SSC Grounds Department is blessed to be able to able to have such a large visual impact on the campus of Texas A&M University. The skills and talents of the Grounds staff are on full display, every day of the year, and the employees take pride in their individual responsibilities. Turf maintenance, shrub and tree care, pest control, irrigation, sanitation practices, are often the VERY FIRST thing visitors notice when they come to campus. This is the front line of creating “image” for Texas A&M, and often sets the tone for the impressions to come.

One responsibility that many are not aware of, is the design and installation of new landscape projects. Working out of the Heavy Equipment (HEQ) and Landscape Construction (LCON) Shops, the newly formed Project Management Team (PMT) works behind the scenes to develop design plans, construction documents, construction estimates, schedules, etc., in order to provide the University the much needed service of Landscape Installation. Landscape upgrades, damage repair, renovations, utility ‘put-backs,’ beautifications, are just a few of the activities that Grounds is involved with. In addition to all of the In-house construction that is performed, the PMT also oversees the organization, selection, scheduling, inspection, etc., of outside contractors that are working on University projects. In most instances, SSC Grounds will have multiple projects of its own to juggle, in addition to several different contractors on campus at the same time.

They also have to coordinate with Facilities, Planning, and Construction (FP&C) on University construction projects, as well as SSC Engineering Design and Construction Services (EDCS) on “smaller” construction projects. Tight coordination is needed with these project managers, and constant communication is required with the Office of the University Architect.

One great example of all of these moving parts, is happening right now at the Jack K. Williams Administration Building. Over the past four or five years, several renovation projects have taken place at J.K. Williams. Waterproofing, roof repair, balustrade repairs, grout/sealer replacement, are all projects that have recently been completed. These projects have taken a toll on the landscape on the east side of the building, but even before the construction projects, the landscape was in need of restoration. This VERY iconic building, which is the focal point at the end of the main entrance to campus, has been, let’s say “underwhelming,” for many years. Thousands of graduation pictures, hundreds of wedding portraits, and who knows how many other photographs, have been taking at the front steps and the entrance of this building. F.E. Geisecke designed the building with a Classical Revival style, and it deserves a first class landscape to accompany it.

Traditionally, after construction projects like these, the landscape receives what is called a “put-back.” This just means that the landscape is going to be “put-back’ to a comparable condition to what came out. In this case, that wasn’t good enough, but it was all the original project was budgeted for. SSC Grounds Project Management Team provided a design and estimate for the put-back, but was asked by Facilities and Operations to put together a more “appropriate” landscape plan. The PMT design team developed another landscape plan, but was also informed that Office of the University Architect (OUA) wanted to get involved.

It turned out that the OUA had previously been involved in a student design contest focused on that space, and the Class of ’16 was interested in participating with a class gift. The PMT designers were given a concept image of the winning student design, and asked to develop it into a workable landscape plan. An outside construction contractor was brought in to provide a cost estimate for installing the design, and everything was presented to FP&C, EDCS, and the Office of the University Architect, for approval.

The new design was approved, and the cost share funding was agreed upon between Facilities and Operations, SSC/EDCS, and the OUA, and the project is currently under construction. The communication doesn’t stop during construction, however. Our PMT had to contact EDCS to locate as-built plans from past projects, and field verify with SSC Maintenance the location of storm drains associated with the waterproofing project. As you can imagine, there are an enormous amount of “mysteries” in the ground around an eighty-nine year old building, so Utilities & Engineering Services has been called, several times, to identify and repair lines that have been uncovered.

The scope of the landscape project is fairly simple, on the surface, but just like the planning and management process, most of the important work is “underground.” Literally. The limit of work is the upper level landscape between the balustrade and the building. Twelve inches of existing soil was removed, and an improved soil mix was brought in. An extensive drainage system was installed to supplement the drainage system that was installed in one of the previous renovations. This system involves both surface drains and subterranean drains, all tied into the storm sewer system. The existing broken concrete mow edges were removed, and a simplified design called for a single concrete mow edge to replace it. The irrigation system will also be completely renovated and updated. Finally, a classic style, formal landscape planting will be installed that is period appropriate, and will complement the architecture of the building.

Multiple SSC Grounds teams have been involved in the process. In addition to the PMT orchestrating the operation, SSC Grounds LCON Irrigation, SSC Grounds Irrigation Team, SSC Grounds HEQ, SSC Grounds Fine Turf, and SSC Grounds Special Projects, have all had input or activities involved in seeing this project through. As mentioned, SSC Maintenance was brought in to help with locations of drains, and SSC EDCS has provided plan work from past projects. Great relationships and communication with UES, outside contractors, Facilities and Operations are imperative for an effort like this to be a success, and it has truly been a coordinated team effort. Regardless of what you see on the surface!

submitted by

Mike Teal

PLA | Grounds Manager HEQ/LCON

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