I realized early on in my career that clients really ultimately want the built finished landscape — not to put a colored rendering on the wall only to remain a vision of some future project.  That is why I am a design-build architect — I take the client from conceptual design through completed construction — all with a hands on approach to insure the integrity of the design.

The biggest benefit of using a design-build professional is that you are getting so much more value than if you talk with individual trades directly and expect them to see how their individual part fits into your overall plan. At best, you will end up with a successful project that balances the best of both worlds – the designer’s creative vision and the builder’s practical knowledge of construction materials, details, and costs.

Granted, not all projects need to be designed by a professional or even rendered in some type of plan or drawing. Many smaller projects are straightforward and have gone through the process of design by the homeowner.

Benefits of using a Design-Build professional:

  1. Design expertise goes into any project regardless of its size or complexity
  2. Capability to prepare a professional design and plans if deemed necessary
  3. Ability to integrate all other trade specialties in terms of design details and construction issues
  4. One Stop Shop approach to going from conceptual design to built finished product
  5. Avoids the trap of getting design advice from individual trades beyond their own specialty
  6. If you want to have a plan prepared to solicit multiple bids, we can provide you the drawings only
  7. If your project does not warrant a formal designed plan, we can prepare a construction proposal
  8. Perfect compliment for Do It Yourself homeowners who need guidance and want to do some of the work themselves
  9. Designs that are creative yet practical and that can be built without complications in the field
  10. Can provide you with alternative building materials and methods of construction such as comparing a poured concrete driveway with using pavers. A paver specialist will of course favor pavers, while the concrete specialist will say pavers are not as good or may be more expensive.

When do you need a design?

Answer: when your project is sufficiently complex with not only the area involved, but the multiple components involved such as hardscape, softscape, irrigation and grading. If the project is straightforward like replacing an old ugly concrete driveway with new pavers, you probably don’t need a design or any plans drawn. In this case, you are probably looking to get a free estimate since the square footage is known and you have selected the exact material to be used.

Who should prepare the design?

Answer:  Someone who is capable of drawing a plan to scale and calculating materials and quantities while at the same time convey what the design will look like when finished. In addition, a plan that is required by a Homeowners Association or to obtain a building permit should be prepared by a qualified professional.

Bottom Line:

Don’t fall into the trap of getting several contractors to come out and give you a “free estimate” on something that is not pinned down in terms of design. Educate yourself before you talk to individual contractors. Unfortunately, getting free estimates is part of your process of educating yourself about costs and materials. You may not know the exact materials to be used, but you need to know if you can afford what you want to build. Many homeowners often will state “just give me a ballpark number” which is what the homeowner actually expects to get when they call a contractor for a free estimate.

Providing a free estimate for services such as monthly yard maintenance, roof gutters or other work that may only require a little bit of measuring onsite makes sense, landscaping that involves any degree of design really does not belong in the same category of “free estimate”. The question then becomes what is the contractor willing to do for free in order to provide a meaningful proposal to fulfill the desires of the homeowner?

Because I am aware of this process, I will not insist that every project have a design prepared. I want to provide what the homeowner ultimately wants: the finished product so they can enjoy the benefits. I therefore offer Free Consultations rather than free estimates because each project is unique and not all can be priced out on the spot. My consultations are however very educational since I fully understand the costs of construction and the various design materials available to achieve the intended look.

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