California and the west are currently in the midst of a mega-drought, one that some experts say is the worst in 1200 years. With restrictions on water usage becoming increasingly extreme, landlords and tenants are looking for new ways to green buildings and reduce water use while maintaining an attractive appearance.
One of the most effective ways to achieve drastic reductions in water usage is to replace grass with mulch-based landscaping, a process known as turf conversion. Clear Blue Commercial specializes in helping clients with turf conversion projects, offering a clear step-by-step process for replacing water-hungry lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes.
Not only do mulch-based landscape alternatives save on water bills, they can reduce maintenance costs as well, translating to a significant effect on landlords’ and tenants’ bottom lines. Landlords and tenants that undertake turf conversions can expect to recoup the investment within 5 to 6 years depending on the type of new landscaping installed.
With many cities and counties instituting severe limits on landscape watering, commercial properties are suffering in appearance as well as higher water bills, with dry brown lawns where green grass once grew. In some cities and counties, water usage has been slashed by a third and outdoor watering reduced to two days a week, not nearly enough to keep grass healthy and green. Properties that replace lawns with water-saving landscaping will see results immediately, both in water bill reductions and in improved appearance. Drought-tolerant and native plant landscaping, sometimes called xeriscape, also makes for good “optics,” establishing property owners as conscientious members of the community.
“Appraisers need to understand that these green upgrades have real value,” says Carolyn Pistone, President and Managing Director of Clear Blue Commercial. “Property owners are going to have to make changes to decrease water usage, and turf conversions are one of the most effective ways to do this.”
As a full-service management and leasing company with a strong commitment to sustainability, Clear Blue Commercial helps landlords and tenants undertake turf conversions at minimal cost and maximum speed.
Clear Blue Commercial established the company’s leadership in the area of turf conversion in 2015 with the largest recorded one-day lawn-to-mulch transformation of a commercial property, turning 64,000 square feet of lawn into drought-tolerant landscaping and saving a business park 1.6 billion gallons of water a year. Partnering with the City of Petaluma, the county water agency, local non-profits and landscaping and irrigation companies, Clear Blue Commercial created a blueprint for others to follow. The day-long effort was organized as a fun community event complete with music by a local band and food provided by local restaurants.
While a 64,000-square-foot turf conversion program would typically take 4-6 weeks to complete and cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the collective effort spearheaded by Clear Blue Commercial delivered the new landscape at a cost of just $75,000. Since then, Clear Blue Commercial has led turf conversion efforts at numerous properties, and is currently working with a northern California city on a major effort now in the planning phase.
Companies seeking to do turf conversions at minimal expense can follow Clear Blue Commercial’s model of partnering with community groups, governments, local agencies, and environmental action networks invested in reducing community water use. “It’s all of our water, and landlords and tenants need to look at this as a long-term investment, both in their businesses and in the community,” says Pistone.
Commercial real estate properties can also take advantage of new turf replacement rebate programs instituted by cities and counties throughout California and the West. These “grass for cash” programs offer commercial and individual customers per-square-foot rebates on water costs when they convert existing areas of grass to drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial turf. In many cases, these rebates are quite substantial and can save a commercial property a significant proportion of xeriscape landscaping costs.
“This is a case where business and community interests are aligned in a common goal,” says Pistone. Clear Blue Commercial can work with commercial properties to undertake turf conversion projects that do right by their communities and make good business sense at the same time.