Mike Van Yahres is president of Van Yahres Associates, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia, a consultancy specializing in campus planning and site design. He teaches at APPA's Institute for Facilities Management and can be reached at vanyahres@aol.com. Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, a freelance writer based in Baltimore, Maryland, contributed to this article. She can be reached at rthalerc@aol.com.

Change is inevitable, but many aspects of a higher-education campus should be regarded as constant. Old buildings may be demolished or new ones built, but structures rarely move. The campus landscape tends to "stay put," although it changes in response to the seasons, weather, usage, and—perhaps most important as where facilities managers have the potential for the most impact—the level of maintenance and care.

The campus is the physical embodiment of the values of an educational institution. Among all the important components of such an environment, only the campus itself stays put. Faculty, staff, trustees, programs, students, and knowledge all change constantly. Beyond its obvious role as an aid to marketing—attracting students, faculty, and even financial support—the campus represents significant investment in the future. Campus planning and design decisions should be made in the context of the institution as an historic environment that is there for the far-reaching future. Planning for the long term means establishing which elements of a campus landscape will stay put and which will need to changed, replaced, or upgraded.

A campus, like the human body, is an organized composition with its own special anatomy. The landscape is far more than the space between buildings: it is the rational organization of outdoor spaces and everything that encompasses— pavements, walls, utilities, lighting, lawns, trees, and other plantings, signs, and furniture. The way that space is designed, used, and maintained can be crucial to the success of the school in attracting new students. It has been some time since the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching found that the campus visit was the most important deciding factor in high-school students choosing a college or university, and that 62 percent of those students said that "the appearance of the buildings and grounds" influenced their decision most. Nonetheless, we assert that the qualities and importance of the campus environment stand the test of time and remain applicable today.

If you were to gather a group of experts and walk around any contemporary campus, they probably would agree on what is good versus bad in terms of architecture, landscaping, and other elements of an attractive academic environment. It is far more important to ask which elements are enduring, simple (i.e., elegant), easy to maintain (thus designed for longevity), and fit the context of the environment in design and style. Putting all elements of a campus landscape through those filters will identify the best aspects of that environment. Today's campus facilities managers must ask themselves, and their superiors, if the result is a precedent that is worthy of being continued or indicates the new to set a new precedent that they will want to use forever.

The most common problem in identifying what should stay put on a campus and what needs to be changed is the conflict between expediency—the need to respond to an immediate need, mandate, or crisis—and thinking long term, toward investing in quality for the ongoing future. For facilities managers, this conflict often is expressed in terms of the budget. You can say no to a proposed quick fix and get fired, or you can start working toward developing a higher level understanding by the upper-level administration of the importance of maintaining elements of the landscape at a lasting level of quality.

Investing for the Long Term

The trend on campuses today seems to be low levels of spending to create a nice look that does not last (and even ends up wasting those funds because the "quick" or "cheap" fix has to be redone later). It is common for campuses to use a suburban or residential model for plant selections, for instance, selecting flowers that look pretty and colorful for a season, but do not last over time.

The ideal, however, is to look at every campus landscape project as a 50-year investment. Now is the time to establish a policy of quality over quantity, of lasting elegance over quick-fix expedience.

The facilities manager who is told to do something about paving a campus walkway or parking lot can spend less time and money now by using concrete or asphalt; brick may be considered "too expensive." It is true that brick is about three times more expensive than other materials, but it has a far longer life cycle. If there are any problems with the surface or an area beneath it, the best one can do with concrete or asphalt is to patch it. Bricks, however, have sustainability; they last longer and, even if underground repairs must be made in a bricked-over area, can be taken up and replaced.

A facilities manager told to put in a barrier or entrance sign also has a number of choices. The "quick and cheap" fix might result in a superficially attractive item that degrades and falls apart within a year or two. Something designed and installed by a professional in a more lasting material might cost more initially, but will last for many years and contribute to a sense of historical reliability that enhances the campus.

The long view goes not only for structures, pavements, and signage, but horticulture as well. The life cycle of decorative or ornamental flowers and shrubs is about ten years. The life cycle of trees and grass is 100 years. To maintain moderate tree cover on a 100-acre campus usually would require replacing five trees per acre over five years, or one tree per acre per year at about $400 per tree. Planning over five years allows facilities managers to finetune a landscape plan and spread the budget over time. Shade trees are generally large-growing, long-lived, and native to their environments, making them best fitted for long-term use. Small flowering, ornamental and exotic trees do not last as long and require more care and more frequent replacement.

Aspects to keep in mind when planning landscape maintenance for quality and longevity include the kinds of work to be done in grounds maintenance. Turf maintenance generally is the most time-consuming, at 25.7 percent of the average campus workforce's time, followed by horticulture at 20 percent. Spring and fall clean-ups (clearing winter debris or fall leaves, for instance) and edging work take about 11.4 percent each. Arboriculture comes in at 8.6 percent and flowers at 5.7 percent of the workload. It is assumed that arboriculture work would be directed by an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), whether on staff or as a consultant, and following ANSI A-300 standards.

It is worth noting that the relative complexity of work and time spent on campus landscape management programs varies with the type of landscape materials being used. Maintaining turf takes the most time, followed by ornamental horticulture and then by arboriculture (tree care), while arboriculture involves the most complexity, followed by ornamental horticulture and turf as the least complex.

This suggests that maintaining an attractive landscape of grass and turf may be time-consuming but can be accomplished with the least need for professional expertise and training, while arboriculture may require the greatest professional expertise but takes the least amount of time to maintain.

For many campus facilities management departments, staffing levels are an issue in whether the environment is managed with a short-term versus long-term mentality. Workers can provide different levels of maintenance quality depending on how much acreage is in each worker's area of responsibility. For a world-class result, such as a formal garden, one person can maintain about half an acre. It takes one person to maintain up to five acres of an ornamental, well-manicured landscape with a few flaws. That person can maintain up to ten acres of a well-maintained, park-like environment with, again, some flaws. When the space reaches 15 acres, one worker can only provide moderate maintenance for a park-like look that has significant flaws. At 20 acres, one person no longer can provide a quality result; maintenance will be flawed and the landscape will decline in quality (these calculations are for areas other than buildings, athletic fields, large parking lots or woodlands, with "park-like" involving trees and turf with limited ornamental horticulture).

This is not to say, by the way, that colorful, seasonal plantings are utterly inappropriate for the campus environment. It is to say that there should be a predominance of materials that last over time, with seasonal elements added as you have staff to maintain them properly to provide color and brightness in appropriate areas.

It is always interesting to look at how facilities managers assign their budgets for various aspects of the look of the environment. On most of the campuses that have major components of a formalized grounds management plan (and ideally a future-oriented perspective on what stays put), frequencies and schedules are the most significant elements of such plans. Quantifying tasks comes in next, followed by attention to standards and specifications, establishing maintenance zones, staff involvement, and monitoring and making adjustments.

Principles for the Long Term

Among the campus landscape elements that tend to stay put in the face of constant change are its entrances, center, and edges. These and other areas can be maintained for both the present and the future by paying attention to key principles.

First impressions are crucial to public and internal perception of an institution. While the location of an entrance tends to be static, its look may have to change as architectural and landscape design trends change. Consider using materials such as stone or brick when revamping such a landscape element, to create a look that can stay put over time.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "A university should not be a house, but a village," and that means creating an identifiable center—a place for ceremony as well as everyday campus life. That center should be part of an intentional organization of both indoor and outdoor spaces. A brick plaza, for instance, is a center space that will last over the long run and retain its beauty as well.

From where it meets its surrounding community to the scale of individual walkways, well-defined campus edges are crucial to defining spaces and creating character for all elements of the landscape. Make sure these elements are attractive and easy to maintain. Again, brick in edges and walkways are one long-term way to ensure attractiveness as well as future-oriented maintenance and value.

The landscape is central to organized circulation on any campus. Parking and traffic—both foot and vehicle—circulation are the most-studied but least-resolved issues affecting the design and maintenance of most campus landscapes. However, if parking and circulation are considered as part of the campus, they will be subject to the same values and design standards as the rest of the institution and become safe, efficient, convenient, and complementary to the overall quality of the landscape.

There is a tendency to feel pressure to beautify important areas of a campus landscape, which often results in over-design or temporary, low-budget fixes that detract from the long- term look of the place. Rushing to use materials and design details with lower installation costs also contributes to a drop in lasting quality. Rather than move too fast and create a mishmash of elements and materials, take the time to ensure that buildings and the site reflects a consistency of materials and design throughout.

Unfortunately, many campus landscapes are not designed with the time and money required for management and maintenance in mind. Such environments result in demands that easily overwhelm the resources of the physical plant staff, cancel out the potential effectiveness of exemplary design, and detract from the campus image by making it difficult to keep the space up to high standards.

The Bottom Line

Such expediency need not be the operating principle for any APPA member campus. Educating administrative higher-ups about the value of such long-range planning is key to success in these efforts. By focusing on the cost savings and staffing benefits of long-term landscape management and maintenance planning, educational facilities managers can play a vital role in creating campus environments that look great not only year-round but years from now as well.