Steps; Design to Build

wci-chop-2.jpgI have decided that yesterday’s addendum deserved a stand alone post. I have also added 4 links at the bottom that will send you to older post that also deal with this same subject matter.

Yesterday:

Addendum: Here again we are dealing with the steps in the design process. I can’t seem to get past why this process isn’t explained better/implemented better, in a nutshell:

  • Interview the client, the bigger the project the more thorough the interview, and if it’s bigger than that, more time is spent developing a relationship with the client(s)
  • Look at the site, pay attention to what’s here/what’s not here. How can the site be best served? Can the client’s request be realistically met on this site?
  • Use your experience(the designer) to meld together the site and the client. If it’s not possible learn to say no. If you have more questions-ask.
  • Listen, listen, listen . . . to the client, to the site, to your experience.
  • Draw conceptuals-I prefer renderings-2 dimensional, perspective, and/or axonometric . . . clients cannot read plan view drawings, conceptuals, hardscape details, master plans . . . Clients cannot look at tiny circles and straight lines . . . and see pergola’s, fences, walls, waterfalls, grade changes, steps, etc., etc., etc., they cannot-get used to it.
  • The conceptuals are a starting point
  • The conceptuals are a starting point to talk about how spaces relate, how elements relate, how people relate.
  • The conceptuals are a starting point . . . to . . . more conceptuals in bigger projects, and more conceptuals in even bigger projects.
  • The larger the project, the more complicated the design process.
  • Conceptuals usually lead to hardscape plans, planting plans, and/or master plans. this depends on the designer, the design/build company . . . the design fee. The path from the conceptual plans can go many directions.
  • There are no conceptuals when the designer is not very good, the plan is small, the plan is simple, the plan is free . . . you get what you pay for.
  • Most design/build companies discourage/ignore/hate/poo-poo/blow-off/are ignorant to/disclaim conceptuals . . . How do I know this? Around 35 years of dealing/hanging/spending time/working with/working for Design/Build Companies. I can safely say that for the VAST majority of design/builds it’s about the build . . . it’s how they make their money. No fault in that, it’s just that is the way it is.
  • Do design/build companies have talented designers? . . . sure, sometimes. If it’s a designer on staff(stretched thin in the Spring), or the owner . . . who is stretched to the ‘breaking point’ each and every Spring. There are those design/builds out there who understand and follow through the process.
  • Back to conceptuals-the point is to determine where the ‘big stuff’ goes. Then the ‘medium stuff’. From here the plan goes into more specifics-and is most likely drawn in plan view.
  • Plan view, where numbers, sizes, square foot(ages), lengths, are determined-and estimated. These Plan View drawings should always be to scale, always.
  • In more complicated plan views-lots of bulbs, perennials, hardscape details find their way to separate drawings-depending on time, budget, philosophy, company procedure, etc.
  • There are always, and I mean always . . . on-site adjustments. It’s the final part of the design process. A good designer allows for these; not only allows for these-but expects them to happen.
Moleskine fun

Moleskine fun

There are 4 older post that also deal with this subject and expand upon how this process works for me as a Designer.

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4 responses to “Steps; Design to Build

  1. I’m glad that we can’t be put into your catagory of “Most design/build companies discourage/ignore/hate/poo-poo/blow-off/are ignorant to/disclaim conceptuals”.
    I consider them to be one of the most important aspects of design intent and communication.
    For most clients the landscape architectural design process is like wading through newly unchartered waters.
    I like to hand these budding sailors a simple navigation map which easily spells out how our design department works.
    I believe this assists in de-mystifying the Design Process.
    Here is our boiler plate document :
    Michelle Derviss Landscapes Designed
    An overview of the Design Process

    Needs Assessment
    When you first contact MDLD, she will ask you general questions about your objectives with your landscape project. If she feels the project is a good fit for her skills, she will typically follow the phone conversation with a visit to your house. This will give her an opportunity to develop a more thorough understanding of your project. Michelle will bring her portfolio or other materials to help you understand her work and project approach.
    If this meeting is basically a getting to know one another interview, then this meeting is generally not billed for. If this is a horticultural & or a design consultation providing the client with tangible information this meeting is billed for at the hourly rate of $ 125.00 per hr.

    This initial visit will then be translated into a proposal for design services, or a contract which will describe the services to be performed and their costs . For smaller projects we may simply outline what we will do , the costs and provide a deadline by which we will complete the project.

    Development of Landscape Plans – the phases:
    Analysis
    MDLD will come back to your property to measure and photograph the site.
    Information gathered will be soil , sun, water pressure and drainage conditions, existing plants, structures & viewing corridors . A base plan will be prepared from this information.
    Also a meeting will be schedule with your city planner to review all CC+R’s for your site.
    Preliminary Plans and the Design Review Meetings
    Based upon the analysis and our conversations the preliminary design schemes will be prepared. These preliminary design concept sketches are drawn roughly to scale in site plan form with a corresponding colored pencil perspective sketch to further assist you in the visualization of the design concepts. Typically several schemes will be presented and we will meet to review the various schemes and determine a final design for the Master Plan .
    Master Plan
    Graphic representation of the project communicating the scope of the job
    Construction Plans
    Derived from the Master Plan the final construction plan package is assembled. Depending on the scope of the project these plans may include the detailed planting plan , the site plan with grading specifications , construction details and elevations for hard surfaces such as patios, walls, stonework , pergolas and swimming pools, drainage schematics , irrigation plans, and low voltage lighting plans.
    Pricing of Landscape Plans
    We bill our time out on an hourly basis at $ 125.00 per hour. A budgetary estimate of our time will be presented to you in our contract for services. As a basic rule of thumb landscape design fees usually work out to be approx. 10 to 12% of landscape construction costs.
    Installation and Project Management
    Once the design phase is complete, we will work with you to implement the installation.
    MDLD is affiliated with Miguel Chavez Landscape Construction but also has the flexibility to work with other highly qualified installation contractors if you choose .
    Regardless, MDLD will ensure that a high standard of quality craftsmanship is carried through and that all plants, hardscaping and sculptural elements will be executed as per plan.

    Found this on Friday-in the Spam, I guess Askimet didn’t like you for awhile-thanks again for the contribution, great stuff.

  2. For many homeowners navigating the uncharted waters of landscape architectural design and its subsequent installation is a mystifying endeavor.
    How are these neophytes to know what to ask and when and how the process as a whole unfurls itself ?
    It takes a well groomed designer to assist and educate their clients through ‘The Process’.
    Rick astutely points out that a good designer is there to ” listen, listen listen , but it is also extremely important for the designer to be at the helm of meetings to ask the most pertinent questions and lead the clients and The Process.
    A simple and brief informational form letter should be sent to the clients prior to the first initial meeting so that they are clear about what is going to happen , how it is going to happen and all importantly , how much it is going to cost them.
    Below is a copy of a letter that I send out to all potential clients prior to meeting them.
    Michelle Derviss Landscapes Designed
    An overview of the Design Process
    Needs Assessment
    When you first contact MDLD, she will ask you general questions about your objectives with your landscape project. If she feels the project is a good fit for her skills, she will typically follow the phone conversation with a visit to your house. This will give her an opportunity to develop a more thorough understanding of your project. Michelle will bring her portfolio or other materials to help you understand her work and project approach.
    If this meeting is basically a getting to know one another interview, then this meeting is generally not billed for. If this is a horticultural & or a design consultation providing the client with tangible information this meeting is billed for at the hourly rate of $ 125.00 per hr.

    This initial visit will then be translated into a proposal for design services, or a contract which will describe the services to be performed and their costs . For smaller projects we may simply outline what we will do , the costs and provide a deadline by which we will complete the project.

    Development of Landscape Plans – the phases:
    Site Analysis
    MDLD will come back to your property to measure and photograph the site.
    Information gathered will be soil , sun, water pressure and drainage conditions, existing plants, structures & viewing corridors . A base plan will be prepared from this information.
    Also a meeting will be schedule with your city planner to review all CC+R’s for your site.
    Preliminary Plans and the Design Review Meetings
    Based upon the analysis and our conversations the preliminary design schemes will be prepared. These preliminary design concept sketches are drawn roughly to scale in site plan form with a corresponding colored pencil perspective sketch to further assist you in the visualization of the design concepts. Typically several schemes will be presented and we will meet to review the various schemes and determine a final design for the Master Plan .
    Master Plan
    Graphic representation of the project communicating the scope of the job
    Construction Plans
    Derived from the Master Plan the final construction plan package is assembled. Depending on the scope of the project these plans may include the detailed planting plan , the site plan with grading specifications , construction details and elevations for hard surfaces such as patios, walls, stonework , pergolas and swimming pools, drainage schematics , irrigation plans, and low voltage lighting plans.
    Pricing of Landscape Plans
    We bill our time out on an hourly basis at $ 125.00 per hour. A budgetary estimate of our time will be presented to you in our contract for services. As a basic rule of thumb landscape design fees usually work out to be approx. 10 to 12% of landscape construction costs.
    Installation and Project Management
    Once the design phase is complete, we will work with you to implement the installation.
    MDLD is affiliated with Miguel Chavez Landscape Construction but also has the flexibility to work with other highly qualified installation contractors if you choose .
    Regardless, MDLD will ensure that a high standard of quality craftsmanship is carried through and that all plants, hardscaping and sculptural elements will be executed as per plan.

    Michelle:
    Thanks for the input and sharing the letter you send-it’s a very nice thing to do, thanks. Education, hmmm, that’s a whole ‘nother post or 2 or 4 . . . I will need to get to that . . . good call.

  3. I haven’t been through a design process, at least not one that involved landscaping. (One look at my yard and that will be obvious.) But this all sounds very familiar.

    It’s a much longer, more complicated endeavor than most people think it is. Especially when we get into strucutre(s), ponds, streams, parking courts, 2nd Driveways, etc.

    Michelle touches on one concern I’d have when she writes, ” … she will ask you general questions about your objectives with your landscape project.” I’m thinking that you’d have to spend a lot more time exploring this sort of stuff up front to avoid changes or dissatisfaction down the line.

    Looking at Michelle’s work you can see she ask questions(it looks to be the right questions) Not only do Designers need to ask the “right questions, they need to ask them-then shut up and listen.

    I’d think you’d run into clients who jump right to solutions (we want a patio here and lawn for the kids to play on there and some cool playground stuff there and something to block the view of that ugly stuff), or more likely, folks who don’t even know what they want, just that they don’t want what they’ve got. Seems like one of the big keys to success is that listen, listen, listen part but that you’d have to be really skilled to yank out of them what it is they really want and need.

    Yes, they are those who know exactly what they want-we usually find out they want more. Yes; I’ve been with quite a few who have know idea, no idea at all. That is the time to get clever with your questioning. Looking at their lifestyle, “their life”, habits, desires, interest, entertainment, taste, culture, knowledge, curiousity, and on and on. The ability to interview clients properly is something that sets designers apart-especially in designing unique/custom “spaces”.

    Closest I get to this kind of stuff is in collaborations on website development. It’s amazing how often after the initial meetings we determine that the client really doesn’t want or need what it is they had in mind.

    So true, it sounds like it is along the same lines.

    I was asked by a contractor to go with him to talk with a client about a new front entry, he wasn’t sure what she wanted, and he was under the impression she wanted something different than the normal in the area. So we went to see her. 1 hour later(after the interview) we were getting in the truck to leave. He looked over at me and said: “We’ve been asking the wrong questions for 20 years, I’ll never interview anyone the same way again”.

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