Forward Thinking

Have you ever had to fix or replace something that would be considered normal maintenance, only to find yourself squeezed into a corner or practically standing on your head in order to reach a screw, valve, or thing-a-ma-jig that was necessary to complete the job?  After, perhaps, a few scraped knuckles or a pinched finger and of course some choice words, you ask the inevitable question…”Who designed this?”

Well, this past weekend I found myself in just such a situation, on hands and knees for over eight hours, with a hand shovel, garden claw and gloved fingers digging into the landscaping in my backyard.  And it was what I discovered while digging in the dirt that caused me to ask “Who designed this landscaping?”  Actually I knew the answer to that question, which made the task even more aggravating.  But to understand why I was digging, a little background information is necessary.

When my wife and I bought our new, yet to be built home, we cherished the opportunity to decorate and landscape, entirely from scratch, to fit our personality.  To accomplish the landscaping goal we met with a Registered Landscape Architect to help us design our yard.  Our goal was to create a “tropical” yet water efficient landscape that did not require a lot of maintenance.  The Landscape Architect suggested a variety of plants that fit our request.  After we made our selection, the Landscape Architect drew up a beautiful design for the location of the plants.

One of the plant types that we liked was a bamboo with tall golden stalks and full green leafs.  The Landscape Architect chose a spot between the patio and block wall to plant the bamboo, and we love the look.  However, what we didn’t know at the time is that the variety of bamboo that was planted sends out rhizomes (roots that grow horizontally and send up new growth away from the main grouping).


So after a couple of years I started noticing a stray shoot that would pop up here and there to which I would simply clip at the surface.  What I didn’t realize was what was happening below the surface, and the invasiveness of this variety of plant.  Until last week that is, when my wife noticed a long crack in the grouted flagstone walkway next to our concrete patio.  The flagstone had actually been pushed up along the crack. I then suspected the worst, and as I began digging, my suspicions were confirmed when I discovered a spider web of roots radiating out from the base of the bamboo and making their way under the flagstone slab.

Mind you, not all varieties of bamboo are invasive. For instance, I have learned this week that Fargesia murielae (commonly known as Umbrella Bamboo), is a species that “clumps” instead of spreading and is more appropriate for a narrow confined area like mine.

So back to the question; “Who designed this?”  Most of the time, things are designed by professionals or experts in their field.  You hire these professionals because of the knowledge they have gained through education and experience. Professionals know and understand design tolerances, construction codes, and a multitude of other factors that many times involve life safety and health issues.

In my case, our Landscape Architect is a registered professional with years of experience.  And, while the landscaping that this professional designed was exactly what we envisioned, this professional should have been more aware of the impact these plants would have upon the surrounding space as they grow and mature.  Pretty basic stuff for an expert on plants!  I call this “Forward Thinking.” There were two simple solutions that could have prevented the damage to the flagstone slab, as well as, my swollen hands and knees.  A root barrier (which I have discovered, through reading, is recommended for this type of bamboo), should have been designed for installation at the time of planting.  Or, better yet, a “clumping” variety of plant such as the Fargesia murielae should have been recommended.

I am not really naive enough to think that a person can go through life without a scraped knuckle or two, unless of course you are wealthy enough to have someone else scrape their knuckles for you.  As the expression goes…”Ooops happens,” and life is full of events that cannot be predicted.  However, “Forward Thinking” is about taking the known facts and consequences and projecting them into the future in an effort to avoid a preventable “Ooops;” and make the unanticipated ones a little easier to manage.

So how does “Forward Thinking” pertain to civil engineering?  In the Nevada By Design book, we applyForward Thinking by analyzing known stress and failure points and making sure they are accessible should they need to be replaced!  To that end, we design a utility corridor from the street to the property that allows for easy access to cleanouts, valves and junction vaults so that if it is necessary to make repairs or upgrades to either the wet or dry utilities, they can be accomplished without having to disrupt vehicle or pedestrian traffic into the building, or destroy major infrastructure such as driveways or critical parking areas. When we are asked to design a roadway, we look at future planned development that will access that road to ensure that the pavement we design will hold up to the type of vehicles that will be riding on the surface and the predicted traffic levels. We design drainage pipe diameters for future extreme maximum storm flows to make sure your buildings are left dry. We also make sure that sewer line diameter and water line pressures are of sufficient size to handle the maxim capacity of a building so that every flush disappears and water flows from the fixtures at desired velocity.

At Nevada By Design we practice “Forward Thinking,” by designing to protect your investment into the future.


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