Residential vs. Commercial Landscape Contractors: What Is the Difference?

November 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Most landscape contractors provide a variety of services and do work for residential and commercial clients. Here at E-Landscape, we’ve chosen to focus on providing commercial-only landscape design, installation, and maintenance services. One of the questions we frequently get is “what is the difference between a regular landscape contractor and commercial landscape contractor?” We thought we’d provide the answer right here on our blog!

Creating Curb Appeal on Your Commercial Property

In residential real estate, the concept of curb appeal is well understood.  Curb appeal—the visual attractiveness of a property’s exterior­â€”makes a significant impact on buyers or customers. Well, curb appeal also applies to commercial properties.  What impression does your customer receive when they approach your property? For business owners, the right landscape design, functionality, and impeccable maintenance create a more appealing environment. The setting not only makes your customers feel more comfortable, it speaks volumes about your organization and the appeal and quality of your products and/or services.

Employing the services of a reputable, highly-skilled, and award-winning commercial landscape contractor will hellp ensure that your commercial property has curb appeal, while also ensuring that the landscape does not impede pedestrian traffic flow, parking, or delivery routes. In addition, commercial properties are subject to different – and often more stringent – rules than private residences. For example, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation may impact how hardscaping (pathways, stairs, ramps, etc.) is designed and installed on a commercial property, whereas residential properties are subject to less rigorous requirements.

Choose a Commercial Landscape Contractor

Commercial landscape contractors work directly with general contractors, property managers, and property owners. As experts in this segment of the landscaping industry, they understand the unique needs and challenges of landscaping commercial properties, including:

  • Corporate campuses
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Multi-family apartment buildings
  • Residential complexes
  • Condominium developments
  • Shopping malls
  • Production and manufacturing facilities

Unlike companies that focus on the residential market, commercial landscape contractors must understand how to work in a commercial environment.  Proposals and estimates for commercial projects—large or small— must emphasize value and maximize the client’s return on investment. Many times, commercial landscaping firms are also required to have certified payroll, and obtain bid or performance bonds as part of the proposal or contracting process, particularly when working on government projects.

Commercial Landscaping Experts

Some landscape contractors may choose to provide services to both residential and commercial clients. However, each segment of the industry requires different resources, management styles, skills and experience.

  • Scope and Size of the Projects: The most obvious difference between most commercial and residential projects is their size and complexity. At E-Landscape Specialty Solutions, we design, install and maintain landscaping projects for a variety of commercial clients, from small business owners to large companies and national chains. At times, this requires us to use equipment – such as cranes or large flatbeds – that is not normally found on a residential project site. For example, the equipment needed to haul soil and trees up to the 10th story of an office building for a green roof is very different than what is required to plant a residential garden. As a commercial-only landscape contractor, we have considerable experience working with specialized equipment for such projects.
  • Contractor Knowledge and Experience: Your commercial landscape contractor needs to possess design vision and creativity, horticultural know-how, and technical drawing skills. The staff should also have experience with the latest landscape design software and how to effectively use computer-aided drafting programs. Commercial landscape construction requires an understanding of leading-edge maintenance principals and the latest techniques. Sustainability is also an important topic, with more and more buildings applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
  • Specialize Crews: A commercial contractor that specializes in meeting the needs of commercial clients does not have to manage the usual issues associated with switching crews back and forth between the two vastly different working environments (residential and commercial) and clients with diverse needs.

Concentrating solely on the commercial landscaping environment, supervisors and crews know the precise time for prepping, planting, treating, maintaining and renewing to keep your grounds looking great throughout the year.  This degree of immersion sharpens proficiency and primes a commercial-only crew for the distinctions and challenges unique to commercial landscaping projects and maintenance requirements.

Industry Certification and Recognition

Memberships in professional organizations, such as the Landscape Contractor Association (LCA),  Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), and  the Professional Grounds Management Society  (PGMS) ensures a commercial landscape contractor team has access to continuing education, certifications, and knowledge of  the landscaping industry’s best practices.  This commitment to excellence helps companies improve business processes, upgrade project management skills, and learn cutting edge grounds management techniques. As a result, a commercial landscape contractors are able to pass added value and benefits to their clients.