4 FM quick reads on grounds care
1. Concrete and Asphalt: Effective Maintenance
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, effective concrete and asphalt maintenance.
Exterior concrete and asphalt surfaces create a visitor's first impression of a facility. If drives, parking lots, and sidewalks deteriorate because they are not maintained properly, they can create problems that include poor appearance, tripping hazards, and costly repairs.
The causes of concrete and asphalt problems generally fall into three categories: design, use, and maintenance.
Design problems result from errors in material makeup, the placement of reinforcing materials, and poor support structure. One common design problem is excess water in the concrete mix. Managers need to properly specify concrete and asphalt mixes for each application and inspect them during application to ensure workers take test specimens and place the materials properly.
Another common problem is surface spalling, which results from imbedded metal around windows and other locations that strengthens concrete. Structural settling causes cracks that allow water intrusion, freezing and more cracking.
Even properly applied asphalt can develop problems that result from the effects of ultraviolet rays, water, petroleum products, and traffic. New asphalt combines asphalt-cement binder, sand and stone, and it is black. As the surface dries, asphalt turns gray from the absence of binder, and the elements begin to deteriorate it.
Managers also must be aware of unintended traffic, which can lead to premature degradation. For example, parking lots feature lanes for cars and those for trucks, which have much thicker bases.
If the design does not provide truck lanes or if trucks wander off designated lanes, they will crush the car-parking surfaces. The resulting depressions will collect standing water, and the water will turn to ice. Cracking and spalling can occur, causing damage that requires major repairs.
2. Mower Maintenance Matters
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, effective mower maintenance.
Preparing mowing equipment for the rigorous mowing season can help ensure efficient, successful mower performance.
First, managers should ensure their staffs follow the mower maintenance program outlined in each owner's manual. If mechanics and operators fail to follow the program outlined in the manual, the equipment warranty might not remain effective.
Before filling the fuel tank and mowing for the first time, mechanics should thoroughly inspect all equipment, and a mechanic should complete annual lawn mower maintenance procedures.
Operators must be sure to inspect safety features to ensure they work. Do not allow operators to override or modify safety devices. One accident can quickly negate all the benefits of saving a few minutes each day.
Attention and commitment to routine mower maintenance goes a long way to ensuring operator safety. Worn belts and brakes, loose bolts, faulty wiring, improper tire pressure and even broken seat belts can lead to injuries.
Manufacturers continually improve safety features on mowing equipment and tractors. Automatic shutoffs, ergonomic hand controls, vibration and noise reduction, roll bars, and seat belts are among the safety features included in today's mowing equipment.
Deflectors and guards are also more common on mower decks and should remain in place when mowing near streets, parking lots and other places where flying objects thrown by the mower might damage property or injure people.
Some manufactures have equipped riding mowers with back-over protection devices, which prevent the blade from turning while the mower is in reverse. These back-over protection devices might include a sensor that stops the engine or the blades or the wheels when it detects a bystander behind the machine.
Managers should set up routine equipment mower maintenance schedules before operations hit full stride. Mechanics should document their daily, weekly and monthly maintenance activities and communicate them to the operators.
3. Irrigation Spotlight: Water Conservation
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, irrigation and water conservation.
Landscape sustainability is become a hot-button issue grounds managers. It also has become a boardroom priority in many institutional and commercial facilities, and managers without a plan for sustainability soon will fall into the minority. The challenge for managers developing and implementing a plan comes from tougher local conservation rules, ever-increasing water costs, and stiffer federal regulations.
The good news is that technology has come a long way. A plethora of new techniques and technologies can help produce sustainable landscapes. Using the latest intelligent water-conservation and landscaping strategies, managers can earn a three-year return on investment, as well as pretty hefty annual cost savings.
Before specifying an irrigation system, managers will need a professional design prepared by a certified irrigation designer. This design should incorporate the latest technology and most efficient irrigation methods. The design might come with an additional cost, but the long-term return on investment will provide greater benefits.
The system also should include a smart controller to take advantage of the many new technologies available within the system. Some of these technologies include flow-control valves, soil-moisture sensors, remote-control options, and on-site weather stations. To save potable water, managers can recycle many water sources from buildings and grounds for use on landscapes. For example, managers can recycle captured rainwater, blowdown water from boilers and cooling towers, recycled gray water, and even air-conditioner condensate.
Managers also can arrange to have treated water from a public agency conveyed to the landscape for non-potable landscape use. Reusing this water creates a net benefit to the local watershed by using the landscape as a filter and part of the natural water-treatment process.
4. Water Conservation: Focus on Irrigation
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, water conservation and irrigation.
As water conservation continues its rise up the list of priorities for many grounds managers, the search continues for new strategies and areas of focus. For some facilities, the single largest user of water is the irrigation system. Reviews of irrigation-system operations show that on average, these systems waste 40 percent of the water they use. The key to minimizing water use is to limit watering schedules and volume based on plant needs and recommended schedules.
For example, crews cannot simply set watering schedules and forgot them. Water requirements change based on changes in daily temperatures, wind speed, humidity, and length of day. Setting and forgetting watering schedules not only wastes water. It can actually damage plants by overwatering.
Managers can automate watering schedules through the use of smart controllers, which monitor environmental conditions and adjust the schedule to reflect these conditions. Smart controllers keep the irrigation system off when it is raining or just after a rain, and they regulate the amount of water supplied based on actual requirements. Smart controllers on average reduce irrigation-system water requirements by 30 percent.
Another way to reduce irrigation-system water requirements is to follow the recommended watering rates for the types of plants in each area. Ideally, managers should divide the irrigation system into separate zones based not on location, but on watering requirements.