The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) awarded UC Davis a Landscape Management and Operations Accreditation with the highest rating of four stars.
PGMS is an organization that strives to help grounds managers with technique development and management skills. Although the society has existed since 1911, this is the first time it has offered an accreditation that assesses grounds management principles and practices. The accreditation program itself launched this July.
According to PGMS website, “The [accreditation] program evaluates strategic grounds management principles and practices that produce and guide the delivery of properties to an attractive, healthy, sustainable and high-quality state.”
Two other college campuses have also been accredited: the University of Delaware and the College of Wooster in Ohio – each received two stars.
Cary Avery, certified grounds manager, Landscape Operations superintendent, and Grounds and Landscape Services associate director at UC Davis, submitted the accreditation application to PGMS and received the honor on the university’s behalf.
The UC Davis campus impressed evaluators through three determining categories: environmental stewardship, economic performance and social responsibilities – each with seven to eight subcategories. Avery stated that evaluators appraised 38 different best practices within these areas.
The accreditation process entails peer assessment conducted through an on-site tour evaluation, a series of meetings with the management unit, front-line employees, and administrative departments and application review.
“Some of the particular things we saw were the adaptive measures the department used to address some of the restrictions, such as drought conditions, were very responsive,” said Joseph B. Jackson, PGMS lead evaluator and project facilitator.
The campus’ “smart” central irrigation system, for example, reduces water use by 20 to 50 percent depending on the area’s needs. According to Avery, UC Davis has saved over 80 million gallons of water since the beginning of the year, just in landscape. Additional features noticed by the evaluators that normally weren’t seen at traditional campuses included drought-tolerant plantings, bioswales, rain gardens and living walls and fences.
“The team was also impressed by the fact that our tree and irrigation database is part of a model being developed for botanical gardens, parks and zoos worldwide,” Avery said.
Grounds aesthetics only plays a small role in the overall evaluation, as stars are awarded based on a point-system calculation of 200 points. Four stars requires coming within reach of at least 166 points. The total was determined by “beauty” or maintenance points but more heavily by responses to evaluators’ questions regarding the best practices utilized.
“The relationship that the leaders of the management team [have] with the customers [was] exemplary, and the fact [is] that everything that stood out to the evaluation team could not have been successful and maintained on that level without very strong senior leadership and administrative support,” Jackson said.
The use of new technologies, effective maintenance strategies and consideration of existing ecosystems exemplifies PGMS’ mission of achieving a sustainable future.
“The group of employees that we have working to maintain the health and safety of our campus environment is a top-notch group of people,” Avery said. “They care about each other, this place and the environment.”
The grounds and landscape team handles everything on campus, from prepping for events to managing everyday trash and recyclables, facilitating zero-waste operations, performing tree care and maintenance, helping faculty with tree care demonstrations for students and much more.
“We have even been contacted by the Raptor Center to rescue an injured bird from a tree top!” Avery said. “If this team can help, they will be there.”
According to Tom Shaner, executive director of PGMS, the accreditation holds much more significance than just receiving a certificate.
“It’s truly an evaluation of your best practices by your peers,” Shaner said.