations. Other issues to consider when choosing vegetation and other elements include:

  • Desired aesthetic value: The types of plants used in a landscape changes from city to city. Desert-like yucca plants would never be planted in Philadelphia, and hydrangeas, which need sun and warm temperatures, would not be found in Seattle.

  • Upkeep requirements: Concerning grass, winter rye seed could be the right approach for a facility. Selecting this annual option provides green grass year-round and displays a lush appeal. Although this is more expensive option, the appearance is worth the investment.

  • Tendency to attract undesirable pests: For example, birds can be a hazard to parking lots and cause roof damage. Pests can eat newly planted flowers and cause major issues with their digging, which can affect electrical and irrigation lines.

  • Soil support: In developing a large facility, many berms and detention ponds are created. Planting material in these areas is of the utmost importance in the beginning of a project to prevent mudslides and parking lot issues.

  • Length of growing season: Seasonal color is best displayed in flowers located at tenant entryways and park entrances. All regions have different seasonal months that require a plethora of plant material.

Landscaping should not be an afterthought, but rather a part of your facility’s blueprint.
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