McCarran Center Office Complex
The “bathtub ring” around Lake Mead—indicating the high-water mark 130 feet above the current lake level—is a familiar sight for people living in Southern Nevada.
For Leslie Shurmur, the ring not only serves as a reminder of decreasing water levels in the lake—the source of 90 percent of our community’s supply—but it also has taken on a more personal meaning.
“I’m a distance swimmer,” said Shurmur, “and I do a lot of swimming in Lake Mead. Seeing what’s happening out there gave me the incentive to do what I can to help conserve our water, which is one reason why I took on this project.”
The project Shurmur tackled in her role as Portfolio Director with the Thomas & Mack Company was a commitment to convert thousands of square feet of thirsty turfgrass at the company’s McCarran Center office complex to water-efficient landscaping, as part of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s (SNWA) Water Smart Landscapes Rebate program (WSL).
Through WSL, the SNWA rebates qualifying multi-family and commercial property owners $3 per square foot of grass removed and replaced with desert landscaping up to the first 10,000 square feet converted per property, per year. Beyond the first 10,000 feet, the Water Authority will provide a rebate of $1.50 per square foot. The maximum award for any property in a fiscal year is $500,000.
From 2009 to date, Thomas & Mack Company has completed 16 separate WSL projects, removing more than 84,000 square feet of grass at the center near Warm Springs Road and I-215. The conversion projects have saved more than 4.6 million gallons of water and have netted the company $185,000 in WSL rebates from the SNWA.
“The park was 20 years old and starting to look old and dated,” Shurmur said. “It was time to refresh it, and the conversions we’ve done have gone a long way toward doing that—as well as saving water.”
Areas once green with unused grass now bloom with colorful, desert-adapted flowers, trees, shrubs, and cactuses. Working with Par 3 Landscape & Maintenance, Inc., Shurmur developed a plan—with input from tenant employers—to create a landscape with a more appealing, park-like atmosphere.
“All of our plants are ‘bullet proof,’” Shurmur said, describing a hardy palette including red yucca, various cactuses and succulents, rock roses, and other perennial plant species that can survive our community’s hot summers and cold winters year in and year out.
Shurmur said the conversions resulted in the removal of about 70 percent of McCarran Center’s grass. “We’ve kept a few minor greenbelts to keep certain zones cool,” she said, such as break areas with outdoor seating and tables. “We’re experimenting with artificial grass in those areas, too, to see if it’s feasible to remove the rest of our grass.”
Not only did the old turfgrass guzzle water, but overspray and sheeting of water from irrigation systems, in time, caused extensive, unsightly damage to sidewalks. Shurmur said the company replaced long sections of the walkways with new concrete, further enhancing the facelift spurred by the landscape conversion.
Shurmur said a side-benefit of the conversions has been the reaction from those who work at McCarran Center. “Most of the tenants have not commented on the changes, which means they are not negatively impacted; rather, they continue about their business operations unfazed, which in the end is the ultimate goal of any owner. The tenants who value conservation are pleased with the effort.”
Shurmur, whose job responsibilities include overseeing Thomas & Mack Company’s property management, engineering, and maintenance departments, and pursuing the company’s long-term objectives, said other companies that may be hesitant to pursue a water-efficient landscape conversion should consider both the SNWA’s incentives and the long-term benefits of saving water and money.
“Whether you are holding your asset long term or positioning for sale, turf conversion adds value in the water savings and reduced maintenance,” she said. “Reduced operating costs contributes to tenant retention, curb appeal for leasing, and the bottom line cap rate. It’s the right thing to do if you are truly a community partner in Las Vegas.”
For more information about how WSL can benefit your business’s bottom line—and help you save our community’s most precious natural resource—visit snwa.com or contact a Conservation specialist at (702) 862-3740.