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The Cost of Maintenance: One Duke Greenspace


By Dan Hounsell Grounds Management
Duke University greenspace

How much does maintenance cost?

The question isn’t how much deferred maintenance a particular facility has, or how large the budget is for staffing a maintenance department. No, the question is, how much does it cost to maintain a specific area or asset of an institutional or commercial facility?

Students at Duke University now know the cost to maintain Abele Quad — “one of the first things to greet visitors to the University” — is $150,000 annually, thanks to Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle.

The Abele Quad lawn is a cool-season grass best suited for spring and fall climates, says Scott Thompson, Duke’s superintendent of grounds in an email to the newspaper. During the summer and winter, the grounds staff primarily focuses on preventative maintenance, including “pest-monitoring, irrigating for plant health and mowing when needed,” he says. During the busy season of grass care, the grounds staff works on irrigation, aeration, fertilization, seeding, edging and monitoring for diseases.

“For larger events, we will cover the lawn with event flooring to try and mitigate any damage,” Thompson wrote. “We also reduce irrigation to help keep the ground surface firm prior to it receiving heavy foot traffic.”

Says John Noonan, Duke’s vice president for facilities, “It has been studied and verified that student decisions to attend and stay at a school can also [be] related to the appearance of its buildings and landscape.” He added that there is no specific individual donor for the Abele Quad grass, unlike certain lawns at Duke. Noonan wrote that the cost of other landscaping on campus, such as that around the Brodhead Center and Rubenstein Library, is covered by specific donors as part of the overall cost of the building’s project.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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