To improve and publicize the professionalism of its members, the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado annually sponsors its Excellence in Landscape Awards. For more than 20 years, ALCC has given these awards to companies for both large and small projects in multiple categories.
Judges come from leadership in the green industries of Colorado including Colorado Nursery Association, American Society of Landscape Architects and others. The judges work from slides and narrative descriptions of the projects without knowing who built, designed or entered the projects. The type, size and cost of projects make no difference in the judging. Criteria for awards include the design impact, attention to detail, degree of difficulty, overall appearance, quality of construction, quality of plant materials, and meeting the needs of the owner.
"The award program is instrumental in raising the standard of excellence in the landscape industry," says Deborah Kay, ALCC programs and education manager.
Rocky Mountain Construction is featuring two public works projects and one commercial project that ALCC recognized with awards in the 2006 competition. The common thread of the three winners is saving water, either in an irrigation application or plant selection or both. All three projects successfully conserve water while enhancing the urban ambiance through landscaping.
Award of Excellence — Xeriscape
American Civil Constructors Inc., Littleton, Colo.
To accommodate growth, the city of Arvada expanded its Ralston Water Treatment Plant. Landscaping of the three-acre site started in late summer 2003 and finished in the fall in a narrow window before winter weather. Since time was short, Mike Lee, landscape architect and Arvada manager of urban and park design, didn't have the time to develop the usual detailed drawings.
Wesley Horner, ACC manager of design-build, says, "Mike had the design in his head, and we followed him around to install it."
"It's great to work with an experienced contractor like ACC, where you can hand them rough sketches, and they understand your intention," Lee adds.
According to Horner, this was a successful way to work, particularly since Lee and his staff were usually on-site and approved the stakes before activity such as wall construction and planting.
This project started on the tail end of the drought of 2002 while Arvada was still operating under water restrictions. Because Lee wanted Arvada to demonstrate water conservation to the public, he chose xeriscape landscaping for this windy foothills location. The drought-tolerant native and tough adaptable non-native species include scrub oaks, piñon pines, spruce, burr oaks, Kentucky coffee tree, hawthorns, hackberry, rabbit brush, sumac, native roses, and currant bushes. All tree, shrub and perennial plant materials are located in planting beds, heavily covered with mulch, and separated from the lawn areas by concrete edging. This separation of plant beds and turf reduces the maintenance and mowing conflicts and allows for separate irrigation zones.
The turf is a drought-tolerant Legacy buffalo grass, a warm season grass type new to Colorado. Legacy buffalo grass has minimum mowing requirements due to its slow growth and minimum water requirements. Arvada's parks maintenance department has documented at least a 60-percent savings in water compared to parkland with bluegrass. The department has also saved at least 50 percent in maintenance for the full landscape and cut mowing costs by 75 percent.
One of the challenges of the site is the steep slope on the east side of the water treatment plant. ACC installed double-tiered retaining walls of modular concrete masonry units (CMU) ranging up to 13 feet tall. Plants at the base of the walls will cover them over time creating a natural native plant screen blending the urban buildings into the landscaping.
"I'm pleased with our attractive low-maintenance landscaping," Lee concludes.
Grand Award — Landscape Construction, Public Works & Special Improvement Areas, above $300,000
Colorado Total Maintenance (CTM), Denver
Before this project Denver parks maintenance staff had to travel to 7th and 17th Avenue parkways and manually turn the valves of the irrigation system to water the median trees and turf. Between October of 2005 and August of 2006 CTM upgraded 3 miles of the outdated irrigation system laying new mainlines and replacing manual valves with remotely controlled valves.
Managing these new systems are five Toro-Sentinel central control timers utilizing Bermad 910-WMP flow sensing. CTM installed nearly three miles of 4-inch PVC ring tight mainline and more than 200 Rainbird 2-inch EFB-CP valves.
The $750,000 project modernized the irrigation system on 7th Avenue Parkway between Williams Street and Colorado Boulevard and on 17th Avenue Parkway between Colorado and Monaco boulevards. The trees are considered a treasure. These parkways, designed by nationally known landscape architect George Kessler in 1909, are a city landmark and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Denver's City Beautiful Parkway Historic District.
"Many of the heads were broken and water was being wasted," says Chris Willis, CTM president.
A major challenge of this project was working the system around and under the large nearly 100-year-old trees without damaging the roots. CTM identified the drip lines of the trees and brought in Underground Specialties to bore in a sleeve 3 feet to 4 feet beneath the tree roots and come up on the other side of the drip line. Then workers placed pipe through the sleeves. In some areas where it was necessary to expose tree root, the crew dug carefully by hand in order to protect the roots. Denver Parks actively coordinated the installation while Underground Specialties made 45 bore shots, with the longest being more than 200 feet. More than a mile of 4-inch and 6-inch sleeving was installed under the tree drip lines and roadways.
Another challenge was the constant pedestrian traffic in an area where everyone walks their dogs and jogs down the medians. CTM crews wore bright orange vests and watched for pedestrians coming into the cone areas. The company also communicated with area residents to keep them apprised of progress through newsletters and signage.
An unexpected last minute challenge was performing three water taps the company thought would be made by the Denver Water Department. Because this issue of whose responsibility it was to make the taps jeopardized the timely completion of the project, CTM worked through the complication and installed the taps. The work included excavation, and installation of vaults and water meters.
"This job is a textbook example of how a public project could go when all parties work together for the same cause," Willis says. "This is a project contractors dream about — preserving history while improving the quality around it."
Contributing to the success of this CTM project were Denver Parks; LL Johnson, irrigation distributor, Commerce City; DBC Irrigation Supply, Denver; Applied Design Services, Parker; and Underground Specialties, boring company, Lakewood.
Grand Award — Landscape Construction, Commercial & Industrial above $300,000
ValleyCrest Landscape Development, Denver
"We achieved the intent of the owner David Liniger and Civitas, the landscape architect, to make the landscape look completely natural as if this native prairie had been here for years," says Erik Christensen, ValleyCrest Landscape Development, Parker.
On the five-acre site life-sized sculptures of Colorado wildlife look so real, one waits for them to amble across this native prairie. The landscape design incorporates a variety of grass plantings from native grasses, many which were established from seed, to ornamental grasses and formal turf.
Approximately 150 native and imported trees, hundreds of shrubs, and 40,000 ornamental grasses blend into natural landscape settings and frame more formal entries, plazas and pedestrian ways. The mature Ponderosa Pines up to 35 years old from the Black Forest look as if they grew naturally in this spot.
ValleyCrest subcontracted a natural waterfall feature in the sandstone courtyard to Colorado Hardscapes. Different types of natural stone mimic a natural Colorado stream. ValleyCrest workers placed natural boulders at the waterfall and other key locations to further reflect the Colorado outdoors.
As an experienced landscape contractor, the biggest challenge to ValleyCrest was having enough labor on site to install everything in the proper planting window so the trees, shrubs and turf were properly established by winter. Saunders Construction finished the building by late summer in 2004, and the opening was scheduled for fall. This left a 45-day window for installing the $750,000 landscaping. At peak, Christensen estimates, the company had 40 crew members working the project at a time.
ValleyCrest also installed the irrigation system which is designed to deliver the correct amounts of water to the various plantings with a variety of irrigation requirements. This promotes plant health and helps conserve water.