The Site Survey
A site survey (often called the site inventory) involves a specific and honest evaluation of the property. It includes categories like existing plants and structures, good and bad views, soil, drainage, and site topography. Measurements are also taken during the site survey to accurately locate these areas.
It is often difficult for someone who lives or works in direct proximity to a site to see what others do when they observe or pass through that same area. This is not only true of what we directly see in the landscape (a photographic view), but is especially true of the support structure we do not see; i.e., soil and drainage.
Like the interview, a site survey should include information from the property owner, the landscape architect or designer, and the individual ultimately responsible for the ongoing maintenance. The site survey team should walk and talk about the property together.Example Form
For example: In a newly constructed landscape, a plant may die and be replaced, only to die and be replaced again, or the plant might hang on for months in poor condition while secondary problems such as insects and diseases move in. The real problem, poor drainage, should have been recognized during the site survey.
It is easy to try to micro-manage failing plants, increasing labor inputs, dollars, and supplies, trying to guess what the problem is.
If the drainage problem had been identified and solved during the site survey process, or another plant had been chosen that would grow in a wet environment, the sustainability of that plant in the landscape would have been improved.
A site survey is a process of collecting information. If done correctly, it will point out all important site characteristics. It will include positive features as well as problem areas that may have a negative impact on the landscape and ultimately reduce sustainability.
Money spent improving site problems prior to installation is not as evident as the money spent on the visible components of the landscape. Attention to site preparation will reduce annual maintenance and replacement costs, saving money in the long term.
Rushing to complete a landscape by ignoring a site survey is never conducive to developing a sustainable landscape.