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A green thumb in the sand.

In region that often pushes the boundaries on the definition of extravagance and luxury, it often easy to forget the true costs of realising such dreams, particularly in the realm of landscaping. Furthermore, the call for sustainable technologies and practices has motivated a number of organisations to rethink the design of its premises. Achieving sustainability in landscaping however, is not a concept that is introduced on a whim. For best results, the idea needs to be planted from day one.

"Rather than viewing the landscaping as a separate item requiring attention for sustainability measures, landscaping should be considered as a part of the total sustainability desire for a building," explains Simon Long, senior FM consultant, Macro International.

"This holistic approach ensures that all efforts are centred on total sustainability, rather than dealing with items in isolation."

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As one might expect, the primary challenge in achieving sustainability lies with reducing water usage as much as possible. To this end, one viable practice comprises of the use of grey water harvesting systems. Grey water is defined as wastewater generated in households or commercial buildings from a stream devoid of faecal contamination.

The reclaimed water is then distributed along a facility's irrigation system, helping to cut down on overall water usage.

Furthermore, many firms should adopt a practice of collecting cuttings for reuse as fertiliser. This includes discarded grass cuttings, dead plants and foliage.

Ultimately however, the greatest enemy to sustainability in landscaping is the weather itself. In more moderate climates, the rate of evaporation is significantly slower and more manageable than a hot and arid environment. As a result, the soil is able to retain more moisture, which in turn leads to a slow absorption rate by the vegetation.

Here in the Middle East, the best approach would be to opt for low water requiring plants or shrubs, which are indigenous to the region. This type of vegetation is more resistant to the adverse heat as well as more adaptable to the saline soil commonly found in the region.

"A desert climate in contrast has a much higher rate of absorption. To maintain plants to the same level as moderate climates, the desert plants will require a greater frequency of watering and an increased amount of water, particularly in the extremely hot summer months," explains Long.

It is a viewpoint shared by TerraVerde's Nehme J. Moujaess, who also sees the harsh weather conditions as the biggest challenge of operating in the GCC.

According to the managing director, companies stand to substantially by choosing heat and salt tolerant plants over perennial types of vegetation, which will need to be replaced on a regular basis.

"Agriculturally, it is imperative to use trees, flowers and plantation that can withstand this type of environment. We rarely use seasonal plantation unless it is requested by the client and even if we do, it will be located in an area where they are easily interchangeable," explains Moujaess.

Incepted in 2004, TerraVerde has fostered a reputation in the market for cultivating a whole portfolio of award winning landscaping projects, built with sustainability in mind. While there are a whole myriad of products and practices that can deployed to help reduce one's carbon footprint and costs, in order to reap the maximum benefits, Moujaess also agrees that a sustainable concept needs to be introduced from the get-go.

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"The thought process needs to be considered prior to any initial designing or drawing, involves looking beyond just the aesthetics and functionality of the landscape and takes into account the long-term durability, maintenance and perpetual style so that financial and environmental sustainability can be achieved," he asserts.

For example, rather than opting for a lavish courtyard filled with grass, which is difficult to maintain in abundance, companies can opt for a low-maintenance approach. In this scenario, the design limits the abundance of grass to only the appropriate areas. As a result, there is less consumption of resources during the construction phase and subsequent maintenance.

As part of its approach towards 'green', TerraVerde employs a number of products in both greenery and outdoor design.

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On the vegetation side for example, the firm's range of products include Zeoplant, a water retaining soil amendment that is produced wholly from natural materials and treated with organic components. Boasting a 420% water holding capacity over traditional options, Zeoplant could potential lead to a reduction of up to 50% in water and fertiliser utilisation.

In terms of physical assets present as part of a facility's landscaping design, sand and dust could have adverse effects on certain materials, leaving them more prone to weathering.

Equal consideration must also be made for sunlight, which can fade the colour of products that are not 100% UV protected, or covered by a light shade.

It is therefore important to consider the resiliency of products during the design stage in order to save on the long-run.

One such resilient product is TerraVerde's Duralife Decking, a LEED accredited composite decking that lasts longer than traditional wood, which is expensive and holds a small lifespan. Comprised of hardwood floor, polypropylene and reclaimed/recycled materials, DuraLife boasts the same textured surface as wood, but requires less frequent refinishing and lasts significantly longer.

One factor that many forget however, is that due to the climate, there are a high number of pests present in the environment.

Demanding the deployment of more pesticides, this can lead to a negative impact on sustainability and the environment. Choosing the right plants is therefore paramount.

"Hibiscus as an example attracts a substantial amount of white flies, whereas a desert rose doesn't. By choosing wisely, you can save a lot more than you first think," explains Moujaess.

"This again clarifies my point about choosing the right plants and optimising at the design stage," he adds.

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Publication:Construction Week
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:987
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