LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE AUDITS

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By Jo-Anne Hilliar, Landscape Design Consultants International (LDCI)

Jo-Anne Hilliar of LDCI has been involved in landscape maintenance audits for several years, in South Africa and now mainly in Mauritius. The article below explains her work.

A landscape maintenance audit is a comprehensive audit evaluation, together with basic gardening skills training, which goes hand in hand in terms of providing improvement in conducting and ensuring a well-maintained landscape. This will then bring a different perspective to the overall evaluation over time and the audit rating of the site.

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The audits are conducted on foot and highlight issues on site which relate to good garden management and maintenance, together with a considered view on the overall appeal of the landscape. Follow-on audits incorporate basic gardening skills training at the same time, and Hilliar reflects on skills development for the gardeners on site, thus the approach is two-fold. The audits are very comprehensive, incorporating a detailed audit evaluation report, together with on-site feedback on basic skills training as the audit is taking place.

The on-site supervisors or managers are also thoroughly trained to provide the gardening skills that are taught as the audit is being conducted, together with an understanding of improvements to take place.  Audit ratings are conducted every six months. In this way, the sites have to maintain a high standard of improvement in ratings in order to meet the client’s expectations.

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Audit outcomes
Hilliar works closely with site contractual staff and gardening staff as the audits proceed, in order to set goals and objectives for improvement. Regular onsite landscape audits are part of the ongoing management focus.

She assists in organogram structures to assess the ability of staff to do the job and to ensure that consistent delivery structures are in place.

There is a comprehensive report back on all the sites, with contractual staff available to assess the onsite training improvements as the audits progress over time.

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Other aspects of the audit outcome are:
1.    to determine high visual areas and ensure zero tolerance for sub-standard maintenance delivery;
2.    to agree with the site supervisors on an efficient maintenance delivery plan, incorporating onsite skills training development;
3.    to ensure that the onsite supervisors continually communicate the work activities that need to be improved upon, and to ensure that all staff on that contract are correctly allocated and positioned daily to achieve accountability for delivery;
4.    LDCI sets the correct work ethics to get the job done over a specific time frame for each site;
5.    the audits ensure that high standards of maintenance delivery are being achieved daily. There is zero tolerance for basic maintenance activities that are not being achieved i.e. tidy sites, good plant coverage, weed free, correct pruning, sweeping, grass cutting and edging, all professionally executed together with good aeration methodology practiced;
6.    during the audit, the correct spits and divides, and filling of gaps as part of the maintenance contract, are discussed and demonstrated. They are again assessed for improvement as the projects are audited on a consistent basis;
7.    all gardens are assessed in terms of horticultural upgrade, together with specific design issues that need to be undertaken.

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