On a sprawling 3 acres in Itasca, Illinois this property includes several relaxing vignettes, a putting green and tennis court. Perfect for entertaining it also boasts a custom fireplace and spa.
On a sprawling 3 acres in Itasca, Illinois this property includes several relaxing vignettes, a putting green and tennis court. Perfect for entertaining it also boasts a custom fireplace and spa.
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This morning one of my two favorite moments happened simultaneously…laying in bed while it is still dark out listening to the rain and hearing the distant sound of a train’s horn. It might seem like a simple thing, but simple things can transport us back to simpler times.
The sound of a train blowing it’s horn in the early moments before daybreak bring me back to time spent at my mother’s family farm in Indiana. It conjures a picture in my mind of crisp red and white, an apple orchard, and my grandfather sitting alone in the kitchen before dawn with a cup of coffee, his profile illuminated by the small light on the kitchenstove.
My family is very proud of our small farm and their father, mother, brothers and sisters, who worked so hard to provide the necessities. You see, they were tied to the land. Growing to feed their families. They were prey to the same things we are prey to in our business…the weather, pests, disease, and ah yes…little critters.
I remember my grandfather had a book that outlined how and what he would plant each year, and how he intended to rotate those crops annually to get a better yield. Thinking back I wished I had had more interest, asked more questions. Maybe he had some secrets I could have used, not scientific research like we have abound today, but something he knew in his gut.
I was fortunate to have both sets of grandparents come from a place and time that held enormous respect for the land’s ability to provide beauty and sustenance. They only bought what they could not grow and they worked painstakingly hard for what they had to buy.
When my husband and I started a family, one of the first things we did was create a vegetable garden. I would constantly seek my mother and my grandmother’s advice. I would create a book, like my grandfather and make certain to rotate my crops. I made certain it was pretty as well. We also battled bunnies, pests, weather and disease. Although that garden fills me with immense satisfaction, joy and pride, it pales in comparison to the gardens of both of my grandparents and my mother’s.
But I do it, not just because it makes me think of my family, but because it reminds me and teaches my daughter…or as my mother says, “the land will always provide.”
Donna Vignocchi Zych
After an uncharacteristically hot and dry June, Mother Nature just sent us a harsh reminder of her ability to restore rainfall statistics rapidly.
Unfortunately for many homeowners and businesses, this reminder came in the form of a seven-inch downpour over a 24-hour period that is still causing overflow and flooding around local rivers, lakes, and retention ponds.
While it is difficult to predict and prevent the kind of flooding issues that are created by such catastrophic weather events, these events serve as a reminder to property owners, both commercial and residential, to be more aware of the impact that water flow has around your property. Having a well-conceived and expertly executed drainage system around your buildings and grounds can mean the difference between staying high and dry through any weather event, or dealing with flooded yards, basements, parking lots, and roadways.
Generally, rainfall is the catalyst for creating drainage issues but ground water, specifically the location of the water table, can also play a role in the ability of water to move by design. Where land is flat, soils are dense (clay), or the water table is high, a well-designed drainage system is a priority. Consideration of grading, water flow, and proper drainage is essential to prevent minor issues during normal weather and to minimize major damage during catastrophic events like the one we experienced here in northern Illinois last week. Without proper drainage systems in place, water can enter and undermine structures, damage drives and roadways, cause erosion issues, and drown expensive plant material.
It is not always enough to rely on the original drainage plans that were created for your property when it was first developed and constructed. Typically, the more recent the development took place, the better the chances are that the drainage systems were designed and constructed to effectively move water around the property. Older properties may have experienced settling, ground shifts, changes in water tables, neighboring development, or many other factors that can influence the effectiveness of these systems. New or old, it is a good idea to observe and review the water flow issues on your property before a major problem occurs.
SURFACE WATER is one of the more common problems associated with improper or inadequate drainage systems. Sites with clay soils will likely have issues with lingering surface water. By design, developed land should be graded to drain so that water flows through swales or sheet drains across turf or pavement to the curb or storm drain. The reality is that builders don’t always get their grades right and water becomes trapped, causing puddles on pavement, backflow against foundations, soggy zones in lawns, and muddy planting beds.
Downspout/sump pump discharge is a huge contributor to surface water issues. Enormous amounts of water can come off a building’s roof or be channeled into a sump pit during a typical rainfall. This water is often just re-directed back along the foundation of a building where it can go right back into the sump pit or collect on the surface of the ground around the structure.
SUB-SURFACE WATER collects underground, and becomes trapped when there’s poor drainage due to the existing soil structure or high water tables. When it freezes and expands, the potential for damage increases. The frozen water pushes against your foundation and paved surfaces, causing heaving, cracking, and structural damage.
Solutions to improper site drainage can range from the very simple to much more complex depending on the nature of the issue and its underlying cause. Conceptually, solutions fall into two basic categories.
Please make note that whenever you are redirecting runoff, you must send it to a suitable outlet. Discharging runoff to an unsuitable area will just move the problems downhill. Be aware that redirecting runoff without collecting it or allowing it to percolate into the soil can negatively impact neighboring properties.
The first step in solving drainage issues on any property is discovering that they exist. Problems like foundation seepage and erosion might not be obvious until a major issue develops at which point resolution can be expensive and complicated. To become aware of potential trouble spots, walk your grounds after a rainfall event and look for places where water has collected.
Does it take more than an hour or two to dissipate after a heavy downpour?
Are there signs of erosion around the downspouts or sump pump discharge points?
Are you finding soft, wet spots in the common turf areas that do not dry out readily?
Are you seeing a decline in the health and appearance of plant material located in the collection areas?
These are just a few of the signs that water is not percolating or moving appropriately around the grounds of your development or commercial property. Time to consider having an expert come out and assess the problems. ILT can do simple visual inspections or accurately read existing grades by laser transit to establish the exact topography no matter how flat the site may seem.and determine precisely where and why water is moving the way it is on your property. From that information, we can evaluate and present potential solutions for your consideration.
While last week’s flooding can serve as a reminder of the devastating impact heavy rainfall can have, it does not take a seven-inch downpour of water to cause damage around your property. Finding and resolving water flow issues before they become expensive problems is always a better solution.
Call ILT Vignocchi today and we can start a conversation about resolving water flow issues at your HOA or commercial building.
ILT Vignocchi, Inc. Landscape Architects and Contractors…it’s part of our name because it’s that important. Landscape architects, landscape designers, landscape contractors, etc.; in case you were wondering what the difference is, read on…
While there may be a lot of overlap in these professions, the distinctions between them can make a world of difference in the planning, execution, and ultimate functionality of the outdoor spaces around your office building, campus, park, or HOA community. To fully understand the distinctions between landscape architects, landscape designers, and landscape contractors you need to look at both the technical and the functional aspects of the job.
A Landscape Architect must have a professional license issued by the registration board in the state in which they are performing work. In order to become licensed, they must have a degree in Landscape Architecture from an accredited school, some years of experience working for a licensed Landscape Architecture firm, and pass a qualifying exam. Landscape architects must adhere to a code of professional standards, actively participate in continuing education, and be current with state-of-the-art developments and trends in the landscape design field.
Landscape Designers may have varying levels of knowledge and expertise; however, they are not required to be licensed or certified, and are not regulated by the state. The “credential” for Landscape Designers has no legal bearing. While many Landscape Designers do have some level of professional training, they can call themselves such without any formal educational or experience requirements.
Finally, the Landscape Contractor is the team that is responsible for physically building, installing and maintaining the landscape conceived by the architect or designer. They are not government regulated beyond typical local business licensing requirements, and their insurance and liability coverages vary widely. Dependent upon their levels of expertise, they may be able to furnish and install the plant materials and build the structures, hardscapes, and water features called for in a given design.
Licensed Landscape Architects use their technical and artistic talents to create drawings, construction documents, and specifications that dictate the allocation, arrangement, and construction of planting schemes, land elements, water resources, and integrated structures. They usually work on larger scale projects such as commercial buildings, public parks, recreation facilities, institutional buildings, clubhouses, and multi-unit residential communities, and complex residential work. They are trained to document design concepts and plans on paper as a visual, graphic means of communicating their designs. This is especially important for complex projects that require permitting through city planning or building departments.
Because Landscape Architects have a responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of the public in the work they do, they need to be licensed and are required to have professional liability insurance. By contrast Landscape Designers have no legal responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the public, are not required to carry liability insurance, and are generally only allowed to design simple, single-family residential gardens.
Thoughtful landscape architecture adds value to a commercial development, public spaces, or an HOA community by considering both the aesthetic and practical aspects of the landscape. A landscape architect is conscious of the environmental issues with which today’s society is faced and has the expertise and training to plan around and manage the challenging issues on both commercial and residential sites, including:
At ILT Vignocchi, we are licensed, certified landscape architects, proficient in the “big picture” planning, design, construction, and maintenance of both public and private landscaped environments. We can help you develop your project from the “ground up”; providing initial concepts, finished designs, construction plans and specifications. Additionally, as contractors, we can build your outdoor environment to the exact specifications of the design, then maintain it to maximize your return on your investment.
Whether you are starting a project from the concept phase, interested in a large-scale renovation, or a simple redesign of a courtyard or monument sign, give us a call today and find out how ILT can help you.
Growing plants on rooftops is not a new concept. Centuries ago northern Scandinavians harvested sod from their surrounding landscape and placed it upon structures to create effective insulating and water resistant roof systems. The Vikings who explored the upper Atlantic built grass-covered homes where they settled and in Iceland sod roofs and walls have been used for hundreds of years.
Although the living roof or green roof has been in use for a long time, modern green roof technology has helped to elevate this building method from a crudely effective construction element to an aesthetically pleasing, ecologically responsible building solution for age-old building problems and current environmental concerns.
A green roof or living roof is a roof of a building or other structure that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems.
Green roofs can be very basic, known as extensive green roofs that incorporate drought-tolerant, self-seeding native ground covers such as sedums, grasses, mosses and prairie flowers that require little or no irrigation, fertilization or maintenance. These green roofs are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be retrofitted onto existing buildings, often without significant alterations or additional structural support.
Intensive green roofs are more elaborate roof gardens designed for human interaction. They generally have a relatively flat roof surface or mild slope and allow for a larger selection of plants, including shrubs and trees and require specific engineering to be able to conform to the weight load requirements.
Today, the green roof is gaining in popularity as an environmentally conscious architectural expression that is a viable element of any sustainable landscape management plan; and here is why:
Green roof technology was re-invented in Germany in the mid-20th century and quickly spread throughout Europe mainly due to its restorative environmental impact.
Today, Chicago has been a leader in green roof installations with up to 7 million square feet on approximately 500 rooftops; the most of any city in the United States. The benefits of the green roof have not been ignored by suburban businesses and multi-family residential buildings either.
Corporations, commercial building owners, and homeowners associations are looking for solutions to increase employee well-being, decrease their carbon footprints, increase their LEEDS scores, and differentiate their properties from their competition. The rooftop garden has proven to be just such a solution.
Reach out to ILT Vignocchi today to inquire about the potential for your headquarters, office building, clubhouse, or other structure to benefit from a green roof installation.
In Case You Were Wondering…how to get rid of the soggy areas around your property that never seem to dry out and create a muddy nuisance where grass won’t grow, read on.
Most commercial buildings and multi-family communities have storm drains and retention/detention ponds to accommodate the water that is trapped when the natural landscape is replaced with buildings and impervious surfaces such as asphalt parking lots, streets, and sidewalks; and rain can no longer be absorbed by the ground.
These solutions work well to divert or capture large volume runoff, provided the drainage systems are designed effectively to carry the water to the drains and/or holding areas.
But what about the areas around your property that never seem to drain off? When water is diverted into a low area that has no outlet or is not suitable for drainage, water will begin to pond, and over time the weight of the water will compact the soil and create a deeper pool, allowing more water to sit. A rain garden can be a very practical and effective means of addressing these drainage issues; particularly where downspouts are not placed appropriately or do not run off properly; settled ground has created depressions that trap water; or the ground has become so compacted that water simply no longer infiltrates the soil. Grass, ornamental plants, and trees eventually die off from the excess moisture leaving you with wet, unusable areas around your property that never dry out.
A rain garden is a shallow depression that captures rain water and holds it for a short time until it is absorbed into the ground, evaporates, or is taken up by plants. The rain garden is an innovative and eco-friendly landscaping solution that’s gaining in popularity, particularly in office parks and multi-family communities. An increasing number of property managers and commercial property owners are discovering how a rain garden can be an inexpensive and effective solution to these unsightly, unusable areas; while at the same time help to decrease erosion, improve water quality, create wildlife habitat, and provide aesthetic benefits.
Rain gardens were originally developed to slow down the flow of storm water runoff created when buildings and pavement cover the ground and prevent water absorption as soil becomes compacted and the natural landscape changes from diverse native vegetation to mowed and manicured lawns. These factors decrease the amount of water that soaks into the landscape after a rain and increases the volume of water that flows across the terrain and into storm drains that empty into local streams. This increased water flow (both in terms of volume and velocity) leads to more erosion, more flooding and
more pollutants being washed into streams and reservoirs. Rain gardens provide a solution to these problems by helping to slow the flow.
Additionally, rain gardens provide a practical and effective solution to the smaller scale drainage issues described above. A well-functioning rain garden traps and cleans storm water and reduces its volume (through rapid absorption) once it enters the garden. Properly designed and maintained, rain gardens are also attractive landscaping elements that function like native ecosystems and can look as naturalistic or as formal as you like. The plants in the gardens absorb excess water and provide important habitat for pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife while also adding visual appeal to the land around your community or your business.
But you’re not merely building a catch-basin that’s going to turn into a pond every time it rains. Far from it. With sound design, (the appropriate soil/gravel, knowledgeable plant selection, and correct installation), water is absorbed quickly – usually within a few hours.
And, in case you think your rain garden will provide a new breeding area for mosquitoes – think again. A rain garden doesn’t retain water long enough to make it a viable area for mosquito development. Depending on temperature, it takes 24-48 hours for mosquito eggs to hatch. After the eggs hatch, the larva must live in water for several days. A properly installed and maintained rain garden does not hold water long enough to accommodate the development of mosquito larvae.
Contact ILT today and find out how the installation of rain gardens can help you solve some of the drainage issues around your community or business. By creating a rain garden(s) you can eliminate those problem areas of your landscape while helping to keep some of the rain that falls on your site contained on site, the way nature intended. And in addition, you can help improve water quality in local streams/rivers, save water, reduce pollution, and help wildlife.
This 2016 report sheds some light on the landscape industry as well.
We learn that the trend for larger homes is still on the uptick. The trend challenges landscape architects to combat municipality’s permeable surface limitations with permeable paving or vertical gardening when creating outdoor spaces.
Another popular trend fueled by an increase in median age is being mindful of accessibility issues. This effects outdoor spaces as well and must be thought of ahead when creating walkways, gates, and outdoor entertainment spaces.
One of the most interesting and most pressing trends is not the increase in those interested in high end landscapes, but those that also seek ones that require low irrigation. It is something that we hear frequently from our customers. “I want something low maintenance.” It is heartening to see that a sense of responsibility to environmental preservation is continuing to creep into design fields.
As design professionals it is important that we don’t design inside a box. We try to keep abreast of all sorts of industry trends so we can deliver the most thought out products for our customers.
Spiritual and emotional health are a huge part of succeeding in business and in life in general. Much has been written about the potential benefits of incorporating specifically designated meditative environments, or mental health rooms, into the landscaping surrounding commercial office buildings or in the common areas throughout multi-family communities. There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to and use of these natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits that include lower levels of tension, increased potential for attention restoration, and reduced anxiety. Additional evidence suggests that interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficits and helps individuals coping with depression.
Meditation in the workplace can help lower a company’s health-care costs by reducing chronic stress, a major risk factor for illness. A company can improve employee morale, mental focus and sense of well-being. This can reduce the number of sick days and workplace injuries while increasing productivity. Offering a natural space for employees to meditate, relax, reflect, unwind, ponder new ideas, or even just think, helps companies empower employees to manage their own stress and well-being. By providing a space for these practices, the company sends a message that the well-being of its workforce is a priority, which enhances its image; aiding in the recruitment and retention of high quality talent.
By offering natural outdoor meditative rooms, a residential multi-family community can improve their marketing appeal and increase their property values, separating their association from their competition. These separated spaces are designed to encourage restorative reflection in which a person or family can escape from the stressful demands of daily life. Potential owners and tenants will see a benefit from having access to calm and peaceful spaces in which they can get away from the pressure of the office or home environment; to recharge and refocus.
Today’s modern work force and residential communities include people with a wide diversity of beliefs, cultures, and traditions so it is important to consider whether your outdoor “mental health” space should be tied to a specific religion or culture. Meditation spaces can be constructed to replicate a specific cultural model or they can incorporate and combine various aspects of any number of ancient or modern cultural derivations. While they can reflect many different themes, they usually include the use of plant selections and hard elements of varying colors, textures, and aromas. Zen gardens use rock formations, statuary, koi ponds, and sand/gravel arrangements, or sometimes with no growing plants or water features at all. Planted labyrinths or mazes are meditative tools serving as a metaphor for the inner maze that leads to the authentic self. The ancient Asian philosophical practices of Feng Shui are often incorporated into the arrangement of plants, rocks, water features, benches, etc. to promote the harmony between individuals and the surrounding environment.
Whatever thematic elements you decide upon, the space needs to create a sense of separation from the rest of the landscape. The meditative room doesn’t have to provide actual privacy so much as to feel secluded; distinctly apart to provide that feeling of “getting away”. A different surface can accomplish that, or some form of a structural enclosure. Running water can separate a space and its sound is a soothing way to cover up traffic or background noise. Understated plantings around surface changes can be designed and positioned in a way to lead the visitor to a sense of arrival that psychologically isolates without necessarily creating a distinct physical separation. A well thought out combination of these elements can often provide the most effective and enduring results.
If you like the idea of incorporating outdoor meditative spaces into the landscaping around your building or in your community, or if you simply want to start with re-creating a calming view from a conference room or lunchroom window, give ILT a call today. You can start with a simple conversation to discuss the concept and its possibilities. One of our experienced landscape architects will work with you through every phase of your project, from its conception to the design and construction of your meditation space, to the sound maintenance practices and periodic updating that will keep your space current, relevant, and attractive to your employees, tenants, residents, and visitors.
Call or email ILT today and let’s get you thinking about thinking!