Category Archives: Grounds

Central Campus water main break

June 6, 2013, the UMass Campus experienced a water main break.  The break was located between Goodell, South College and the W.E.B. Du Bois library.

wmb01 wmb02 The Utilities crew secured the potable water supply utilizing an underground valve, this shut off of water caused a temporary break in service to the South College building.  During this time, the Utilities Mechanical Crew and the Construction Service crews brought on site all the necessary tools and equipment to the site to perform the necessary repair.





  • The Mechanical Utilities employees worked quickly to install and test a temporary back flow preventer device to get potable water from the distribution system  to South College so that the building had running water again by noon that day;
  • An emergency Dig Safe was ordered.  Roy Page was on the scene within an hour measuring, testing and marking areas where underground utility lines (water, electrical, gas, etc.) are located.
  • Electrical Utilities called in to secure electrical service;
  • Construction Services brought heavy equipment to the location to dig and to move the large concrete planters over the sight of the break;
  • Fencing was constructed to block off the area and to provide a safe environment for the campus and the workers;
  • Although the weather at the time was dry, the weather forecast for the next few days was not favorable so it was decided to hold off digging immediately until the weather cleared.  While it is not unusual for these crews to work outdoors in bad weather it was determined that since temporary water had been restored to the building the actions could wait until the weather cleared.
  • Once the site was dug, Mechanical Utilities found and repaired the break.  They did so by cutting out a 10 foot section of the more than 50 year old, compromised pipe and installed a new section of cement lined ductile iron pipe and secured them with the appropriate restraining clamps.
  • The remaining old pipe and the section of new pipe were chlorinated and disinfected to be sure no contaminants would enter the new water main.
  • The site was then partially filled and the Building Maintenance plumbing employees were called in to run flushing lines to flush out the system so particulates would not go through the system.
  • The hole was filled and then paved and returned to normal.


Physical Plant Spring/Summer Landscape Projects

Kermit the Frog may have coined the phrase “It’s not easy being green,” but the Landscape Management crew at UMass proves it on a daily basis.

Maintaining the more than 400 acres of UMass Amherst is the very large task of the Landscape Management team.  But within that team is a dedicated group of 5 people that oversee special projects throughout the spring and summer.  Dave Pielock heads up the team and this summer they are working on beautifying areas of campus while making them more maintenance friendly.

Recently, the Studio Arts Building received some TLC from the team.  The issue of water dropping off of the roof on to dirt/gardens and splashing mud onto the building making it look dirty all the time.  The team removed the gardens from the east edge of the building and put in river stone to eliminate the problem.  Below is the final product.


This change also allows for the beauty of the building to be realized.  Why cover a building that is designed to be beautiful?

Thompson and Machmer are the focus of a multi-phase plan to remove mulch around the buildings and replace with river stone and pavers.  These changes will cut down on the cleanup of debris that is blown into corners and also when it rains having to clean up the mulch that washed downhill.



The North Residential Complex is the site of another multi-phase project.  The team will be cleaning existing shrub beds including consolidating and replanting some overgrown gardens.  This will clean up the lines of the landscape and allow for easier maintenance of the Complex.


The Central Heating plant provides a very interesting issue.  The many retaining ponds, (areas of large stones that catch and hold large amounts of water that eventually evaporates) routinely need to be cleared of overgrown brush to continue to operate correctly.  The footing in these ponds isn’t very stable and using the power equipment needed to clear them (brush saws, etc) can be hazardous.  Clearing a retaining pond can take more than a full day for two people to clear.  They are very labor intensive and due to the nature of the ponds, chemicals are unable to be used.  A growth inhibitor is being looked into to help with this problem.

If you see the special project crew while you are out and about on campus thank them for the time and effort they put in to make being green look easy!


Commencement is a large event no matter how you look at it.  The students’ final event of their Undergraduate (or Graduate) career is full of pomp and circumstance.  But have you ever thought about how long it takes the campus to look so nice or how much hard work goes into it?


Beginning in the spring, Physical Plant employees are working tirelessly to beautify the stadium.

-10 gallons of paint were used for touch ups inside and outside the stadium

-Construction of bases for the 55+ International Flags used prior to the ceremony

-The 55+ bases used during the ceremony for the International Flags were touched up

-The gates to the field are being cleaned and oiled for ease of use

-The 1st landing of the bleachers was repaired by a mason

-Ramps were constructed to ease the transition between the sidewalk and the field

All of this was in place by Monday, May 6th because the flooring, stage and chairs arrived the next week.

Pic1 Other detailed work that the Physical Plant was involved with for Commencement included the following:

-The Landscape Services Management staff planted flower boxes, planters and gardens to beatify the entire campus.

-The green space was cared for after the winter took its toll.

-Four Physical Plant Commencement planning meetings occurred to aid in the communication and coordination throughout the plant staff.

-The company was hired for the stage landscape; two moving trucks were rented for use during commencement week.


All staff were in high gear to make sure that the graduates and their guests had a wonderful experience at the University of Massachusetts 144th Commencement exercises.

Planning Spring Plantings

Jennifer Konieczny from Physical Plant landscape Management has planted our spring Pansy’s in the greenhouse. The 1600 spring plant matrix is equal parts yellow, blue, and lemon.  We will have 1500 seed started plants delivered in February which also will be grown in the greenhouse, and we have purchased 2000 6″ pots which will be delivered in the spring from 5 acre Farms.

The process for the pansy’s from seed to planting is aprox. 12 weeks.  Our goal is to have the pansy’s ready to go in the ground by the first week of April. The annuals will be used in the beds around campus (Haigis mall, round-about and planters, and visitor center) to name a few. Ray Laclaire and staff have started to build a smaller hoop house next to our exsisting greenhouse which we salvaged from the old greenhouses that were removed from campus. This area will be used for harding-off some of the plants before they go into the ground; this process is usually a week or two.

Landscape Special Projects

Several years ago, the Landscape Department consisted of two zones. Each zone formed a ‘SWAT’ team made up of full time and seasonal employees. Each team had five to seven members depending on the weather and how much needed to be done in each area where they were working. The original scope of work involved cleaning up and pruning overgrown shrub beds around buildings, power washing entry ways, and general clean-up to enhance curb appeal and overall aesthetics. It worked well until attrition of our workforce became so great, the loss of our seasonal help from custodial and the dinning commons for the summer, forced us into disbanding the ‘SWAT’ teams so that we could keep up with mowing, trimming, trash and litter. Obviously, there were many areas that suffered, and we’ve only been able to do periodic ‘band aid’ clean up and fix up jobs. We, as a group were not blind to this fact, and worked with budget and workforce constraints as best we could for a period of 5 years.

Within the past year or so, our budget has taken a few odd turns and we have been able to take on more full time help with hopes of more on the way. Now that we’ve been able to fill mowing and plow routes, litter and trash routes, and have been striving to operate more efficiently on a day to day basis, it was decided to make an attempt at a new ‘SWAT’ team.

The new team is made up of four Skilled Laborers and a Working Foreman. Two of the team members, Don Loper and Una Reiser work the Tuesday – Saturday shift, while Bill Allan and Dave LeBlanc work Monday – Friday. The Working Foreman who is spearheading the new endeavor is Dave Pielock, who is working under the advice and supervision of Gary Glazier, manager for Landscape and Construction Services. This team of five with their manager came up with a short list of prospective buildings to begin with. The deciding factors for these buildings are determined by how long it’s been since any work has been done, and the fact that eight of the newer buildings (soon to be ten) are considered “high profile” areas that have separate work orders where we have to track time and material.

Our scope of work hasn’t changed much from the days of the old ‘SWAT’ teams, but there are, and have been a few changes. First is the name. We decided to call ourselves “Landscape Special Projects” or “LSP”. Aside from the new name, we will also do what we can to make further maintenance less labor intensive as possible. Where time permits we are changing or removing small areas, shrub beds, islands, and blighted areas where nothing grows. Thompson Low Rise, as an example, will eventually have pavers and belgian block all around the outside of the building under the overhang that keeps everything but weeds, from growing.

Studio Arts is at this time finished with stage 1, but on our next tour through, a few more beds will be eliminated, plant material will be removed and new plants will be put in their place. The new plant material will be much better suited to a high traffic area and easier to maintain.

Gunness, Marsten, and Engineering Lab I, have just been gone through, with over grown beds being worked on, and with plants and shrubs being removed or transplanted.

The next task at hand is the entire Morrill Science complex of buildings. We are starting on the east side loading dock areas and will be working around the buildings, along with Wilder Hall, Clark Hall, and Shade Tree Lab. This will put us into early/mid June.

Buildings of concern for the rest of the summer will be Blaidsdale House/Photo Lab, Totman/Furcolo, Whitmore/Fine Arts, and Goodell/South Collage.

I hesitate to put any of these areas on a concrete schedule due to the fact that at any given day we may get pulled to go to Great Barrington, Mt Lincoln, concert clean-up after a Mullins event, clean-up after sports events, and of course the odd major storms that hit New England periodically throughout the summer months.

Obviously, some buildings need more attention than others. Our goal when starting a new building is to decide how much work needs to be done, how much work can be done on our first run through, while breaking the scope of work into three phases for each building, and finally by the third phase, cut down the amount of time needed to keep each building area maintained sustainably, and still be aesthetically appealing to the building’s occupants and the rest of the campus community.

Physical Plant Landscape and Construction Services Supports Sustainability Efforts

Physical Plant Construction Services installed six (6) BigBelly Solar Trash Compactors along the pedestrian corridor between Whitmore and DuBois Library.  BigBelly Solar Compactors are an innovative solar-powered waste collection system.  The BigBelly Trash Compactor has five times the capacity as ordinary trash can.  The BigBelly CLEAN Management Console, gives Physical Plant Landscape Services personnel real-time data, by e-mail, on the status of each compactor aiding our sustainability efforts in 70-80+% reductions in collection trips and associated operating costs, fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions are consistently achievable. Reduced collections yield deep cost efficiencies by freeing up valuable worker time, allowing managers to re-deploy staff to other important tasks, and reduce the costs and pollution of unnecessary vehicle trips.   As waste collects inside a BigBelly solar compactor (or single-stream recycling inside a BigBelly compacting recycler), an internal “eye” senses when the bin is filling and communicates that information back to the Command Center, generating a command to trigger a compaction cycle.  Our BigBelly Trash components have an enormous appetite for trash and recycling – keep feeding them!  We have plans to install six (6) Big Belly Compactors in DuBois Library.


GreenhouseWe have a new addition to the Landscape Management Department. It is a 40’x25’ greenhouse that was purchased last year that is near completion. We purchased the greenhouse for a few reasons; one is that every year we spend thousands of dollars on annuals that we have grown by a local grower to put throughout the campus beds and planters. My goal is to drastically reduce the amount of money we spend purchasing when we can grow our own annuals from seed. We also have started an internship program with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture last year where students come to work for us and learn about their major. This year we have four Horticulture freshmen joining our team, the greenhouse will allow the students to “learn by doing” a daily part of their training will be growing, fertilizing, watering and caring for the plants. After the annuals have reached majority and the weather is right the students will create and design beds throughout the campus where we normally do not have them. Their job will also be to care for these flower beds through -out the summer months. We will also use the greenhouse for a staging area for commencement. The Landscape department does the purchasing and the set up for the graduate commencement at the Mullins Center and with graduation being so early (May 11th) it is difficult to find plant material that is in bloom, with the greenhouse we can adjust the growing environment and try to push the plant material along for a better bloom.

The greenhouse installation was done completely in house my foreman Ray LaClaire headed up the installation with help from other staff members Jim Recore, Chris Drake, John Stosz,  The Stockbridge fraternity ATG also donated some of their time to help along with the installation. Construction Services, Electrical and Water Utilities installed all the lines for the project and will do all final hook ups for gas, power and water. It is nice to see everyone come together for a great cause. It truly is a win win for everyone, The University will be saving money, the students are getting hands on experience for their future, and the campus will have annual color through-out the season.

People have asked me how far you would like to see this go. I would like to see the university growing all there season color for the campus in the future  I would like to see the internship program grow to a whole new level where we can prepare our students for their careers, and possibly come back to work here at the University.

Recent Landscape Management Projects

Under the leadership/direction of Physical Plant Landscape Management staff member Brian Konieczny, Yucca, Silver Sword (from Graduate Commencement 2011) plants were planted on the barren embankment at the entrance to the parking garage. This area has dry/hot soil with a steam line directly underneath. This planting is an example of xeriscaping – landscaping with little on water – a landscape in an extreme urban area. Stone mulch was used to enhance the desert effect.

Warner Brothers Construction Company began work at the Campus Center Circle in June. The existing bituminous concrete sidewalk was removed and will be replaced with concrete sidewalks. The starting point was the southwest corner of Flint Building and continued counter clockwise around the circle to the northeast corner of the parking garage. Granite curbing will also be installed and a bus drop off area will be created on the eastern side of the circle.

Physical Plant purchased and installed a bike shelter installed on the southwestern corner of the Student Union. The bike shelter will be available to the campus community. This is the first bike shelter on campus.

Physical Plant Construction Services began work to install granite curbing around the parking lot on the south side of the Physical Plant. The existing bituminous concrete curbing had chunks missing from snow plow damage.

Physical Plant Landscape and Construction Services staff removed plant material from the lawn area on the northwest corner of the student union. The area will be re-seeded allowing for a large open lawn area.

Work outside Flint/Campus Center Circle

Warner Brothers will begin the replacement of the perimeter blacktop sidewalk around the Campus Center Circle on Tuesday, May 31st.

The existing blacktop sidewalk will be removed starting at the southwest corner of Flint Lab and proceeding around the Campus Center Circle clockwise to the northeast corner of the parking garage.  The sidewalk will be put back in concrete.  The work will be completed in phases with construction fence around the active work site.  Construction is expected to last two weeks.

Contact Pam Monn at 577-3106 with any questions.

Pansies on Haigis Mall

On Tuesday, April 12, the Physical Plant Landscape Department planted 844 total pansies on the mound (176 white, 668 red) at Haigis Mall. 

The process for the planting started in December.  Members of the Landscape Management Staff called sales reps from seed companies to find a pansy closest to the Umass-Amherst Maroon color.  We used series Mammoth, cultivars  ‘Big Red’ and ‘Mammoth White Hot’.  We ordered 1500 pansies from Five Acre Farm in Northfield (for mound, planters, gardens)- grown especially for us, seeded in Dec. so ready for planting in early April as 6 in pots.  The maroon pansies were used for the background and the white pansies were used to design the “U” and “M”. 

Prior to the planting in April, we checked weather for low temperatures.  We did not want the temperature much below freezing (at lowest).  We did purchase a frost protection blanket so we would be prepared to cover plants if temps too much below 32 and hard frost warnings).

We prepared the mound by tilling in compost and regrading the area.  We put stakes in place where every plant should be at 11in on center and we used cardboard cutouts of equilateral triangles so every plant would be exactly 11 inches apart.