Is Global Warming Affecting Redwood Trees in California?

I read a very interesting article in the L.A. Times concerning possible affects of global warming on both the Giant and Coastal Redwood tree populations in California. There might actually be some good news associated with global warming, recent scientific studies have documented growth spurts in both the coastal redwoods and giant sequoias.

Since the 1970’s, taking corings from trees more than 1,000 years old, scientists claim certain coastal redwoods have experienced the fastest growth ever. “The forests are not experiencing detrimental impacts from climate change” stated Emily Burns, science director at the Save the Redwoods League.

A variety of factors besides climate change could explain the increased growth rates said professor Stephen Sillett of Humboldt State, one of many researchers. Scientists established 16 research plots in old growth redwood and sequoia forests throughout their respective ranges. They took pencil width corings from 78 redwoods, studied the tree rings and developed a chronology dating back year 328. They also took corings from sequoias, analyzed the rings and dated the trees back to 474!

The data revealed redwood trunk growth in recent decades has “shattered” all records. The global warming records and effects on regional precipitation are less clear, indicating highly variable precipitation but overall no significant decline in the recent study areas. One theory is old giant sequoias might be growing faster because rising temperatures have extended the growing season in the Sierra Nevada.

Other theories include redwoods receiving more sun due to reduced fog in coastal climates yet still getting the precipitation they require or getting more sunlight due to a reduction in air pollution in north coastal areas from reduction in wood processing plants.

A great side benefit of the research was discovery of an ancient tree that corings revealed the oldest coastal redwood on record, 2,500 years old, besting the previous record holder by 300 years!!

When is comes to climate change, Professor Sillett added “I’m more worried about humans than I am about redwoods. I think they’re going to hold their own”. Very glad to hear this positive redwood assessment although a bit concerned about the human race.

Click to read the full article Is Climate Change Affecting Redwoods?

Unsure of What Plants to Select for Your Landscape or Garden?

The Basics on Landscape Design, Tree and Shrub Selection for Southern California Landscapes

 
I am most definitely a native SoCal.  Born in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, educated at UC Santa Barbara and California Polytechnic University, living in San Diego for many decades, I have lived in Southern California my entire life.
 
Yes, we complain when we have hot spells, (last summer was ridiculous), Santa Ana winds, and the fog, but overall, we have the best climate in the world for growing plants.  Whether for ornamental landscapes or vegetable gardening, we a blessed with a climate and environmental conditions that allow us to grow an incredible variety of trees, shrubs, ground covers, turf, vegetables and fruits pretty much 365 days a year.
 
Walk or drive throughout our neighborhoods and check out the incredible plant diversity.  We are very accustomed to the trees and plants that surround us.  However, if you are from the midwest, east coast or other parts of the country or the world, you are most likely amazed at the variety of plant material.  Botanical gardens and arboretums from Santa Barbara to San Diego boast incredible displays of plants from around the world that flourish in our mild Mediterranean climate.
 
We have neighbors recently moved to San Diego from Kansas City.  They purchased a home and want to landscape but are completely baffled about what to plant.  Obviously, the trees and shrubs they were accustomed to in Kansas City were very different from what is available for landscaping in San Diego.  I offered some suggestions to help simplify the plant selection process.
 
There are many approaches one can take to designing and installing an ornamental landscape for their home or place of business.  Using a landscape architect to design a planting and irrigation plan is an excellent choice, however it can be costly.  Landscape contractors can provide design services as part of a design build contract, however you might feel uncomfortable about possible conflict of interest, and whether the contractor is truly knowledgeable about plant material and design.  Then, there are the millions of property owners trying to do it themselves.  This article is for you!

Where to Start?

Don’t get caught up with or distracted by endless design themes and details.  If you have a certain theme in mind, fine, then you most likely already know the kinds of plant material you want to use.  I prefer to design and select plant based on the site environmental conditions matched to the cultural requirements of each plant to be used in the landscape.  What does that mean?

What are Environmental Site Conditions?

The first step in selecting plant material is determining your specific site conditions.  There are many factors that affect plant growth and they are reflected in your site.  Analyze your location and be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the site face the north (full shade), east (part shade part sun), west (part sun – full sun), or south, (full sun).  Determining the site sun exposure is one of the most important environmental conditions.
  2. What are the temperature extremes.  Does the site receive cold weather extremes such as frequent frosts, freezes, snow or hail?  Does the site receive intense heat?  Determine the temperature extremes as well as the average seasonal temperature for your location.
  3. Is the site near the coast where it will receive constant salt air and sea breezes?
  4. Is the site windy, contain microclimates, protected by a structure?
  5. Is the soil a heavy, poorly drained clay or lighter, well drained loam, or sand?
  6. Is the soil structure friable and fertile or dry and compacted?
  7. Does the site drain well or is water trapped onsite or on top of a perched water table or spring?
  8. Are there rodent or pest or disease problems?
  9. Are there physical site constraints such as overhead or underground utilities, concrete or masonry improvement?

 
These are just a sampling of typical environmental site conditions that affect plant growth.  The more you know about the site to be landscaped, the better informed you will be in order to make appropriate plant selections.
 
In the next installment, I’ll discuss plant cultural requirements and the importance of selecting plant material with cultural requirements that match the site environmental conditions, a key to successful landscape project!

Rappoport Development Consulting Services Awarded Arborist Sub-Contract on SANDAG Project

Jeremy Rappoport, President of Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC (RDCS) is pleased to announce that the company has been awarded a sub-contract agreement with Kimley-Horn and Associates (KHA) for the San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG) project South Bay Bus Rapid Transit project (SBBRT).

The South Bay Bus Rapid Transit is currently in planning and will eventually be a  21 mile service connecting the Otay Mesa international border crossing with downtown San Diego via eastern Chula Vista. The SBBRT project is being designed and built through SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments. SANDAG hired Kimley-Horn & Associates for engineering and environmental planning services for the SBBRT project, currently planned to go into service in late 2014.

The first segment of the project involves design and construction of 13-mile Bus Rapid Transit line between downtown San Diego and the Eastern Chula Vista. The route will use East Palomar Street, I-805 and state route 94 for the BRT line. The new line is expected to provide Chula Vista, National City and San Diego residents with a fast, frequent, reliable high quality transit service along arterial “transit only” lanes.

The SBBRT project will bring high speed dedicated rapid transit bus lanes and elevated platforms for easy and quick loading and unloading. The goal is to offer a mass transit alternative  along a corridor and area that currently does not have one. The BRT service will make it faster and easier for commuters to use mass transit because the specially constructed buses will use “transit priority” lanes, combined with traffic signal improvements, fewer station stops and real time passenger and bus information.

East Palomar Street is a major arterial street with an east-west alignment. A portion of the SBBRT is currently being designed and engineered by Kimley-Horn and Associates, a national design, engineering, and environmental engineering and consulting firm, with local offices in San Diego. The high speed bus lanes are designed to be constructed in the existing median strip and median planters that exist along East Palomar Street. New bus stations will also be built in close proximity to the high speed bus lanes for easy, safe egress and access to the buses.

East Palomar Street medians and right of ways contain over 1,500 existing trees and palm trees along a 3.5 mile portion of the SBBRT alignment. Plans call for demolition and removal of all trees within the medians and the right of ways. KHA sub-contracted with Rappoport Development Consulting Services for environmental consulting services including certified arborist, horticulture and landscape consulting services. RDCS will provide  tree inventory summarizing the quantity of various tree species, tree condition, and maintenance needs. The findings will be summarized in an arborist report including analysis and recommendations for disposition of the existing trees. Additional scope includes tree labeling,  developing an opinion of costs, tree related specifications, details and best management practices.

Portions of East Palomar Street were developed anticipating the design and construction of future bus lanes within the medians. In those areas where the bus lanes were anticipated, trees were planted within the outside portion of each median to accommodate new lanes within the median between rows of trees, and it is hoped many of the existing Mexican Fan Palms can be re-used with minor relocation within the newly design medians. In older portions of East Palomar Street, the future high speed bus lanes were not planned for and existing medians contain trees located in the center of the median that will have to be removed. The street width must be widened within the north and south right of ways to accommodate the new bus lanes within the center of the street.

The current street tree plantings along East Palomar Street are dominated by two trees, Pyrus calleryana, known as the Bradford Pear and Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican Fan Palm. Secondary trees include Koelruetaria bipinnata, the Golden Rain Tree and Corymbia ficifolia, the Red Flowering Gum. In general, the street tree theme has a formal emphasis with trees planted in centered row alignment. The Bradford Pear is a heavily used street tree in Chula Vista. The tree goes deciduous through the winter then produces a massive profusion of white flowers in the late spring. While an extremely showy tree during flower, after it flowers it becomes a shade tree and can be boring when overused.

The Mexican Fan palm is iconic to the City of Chula Vista and Southern California in general. Most of the palm trees are 17 to 25 feet tall and provide a architectural form the palm is famous for. It is anticipated most of the existing palm trees will be reused in the new bus lane street tree planting.  A certain number of the palms will remain in their current location while others are relocated to select areas of the project.

RDCS is certified by the California Department of General Services as a small business enterprise. RDCS LLC set a precedent being the first certified arborist consultant approved by SANDAG to the SANDAG A&E Bench (Architectural and Engineering).

With this designation from SANDAG, RDCS continues to raise awareness about the importance of our urban forest and the positive attributes a certified arborist and professional horticulturist can bring to a public works project. Jeremy Rappoport, President of RDCS expects to team with the in house landscape architectural team and various project stakeholders in developing and selecting a new, exciting and climate appropriate street tree palette for the SBBRT project.

RDCS LLC is an approved small business on call sub-consultant for Master Engineering, Architectural and Environmental consulting firms throughout California. Jeremy Rappoport, President of RDCS LLC, is a former director of land development, land development manager, purchasing agent, landscape and grading superintendent for public and private master development companies and homebuilders. Jeremy is a C-27 California landscape contractor and professional horticulturist, with a B.S. degree in Ornamental Horticulture from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Mr. Rappoport combines credentials as a certified arborist, certified tree risk assessor, C-27 landscape contractor and decades of land development expertise with a B.S. degree, continuing education and training to provide commercial, professional tree, plant, landscape and land development consulting

Rappoport Development Consulting Services Sets New Precedent, Approved as a SANDAG A&E Bench Consultant

Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC (RDCS), was recently approved as a SANDAG A&E Bench Consultant. Who is SANDAG and what is the A&E Bench? If you are a prime consultant, prime contractor or vendor providing design, engineering, construction and procurement services within San Diego County, read on!

Who Is SANDAG and What do They Do?

SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments is a public agency comprised of eighteen cities and county government. SANDAG builds consensus and serves as a forum for regional decision making. The agency is responsible for strategic planning, and allocation of resources such as planning and engineering for building public transportation projects.

SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors including mayors, county supervisors, and council-members representing the region’s nineteen local governments. Additional advisory representatives are from the Imperial County, U.S. Department of Defense, Caltrans, San Diego Unified Port District, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, San Diego County Water Authority, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, and Mexico.  The Policy Advisory Committees assist the Board of Directors in carrying out the agency’s work program.

In January of 2003, state law consolidated SANDAG’s responsibility with many of the transit functions of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board and the North San Diego County Transit Development Board. This allowed SANDAG to assume full control over transit planning, project development and eventual project construction within the San Diego region.

What is the A&E Bench?

In their role as a planning, design and construction management agency, SANDAG maintains a contracting and procurement website seeking firms to register for a variety of services including:

– Construction, general contractors, and construction management
– Engineering, design, planning and environmental
– Technical  services, GIS mapping, software development
– Marketing and public outreach
– Financial, legal, consulting, and training services
– Computer, copy equipment and office supplies

The SANDAG website welcomes registered prime contractors and engineering consultants to visit the A&E Bench section of the website. The Architecture and Engineering (A&E) Bench is comprised of small business firms for On-Call Architecture and Engineering Design and Environmental programs.  A&E Bench consultant contracts provide sub-consultant services for transportation and infrastructure projects throughout San Diego County. Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) and Small Business (SB) firms are encouraged to join the “Bench” to participate in meeting these efforts.

Bench consultants include A&E firms that are certified as DBE by the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP )or SB by the Department of General Services. (DGS). The Bench is open to DBE and SB firms that provides a variety of professional A&E services. The Bench serves as a pool of certified firms that prime engineering consultants and general contractors may access to work on their SANDAG project.

Rappoport Development Consulting Services Added to the A&E Bench!

Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC is a registered SANDAG vendor #216240. RDCS LLC is now an approved A&E Bench consultant.  RDCS is proud to be the FIRST certified arborist consultant added to the SANDAG A&E Bench.  RDCS LLC is certified by the California Department of General Services as a Micro Small Business #1665480 and is so listed as a SANDAG A&E Bench consultant.

Prime engineering consultants and prime contractors providing services to SANDAG can now benefit by using a certified small business sub-consultant for tree, arboriculture science and arborist issues.  Transit and infra-structure projects often impact existing tree populations that require data collection, analysis and consideration of best management practices.  Typical arborist consulting services may include  tree tagging, labeling and tree inventory, tree risk assessment, tree health assessment, tree appraisals and valuation, developing tree construction protection plans and best management practices, tree management programs and field construction supervision, observations and arborist reports.

Since many SANDAG projects are transportation related, existing tree populations may affect the design, development and construction for transportation corridors.  By adding RDCS to the A&E Bench,  SANDAG recognizes the importance of preserving our existing urban forests and street trees while developing new transportation routes.  Providing a certified arborist, landscape and horticulture professional to the A&A Bench allows prime consultants and contractors  the opportunity to seek a SANDAG approved professional certified arborist, landscape, tree and plant consultant.  Engineering, landscape architect and environmental planning firms can now benefit using an approved small business SANDAG A&E Bench consulting arborist, saving the hassle of having to search for an unapproved consultant and try to qualify them with SANDAG.  In certain instances, a prime consultant or contractor may receive favorable consideration and or financial incentive using an certified small business.

Jeremy Rappoport is a  certified arborist WE-9083A, a certified tree risk assessor CTRA 1220, a licensed C-27 landscape contractor #436000, professional horticulturist with a B.S. degree from California Polytechnic University Pomona, California and an experienced land development construction professional.

RDCS certified small business

Rappoport Development Consulting Services received approval from the California Department of General Services as a certified small business (SB).  Each certified SB receives a five percent (5%) bid preference on applicable solicitations.  Master
consultants and general contractors bidding California public works projects may receive a 5% preference using a RDCS LLC as a certified arborist sub-consultant.

In related news, with the certification of RDCS LLC as a small business, RDCS LLC is an approved A&E Bench Consultant for SANDAG projects.  Master consultants choose to seek certified arborist sub-proposals from RDCS LLC for SANDAG public works projects throughout San Diego county.  This is a tremendous benefit for master environmental and engineering consulting firms to add RDCS LLC to list of qualified certified arborist sub-consultants.

Environmental and Engineering firms working on large transportation, utility, and infra-structure public works and private improvement projects often times experience issues related to existing trees located in the path of or adjacent to public and private improvement projects.  When this occurs, agencies may require using a certified arborist as a sub-consultant.

As a sub-consultant to environmental and engineering firms, as well as general contractors, RDCS LLC provides multiple consulting services including:

  • Tree Inventories
  • Tree risk and health assessment
  • Tree construction protection and preservation plans
  • Tree Best Management Practices (BMP’s)
  • Tree appraisals.
  • Tree risk and tree management plans.
  • Field monitoring, inspections, supervision

General Consultants and Contractors can now benefit by having a professional, certified arborist consultant and receive a 5% bid preference using a  California certified small business

Give Jeremy Rappoport a call at 858-205-4748

State of CA. SBE Certification03072012_00001

Landscape and Maintenance Contractors, are You Creating a Trip and Fall Hazard?

Landscape construction and maintenance contractors face numerous challenges in today’s business marketplace. Since the economic downturn, competition for landscape work has become even more difficult with companies reducing profit margins, cutting expenses and just trying to get by. Homeowner associations turn over officers and maintenance contracts annually, while unscrupulous and sometimes unlicensed gardeners and “landscapers” use low ball pricing to obtain work. Competition, licensing, the economy all conspire to make it increasingly difficult for reputable, licensed landscape and maintenance contractors and tree service companies to provide quality installation, maintenance and tree services at a reasonable cost.

Depending on the industry, landscape construction and maintenance standards and specifications vary dramatically. Public works, commercial, sub-division and other types of large-scale landscape projects typically utilize a landscape architect for conceptual design, working drawings and construction plans. The landscape plans not only illustrate plant and tree location and size, but also provide notes, details and specifications concerning construction technique. Contract documents are usually robust and include a full set of landscape and irrigation plans, details, specifications, sometimes soil reports, soil tests and related construction drawings that may include grading, drainage, underground utilities and other construction drawings.

This level of commercial landscape is usually the most inspected and regulated form of landscape construction work. The contractor bids the work according to the plans and specifications provided by a third party professional (the landscape architect). If awarded the contract, the contractor must install the work consistent with the landscape plans and specifications. Government, commercial and large scale landscape projects often refer to standards established by the Public Works Green Book, or local, County or State landscape standards and specifications.

Government, public works, sub-division and commercial landscape projects are designed and inspected by third party professionals to help insure the landscape contractor has completed the project in substantial conformance to the contract documents. One of the primary drivers for this level of professional design and scrutiny is to ensure the product will grow and flourish while at the same time providing for public safety.

Got Plans?

Not all landscape projects are for government, public works, commercial and sub-division construction. Residential and commercial landscape projects such as condominium, apartment, and multi-family projects managed by homeowner associations and property management companies sometimes do not utilize a landscape architect or landscape design professional. When a project does not have a set of landscape plans, drawings, details, and specifications, bidding, construction, installation and maintenance can become challenging and problematic.

As mentioned earlier, landscape plans, details and specifications are the roadmap for contractors to follow when bidding, constructing, maintaining or servicing a project. The contractor is directed how, when and where to install the various project elements. Therefore, when an Owner or General Contractor requests a landscape proposal without providing plans, the contractor is free to bid the work however they see fit. This also places the contractor in the role of a landscape design professional; a role the contractor is not trained or licensed for. This situation may also create a conflict of interest and removes inspection safeguards by a third party. Worse still is when an Owner requests a gardener or handyman to bid landscape work without any plans or contract documents.

The landscape, irrigation, arboriculture and nursery industries continue to grow and innovate, in response, local government agencies, industry associations, landscape architects and certified arborists have developed numerous landscape, irrigation, construction installation and maintenance specifications and standards. The purpose behind developing and implementing landscape standards is to continually work at improving the level of landscape consistency and professionalism while at the same time producing a vigorous, living product that does not pose a safety hazard or endanger public safety.

Value Engineering Your Way to a Lawsuit?

Whether a project comes with a set of plans or not, the Owner may be looking for a way to reduce costs. This might lead the Owner to request “value engineering” from the landscape contractor. Value engineering is the process whereby certain items bid in a project may be reduced in size, quantity, manufacturer, or other method to reduce the cost of the installed item, while still delivering the minimum required performance, thus providing a certain “value” to the Owner. Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors can manipulate value engineering as a means to lower their proposal to obtain the job, then installing products far below the original specification and not delivering any “value” but instead a poor quality product.

Using a contractor to provide value-engineering suggestions can be a valuable, cost saving tool, however it should not be used during the bid process or in selecting a contractor. To avoid conflict of interest, value-engineering suggestions by a contractor should be closely reviewed by the Owner and third party landscape professionals for functionality and safety considerations. Sometimes, very simple changes can have drastic safety implications. Changing sprinkler head type, reducing specifications for root barrier, even thickness of a layer of bark mulch can have serious legal consequences.

Cheap Installation Versus Expensive Lawsuit

As a landscape expert witness, I have been involved in a number of trip and fall lawsuits. A common trip and fall hazard relates to sprinkler heads, particularly the use of a shrub head on a riser versus using a pop-up sprinkler head. Industry standards and regional specifications typically require pop-up type sprinkler heads adjacent to paved surfaces including sidewalks, curbs, pathways, driveways or other paved or sometimes unpaved surfaces, wherever pedestrian use is expected. The reason is simple, to keep the sprinkler head retracted below the turf grade when not in operation so pedestrians will not trip over a sprinkler head when walking adjacent to turf areas.

A shrub head on a riser is just as the name implies. It is usually a spray orrotor type shrub head that sits atop a rigid schedule 40 or schedule 80 PVC plastic riser. The riser or nipple, may be twelve to eighteen inches above adjacent grade and is often times staked in place using metal stakes or even steel rebar. This type of assembly is fixed in place and does not retract.

There is perfect reason and justification for using spray head on risers. They are cheaper than pop-up head assemblies; perform well and are safe to use when not adjacent to pedestrian or vehicular use. They work well at the back of planters and on slopes. Pop-up heads are the industry standard for using in turf and planter areas adjacent to pedestrian and vehicular traffic areas. Pop-up heads are manufactured in a range of sizes to accommodate the intended use. Four inch pop-up heads are the standard for turf areas while twelve or eighteen inch pop-up heads are used in planters, shrub beds and slopes that are adjacent to streets and sidewalks. Due to their more complex construction and increased installation time, pop-up heads cost more to install than a shrub head on a riser.

For projects with plans and specifications, the contractor does not get to decide what type of sprinkler head to install. For projects that are cost driven without plans or specifications, the Owner may direct or request the contractor to reduce the cost by substituting or “value engineering” their proposal. In this instance, an uninformed, inexperienced contractor may suggest using shrub head on riser rather than pop-up heads to save money. Worse still is when an uninformed Owner requests a proposal from a gardener or handyman without any idea of what this unlicensed individual is going to install.

This is a short-sided and potentially risky decision to undertake as minor cost savings by changing to a cheaper sprinkler head installations may result in a trip and fall lawsuit that could cost far more than any savings derived by using a cheap sprinkler head installation. I worked for a plaintiff attorney whose client tripped over a shrub head on a riser that was placed in a small planter adjacent to the service walk to the front door of the house. The homeowner tripped over the sprinkler, fell and crashed into the front door, breaking a spinal vertebrae resulting in paralysis. After reviewing the pictures, documents and inspecting the local and state irrigation specifications, it became clear the contractor violated state irrigations standards by not installing pop-up heads adjacent to concrete sidewalks as specified by the agency. The case settled in favor of the plaintiff for over seven figures. Probably not what the Owner expected when he allowed the contractor to install improper sprinkler heads to save some money.

Installation vs. Maintenance Contractor (or who blew it?)

Depending on the nature of the accident, landscape construction negligence and trip and fall cases may involve the construction installation contractor and or the landscape maintenance contractor. Determining fault may require examination of the original contract documents, plans, specifications and Inspection records. Experience maintenance contractors taking over a new project or an older project from another contractor understand the importance of documenting the performance and safety deficiencies during the initial inspection. They can then inform the property management company or homeowner association of these deficiencies at the earliest opportunity. This informed, pro-active form of maintenance forms the basis of a legal defense in the event the documented defect later becomes the basis for a lawsuit.

Another case example: There were shrub heads on fixed risers at the bottom of the slope. Most of the risers were a couple of inches away from the sidewalk, but a couple risers had been tilted back to adjust the angle of the spray head upward due to buildup of slope vegetation over the years. Rather than excavate and properly reset the heads at a correct angle, someone just tilted the heads back, added additional riser height to clear the shrubs. In so doing, a few of the sprinkler heads inadvertently crossed the perpendicular plane of the inside of the adjacent sidewalk. A female jogger and friend are conversing as they jogged past the slope. Suddenly, one of the joggers caught her clothing on a sprinkler head, causing her to trip, fall and break her wrist. Who made the mistake, the original contractor installing shrub head on riser next to a sidewalk or the maintenance contractor who modified the installation resulting in the sprinkler head encroaching the sidewalk public right of way?

 

Install it Right and Avoid a Fight

A family is at a Sunday outdoor concert, they decide to get some ice cream, but the sidewalk is too crowded, so they follow others and cut across a planter area. Unfortunately, the mother tripped over an irrigation remote control valve box, fell and broke her ankle and suffered other injuries. She experienced months of painful rehabilitation and loss of work, eventually suing the HOA and the maintenance contractor for construction negligence. Upon review of the pictures and documents, the remote control valve box was three inches out of grade. Additionally, specifications provided the top of box no more than 11/2” to 2” higher than surrounding grade and there be a two-inch layer of bark mulch in the planter area. There was no bark mulch and the valve box was too high. Did the installation contractor install the valve box incorrectly? Was the maintenance contractor at fault for not supplementing the required layer of bark mulch? The maintenance contractor and Owner failed to adhere to the contract specifications resulting in a foreseeable accident. Had the contractor installed the valve box properly and or refreshed the layer of bark mulch, the accident and lawsuit could have been avoided.

Protect Your Work In Place

Landscape contractors are usually one of the last contractors or trades used on a construction project. Occasionally. a landscape contractor is scheduled to install work prior to other contractors working on the project. When this occurs, an experienced landscape contractor understands the importance of documenting their completed work, having it tested and inspected by the Owner, architect of General Contractor. Once the work is completed, other trades and the General Contractor and Owner have the responsibility to protect your work in place. If others damage your work, the Owner or General Contractor is responsible for notifying you of the damaged work and providing you the opportunity to repair and retest the work.

The Owner or General Contractor who fails to notify the Landscape Contractor of their work damaged by others runs the risk of construction negligence. I worked for a defendant attorney, his landscape contractor client worked for a General Contractor on a public works project. The General Contactor (GC) requested the Landscape Contractor to install a temporary two-inch on grade mainline during construction. There were no plans or specifications, the superintendent for the GC directed the landscape contractor where and how to install, thereby providing his own specifications. After completion, the work was inspected and approved by the GC and Landscape Contractor. After completing the work, the Landscape Contractor was no longer needed or contacted for over four months.

Three months later, on a labor-day weekend, the on-grade mainline exploded, flooding the project and all of the concrete footing and caisson trenches, requiring over $150,000 in repair costs. The GC sued the landscape contractor for construction negligence. However, during discovery it became apparent the on-grade mainline had been damage on three other occasions by other contractors and been modified by city forces at the request of the General Contractor. The GC never notified the landscape contractor their mainline had been damaged and repaired by others on three occasions, with the final repair causing the mainline to fail. The defendant prevailed in mediation.

Where to Start?

In my days of active landscape contracting, I was so busy running the daily business operations; safety and legal implications were rarely considered. In today’s litigious society, can you afford to make a mistake resulting in a construction negligence lawsuit? Viewing your work from an objective third party perspective can be extremely important and valuable. It is easy to miss mistakes, defects and potential safety hazards during construction and even post construction during inspections. Typically, inspections focus on performance, plant establishment, irrigation coverage, weeds and other landscape related items. Conformance to plan and contract documents may or may not be addressed and rarely do inspections focus on future safety issues and hazards.

Taking pro-active measures to ensure contract conformance and compliance should be viewed as a high priority. Make use of the inspection period to document everything about the project and what was installed. Note the condition and existence of surrounding properties and improvements. Take pictures of everything, your work, the overall site and adjacent conditions that might impact your project. If possible, use a third party consultant to inspect your project from a risk management perspective. Check for surface elevation discrepancies, root encroachment, sprinkler heads, valve boxes and other landscape appurtenances that could cause or be a trip and fall hazard. Inspect for overhead limbs and branches and obstructions that might cause injury or property damage. Observe sight lines to ensure the landscape plant material, meters, and controller enclosure do not block vehicular sight lines at traffic intersections or radial curves.

Lastly, create a mindset for yourself and company toward creating functional, beautiful landscapes that do not create a safety risk or potential hazard to the client, public or property. Create an inspection and documentation procedure aimed at minimizing risk and providing superior customer service. Ultimately, this will benefit you, your company and your clients.