Commercial Landscape Design IDEAS
It's so easy for commercial property owners to underestimate how valuable landscaping elements are for both their employees and their clients. The sometimes underappreciated advertising potential of an attractive design, and the impact on the client and employee experience, often are the first casualties of recession.
Yet it does not have to be an extraordinarily expensive proposition to provide your office building with the same curb appeal you want for your home. So IB contacted several commercial landscape experts to present 10 tips on how to design an attractive commercial landscape on a modest budget.
In so doing, we found that common sense is the order of the day, no matter how large your landscaping budget happens to be.
1. Set the plan
Even though extravagance is not the goal, it still helps to plan. And even if homeowners or businesses want to install the landscaping themselves, they can still pay for a plan. In fact, if you're going to pay for anything, invest in a plan (including planting recommendations) because that will always give you a future direction if, and when, you choose to modify.
2. Connect landscape and building architectures
To begin with, it's essential to have some type of landscape theme that is connected to the architecture of the building. There is no better example of that than the State Capitol building and grounds. With its round cylinder in the middle and four wings coming off on each side, simple geometry provides landscaping clues. If planners tried to place a large prairie garden with larger areas of wildflowers and grass, it would not correspond to the architecture.
"When you try to mix in something different than what the architecture is telling you, it's going to be confusing, " said Eilbes. "The landscape should enhance the architecture, the landscape should not dominate the architecture."
3. Make the entrance obvious and welcoming
Making the building entrance obvious and welcoming is one of the primary objectives of any well-planned commercial landcape design.
Following architectural consistency, the most important step is to make the main entrance of the building as obvious and inviting as possible. This is accomplished by adding low, bright colors, "things like flowers, bright grasses, bulbs in the springtime – anything that is going to draw your eye, " Eilbes said.
"With any color or feature that is going to draw your eye toward the main entry, making it obvious where people need to go is going to be crucial in giving your customers a pleasant experience when visiting your business building."
4. Be sure clients identify with the landscape
Include a "focal point" – an entrance or monument sign or element – to draw attention to your location, and strengthen these focal identification points by providing color and visual interest. According to Justin Lee Frahm, senior landscape designer with JSD Professional Services, this can be achieved with annuals planted in the spring for a blast of color that strengthens curb appeal and interest in the company.
"Remember that first impressions count, and unfortunately people do have a tendency to judge a book by its cover, " Frahm said. "The more tidy your landscape appears, the more confidence a potential customer may have in the care of your facility, and the product or service you are marketing."
5. Visibility and visual perception go hand-in-hand
Be sure to design landscape plantings and massing for long-term maturity. As they mature, too many commercial landscapes outgrow the space allotted for them. This increases coverage and reduces visibility to your signage and vehicular entries, safety at access points, and overall curb appeal and tidiness.
If you don't have a comprehensive theme, consider establishing one, Frahm advised. This will enable people to tie all of your current or possible future locations together in a visually perceptive fashion. Examples would be a native prairie theme or any number of color themes complementing the logos or colors of the business.
6. Emphasize color, materials, and seasonal interest
Carefully consider the selection of plant materials to provide colors and even textures that match or complement the materials and colors used in the architectural style and construction of the building or residence, suggested Mike Schmeltzer, senior registered landscape architect for JSD. "Don't forget to provide seasonal interest that reflects the geographic area and climate you are planning for, " he added, "and keep in mind the four months when nothing is blooming and take advantage of plants that retain their positive visual features throughout the winter season."
He also suggests using evergreens, native grasses, and shrubs with unique form for winter interest, and also staggering bloom times to take advantage of seasonal interest and landscape color. "With conscientious effort and creative planning, fall can be a great time to showcase species that display vibrant fall color, " Schmeltzer noted.
7. Keep it safe
In a Wisconsin winter, everyone is coming and going to work in the dark, morning and late afternoon, so have low-voltage lighting, or soft and subtle lighting, to enhance the entryway and point to the entryway. "Keep things open and obvious on those walkways, " Eilbes counseled.
8. Think low maintenance
Consider how much time and commitment you want to invest in the seasonal maintenance of the final product, as time spent on maintenance can be minimized through proper planning. At the same time the landscape plan is being designed, have your designer or a contractor prepare a maintenance plan, and notes detailing the care of the landscape throughout each season.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a zero-maintenance plan, but low maintenance is achievable if you plan. "This will promote the care and ultimately the year-round tidiness of your landscape, " Schmeltzer counseled."By considering a maintenance plan prior to the installation of your landscape plan, you can eliminate headaches, unforeseen maintenance, and costly, unexpected expenses that may arise from unnecessary pruning, mortality requiring replacements, die-back, and winter damage."
Another maintenance point is to avoid overplanting, especially because you want to create an immediate effect. "Three or four years down the line, they spend a lot of time pruning and maintaining all these plants that were planted too close, " said Danny Kahrs, owner of Yakshi Landscapes.
9. Avoid whimsy unless ...
The one exception to maintaining a formal-looking landscape would be the landscape of a creative class company. Epic Systems' campus has some whimsical elements, but unless it's a private space that only employees have access to, it's best to avoid avant-gardening. "If you have a central courtyard that only employees use, that would be a place where whimsy and mystery and humor can be incorporated into a garden, but not at your main entry and not where it would be visible to your customers, " Eilbes said.
10. Green landscape or sustainable design?
The landscape design of a commercial property should enhance, not dominate, its building architecture.