Should we hire a landscape design-build firm or a “design-only” landscape architecture firm for our project?
If you want the best possible design plan, then you should hire a “design-only” landscape architecture firm, right? After all, a firm that focuses solely on the design must offer a superior level of artistry, which means better results. Maybe.
While the demonstrated artistic and creative capabilities of your landscape architect are essential, there are several key requirements needed to move the design from concept to completion, specifically: project cost estimating, materials selections, construction services, and project management.
With a design-only landscape firm, you would have to contract separately for these services–all of which are included in the design-build model. Without teamwork, timely communication, and the all-in-one solution–built-in benefits of the landscape design-build approach to landscape architecture, your experience of the process from design through construction to the final outcome might not turn out as you’d hoped.
Four Reasons to Work with a Landscape Design-Build Firm
1 Teamwork & Shared Standards
Designing, building, and installing a stunning outdoor environment is an effort that requires multiple specialists to work effectively together. When you choose to work with a design-only firm, your team members come from different companies, which means communication can be less than optimal.
When you hire a landscape design-build firm, all of the players you need are already on the same team. They work for the same company, so they share a purpose and set of standards that you can trust from beginning to end. High-level communication and quality control are built-in.
2 Artistry and Creativity in Design
You might think that hiring a design-only firm means that your landscape design will be second-to-none. That’s not necessarily the case. A landscape architect who both designs and builds can demonstrate the same creative ability as one from a design-only firm—the difference is that the design-build architect becomes your partner for the entire project and you’ll work with the same team members the entire time.
This is a significant benefit to you because there is no handoff from a design firm to a construction firm later on because they are one and the same. You can trust that the plan developed by the design group will be understood and correctly interpreted by the construction group.
3 Budget Accuracy and Flexibility
Let’s say you hire a design-only landscape architect to design your landscape. Once the plan is finalized, you send it out to contractors to get competing estimates for construction costs. The accuracy of the cost estimates you receive from various landscape construction contractors depends on how accurately they interpret the drawings.
A landscape design-build firm does everything in house, so when they give you a budget, it’s a number you can trust. They have a complete understanding of what it takes to implement their design. And because they don’t have to interpret drawings from an outside source, any questions the construction foreman may have can be answered with a quick walk next door to the architect’s office.
And if your budget gets pushed to the limit, the design-build firm can explain exactly why since they’re in charge of everything. This provides flexibility in that they can suggest alternate materials and modifications to the design on the fly to bring the budget back into line.
4 Project Supervision
On complex projects, the more players involved, the more likely it is something important may be missed somewhere along the line. A lapse in communication could lead to complications or delays during construction that incur unforeseen charges. The possibility of such a situation arising with a landscape design-build firm is minimal to zero because one company is solely responsible for all aspects of your project.
Also, when it comes to particularly tricky parts of the implementation—such as placing boulders or deciding precisely which tree will go where—the design-build landscape architect will be on-site to supervise. They are on-site at key points during construction to finesse the plan as drawn, to adjust it to the eccentricities of the site. This on-site supervision typically costs extra with a design-only firm.
The All In One Solution
Assuming the landscape design-build firm you hire demonstrates the same creativity as a design-only firm, there are many advantages to choosing an all-in-one solution. The design-build approach offers built-in efficiency, flexibility, and reliability–which makes for a smooth and predictable experience for you. The team-based approach of a design-build firm ensures everyone is on the same page from beginning to end because all the participants are working from the same playbook.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.