In all forms of business, owners should have a plan of action, andour industry is no different. To help avoid periodic pitfalls, a good business owner should have a series of checks and balances to assist with overcoming any potentially damaging issues or situations and track the success or failure of these issues from one project to the next. This can give you a great advantage in actually being successful.
Some businesses use S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to help identify specific areas of focus, but I use the four O’s method that fits nicely with water feature design and installation. The four O’s are:
A generalized look at the project being proposed.
A list of all of the goals you wish to achieve.
A detailed look at issues that may conflict with the project’s success.
A final look at what was actually accomplished.
By recording and tracking these categories, we are able to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, as well as the associated costs of each step. This makes it quite clear how each area affected our profit or ability to stay in business.
Let’s take a closer look at a recently completed philanthropy project in Léogâne, Haiti following the devastating earthquake that occurred in early 2010.
OVERVIEW:The location of our project was a children’s hospital facility, where the staff wanted a low-maintenance landscape area installed just outside the children’s residential wing, providing a quiet place where children could escape the confines of their hospital stay and enjoy the pleasant aesthetics of nature. Prior to the installation of our project there was no formal landscape plan. Furthermore, the area was in the middle of the epicenter of the recent earthquake, which completely destroyed anything that may have previously existed. The area was also heavily looted after the disaster and anything of any useful value that was not firmly anchored was simply carted off and reused by anyone who could carry it. So anything not tied down was gone and the entire area looked like a war zone.
Nearly every building in this community was completely destroyed during the quake and the few buildings that remained were severely damaged and typically beyond use. Only one dormitory building was still habitable. There was a tremendous debris field to navigate en route to and from the project site, and access to water and electrical sources was extremely limited.
Original plans were to give the children as many sights and sounds as possible to brighten the area and facilitate an enjoyable escape from the sterile clinical confines of their hospital rooms. Budgets can always be limiting, so it was decided to keep this area as low-maintenance as possible to avoid or reduce future operational expenses and maintenance costs.
OBJECTIVES:The plan, as presented to PONDS for PEACE, was to have a relatively small, landscaped safe zone, confined from outside access in order to provide as much security for the children as possible. A water feature was planned that would allow for a soothing sound flowing in and around the garden area. A permeable nature trail was to be installed to allow for easy access to the garden without issues of soil or other organic matter being tracked into the hospital facility. The addition of a custom-designed Wind Harp would provide a soft melody flowing throughout the garden area each time the wind blew. Plants were selected by a group of landscapers and included a variety of donated plant material from around the region as well as a large donation from the U.S. that would give a nice appearance to the garden while remaining as low-maintenance as possible. All plants were selected to handle the localized conditions of temperature and moisture.
OBSTACLES:There were several serious obstacles that had to be overcome in order to complete this project, one of which was access. It had been more than three years since the earthquake, yet damaged buildings and huge piles of garbage and debris still remained everywhere. The government of Haiti did not have the resources to haul these tremendously large mountains of debris away; even if they did, there was nowhere to take it because there was such a massive amount of it — and it was everywhere! To make matters worse, every conceivable area that was free of debris was being utilized for housing the untold numbers of homeless people in the dozens of tent camps that dotted the area. At times, there was not even enough room for a vehicle to pass through some areas.
More than half of the area roads were still impassable or virtually nonexistent, and many others were washed out and rutted with deep trenches because the damaged asphalt was in a serious state of deterioration. In many places it was difficult to maneuver without the assistance of all-wheel drive. The heavy influx of international help arriving in heavy vehicles and trucks only added to the poor road conditions as they delivered much-needed supplies to various areas. We considered ourselves lucky if our vehicles reached a top speed of more than 10 miles per hour. The electrical grid was obviously damaged as well, and most of the available power was being utilized for critical or urgent needs. This made it impractical to use any type of power tools or equipment without the added expense of a generator. All the work was conducted using good old-fashioned manual labor. Water lines were being repaired as quickly as possible, but the extensive damage to the old, existing water lines was creating a serious delay. This resulted in our nearest and only active water supply being nearly 500 yards away. The water to the actual hospital facility had already been repaired, but the water pressure was so low that we were not allowed to access this source for our construction, installation or clean-up needs.
Supplies in the area were either simply not available or ridiculously high-priced, which meant that most if not all of our necessary materials and components had to be shipped in from outside the country.
OUTCOME:The project, however, came together without any unreasonable delays and culminated in a beautifully meandering stream, 47 feet in length and dropping approximately five feet in total elevation with multiple distinctive waterfalls scattered throughout the area. The system is powered by an Atlantic High-Volume PAF Series Tidal Wave Direct Drive Pump that sends nearly 6,000 gallons coursing through three-inch, flexible, smooth-wall PVC every hour.
The entire system, confined within a 45-millimeter EPDM PondGard rubber liner from Firestone Specialty Products, is surrounded by three tandem dump truck loads of clean topsoil to fill and contour around nearly 11 tons of beautiful, high-character rocks and boulders strewn along the water feature’s course.
Rising more than 10 feet above the garden floor is a custom, hand-crafted Wind Harp, donated by Soundscapes International. An artistic sculpture in itself, the Wind Harp stands majestically above the landscaping, and each time the wind blows an angelic sound emanates throughout the garden.
Access to the garden’s breath-taking features is provided via a completely permeable, rubber-based walkway and patio system from Porous Pave, created via a unique green application that removes unwanted automobile tires from landfills. Several of the patio areas are complemented with solid teak wood benches that are sure to last for many generations.
This entire project was successfully accomplished with the cooperative joint efforts of many industry manufacturers and contractors as well as the tireless and continued work of the PONDS for PEACE Board of Directors. A special thanks to Richard Cardona, Robert Fortney, Matt Keown and Shawn Hiser for making this project a reality.