Challenge conquered

Photo: Bobcat
Photo: Bobcat
Photo: Bobcat
Photo: Bobcat

Even with upfront challenges and unanticipated issues, landscape contractors create beautiful, functional spaces for their clients. The key in many of the projects is usability — creating unique landscapes that are practical and that will actually be used by the client at the end of installation. We talked with four different landscape contractors about how they overcame their challenges to succeed in the end.

D.C. rooftop renovation

J.B. Kline Landscaping
Laytonsville, Md.

Customer mix: 100% commercial
Service mix: 60% design/build, 40% maintenance

Set in the heart of Washington, D.C., Terrell Place is a historic building right across from Capital One Arena, home of the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

J.B. Kline Landscaping took on the challenge of renovating the building’s rooftop, which covered the eighth and ninth floors. The crews installed the rooftop’s pedestal pavers, landscaping and the intensive green roof design.

Photo: J.B. Kline Landscaping
Photo: J.B. Kline Landscaping

Pedestal pavers are typically installed in on-structure situations like above a parking garage or, in this case, across 21,000 square feet of rooftop.

“The roof membrane, drainage and all of that remain intact, and the pave deck is suspended up above it all,” says Nathan Iager, construction division manager for J.B. Kline. “In this particular scenario, the entirety of the eighth and ninth floors got custom pedestal pavers with four uniquely different colors and finishes creating a pattern with an intricate design.”

The pavers, by Nitterhouse Masonry Products in Pennsylvania, had to be craned onto the roof. Iager says that the pave deck was one of the first things that had to be completed so other trades could move in to install other aspects of the rooftop renovation.

Only able to crane materials on weekends due to Washington’s crane permits, Iager said material logistics were a significant challenge, since his team only had four days of crane use.

“In one case, we had planned two different crane days to reach the corner of a building, but there was an issue with receiving the permit for the second day,” he says.

The team had to combine two scheduled cranes into one Saturday and make adjustments accordingly.

“It was mid-November, and we had a snowstorm. But it went off flawlessly and was a big success,” he says. “I think we had about 25 to 30 employees out there to get all the soil on the roof. It worked out to be about 75 picks per crane. That’s something to be proud of.”

In that single Saturday, J.B. Kline brought up more than 120 cubic yards of soil, several pallets of plant materials and 40 tons of Mexican beach pebbles and stone.

Photo: J.B. Kline Landscaping
Photo: J.B. Kline Landscaping

“When you have a crane day, you really have to maximize the use of the crane,” Iager says. “You have to be able to bring up all your material in a single crane day even though you might be inconveniencing other trades. You have to coordinate and ask: ‘If we put these pallets here, are they going to be in your way?’”

Since there were four types of pavers, the crews and crane operators needed to know exactly where to put every pallet of pavers.

“We had a map so pavers were distributed, so we weren’t trying to move pavers across the roof,” he says. “We had to think about roof loading, because each pallet of pavers was roughly 2,400 pounds. The roof loading plan and crane plan needed to be provided to the structural engineer for review and approval beforehand.”

J.B. Kline installed the paving system and the green roof. “This green roof is unique in that it’s not just your typical sedum plantings,” he says. “This was a very intensive system with a unique grading plan where the soil actually increased in depth — up to 24 inches deep in some spots.”

The finished project won the firm a 2018 Gold Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) Awards of Excellence program.

Iager says that even with delays, the client was adamant about hitting the deadline. “The soil was craned right at the end of the project, which is why we had to run both cranes, because the client had a hard completion deadline,” he says. “One thing about landscaping — especially in commercial projects — we’re pretty much always the last crew on the job. So, a lot of times, our preferred duration can get condensed.”

Hillside retaining walls


Customer mix: 70% residential, 30% commercial
Service mix: 80% design/build, 15% maintenance, 5% enhancements/irrigation

Photo: LandPatterns
Photo: LandPatterns

For this home in Fort Worth, Texas, an extensive landscape was mapped out and created on a hillside. LandPatterns tackled the extreme elevation change with a multilevel backyard and massive retaining walls.

Marc Funderburk, president of LandPatterns, says continuous communication during the project was essential. “Our firm was the lead design firm and tasked with orchestrating all allied trades to complete the landscape,” he says.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in late April but was finished in early October, partly due to unusual weather for the area. “The project began during one of the wettest and iciest winters we have ever experienced in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” Funderburk says.

Fortunately, the client was familiar with the construction process and was understanding about the schedule delays. “Daily communication with the client and the subcontractors was essential to managing their expectations,” he says.

The property’s new home was built on a steeply sloping site with more than 60 feet of vertical change. This required an extensive amount of fill to create a suitable building pad, which intensified the backyard’s hillside.

Photo: LandPatterns
Photo: LandPatterns

LandPatterns took on the challenge of creating a usable backyard, including a patio, pool and pond. The team’s efforts won the company a 2018 Gold Award from NALP.

The fill from building the house was unstable and required soil stabilization, Funderburk says. This reinforcement was important for a tiered pool in the backyard.

The use of retaining walls helped ensure that all portions of the site could be accessed and used. “All stone gravity walls were on concrete footings with 24-inch diameter piers throughout,” he says.
The team selected drought-tolerant plant materials for the project.

“A natural pond was built on the low end of the site to manage runoff and allow the homeowner to use on-site water for irrigation,” he says.

Soil slippage, ground water seams and dewatering of piers also proved to be a major issue with the project and caused delays, according to Funderburk.

For the project’s pavers, LandPatterns brought in more fill and set the Florida-imported pavers on a polymeric sand base with grout. “All steps were cut Lueders limestone to match the pool coping and had a chipped face,” he says.

Three-phase lakeside home

Southern Landscape Group
Evington, Va.

Customer mix: 70% residential, 30% commercial
Service mix: 75% design/build, 25% maintenance

Photo: Mark Maslow, Southern Landscape Group
Photo: Mark Maslow, Southern Landscape Group

Every project has challenges, but a lakeside property can bring both beautiful views and shoreline complications.

Drainage was a main concern for this renovation because the three-acre property sloped directly toward the lakeshore. Southern Landscape Group tackled the project in three phases to accommodate the main house, a guest house and a combined movie theater/antique car garage.

The drainage solution required extensive drains, culverts and piping to reroute and control water runoff. More than a mile of underground pipes helped Southern Landscape Group meet appropriate regulations and ensure protection of the lake, which is maintained by a local power company for electrical production.

Andy White, director of preconstruction at Southern Landscape Group, says thorough site analysis and preplanning were extremely important to overcome the steep slopes. “Once work began, weather was the biggest factor in tackling the steep slopes,” he says. “Proper equipment selection was key for the execution of these areas.”

The elevation changes required extensive grading and a retaining wall installation, which Southern Landscape Group created using Yanmar excavators, Gehl track loaders and Ditch Witch SK750 and SK755 track loaders.

Photo: Craig Shaffer, Matrix Productions
Photo: Craig Shaffer, Matrix Productions

When the lawn areas were graded, areas were made for tent locations. The main foundation wall, which was 10 feet, 6 inches at its highest point and 100 feet long, consists of a 5-foot-wide footing and 1-foot-thick wall, both with 5/8-inch rebar.

“The wall was backfilled with manufactured fill material up to paver subgrade to ensure we could achieve maximum compaction,” White says.

Preplanning and design played a major role in preparing material types for this project, according to White. The main-level deck off the house uses Trex decking, and the patio areas features Techo-Bloc pavers that transition from grays and blacks to more earthy colors.

“With such a large property and multiple phases of construction, it was important to choose materials and colors that blended throughout,” he says.

Winning a 2018 Gold Award from NALP, the project boasts an infinity edge pool, pizza oven, covered porch, wood-burning pit and a cornhole lawn area — all for the clients to entertain guests. Along with entertainment, maintaining accessibility throughout the property remained key. The team selected Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting to achieve this goal.

The low-voltage lighting is seen throughout the property and highlights a late-model truck that’s partially sunken into the ground in the southwestern-themed garden near the movie theater/garage.

Meeting deadline at a Baltimore mall

Live Green Landscape Associates
Reisterstown, Md.

Customer mix: 85% commercial, 15% residential
Service mix: 85% design/build, 10% irrigation, 5% snow removal

Photo: Michael Martin, Live Green Landscape Associates
Photo: Michael Martin, Live Green Landscape Associates

A renovation at an open-air mall outside of Baltimore came with challenges for Live Green Landscape Associates. The central area was positioned between restaurants, shops and a movie theater, which all remained open for business during renovation.

Michael Martin, president of Live Green, says some of the challenges were safety, logistics, traffic, material transport, working with other trades, weather, location access and staying on schedule to meet the client’s deadline.

Live Green focused on installing only part of the extensive renovation while working alongside other trades and contractors. Live Green won a 2018 Silver Award from NALP for the completed project.
Scheduled for an unveiling in the spring, the bulk of work on the project took place during the winter.

“We were challenged with freezing and thawing temperatures, which affect when you’re able to lay brick pavers,” Martin says.

Though paver installation was on a tight and weather-dependent schedule, there was no sympathy from local retailers. “Concrete sidewalks were being torn out in front of stores, and brick pavers had to be put back in 24 hours or less,” Martin says. “The stores weren’t interested in losing customers just because new brick pavers were being installed in front of their store.”

With the cold weather, Martin says the crews had to watch temperatures closely. The pavers were set on a sand setting bed, but the company stored the sand in dump trucks indoors. “If we saw a lot of freezing temperatures, we would bring the sand back and keep it inside,” he says. “We would only spread as much sand for as many pavers as we could lay that day.”

Photo: Federal Realty
Photo: Federal Realty

The pavers were clay brick from The Belden Brick Company. They were cut with a wire, so each one’s a little different, Martin says. They can also get out of line quickly and create gaps. Martin says the Live Green crews would move pallets of pavers with Bobcat skid-steers and track loaders to different areas for installation in the road and alongside the roads once another company finished pouring concrete curbs.

Along with moving pavers, Martin says crews used a Bobcat MT52 with a trencher attachment to install the Rain Bird irrigation system.

Part of Live Green’s landscape installation included tree plantings. But the trees were so large — 10,000 pounds — that they were brought in on tractor trailers from Halka Nurseries in New Jersey, which took a lot of coordination. “We spent a lot of time communicating and talking about what we were doing, when we were doing it and making sure when we said we were going to do it, we did it,” Martin says.

Martin and his team had to shut down the whole road and bring in a crane for two days to place the trees. “I can remember one day when it was snowing — it wasn’t heavy enough for plows yet, but it was snowing, and we were craning trees in the snow,” Martin says. “People said we were crazy.”

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