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Urban landscape project relies on compact equipment

Working in confined areas can be a challenge for any contractor. Add additional pedestrian and vehicle traffic to a jobsite and extra care needs to be taken for all those concerned. David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Germantown, Wisconsin has tackled just such a problem and found the equipment solution.

Yankee Hill Project

Ron Heinzelmann

The landscape contractor’s restoration project is located in the heart of Milwaukee at one of the city’s premier apartment complexes.  The Yankee Hill apartment property was built in 1987.  The park-like landscaping surrounding and weaving within the complex was built on top of the parking structure.  Ron Heinzelmann, construction field supervisor for David J. Frank Landscape Contracting explained the project, “When they built these large landscape beds, above the parking structure they lined them and waterproofed them.  Over the years, there has been a failure and they have been leaking down into the parking structure. Our job is to remove all the plants and soil and get down to the original membrane.”

The first stage of the job includes the removal of four feet of soil and then six inches of wash stone before reaching the original membrane.  In total, they will be removing about 300 to 400 cubic yards of soil and 75 to 100 cubic yards of stone out of the various beds throughout the complex. After the beds are clear, other contractors will come in and inspect the membrane, replace the masonry, install a drainage system, replace and waterproof the membranes.  Then David J. Frank Landscape Contracting will return to the site and refill the beds with the soil, which is being stored, and replant the beds with new plants, trees and shrubs.

“This is a unique project,” Heinzelmann explained, “We are working on top of a parking structure, in tight quarters. We have to be patient.  We are dealing with the downtown traffic, which is a headache. It’s a lot of soil to move out and we have to be careful not to destroy what membrane is left so it can be inspected.”

The landscape-reconstruction contractor also had to make special considerations for the type of equipment that could be brought to this jobsite.  The size and weight played a key role when selecting an excavator for this job.  “Because we are working on top of the parking structure, we had 10,000-pound weight restriction for the excavator,” Heinzelmann said.  “For this job, the specific wheel loader and the excavator we wanted to use had to be certified by the general contractor.  Their engineering department had to look at the overall specifications of the machines besides just the weight before they would permit them on the job.”

Wacker Neuson’s compact, 8,576-pound, 38z3 excavator with a zero turn design was selected to clear the beds. Heinzelmann explained the importance of the zero turn design. “That feature really comes into play here.  We have some tight areas where there are just actual walkways and stairways so that makes it more accessible and safer.  You don’t have to worry about people walking behind you. That’s important in this downtown, residential area.”

David J. Frank Landscape Contracting uses compact excavators on a variety of landscape construction, restoration, maintenance and irrigation projects. “Certainly anyone of our 25 crews would die to have one of these (38z3) on their trailer. They are labor saving, no doubt about that,” Heinzelmann said.  “We use them for digging trenches for drain tile, setting out cropping stones, footings for sea walls or fireplaces, pizza ovens, all that outside masonry work that we have to dig four feet down for putting frost footings in.  We use small excavators for many things. They are easy to operate, have lots of good safety features on them and the crew can be taught quickly how to operate them so the certification process of them can be done in short order.”

Also on the job is Wacker Neuson’s WL 37 articulated wheel loader that is being used to move the soil and stone to a waiting dump truck that will then haul it off to the company’s off-site storage area. 

“I thought the articulated loader in this tight area would be good verses another skid loader,” Heinzelmann said. “It is a lot easier to move around to another location on the site and because it is a larger machine and articulates, it drives better than a skid loader, which is important if we need to take it out into the street.”

Heinzelmann also cited additional benefits of the wheel loader, “It has more power than a skid steer loader and it certainly can maneuver easier without skidding the wheels, even on the dirt.   The skid steer makes a lot of marks; so many times we will utilize our wheel loaders in residential work, especially when we are going over concrete driveways to get to the backyard, which is common.”

Heinzelmann also noted that wheel loaders can be all-season machines, “Certainly a machine like that we use for our snow season as well.  They work very well to adapting a plow on them and using a bucket for snow because they can articulate into tight areas. That is a great feature for them especially in parking lots and loading docks,” He said.

For David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, compact equipment such as Wacker Neuson’s 38z3 and WL 37 have proven to be an important part of the team, especially for residential neighborhoods, and urban settings such as the Yankee Hill restoration project in downtown Milwaukee.