The entire process of developing a complete and comprehensive landscape plan can include the following stages:
Initial Consultation- This meeting can occur on site or in the office. This is when the scope of project is initially outlined. A consultation on a residential project sometimes results in the client receiving sufficient information during that meeting to proceed without additional design input on the landscape architect’s part, particularly if the area in question is limited or only requires a simple treatment. For projects where more comprehensive plans are necessary, this is the opportunity for the client to outline his objectives, his likes and dislikes, and generally convey to the landscape architect what he wants. It is helpful if a client has photographs of typical designs or styles that he prefers. Frequently a client only knows in general terms what he wants to accomplish and is relying on the landscape architect to present him with several alternatives. These responses are explored in the “Conceptual Design Phase”.
Site Survey and Inventory-
If a comprehensive plan is needed, the next step toward that goal is to create a drawing that shows the site as it currently exists. The best source of information is the survey plat. In most cases a property survey plat exists and is usually part of the homeowner’s deed (residential). The survey details the location and size of existing built elements (buildings, walks, etc.) and the location of setback lines and easements (utility, access, drainage, etc.) What it typically does not show is the location of existing vegetation (trees, shrubbery, etc.) or topography (the contours or slope of the ground). Depending on what the intent of the design is, topographic information may not be necessary. For example, a planting plan that will not involve any built structures (retaining walls, walks, fences) would not require a topographic survey. If the desired landscape design will involve built elements, we strongly recommend gathering the additional topographic information. Due to the high cost of construction, having complete site information will more than pay for itself by allowing the design to accurately describe the elements to be created. The contractors thereby can precisely determine the cost of those elements, without having to try to account for unknowns.
Knowing the location, size, and type of existing trees and shrubs is important for developing both built elements and planting plans. Depending on the complexity of the site and the intended use of that site information, it may be preferable to have that information developed by our office, a surveyor, or the homeowner himself. For relatively simple sites, we normally recommend that the homeowner get involved in developing that information. This has two benefits. The homeowner can save a considerable amount of money that he would otherwise pay us or the surveyor and in the process become more familiar with his own property. If the client wishes to gather part of this information, our office can guide him through this process. (see Developing Your Own Site Plan)
Conceptual Design- This is the first response from the Landscape Architect to propose a variety of possible solutions to the problems the client and the site have presented. The ideas represented by this design will be based on the client’s needs and desires presented during the Initial Consultation and the information developed subsequently during the Site Survey and Inventory. It is essentially the first response to the question “I want this, how do I get it?” Arriving at a final design is a process and dialogue between the client and the Landscape Architect.
The design at this stage is not a complete plan; it represents a “concept”. Clients frequently can visualize the design intent thoroughly enough from viewing the conceptual design that they want to take the plan to a contractor for bids. However, the conceptual design at this point never has enough information to allow a contractor to bid the design accurately, nor to allow a contractor to create the final result intended. Allowing the design at this stage to be bid can often cause unexpected costs and an overall bad experience for the client.
Although the Conceptual Design at this stage is not ready for bids, it can allow preliminary budget analysis. The design at this stage can also act as a long-range blueprint in the event that the overall project may involve stages to be implemented over time. Subsequent stages frequently require more detailed information than what has been developed up to this point. The conceptual design is intended to be flexible. Once all parties have agreed that the conceptual design represents the direction they want to pursue, then additional details can be developed to allow the design to be accurately implemented.
Design Development- This phase involves the production of the plans and details that allow a project to be accurately bid and installed. A complete package of landscape plans can include some or all of the following:
Not every landscape project requires, or can justify the cost involved in planning to such a complete degree. Small-scale residential projects cannot afford to spend such a large percentage of the overall budget on the planning phase. The challenge for us is how to help the client achieve what he wants within a budget that he can afford.
Bid Administration- When the design development is complete and the client would like to proceed with construction, bids must be obtained from the appropriate contractors for the completion of the proposed work. This is something that the client can handle directly or, if the client wishes, the bid coordination can be done through our office. In either case, we try to keep a list of qualified contractors in the various trades from which clients can obtain project bids. Once the bids are submitted, we can help the client compare proposals to determine the accuracy of the bids and, if necessary, the extent to which the project will be phased.
Project Monitoring- During the installation of the landscape design by the selected contractor, we offer the service of on-site Project Monitoring. This creates a dialogue between the client, the contractor, and the landscape architect. We strongly recommend our continuing involvement through this implementation phase to insure that the design is installed correctly and as intended.