BYU Grounds crew relies on modern technology to beautify campus

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A group of students on campus gets paid to climb trees and use laser-guided machinery.

Contrary to popular belief, the BYU Grounds crew does more than mow the lawns and weed the flower beds. They rely on cutting-edge technology to complete its daily functions and responsibilities.

Roy Peterman has more than 40 years of experience and is the brains behind BYU Grounds.

“We’re considered to be the leader of the pack,” Peterman said. “We have people certified for every area.”

 This vehicle is operated by a full-time employee and is used to dig, repair and access dangerous areas without putting the employees in harm's way.
This vehicle is operated by a full-time employee and is used to dig, repair and access dangerous areas without putting the employees in harm’s way.

One of these areas is taking care of the trees. To effectively groom and mange trees around campus, BYU Grounds employs one of 10 certified arborists in the nation. He is in charge of training certain members of the Grounds crew to use a system of climbing ropes and harnesses to climb trees and cut hard-to-reach branches.

“They take care of all of the trees on campus,” Peterman said. “There are 17,000 trees that have to be managed.”

For other tasks on campus, the Grounds crew utilizes laser-enabled machines that can perform a number of complex procedures.

“We have a grader that has a laser-guided system,” Peterman said. “They establish the grade so it’s perfect.”

Grading is a process that prepares land for construction and landscaping by manipulating the soil to reach a specific incline or slope. This enables workers to complete tasks, exactly as needed for each project.

Tyler Grunander is the site development manager and is also familiar with the technology used.

“Probably one of the more difficult ones we have is a grater that has a laser system on it so we can do grades down to a half inch or quarter inch,” Grunander said.

Another facet of BYU Grounds is waste management, which Grunander oversees. He described the technology the garbage trucks use.

“They’re equipped with cameras, of course, to help them back up and get into those tight spots,” Grunander said. “The technical part is how difficult and tight the areas are that we work in. I don’t think it would be possible to do this without the cameras. We’re dealing with tight sites but also an enormous amount of foot-traffic around that equipment.”

Working in circumstances like this is not for everyone.

“We’ve had contractors come in, and they look at where our trash pick-up sites are, and they basically feel that it’s so tight to get into that they don’t even want to entertain working on campus,” Grunander said.

BYU Grounds employs trained workers that can complete these challenging tasks.

The list of modern gadgets that BYU Grounds uses is extensive,  which includes an award-winning irrigation system, a mobile sewage unit equipped with cameras to monitor and repair drainage pipes and a sophisticated pump system that runs the stream and waterfall south of the bell tower.

According to BYU Grounds, the department employs more than 400 employees whose working hours range from 4 a.m. until 6 p.m. Under Peterman, this crew strategically maintains all of the aesthetic beauty of BYU’s campus.

“That special feeling of peace, the order that you sense from all of the detail around, the tree rings and everything is specifically designed to create a unique atmosphere for the university,” Peterman said. “We use the latest tools to get it done.”

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