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From Concept to Completion

Landscape architects create beautiful and functional outdoor areas

By Patty Hutchens

When it comes to designing or decorating our homes, we give so much thought to everything including colors, textures, countertops, cabinets and picking out fixtures. But how much effort do we put into planning and designing the exterior of our home—specifically the landscape? If you are like many, it is not much.

Whether you are building a new home or want to upgrade your current outdoor living space, a landscape architect can be an investment you may want to make. And you may be surprised to learn that by investing in a landscape architect, you can increase the value of your home up to 15 percent over comparable homes, and that value will grow over time, unlike traditional home remodels.

So, what specifically are the advantages to hiring a landscape architect? One is that they are educated to look at each landscape as a system, analyzing the overall picture and determining problem areas. They can also assist the homeowner in selecting the right materials, styles, textures and colors for the plan. Whether you want low maintenance or love to dig in and maintain your own garden, a landscape architect can help you plan accordingly.

But it’s not just about plants and trees when it comes to landscape architecture. When working on residential landscape architecture, an architect can help plan for pools, paving, storm water management and more.

While any project takes patience and planning, landscape design can be especially challenging, and hiring a professional can make the process much easier and help ensure a beautiful outcome. If you are part of a Homeowners Association, you may be required to present a landscape plan prior to developing or remodeling the area around your home. Also, for areas such as outdoor fireplaces and outdoor kitchens, you will need to take into consideration safety codes, an area in which a landscape architect can provide his or her expertise.

Landscape architecture is a highly regulated occupation, and each state manages its own licensed landscape architects. To become licensed, one must have an accredited degree in landscape architecture and also work for a period of time under the supervision of a licensed landscape architect. They are also required to pass several technical exams before becoming licensed.

Contrary to what many believe, landscape architects are the designers and planners of a project; they do not do the actual work. Instead, they partner with those doing the work to ensure that the project is done to the plan’s specifications.

There are many benefits to hiring a landscape architect, some of which include creativity, budget and project management.

Because of their education and licensing requirements, a landscape architect is able to help facilitate ideas that will be unique to your specific site. While you may have your own ideas, they can assist you in expanding on or making variations to that idea based on their experience and talent.

While we may all look at the area we wish to landscape and think we know what may be best for certain areas, it’s not all about it being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Taking into consideration the ecosystem of your land is vital to ensuring the design is sustainable.

Of course, we all have a vision of what we would love our yards to look like, but often we think it may be out of reach when it comes to our budget. A landscape architect knows the costs associated with many aspects of the design and can design something that fits your budget but still enables you to realize a beautifully landscaped yard. They will assist in the bidding process with contractors and help you decide whether you should do your project in one year or do it in phases over time to make it more affordable.

Because landscape architects work with installers all the time, they have the knowledge and the partnership with many to ensure you are getting contractors who are reliable and trustworthy.

Before hiring a landscape architect, there are several steps you want to be sure to take. The first is to request proof that they are in fact licensed. Also, be sure to request references. While they may have a beautiful portfolio of their projects, speaking with someone who has employed their services can provide you with ease of mind.

When it comes to creativity, this is likely what will set apart a good architect from an exceptional one. A landscape architect should be able to present you with ideas and outline the pros and cons of anything you or the architect proposes. Their experience should definitely shine through when it comes to this part of the process.

Be sure to ask detailed questions and have everything in writing. What is the depth of work involved? What is the timeline for the various phases of the project? Are you being charged a flat fee versus hourly fee for the design proposal?

Experts say that a guideline to follow when it comes to designing and implementing your landscape plan is to spend no more than 5 to 10 percent of your home’s market value. If you are spending more, you are likely being charged too much.

Hiring a landscape architect on the journey from concept to completion will have you enjoying your newly landscaped living space in no time at all!

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