The “Hardscape” Home Project
Not all projects are huge construction jobs or complex IT jobs. In fact, most projects are small or comparatively trivial and inexpensive – these being some 80% of all projects undertaken and represent only 20% of all project expenditure – being one interpretation of the Pareto principle. Pareto was an “Italian economist” and how’s that for an oxymoron. Although, Italy’s real affliction isn’t economics at present, it seems to be politics.
This blog is about a small project. However, even big projects are simply a number of related small projects usually call tasks or activities (if we apply project terminology) that we do ourselves, delegate to a family member or occasionally contract out. Attached here is a useful paper about managing small projects, such as the personal project I describe in this blog item. And here is an example plan for a very small project.
My latest small project is a “hardscaping” endeavour, which is also called “hard landscaping” and involves a lot of concrete, as opposed to planting out our home section, which is sometimes called “softscaping” or “greenscaping”. And yes, “hardscaping” is becoming more popular, particularly where we have big yards and homeowners who work fulltime. In our case nobody works fulltime – we just don’t like spending our precious time caring for lawns.
Yet, a lawn can be a lovely thing, a thing of great beauty, pleasing to the eye and a place to chill out and unwind. The sweet smell of freshly cut grass is a pleasurable sensation. But as with all things, this beauty and pleasure comes at a cost. The cost is one of time and effort as well as money. Two alternatives to natural grass for lazy or otherwise occupied homeowners are synthetic grass or concrete. Fake grass, you say? Don’t scoff. Synthetic turf is moving beyond football fields and golf courses to domestic sections, even in Aotearoa.
Anyway, weary of cutting my ever-growing grass, I did the business case and as a consequence opted for a “hardscaping” project – replacing most of our lawn with no-maintenance concrete. It’s a $12,500 investment. Those elusive cats and dogs that poop in my section will be frustrated – and how can you put a dollar value on that. Concrete must work better than bottles filled with water. Also our predicted drier summers and possible garden watering bans will mean that brown lawns may become a common eyesore – as in Aussie. Perhaps our Greenies may soon tell us that having a green lawn is an irresponsible use of valuable water. Further, with no grass to cut, our petrol-engine mowers could be disposed of, thus saving the world while liberating much needed shed storage space.
I considered synthetic grass, but it’s too expensive and needs considerable maintenance – repairs, vacuuming, refilling and apparently even watering. The downside of concrete is that the new surfaces will shed water rather than absorb it, which may create some run-off problems, and if buried pipes or underground electrical cables later need attention, it’s off to Hirepool for a jackhammer.
The above “before” photo shows a mess of monkey bars, swings, clotheslines and patchy grass – all now surplus to our requirements. The weedy front lawn is also to be hardscaped. No pun intended, but hardscaping can be hard work. For a while, I dealt with the grass growth problem by not watering our lawns. Call it default xeriscaping. If you don’t water, you don’t have to mow. But it’s not a pretty sight as the photograph of the front section reveals. What follows is a series of photographs that “tell” the story about this domestic undertaking.
Here’s me anxiously operating the digger while finding a surprising lot of stuff beneath the surface of our lawn and trying to avoid knocking down the fence. Every so often there was a tell-tale movement of the worried neighbour’s blinds. They probably had good reason.
This next photo shows the job half done – ready for the concrete truck.
And now the finished product, with only one palling knocked off the boundary fence. That shed has since been repositioned and a circular clothes line installed – two very small related projects.
The front lawn overlooking Hutt Valley was the greater challenge and greater necessity given the bad state of the lawn – very patchy grass dominated by weeds.
But hey – look at this. A fully hardscaped front lawn complete with new table and bench seats from Freedom for a mere $884.00 including delivery. And here is the project manager/blog author and his patient wife enjoying a well-earned coffee in the luke warm Hutt Valley March sun. We are already realising the project’s business case benefits and there we are – a semi-permanent deliverable and momument to mostly good work.
This final photograph reveals that our hardscaping project stopped short around the front door. And one day we intend to put some artificial plants in those empty pots.
Small-scale project management is a specific type of project management for small-scale projects. Such projects are characterised by factors such as short duration, low person-hours of effort, individual or small team undertaking, modest budget, and the appropriate balance between the time committed to delivering the project and the time committed to planning and managing the project. They are otherwise unique, time delineated and require the delivery of a final output in the same way as much larger-scale projects. Their risks, both threats and opportunities, are also identified and classified in a similar manner.
This was a cost-driven project, so in this instance the risks were mostly concerned with over-expenditure, without much concern for time, but still trying hard not to compromise on quality. Given that the whole job was completed well within budget, more through accident than cost-control, we splurged the contingency money on the table and bench seats – bit like that irresponsible spending undertaken by our government departments to rid themselves of surplus dollars before the financial year concludes. Next month we’ll paint the concrete green.