Hardscaping for Commercial Properties
Commercial landscapers and landscape architects see a landscape as more than just an assembly of living, breathing plants and trees. The average person may think they understand what landscaping is. However, there’s much more to it than just planting and maintaining the living areas of a yard or garden.
There is an entirely different side to landscaping that goes beyond the plants and trees — the non-living areas. These areas are called the hardscape and require just as much thoughtful planning and design as the living areas. These areas are vital parts of the landscapes that help keep it looking visually appealing, healthy and alive.
Hardscaped areas add unexpected but welcome elements to a landscape. When it comes to hardscape design, the only limit is the imagination. But there’s a lot to know about hardscaping, including the benefits of hardscaping and reasons why you should hardscape your business in the first place.
Professional landscapers can guide you through the principles of hardscape design and how best to implement it to improve the usable space of your property and, best of all, increase your property’s value.
What is Hardscaping?
Experts divide a landscape into two broad categories: the softscape and the hardscape. The softscape is the portion of the landscape that’s alive, while the hardscape is the part of landscape design that isn’t. Hardscaping, by definition, comprises any structure or “hard” element of a landscape. At a basic level, these include features like walkways, patios or retaining walls.
Hardscaping acts as the anchor or foundation of your overall landscape. Once professionals install hardscape structures, they then thoughtfully and intentionally the select the most appropriate plant life that will fall within the confines of the hardscape. Then, they carefully add in the plant life.
Landscapers deliberately place the hardscape structures and items throughout the landscape as permanent fixtures. Depending on the type of hardscape structure, like pergolas or arbors, the vegetation will grow in around the fixtures eventually.
These inanimate objects are intended to offset the living portions of the landscape like the grasses, flowers, plants and trees. The solid nature of the hardscape contrasts against the thriving green and colorful vegetation. Hardscaping structures help to enhance the visual appeal of a property, but they also assist in containing and controlling the softscape. Hardscaping also aims to be functional by adding features that property owners can use practically.
Hardscaping vs. Softscaping
It’s possible to think of landscaping as the hardscape vs. the softscape, and the balancing the two elements. In reality, the two should coexist with the intention of enhancing one another. When the hardscape and the softscape are designed to complement each other, they improve the overall impact of the landscape. Ultimately, the hard elements and the living elements must work together to ensure they create a beautiful, enjoyable property.
Who Uses Hardscaping?
Hardscaping is beneficial for virtually any kind of commercial property that is customer facing or used by staff. From small storefronts to large commercial buildings, hardscaping is a great way to increase property value, enhance curb appeal and keep maintenance costs down.
If you’re asking if your business needs hardscaping, then the likely answer is “yes.” Here are some of the types of businesses and organizations that can benefit from hardscaping design:
- Retail shops
- Hotels and resorts
- Convention centers
- Office buildings
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Government buildings
- Community parks and recreation centers
Materials Used in Hardscaping
The beauty of hardscaping is that there are countless options, styles and designs. It truly is a creative process. Landscaping professionals may use several different materials within the hardscape, depending on the types of structures you request or need. Some of the types of hardscaping materials you might find on a property include:
- Slate tiles
Professionals use materials that will easily withstand snow, ice, wind and other harsh elements. This makes them easier to maintain over time as well.
Using a combination of different hardscaping materials helps add different visual elements to the landscape. Opposing materials like wood and metal can add more dimension and depth the landscape. However, professional landscapers are careful not to use too many different materials as they may clash and cause a property to look cluttered. Landscape designers understand there’s a fine balance to keep to.
Professional landscapers will also use materials that complement the building. For a modern building, landscapers may choose metal and concrete as part of the hardscape. As for older or classic architecture styles, landscape designers may choose wood and brick materials for their hardscape elements. It’s important that the materials within the hardscape flow from the materials used to construct the building.
Types of Hardscaping
There are countless creative ways to design and build hardscaping structures. Hardscape structures can be paved areas, functional elements, decorative items and structures for retaining and controlling the softscape. Here are examples of types of hardscaping:
Paved Areas: Concrete paved areas in a landscape add functional, yet visual elements to the property. Paved walkways guide the way for people to navigate around the property towards entrances or seating areas. Some examples of paved hardscape structures can include:
- Pergola or Gazebo floors
- Pool decks
Functional Elements: Certain elements in the hardscape are visually appealing but offer function as well. There are several types of functional hardscape elements that property owners or visitors can use. These include poolside areas, tables and seating as well as sheltered areas.
Other elements of the hardscape are used to support the softscape. These include structures that allow for climbing plants and vines to thrive. Once the vegetation grows in, these hardscape structures blend in with their surroundings and become barely noticeable. Instead, they help display the beauty of the softscape. These pieces can be attached the building directly, or they can be independent structures placed throughout the landscape.
Here are some examples of functional hardscape elements:
- Outdoor kitchen and dining areas
- Outdoor fire pits and fireplaces
- Wooden pergolas
- Wooden arbors
- Wooden trellises
- Wooden decks
Decorative Items: While hardscaping design can have elements that serve a particular function, it can also include items that are strictly there for decorative purposes. These items often act as garden art pieces or added touches that make a yard seem more inviting. Some common types of decorative hardscape items you’ll find on commercial properties include:
- Stone creek beds such as in “Zen” landscape design
- Small bridges over a stream
- Water fountains or waterfalls
- Ponds and streams
- Cultural items like small Japanese pagodas
Retaining Structures: Hardscaping elements also include all the structures of a landscape that contain the softscape. The elements also work to contrast against the beauty of the natural, living components of the landscape. Some of the types of hardscape features used to retain and define the property layout include:
- Raised beds
- Concrete, stone or brick retaining walls
- Wooden fences
- Wrought-iron fences
- Stone stairways
Principles of Hardscape Design
Landscaping requires an approach that’s part art, part science. As with most major commercial projects, it’s a best practice to design and plan a commercial hardscaping project beforehand to ensure the best result possible. Here are some core principles of hardscape design that you can hire a professional landscaper to implement on your business property.
- Coordinate the Style: As mentioned, it’s important to ensure that the style and design elements of the hardscape are an extension of the building itself. This means you’ll want to choose hardscape design elements that complement the architectural style of the building and create an overall cohesive look.
- Design for Size: You may be inspired by large commercial hardscape projects that present many different elements, features and sections. But if your property is small, you need to be realistic about the size of the project. A professional landscaper can look at your property as it currently exists and maximize it for its usable space.
- Mix and Match Textures: After all the initial hardscape planning is finalized, landscape designers can then begin planning the aesthetic part. Professionals will consider the unique property and determine the best types of textures for the landscape. Using a mix of soft elements like wood can contrast nicely against harsher materials like metal or slate.
- Use Patterns and Color: One of the most impressive hardscape features is a patio or driveway displaying a pattern or artistic design. Concrete or brick pavers are units used for driveways, patios or even retaining walls. You can have them assembled in different ways to create elegant and intriguing patterns. You can also buy them in different colors and shapes. Then they interlock together to create any design imaginable. These patterns can represent your brand colors or logo or simply an elegant design that reflects your building’s style.
- Plan for Drainage: Professionals plan the hardscape for future considerations like heavy rains and snowfalls. That’s why it’s so important to make sure there is adequate drainage between the hardscape and the softscape elements. This prevents water from flooding your property or running off into the storm drains. This is where permeable pavers come into play to help deal with water runoff in an environmentally responsible way.
Benefits of Hardscaping
It’s possible that business owners wonder whether their business needs hardscaping and why it’s necessary. It’s possible that people see the extent of their landscaping opportunities as a well-maintained garden with a mixture of colorful plants.
But there are some important benefits of hardscaping a business property. Professional hardscaping offers a high return on investment, improves the functionality of a space and even offers environmental benefits as well. Here are some of the top benefits of hardscaping a business property:
- Enhance Visual Appeal
One of the most obvious benefits to hardscaping your business is that it adds visual appeal. Beautiful hardscape design sends an image of professionalism to customers and employees alike. It transforms a space into an enticing and welcoming area that emits a sense of calm and relaxation.
Hardscaping also adds dimension to the landscape that makes it stand out from other properties. Without hardscaping features, a landscape often appears empty, messy and disorganized. Hardscape features like flagstone pathways, water features or pergolas fill up a property and make it appear cleaner and better maintained.
- Add Usable Space
Without hardscaping, a property lacks designated and deliberate usable spaces. Hardscaping features like paths and walkways signal to visitors where to go. These paths may lead to gazebos, paved pads, seating areas and water fountains. Hardscape features encourage people to use and enjoy the space.
Office parks are becoming a popular use of commercial property because it provides a relaxing and usable space for employees to eat lunch in or to hold company events. Additionally, hardscape elements like fences can create more privacy and safety around a property, which always increases the likelihood that people will use the space.
- Decrease Maintenance
One of the purposes of hardscaping is to contain and retain the softscape. By installing hardscape features like patios and walkways, you’re decreasing the amount of softscape area that requires regular maintenance. Other hardscape features like retaining walls and raised beds help to contain plant life making it easier to look after and prevent overgrowth.
Many of the hardscape elements themselves require less maintenance than the softscape does. Walkways, pathways and driveways may require little more than regular weed pulling and hosing down to get rid of any dust or dirt buildup.
- Increase Property Value
Financially, hardscaping has a very important benefit for commercial property owners. Professional landscaping, including proper hardscape design, increases property value. Businesses need hardscaping because it adds to the usable space of a property, making it more valuable for eventual buyers and commercial renters.
Additionally, well-maintained properties are always much more appealing to investors. Investing in hardscaping shows that you’ve managed your property well. This is an added benefit to future owners, who won’t have to make the investment themselves.
- Address Sustainability
A final benefit of hardscaping for businesses is the environmental and sustainability improvements it can make to a property. Hardscaped areas don’t require water to remain beautiful, which is a huge benefit during the summer season when water restrictions kick in.
Additionally, professional landscapers and designers may suggest using permeable pavers as part of the hardscape. These types of materials help to reduce water runoff by allowing the water to drain into the ground rather than into the streets. Permeable hardscape elements also help to keep temperatures low by absorbing moisture rather than heat.
Using Hardscaping in Commercial Properties
With so many benefits, it’s no wonder business owners are choosing to hardscape their properties. While landscape design can be a major investment, it’s sure to pay off in increased property value and added usable space. Creating a designated and relaxing place for your customers and employees to enjoy is invaluable, and it presents the professional image that your business prides itself on.
For three decades, Complete Landscape Service has served the Washington, DC metro region including Maryland and Northern Virginia. Since 1979, we’ve created beautiful hardscapes for commercial businesses that care about enhancing their curb appeal and increasing their usable outdoor space. Contact us for a free quote on your commercial landscape needs.