Landscape architects given confidence to reject bad soils

Tim O'Hare, soil scientist and principal consultant at Tim O'Hare Associates, helped landscape architects to build their knowledge of soil specification during two sessions at the Landscape Institute's Annual Conference in Sheffield last week.

Mounds and swales under construction. Image: TOHA
Mounds and swales under construction. Image: TOHA

The 'How good is your soil specification?' session looked at the various aspects of soil specification and testing, helping landscape architects to select, assess or approve soils.

O'Hare gave an overview of the British Standards for Topsoil (BS3882:2015) and Subsoil (BS8601:2013), including recent improvements, and highlighted their potential limitations where specific projects are concerned.

He focused on the key elements of soil specification for different end-uses, including wildflower grassland, sports pitches and podium landscapes, and explained the main requirements when requesting soil tests, including the types of investigation applicable to different projects, sampling protocols, soil test parameters (including contaminants), and report content.

The importance of obtaining the correct information from contractors when offering a soil for approval was discussed and delegates were provided with the "ammunition" they need to confidently reject soils they consider are of inferior quality.

Over 40 delegates attended the two sessions on the final day of the conference, which was hosted in partnership with the University of Sheffield's Department of Landscape. Talking after the event, O'Hare commented: "I was delighted to be able to present to members of the Landscape Institute on a subject that is fundamental to the implementation of good landscape design. I hope those landscape architects who attended left better equipped to provide good soil specifications and to confidently assess a soil's suitability when measured against the specification."

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