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Growing on You – Vegetation and Commercial Buildings

There’s a growing trend towards adding trees, bushes, shrubs and other vegetation to the exterior of commercial buildings, and for good reason. The addition of just about any kind of planting is a good thing for the environment and our air quality, and trees or shrubs can offer a touch of character to a building, making it more inviting.

But as with most things, there is some risk involved as well in making a building and its surroundings greener. Trees and bushes that are too close to a building can present hazards in a number of ways, from increased fire risk in dry conditions to falling branches that could damage buildings or injure people. Falling leaves can clog gutters and other drainage systems, leading to more damage.

And over time, tree roots can penetrate foundation walls and drains. Left unchecked, roots can cause foundation uplift, raising the entire structure, or create the opposite problem, causing a building to settle by leaching moisture from the soil.

Ivy presents a special concern. As much as we might enjoy the look of an ivy-covered brick building, the plant will find its way into crevices and can widen them, allowing moisture in and leading to crumbling brick and mortar. Mosses and lichens that develop on rooftops can cause similar issues.

Finally, uncontrolled vegetation can create a safe harbor for unwanted visitors of both the insect and mammal variety.

None of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t add trees or other plantings to your commercial outdoor areas, only that they do present some hazards. Here’s how you can minimize that risk:

Trimming. Keep trees and bushes contained, and have dead or dying limbs removed so they don’t fall on buildings or people.

Moisture control. Every plant needs water, but too much can damage any number of your building’s components from the foundation to the roof. Pay careful attention to the proximity of any plantings to your building, and don’t overwater plants or grassy areas.

Check those gutters. A functional rain gutter system is your building’s best friend. Keep gutters clear, especially when leaves are falling, and make sure downspouts are directing all that water well away from the foundation.

Keep it clean. Hire professionals to power-wash away any moss, lichens or other unwanted vegetation growth.

Questions about risk management for your commercial property? Contact Consolidated Insurance.

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