The Cowboys Meet Their End – Thomas Crummy


Cowboys

ALCI Chairman Thomas Crummy outlines the formation and strategy of the new umbrella association for Irish landscape professionals.

The Irish Association of Landscape Industries (IALI) is an association formed as an umbrella group for the main professional
bodies involved with horticulture, which include: The Irish Hardy Nursery Stock Association, the Irish Landscape Institute the Garden and Landscape Designers Association, and the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland.

THE CONTEXT
There is a deep rooted problem in our industry which has become more apparent to us all since the economic downturn because it is having dire consequences for upstanding members of our industry. Simply put, there is little or no control on standards of delivery, particularly on public landscaping schemes such as schools and roads etc. In essence, the public purse has been robbed by underhanded, sub-standard and below specification delivery of landscaping schemes right across our
country for years.

The schools building program is one example. The expertise of landscape architects is employed to draw up professional landscaping schemes with detailed specifications on materials, implementation and finishes. The contract is then awarded to a main contractor by the relevant government department in good faith that they will deliver what has been specifi ed. It is at this point that the problems start to emerge. Surprising as it might seem, more often than not, the services of the landscape architect are terminated and they have no further input into the project.

It is a sad fact of life that the landscaping scheme is not looked on with respect by some building contractors and is simply an area where they can slash and burn when it comes to delivery of specification and saving money. Why? Because the implementation of landscape projects is not policed and there is a lack of detailed understanding or plant knowledge among engineers or architects who may be signing off on this work.

It is our opinion that the services of the landscape architects should be retained right through to completion and also to the end of maintenance.

We are convinced this is the most thorough method of policing and ensuring the taxpayer gets what they have signed up and paid for. As chairperson of the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland and also a contractor who is suffering the consequences of this, I could no longer stand idly by witnessing the demise of our industry and hearing stories from our members about losing contracts to contractors who were not delivering to specification. The ALCI wrote a letter to the Minister of the Department of Education, clearly outlining our findings and we offered to audit some sites and compile our findings and report back to him. We simply received an acknowledgement letter to advise us that our letter was brought to the attention of the Minister for Education.

We also copied our letter to Tony Williams, President of the Irish Landscape Institute. Tony wrote a very detailed letter outlining the importance of the landscaping schemes and attached a copy of the letter previously sent to him from ALCI. The Minister
wrote back in a very positive manner and said his doors were open to us and that he would welcome any such report
we could put together for him.

About this time Barry Lupton was doing an article in this magazine about specifications and lack of policing within the industry. After receiving comments and views from various associations and contributors, he came up with the idea of creating an association which could represent us all, as it was apparent that we would be stronger if we presented our case as a combined group. A few emails and phone calls later, Barry called a meeting, which was held in Bord Bia HQ and attended by a number of industry representatives including:
Colm Kenny (Landscape Quantities Specialist); John Murphy (Annaveigh Plants); Matt Lohan (Woodstock Trees & Shrubs) representing the nurseries; Patricia Tyrrell and Gary Foran (GLDA), Tony Williams (ILI); Peter O’Toole (ALCI & Peter O’Brien Landscaping Ltd) and myself, representing the ALCI. Terry O’Regan (BHL Landscapes) and Val Farrell (B&V Nurseries and representing the IHNSA) were unable to attend but are part of the new group. Barry was elected as acting chairperson.

SOME OF THE ISSUES RAISED INCLUDED THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Policing of landscape installations and maintenance contracts is rare or non-existent, resulting in a range of problems;
  2. Lack of regulation of unscrupulous contractors;
  3. Lack of single industry led landscape document to protect both client and contractor;
  4. Nurseries providing insufficient variety and sizes of plants, resulting in more imported substitutes;
  5. Unqualified and / or unaccredited landscape designers who charge unrealistically for design and install poorly designed projects
  6. devalue and undermine the garden and landscape design as a profession;
  7. Poor plant knowledge and familiarity with nurseries and plant availability;
  8. No certification requirements placed on the landscape designer, contractor or nursery supplier on any element of the landscape works to say they are to specification;
  9. The need to audit random projects, report findings and hold people responsible to account.

TAKING ACTION
We wrote to various government departments in July and will write again following the cabinet reshuffle. We have shortlisted a number of projects for auditing on the basis of giving a broad spectrum result, ie. there will be a school project, a road project and some other public project.

These sites will be visited by us and comparisons drawn between what was specified and what was delivered. These reports will be handed into the relevant departments. Failing positive feedback this information will then be communicated openly via appropriate media to ensure action is taken. If you are reading this article, perhaps you are an engineer with a County Council, or a Clerk of Works for the HSE or other body for example, and you feel you have possibly been shortchanged in the delivery of your landscape package please contact us immediately. We want to hear from you. We will add your project to the list and it may become one we choose to audit. It is time to pull the plug on this disgraceful attitude and get back to the days where you feared authority and only get paid when it is delivered to the specified standards. Our address is IALI, 2 Martello Terrace, Sandycove, Co Dublin. Or email barrylupton@online.ie

ThomasCrummy

THOMAS CRUMMY is Chairman of the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland and owner of Thomas J Crummy Landscaping, one of Ireland’s leading landscape contracting companies and winner of the Bord Bia Landscape Business of the Year 2012/2013. www.thomasjcrummy.com