The Science of Good Commercial Landscaping (yes really, the science)

By Walker Leiser

campus walking pathHumans have a natural appreciation for nature, it’s in our genes.  Edward O. Wilson even coined a term for this; biophilia, the urge to affiliate with other forms of life. When we have access to or take time in the natural environment, our heart rate slows, our productivity increases, we have fewer sick days and report higher levels of happiness. All this, just by seeing green!

In 2015, nonresidential property managers and buildings owners have more ways to make this happen than ever before on their properties.  An attractive, engaging landscape helps employers improve their bottom line, shop owners have more visitors, and potential tenants pay attention to what your property has to offer.

The National Association of Realtors expects nationwide vacancy rates for commercial properties – office, industrial, retail and multifamily – to see very little change this year.  However, commercial rent is projected to increase across the board, with a near 3% rise in office and industrial rents, a 2.4% increase in retail rents, and multi-family going up 4%.  The American Institute of Architects projects that nonresidential construction spending will increase more than 8%.

This is all great news for Property Managers and Developers, and these are all averages.  You have to ask, “why be average? What can we do to stand out and be at the top of these projections?”  And perhaps most importantly, is there a direct Return On Investment for leveraging your surrounding landscape and capitalizing on the people’s natural instincts to want to connect with the outdoors. To answer that, we bring you a little data to fuel your fire.


We are Willing to Pay More in Retail Areas that Include Trees

While business people are keenly interested in the presentation of their product and store, they often overlook “macro” level settings – the district that surrounds their shop or office.

Consumers perceive the service-landscape holistically, we don’t just see retail displays or lighting, we judge service level from the landscaping all the way to the register (Engel et al. 1990). When we shop in retail areas with “tree” versus “non-tree” environments consumers visit more frequently, stay longer, rate the quality of the products 30% higher and are willing to pay about 12% more for goods (Mattila and Wirtz 2002).


We are Less Stressed and More Productive Around Plants

Research done by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M University, Helen Russell, Surrey University, England as well as those conducted by Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University verify that plants significantly lower workplace stress and enhance worker productivity. In Dr. Lohr’s study, common interior plants were used in a computer laboratory with 27 computer workstations. A computer program to test productivity and induce stress was specifically designed for these experiments. Participants working in an environment with plants present were 12 percent more productive and less stressed than those who worked in an environment without plants.

In one study, desk workers with views that included green elements were more satisfied and displayed improved patience, lower frustration, increased enthusiasm for work, and fewer health problems.1 For workers who take work or lunch breaks outdoors, serene settings are the most appreciated.2  

If workers are not sick as often we can reduce total absenteeism, and with a rate of 3% -4% (public – private) per employee at a rate of $2500 to $3400 per employee (based on total average annual salary and benefits), employers can save a lot of green if they pay attention to green spaces.  Not to mention “presenteeism” where workers are ill when they show up for work, productivity can be cut by as much as 33% and this may cost employers 2-3 times more than insurance premium payments for direct medical care.3

outside break area

Active Spaces replace the Gym and reduce insurance costs?

We are seeing more and more employers begin to add natural trails into their landscapes and encourage groups of employees to walk the trails.  Even a simple building within a business park can add a tree canopy and a trail around the building that will achieve great results (you don’t have to have a 7 mile running loop for this to work).  In a study testing people’s stress response to long walks in various environments, those who walked in a nature preserve showed a decline in blood pressure, while blood pressure increased for those walking in the urban environment without trees.  Depending on the health insurance plan you choose, these trees and those walks could reduce your companies health insurance costs.

1. Kaplan, R. 1993. The Role of Nature in the Context of the Workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning26, 1-4:193-201

2. Lottrup, L., U.K. Stigsdotter, H. Meilby, and S.S. Corazon. 2012. Associations Between Use, Activities and Characteristics of the Outdoor Environment at Workplaces. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening11:159-168.

3. Goetzel, R.Z., S.R. Long, R.J. Ozminkowski, K. Hawkins, S. Wang, and W. Lynch. 2004. Health, Absence, Disability, and Presenteeism Cost Estimates of Certain Physical and Mental Health Conditions Affecting US Employers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine46, 4:398-412.

RIP CITY – “Sustainability Dream Team”

How can landscaper contractors partner with others in facility management to advance sustainability goals? For one answer check out this Public Service Announcement recently released by the Portland TrailBlazers.


Blazers logo

DeSantis Landscapes wins National Safety Award

DeSantis Landscapes was recently awarded an Overall GOLD Safety Achievement Award from the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

The award, part of PLANET’s annual Safety Recognition Awards Program, honors those companies with thorough, high-performing safety programs that create and maintain safe work environments in the green industry. It is designed to reward green industry companies that consistently demonstrate their commitment to safety.

DeSantis Landscapes was evaluated on number of accidents, number of days that employees were away from work, and number of employee injuries and illnesses. In addition, a checklist was used to rate the company’s complete safety program.

“One of the visions that I have for DeSantis Landscapes”, says Dean DeSantis, President of DeSantis Landscapes,  “is to be seen as one of the most professional landscape service providers in our service area. To me, one of the ways that we achieve this is to run a safe operation. I am extremely proud to receive this award and most of all for the dedicated staff that have helped to create a workplace that values the health and well-being of all of our co-workers. This recognition of our good safety record will put DeSantis Landscapes head and shoulders above the competition”

PLANET is a national trade association representing more than 100,000 landscape industry professionals, who create and maintain healthy, green living spaces for communities across America. PLANET members are committed to the highest standards in industry education, best practices and business professionalism.

DeSantis Landscapes is a family-owned, nationally recognized landscape design, build and maintenance company with offices in Salem and Sherwood. The company’s award-winning services have been enjoyed by clients throughout the Willamette Valley and beyond since 1974. Its landscape projects range from commercial properties, to large private estates, to the most intimate residential gardens. In all cases, DeSantis creates balanced environments of extraordinary beauty and functionality

DeSantis Landscapes – Microsoft Case Study

Over the last several months we have upgraded our entire technology platform to Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 365. This has been a major improvement to our systems and we are excited about the increased efficiencies and additional time this will allow us to do the things we love the most…being out in our client’s landscapes and in front of our clients.

Microsoft was so impressed with our use of their products that they have created a Case Study and video about DeSantis Landscapes that is featured on their website. They have also written this blog post about DeSantis Landscapes. Yep, that’s right, DeSantis Landscapes is featured on Microsoft’s website!

A special thanks to Matt Middlestetter and his team at Compex Two Computers for guiding us through this transition and sharing our story with their contacts at Microsoft. In addition, a big Attaboy to our Vice President, Ken DeSantis, for handling all of our internal efforts through the transition. Attaboy Ken!

2014 Construction Career Days

We participated in a fantastic event called Construction Career Days put on by the Salem chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. Over 300 high school students from a dozen or so high schools spent the day talking to various company representatives, operating heavy machinery, doing hands-on activities and at the DeSantis Landscapes space…participating in a wheelbarrow race! Throughout the construction industry we are experiencing a labor shortage and events like this one help to show the future workforce about the possibilities and career paths that exist in our industries. Kudos to all the organizers!

Here’s a link to the Salem Statesman Journal article


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Biodiesel impact report

This is a great report from our biodiesel supplier. It shows that our biodiesel use has reduced our CO2 emissions by the equivalent of taking approximately 27 cars off the road for a year!

EmissionsReportCard_DeSantis Landscapes

DeSantis Landscapes and Burgerville partner to beautify St. Johns

14163487-mmmainCheck out this Oregonian article  that describes a community service project in partnership with our friends at Burgerville.


Landscape Transformation of the Rose Quarter begins

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photoLast week DeSantis Landscapes began a major landscape transformation around the newly named Moda Center, the Memorial Coliseum and the entire Rose Quarter campus. This is the first of many changes to come to this bustling urban hub on the east side of downtown Portland. Portland Trailblazers President, Chris McGowan, has shown a commitment to change and success both on-court and off throughout the organization and re-branding and updating the exterior of the facilities is definitely part of the plan. There will be lots of positive things happening in the Rose Quarter over the next year or two and DeSantis Landscapes is proud to be a part of it.  Stay tuned.



Check out our new video!

branding videoTake a look at our new video by clicking here

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DeSantis Landscapes now featured on design site Houzz

Looking for some inspiration? Have a project in mind but want to get some more ideas?

DeSantis Landscapes work is now featured on the world’s most popular design site, Houzz

Click here to be directed to the DeSantis Landscapes Houzz page.

Take a look and if you can, leave a review.