Design Process

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The following will walk you step by step through my design process.  If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them for you and demonstrate my fitness to serve your landscape design needs.

Landscape Architect vs design/build landscape designer?  I have been both.  Design/build landscape designers are contractors. Job 1 is to sell you products and services.  I retired from the contracting business 12 years ago, and recently landscape architecture, so I can concentrate on what I love:  Concept development, design, and construction management.   My only interest is satisfying all of your needs including your budget.  See resume) See also fees.

Design isn't an event.  It is a process of refinement.  Every detail is decided by someone.  The basic steps are: Concept, preliminary, revisions, final, and documentation.  It can be substantially completed before construction or during construction.  I have worked with a few clients when the final design was very different than the original concept.

A sketch is the based on a semi scale plat.  It is the first step in the design process, but isn't accurate or detailed enough for construction.

A scaled 2D plan is a conversion of the fat fuzzy lines of a sketch into something that can be dimensioned.  The effect of the 3rd dimension (height) can be calculated, but not adequately demonstrated nor verified with a 2D plan.  The plan can be no more accurate that the survey of existing conditions.  To that end, I recommend you hire a surveyor.

3D design model is an effective tool for working out construction details and making sure that everyone is imagining the same thing.  It serves to avoid misunderstandings and significant change orders during construction.  It's not just a picture of the design. It is the design.  Design changes and alternative scenarios are very easy and extremely cost effective compared to changes during construction.  Choices are easier and less stressful when you can see the difference between alternatives, compare the relative costs, and confirm or adjust your priorities.

The following is a step by step outline of my procedures, deliverables, fees, and payment schedule.

  1. Receive, prepare, and print your survey (plat) if you have one.
  2. First meeting and sketch,
  3. Scan and trace our design into a 2D Plan using AutoCAD
  4. Build a basic 3D model
  5. Online presentation, walkthrough, and markup
  6. Revisions (markup and revisions repeated until you are satisfied)
  7. Update AutoCAD plan to match final 3d model
  8. Dimensioned plan(s)

Optional Project administration – 15% of all costs + travel expense (if any) Minimum 20k project budget,

Types of formal documentation for design services – Optional supplemental plans and specs include:

  1. Planting plan
  2. Supplemental plant data
  3. Irrigation plan
  4. Lighting plan
  5. Construction details and specifications

Estimate of charges – I charge a very reasonable fee of $70 per hour including one way travel + overnight accommodation if necessary. See fees

  1. 1st Onsite meeting and sketch typically costs a few hundred dollars.  The variables are:  If I have a survey before our meeting, our time together is much more efficient.  If your project is simple, you probably don’t need me, but complex issues might require several minutes to an hour or so to resolve to your perfect satisfaction.  I use colored flags and paint to help us visualize and agree on a design as quickly as humanly possible.  I draw sketches faster than anyone (1-3 hrs) if I have an accurate survey, daylight, and decent weather.  Given time, I use my erasable colored pencils to help us visualize and agree on the sketch design as quickly and efficiently as possible.  I try to produce this sketch during our 1st appointment, but occasionally we need more time to resolve conflicting issues.  If you are much further than 2 hours drive, I have found it to be more cost efficient to stay over in a local hotel than spending another 5+ hours driving.  I don’t charge for time spent in overnight accommodation unless I am working on your project.
  2. Scan and trace your 2D planting plan typically takes only a few hours because our sketch design is already to scale, and I have specific tools and techniques to make the process the most efficient possible.
  3. 3D modeling - I use special software to allow me to create a basic model in a few hours to several hours depending on many variables that we will discuss when we meet.  The psychological aspect of this process varies between individuals.  You will realize insights not possible by any other method, which refines your ideals, which provides insight, which generates new ideas, which reveals alternatives.  I don’t require that you know where we will end before we start.  You will find this journey to be exciting, and gratifying, while easing the tension of making decisions in a vacuum.  My skills and efficiency improve with each model, but I haven’t increased my rate so you are getting a better value than all clients before you.
  4. Presentation - As our design evolves, I add details, textures, entourage, and background to increase realism and visualization.  This process advances along with design refinements and is impossible to guess because of the dynamic aspect of the process.  We use this model to walk through our design, take screen captures, and mark them up to represent revisions.  Design is making choices between conflicting objectives and restraints.  Design is refinement of your ideals based on the constraints of reality.  Presentation is how we communicate intent between us, and with contractors.

Payment schedule – I prefer to be paid upon delivery of the sketch, 3d model, planting plan, and/or other supplemental deliverables.  You may stop at any point in the design process with notification of cessation of services and full payment of services to date.

Lead time   I keep a few to several projects underway most of the year. I can normally visit your on your site within a week, or online within a couple days.  We can normally produce a model sufficient for us to review online within 2 weeks of our 1st meeting.

plat.gif (47578 bytes)SURVEY If you have a survey (plat) I need a copy of it before I come see you. You may have received one with your closing papers when you bought your home.  I will print your plat to scale on a sheet which is large enough to sketch on.  See submittals

BASEMAP - if you don't have a plat (survey), someone will have to create one. If I come see you I have all the tools to measure and draw a scaled plan of your house and property, such as this one.  If we are meeting online, Developing the Landscape Plan is a DIY guide if you intend draw your own.  Otherwise, a local surveyor is needed.

PHOTOS - If I come see you, I will take the photos, so you can skip ahead to sketch. Otherwise, see photos

SKETCH - After we have agreed on at least a general design, I draw a sketch plan.  This is true whether we meet onsite or online.  The difference is that online, you are in my virtual office with me as I sketch. See design online for details  From this point forward, onsite and online are identical because after we transition from paper to digital format meeting online is much more efficient even if you live right around the corner.  I'm happy to prove it to you.

2D PLAN- I scan my sketch into AutoCAD and draft a 2D plan for your approval. You will be able to zoom, pan, and print the drawings for detailed study offline.  See other examples at Plans

Planting plan

Supplemental plant data

Typical plant data page in PDF

lignting plan Construction detail
3D MODEL - If your project and budget justify the expense, We will walk through a 3D model of your project and design your project to your perfect satisfaction before breaking ground.

Key aspects of my techniques:

  1. Unique I invented this process beginning many years ago. The fake version using image processing isn't even close.

  2. Insight When we walk through your model together online you see our design from all important vantage points.  This will give you confidence in our design, or a reason to change it.

  3. Revisions Between meetings, I revise the model, copy it to another file for substantial revisions.  This leaves a crumb trail of drawings for future reference.

  4. Alternatives Material textures make a considerable difference in the appearance and cost of your project.

  5. Value Aside from the fact that there is no other alternative, my fees are a small fraction of your completed project.  I typically save clients many times my fee.

  6. Peace of mind I have demystified the design process so that you can rest easy knowing that you have done it right.  See Presentations for more examples 

Fence design alternatives
Swimming pool filter screen
Swimming pool stone fountains
Swimming pool sheer falls and tile

If you have an estate size property, I have developed some methods that will make our 1st onsite meeting even more efficient.  See Estates and English Country Manor, and land planning

Rule of thumb - A luxury home costing over 200k can carry a landscape budget of 15%+.  Below that, 10% is more likely. Starter home buyers seldom invest over 7%.  Nearly everyone can benefit from professional design assistance and mistake prevention.  My fees are a good value due to efficiency of my design process.

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 david[at]signaturelandscapes(dot)com  or voicemail at:  706-543-3395

Landscape Design Online Worldwide, local in metro Atlanta, GA and 316 E. to Athens, GA, up to 4hr drive to GA, SC, NC, AL, TN, or Anywhere non-stop Flight from ATL   Let me prove it to you!   Email

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