Making the Most Impact with Your “Build” Relationships

image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA

Whether in the residential or commercial design-build landscape sectors, there are some great ways that landscape architects can enhance and bring more value to our working relationships with architects, builders, and clients – especially in the “build” process of our projects. The following are a few suggestions that may help you, and as always, feel free to share any comments and suggestions that you might have with fellow landscape architecture professionals.

Here is a list of tasks that are in no particular order – some are big and some are rather minor – but keeping these in mind in your project management will show your design-build team partners that you care a lot about the details!

  • Try to get involved with each project as early as possible. This is easier with established relationships with architects and builders.
  • Some clients are thinking way ahead and will engage a landscape architecture professional when they are shopping for lots and locations to build. We can really offer them guidance on pro’s and con’s of potential lots based on topography, quality of existing vegetation, surrounding views, limitations/restrictions that various communities will be enforcing, etc.
  • Partner with the team to help orient the structures on the lot for the best view and exposure.
  • Assist in setting key elevations.
  • Bring in an Arborist during site analysis to develop a tree preservation plan and offer plant health recommendations (pre and post construction).
  • Get circulation plans agreed upon so the “construction road” can be based on the future driveway footprint, rather than an arbitrary stone road bed that many builders install (this may get the concrete trucks straight to the hole in the ground but not have any relation to the site plan later on in the process). Plus, there is cost involved to tear out those temporary access drives.
  • Be willing to advise on stockpile placement, staging areas, vegetation protection zones, and erosion control measures.
  • Staging of the project is huge. Some landscape installations actually need to start before the building goes up due to tight side setbacks that restrict equipment access. Plan ahead for special staging & stockpiling of materials.
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA
  • It is sometimes beneficial to be part of the conversation on septic system layout. Even though the rough placement of septic areas may be tested and approved ahead of time, there are ways to influence the layout on the lot – looking at options for numbers of fields, lengths, and widths, as well as tank locations to most efficiently place the septic system and allow more of the landscape to be used for other purposes.
  • Well placement is another decision that landscape architects can advise on, placing them in accessible but discreet locations.
  • As the construction moves forward, ask to be part of an electrical walk through. Be sure your client’s requirements are shared with the builder for light posts, fixtures for entry monuments, remote outlets for holiday lighting, lighting and outlets at boat piers, placement of outlets for irrigation control panels, and outlets for lighting transformers.
  • Gas line destinations are important to figure out early, so plumbers can get their pipe runs in before interior finishing gets too far along. Determine most efficient runs for getting to grills, fireplaces, etc.
  • Is a swimming pool in the scope? Be sure to get their requirements represented early too!
  • A/C and generator pad locations are good to agree on earlier than later.
  • Downspout locations are best determined as a group decision between the installer, the builder, and the landscape architect.
  • Have your irrigation partner involved early. They will be able to specify if special mineral filters or pump sizing considerations need to be discussed with the plumbing contractor.
  • If paving of drives, walks, and patios is done by others, be sure that access sleeves for future wire runs or piping runs is coordinated and accurately marked by the installer.
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA
image: LandWorks, Inc., Chris Miracle, ASLA

So, as this list shows, there are a lot of things that may not show up on initial plans we create, but yet are tremendously important tasks to ensure the smooth running of our projects. By keeping our project participation as engaged as possible, we can really build great relationships with those builders and architects that are such valuable referral sources for us!

by Chris Miracle, PLA, ASLA, Design-Build PPN Co-Chair

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