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Colorado Tree View

From time to time, we here at Outdoor Design Group like to hand over the reins of this blog to a guest writer. This allows us to peer over the fence into the realm of another business, and bring our readers new views on topics related to our field of work.

This week, T.J. Wood from Plan-It Geo (a company that Outdoor Design Group has collaborated with in the past on various projects) gives us a description of an application they developed for the Colorado State Forest Service. This online tool helps Colorado communities assess their public street and park trees locally to provide a statewide picture of tree diversity and health.

Introduction:

At Plan-It Geo, we specialize in “Trees and Technology.” A tree inventory combines both of these elements seamlessly by management of this important natural resource with use of mobile devices and technology in the field. The Colorado State Forest Service contracted Plan-It Geo to develop a web-based application that communities, campuses, and HOA’s can upload their tree inventories and view important state-wide tree data summaries. To access all of our web and mobile GIS software applications, click here.

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

Colorado Tree View:

Project Profile: Colorado Tree View

Project Title: Colorado Tree View – Statewide Inventory and Ash management Application

Client: Colorado State Forest Service

Timeframe: February 2015 – Present

Description: Tree inventories provide critical information for cities, neighborhood associations, and other entities to proactively manage their urban and community forestry resource. This project provided a tool to help diversify the planning and planting of tree species. It also provided a first-time statewide view of the structure of Colorado’s urban forests. The tool is a starting point for a long-term strategy and provides substantial new technical support to communities.

Outcomes: A statewide web-based application was created for Colorado. This application has the built-in ability to “crosswalk” a wide variety of inventory data into the application. The main fields collected are species, dbh (diameter breast height), condition, and location of each tree. The application has a hierarchy of log ins based on city and user approvals with different functionality at each level. A customized dashboard was created for the state to view important number and population statistics on each community or organizational inventory.

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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The 5 Hottest Current Trends in Landscaping

Some interesting trends have emerged this year in landscape design.  In this article I describe the 5 hottest trends we are seeing –  Which of these ideas will you incorporate into your landscape?

Outdoor Stone Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces have been around for a long time, but in the last few years they have really gained in popularity.  They can serve as a focal point in the design of a backyard landscape, while providing the functional warmth of a fire adjacent to an outdoor patio.

Outdoor Stone FireplaceHere in Colorado, where the summers are dry and there are few mosquitoes or other insects, cool summer and fall evenings are perfect for gathering outdoors with family and friends.  Outdoor stone fireplaces can add to the ambiance of your outdoor space.

Design Considerations:  Outdoor outdoor fireplaces are typically gas burning, unless the property is in a rural area with low fire danger where wood burning is allowed.  They can either be custom built using a combination stone, masonry, brick, stucco, or stone veneer; or they can purchased as a prefabricated insert that is put in place and then faced with stone or another decorative material.  A combination of decorative stone or concrete caps, mantels, and hearths can also be incorporated, resulting in an almost endless variety of design opportunities.

Due to the increased popularity of outdoor fireplaces and firepits, many municipalities are updating codes and ordinances to provide more specific restrictions and design guidelines.   The required distance between the fireplace and any structure may vary between 15 to 25 feet.  Always make sure your landscape architect or contractor has checked with your local building department on the current rules and regulations.

Pondless Water Features

Water is one of the building blocks of life.  Water features can add a calming effect to your landscape through the sounds and movement of water.   They can also mask unwanted noise and bring a peaceful calm to the hustle and bustle of urban living.

The problem with most water features is that they are high maintenance.  While a natural looking pond can be beautiful, they are difficult to construct and can require quite a bit of maintenance.  If that maintenance is neglected, or the pond is not constructed correctly one is left with pond that leaks, one does not look natural, or lacks the proper balance of plants, fish, and filters to keep the water clean.

“Pondless” water features solve most of these issues, and are the hottest trend in water feature design.  In a pondless water feature, and underground basin in purchased and installed below the ground to hold the water that is circulated through the feature.

A grate is often placed over the basin, and covered with rocks to allow the water to run through to the basin below.  The water is pumped from the basin over a decorative rock or sculptural feature.  The sound of water is achieved not only from the above ground feature, but by the water splashing through the rocks and into the basin below.  And because the basin below ground is shaded from the sunlight, algae will not grow in the water.

Design Considerations:  Depending on the size of the feature and how often you intend to run it, you may opt to install a filter and an auto-fill valve connected to a water supply to keep the feature full.  You may also opt for an on/off switch for the feature at the home so you can easily turn it on or off.   Don’t forget to plan for lighting the feature at night.  And finally, when selecting a pump always error on the side of a larger pump, because the flow of water can always be dialed back but can never be increased.

Natural Lawns

As water prices continue to rise, homeowners and businesses are looking for alternatives to the traditional bluegrass lawn.  As I have written about in the past, there are many advantages to making your landscaping more efficient, and reducing the amount of bluegrass lawn is the best way to do that.

thyme lawnThere are many types of plantings that can be used to replace a traditional lawn, but in each case the general principles are the same:  plants with reduced watering requirements that require less maintenance.  This can we achieved with alternative turfgrasses, Xeriscape plantings, edible garden plants, monocultures of spreading shrubs or perennials, native plants, non-natives, natural meadows, or a combination of these elements.

Another driver in the popularity of the “natural lawn” concept is the desire of individuals and organizations to move away from using pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in large quantities- for the benefit of the environment and human health.  Children often play on lawns and in our parks.  So in addition to replacing traditional lawns, some people are turning to more organic and natural methods of lawn care.

Design Considerations:  It is important to realize that less maintenance does not necessarily mean easier maintenance (at least initially).  What I mean by that is a more complex planting such as a Xeriscape with many types of plants, or a natural meadow, will take more analysis and careful monitoring than a simple lawn.  However, this monitoring and analysis will be more than made up for by the savings in time and resources by avoiding all of that mowing, edging, aerating, fertilizing, etc. that a traditional lawn would require.

Covered Outdoor Patios

Covered outdoor patios work great for blending indoor and outdoor living space.  Over the last decade outdoor patios and gardens have been increasingly utilized as an extension of indoor space.

covered patioThe latest trend is to build a waterproof roof structure over the top of an outdoor patio space.  The roof structure is multi-functional, providing shade from the hot afternoon sun as well as protection from the rain and snow.  Overhead roof structures also create a more intimate feeling space, creating an outdoor room at a much lower cost than adding a fully enclosed indoor room to a dwelling.

Another benefit to a covered outdoor patio is that outdoor amenities can be protected by the weather.  Flat screen televisions, ceiling fans, outdoor kitchens, bar areas, speakers, and lighting can all be incorporated into this outdoor space.

Design Considerations:  There are numerous design decisions that need to be made when designing a covered outdoor patio.  Will the cover be attached to the home, or free-standing?  Support columns for the roof structure can be designed with stone bases.   The “ceiling” of the enclosure is also an important design element that should be carefully considered as it will probably be the main surface that you will see when using the space.

Urban Gardening

As the farming industry continues to get more commercialized and corporate, there has been a pushback in the form an increased demand for local farmers markets.   And there is no place more local than one’s own yard.

urban garden produceAs individuals strive to have more control and knowledge of where their food comes from and how it is grown, many are turning to growing their own produce.  Growing a garden is nothing new- however today’s gardens are getting larger and taking up a bigger percentage of the yard.  In some cases, urban gardening is being used for an entire backyard or a good portion of a front yard.

The urban gardening trend jives perfectly with the “natural lawn” trend.  While some people are replacing their traditional lawn with decorative Xeriscapes, others are replacing their lawns with edible gardens.  But even edible gardens can be beautiful- there are many decorative herbs that get showy flowers, and some produce such as bright red and yellow peppers can add visual interest to the landscape.

Design Considerations:  If you are considering expanding or adding edible garden space there are a few aspects to be mindful of.   If you have a homeowner’s association, remember to check their rules on gardens.  Consider using decorative paths between your beds, and attractive raised planters can be utilized to keep the space looking a little more organized.  Finally, be mindful of pests and rodents that may be attracted to the garden.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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Drought of 2012 vs. Drought of 2002: Time to Rethink Landscaping Again

The drought of 2002 was very hard on landscaping in Colorado.  Plants and lawns were stressed by the hot and dry conditions, and mandatory watering restrictions were put in place across the state.  Many of us in the landscaping industry vividly remember these hard times.

Well, the drought is back.  Today the USDA predicted a huge drop in corn yields, the latest is a long summer of bad drought news.  Below are maps issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor from back in July of 2002 and from July of 2012.  As you can see, there are many similarities and much of Colorado is once again in an “extreme drought” situation.

US drought monitor July 2002

US drought monitor July 2012

Outlook Does Not Look Good

According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook doe not look promising, although some improvement may occur in southwestern Colorado:

Dryness and drought, exacerbated by above-normal temperatures, have been increasing both in extent and intensity across much of the central and northern U.S. Based upon the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor, almost 64 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought (D1-D4), the highest such value for the U.S. Drought Monitor since its inception in 2000. The last time the lower 48 States had a comparable area of drought (based upon the monthly Palmer Drought Index) was in 1956, according to NCDC.

Across the Southwest, the odds favor an active (wet) southwest monsoon in both the 1- and 3-month precipitation outlooks. As a result, improvement is anticipated across much of Arizona, southern Utah, and southwestern Colorado as the summer monsoon continues.

US seasonal drought outlook August 2012

What Does this Mean for Landscaping in Colorado?

As these maps illustrate, the drought conditions that plagued Colorado in 2002 have resurfaced, and most long-term indicators point to continued drought.  The good new is that there are some relatively simple changes and considerations for your landscaping to make it resilient to these conditions.

Some of the lessons we have learned and changes that can be made to your landscaping to better withstand drought include:

  • Design new landscapes to be more drought tolerant in the first place.  Take a more thoughtful professional approach to your landscape design and consider long term maintenance costs as well as installation costs.  Consider hiring a landscape architect or design professional.
  • Install the latest irrigation technologies to eliminate wasted water: smart weather based controllers, rain sensors, efficient spray nozzles and drip irrigation, to name a few.
  • If lawn areas are not used for foot traffic, and are simply for aesthetics, convert these areas to masses of low growing shrubs, groundcovers, or native grass.  You can achieve a similar look with plant massings at the groundplane while reducing water needs and maintenance requirements significantly.
  • If you have an older irrigation system, consider having a professional do a water audit, and upgrade old nozzles to new, more efficient ones.  If you are stuck with a landscape that requires a lot of water (such as large areas of bluegrass with spray irrigation) you should at least fine tune your sprinkler system.  This approach is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig (since your landscape will still “require” the same amount of water to be healthy), however there are some new irrigation nozzles such as the Hunter MP Rotator that can be much more efficient at delivering water where it’s needed.  At the very least, these upgrades could be a stopgap measure until the landscape can be renovated.
  • Remove large areas of high water use bluegrass and lawns, and replace with native or drought tolerant plantings.  A renovation of this sort will make the biggest impact by far.  You can covert your landscaping from one that requires a lot of water to remain healthy, to one that requires minimal water and still looks beautiful.

So there you have it.  The drought is here to stay.  Colorado is a semi-arid climate that will remain dry.  While tweaks and minor changes to irrigation systems can provide temporary relief, landscaping that requires a lot of water to stay healthy will always struggle in Colorado and the best approach is to install drought tolerant landscaping from the start, or renovate your landscaping to plantings that require less water.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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Compliance with New ADA Standards May Mean Costly Renovations

On March 15, 2012, facilities across the United States must comply with the revised ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) design standards adopted in the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

The 2010 Standards set minimum requirements for newly designed and constructed or altered State or local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

I have reviewed the new standards, and they are pretty extensive.  Property owners and designers should be aware of some of the changes that will be required when constructing or altering a facility.

The provision requiring accessible means of entry/exit for swimming pools has gained a lot of attention.  On March 15th, the US Attorney General signed an extension of 60 days for this particular provision, while also opening up a public comment period.

The swimming pool provision, along with other key new provisions, as taken from the ADA website, include:

2. Recreational Boating Facilities (Sections 235, 1003)

If boat slips are provided at a boating facility, the minimum number that must be accessible depends upon the size of the facility. Accessible boat slips must be dispersed throughout the various types of boat slips.

Where boarding piers are provided at boat launch ramps, at least 5% (but no fewer than one) must be accessible. Gangways that are part of a required accessible route are to be accessible, subject to certain enumerated exceptions.

4. Fishing Piers and Platforms (Sections 237, 1005)

Newly designed, newly constructed, or altered fishing piers must provide accessible routes, subject to the same exceptions permitted for gangways. At least 25% of guardrails or handrails must be no higher than 34 inches and must be dispersed. Clear floor or ground space must be provided at each accessible railing, and turning space must be provided on the pier.

5. Golf Facilities (Sections 238, 1006)

Newly constructed and altered golf facilities must have either an accessible route or golf car passages with a minimum width of 48 inches connecting accessible elements and spaces within the boundary of the golf course. An accessible route must be provided to the golf car rental area, bag drop-off areas, and other elements that are outside the boundary of the golf course. One or two teeing grounds (depending on the total number provided) per hole must be accessible.

If weather shelters are provided, a golf car must be able to enter and exit the shelters. Certain percentages of practice teeing grounds, practice teeing stations at driving ranges, and putting greens must be accessible.

6. Miniature Golf (Sections 239, 1007)

At least fifty percent of all holes on a miniature golf course must be accessible. These accessible holes must be consecutive, and they must be on an accessible route. The last accessible hole must be on an accessible route that connects to the course entrance or exit without going back through other holes.

7. Play Areas (Sections 240, 1008)

Play areas designed, constructed, and altered for children ages two and over in a variety of settings, including parks, schools, childcare facilities, and shopping centers, are covered.

Accessible ground and elevated play components, accessible routes, ramps and transfer systems (typically a platform or transfer steps), and accessible ground surfaces must be provided.

8. Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, and Spas (Sections 242, 1009)

Accessible means of entry/exit are required for swimming pools. Such accessible means of entry include a pool lift or sloped entry, and either a transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs. Wading pools must provide a sloped entry, and spas must provide a pool lift, transfer wall, or transfer system. Wave action pools, leisure rivers, and sand bottom pools where user access is limited to one area shall not be required to provide more than one accessible means of entry, either a pool lift, sloped entry, or a transfer system.

 This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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14 Programs That Pay You Money to Install Water Efficient Landscaping

You may have heard that you can save big bucks on water and maintenance by renovating your landscaping to be more water-efficient.

water efficient landscaping

But, did you know that Cities across the country will pay you cash to do it?

As water supplies dwindle and populations rise, many municipalities are offering great incentives for reducing water use in the landscape.  When property owners, businesses, or managers factor in the payback from these rebates along with the water and maintenance savings, a landscape renovation can make a lot of sense.

The 2 Main Types of Rebates

Generally speaking, incentives for reducing water use fall into two categories.  The first category is paying customers to remove landscapes that have high water use and replace them with attractive low water use plantings, and the second category is to provide rebates for purchasing and installing irrigation components that reduce water use and that are more efficient than older systems.

As we have discussed in the past, the real water savings (as well as the largest rebates) come from replacing high water use lawns and landscaping, with new plantings that require less water and are more adapted to the local climate.  There are many benefits to this approach- see The Top 10 Benefits of Making Landscaping More Water Efficient.

14 Specific Examples of Rebate Programs

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.75 per square foot for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates for smart controllers, rain sensors, rotary nozzles, and equipment for removing sod and placing compost.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of up to $150.00 are also offered for rainwater collection systems, and with the installation of a rainwater collection system the incentives double to $1.50 per square foot.  Residents may also receive a $20.00 credit for attending a water efficiency class.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates for smart water controllers, weather sensors, and moisture sensors for single homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates include 50% of the purchase price for valves, and $75.00 per drip zone installed.

Aurora, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.00 per square foot, up to $10,000 for single family homes, and up to $25,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates are also available for removing old hardscapes, and for seeding areas with native grasses.

Denver, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $18.50 per 1,000 gallons of water saved for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive $2.00 per efficient nozzle and $100.00 for weather-based smart controllers with rain sensors.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive $2.00 per efficient nozzle, and 25% of the cost of a smart controller.

Boulder, Colorado

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $1,000 for installing smart controllers and rain sensors.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $5,000 for installing smart controllers and rain sensors.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates are also available for rotary nozzles, mpr spray heads, pressure reducing drip valves, and backflow prevention devices specifically made for drip systems.

Louisville, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.25 per square foot for installing drought tolerant Buffalo Grass for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of $50.00 for moisture sensors, and 50% of the purchase price of a drip irrigation system are available for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Castle Rock, Colorado

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $550.00 for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $3,550.00 for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.

Additional Program Notes:  Rotary nozzle rebates are available for up to $200.00 for single family residential, and up to $2,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.  Rebates are available for 50% of the purchase price of smart controllers and rain sensors.

Peoria, Arizona

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Rebates of up to $1,650 are available for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of up to $250.00 are available for installing  smart controllers.

Chandler, Arizona

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Up to $3,000 for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $250.00 for installing smart controllers.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $1,250.00 for installing smart controllers.

Additional Program Notes:  A minimum area of 1,000 square feet of turf must be removed to qualify for turf removal incentives.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.50 to $1.00 per square foot, up to $300,000 for single family and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  50% of the cost of smart controllers, and $25.00 for rain sensors for single family and multi-family or commercial properties.

San Diego, California

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.50 per square foot up to $3,000 for single family homes, and $1.50 per square foot up to $9,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $400.00 for installing smart controllers.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive $25.00 per station up to 68 stations ($1,700) for installing a smart controller.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of $0.50 for every gallon of storage capacity up to 400 gallons are offered for rainwater collection systems.

Santa Clara, California

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.75 per square foot up to $2,000 is available for for single family homes, and $0.75 per square foot up to $20,000 is available for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates are available for smart controllers, rain sensors, rotary nozzles, and dedicated landscape meters.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of $1.50 per square foot up to $30,000 are also available for commercial properties through a “cost sharing areas” program.

Austin, Texas

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $375.00 in equipment rebates.  Multi-family properties can receive up to $500.00 for new equipment.

Additional Program Notes:  Rain water harvesting rebates of up to $5,000 are available for no-pressurized or pressurized systems.

San Antonio, Texas

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Rebates of up to $400.00 are available for reducing water bill for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of up to $3,200 are available for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.

Additional Program Notes:  Incentives are offered for capping irrigation zones and/or converting existing irrigation systems to drip.

 

These incentive and rebate programs are typically limited to a maximum allowable rebate amount based on the area of the project, and the purchase price of the irrigation components.  Many of the programs also are only available on a first come first serve basis.  With limited funding many municipalities exhaust their funds in the first few months of the year.  Other program requirements include selecting plants from specific drought tolerant or native plant lists, percentage of plant area coverage, and the make and model of irrigation components.

Because of the complexity of the projects and the paperwork involved, it may make sense to have a landscape architect assist you for a moderate fee.  These professional consultants can prepare any plans that are needed, submit applications, gain approval from local building departments and HOA’s, and maximize the potential rebate amount you will get back.

In addition, most states require a licensed landscape architect to prepare plans for any major renovation on a commercial or larger residential property.  The fees for these services are often offset by the savings that come from having a good plan that can be accurately bid and installed by contractors.

So, if you are looking to make your property more sustainable, update it’s image, and save on maintenance and water, look into what programs may be available in your area.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

 

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