Five Reasons To Hire A Design-Build Landscape Firm

Design-Build Landscape Firms

Is A Design-Build Landscape Contractor the Right Choice For Your Project?

Working with a single company to handle both your landscape design and construction can simplify the process.

If you're considering a landscape project for your home, a landscape design-build firm can help you to streamline the process. Using a single firm comes with both pros and cons, depending on the size of the project and your personal goals. Landscape firms are typically contractors; some have a landscape architect on staff allowing them to combine landscape design services with construction.

So what exactly is landscape design-build? It's a company which provides both the design and installation of landscape projects, instead of those services being provided by separate companies.

The design-build process can simplify the construction process for homeowners, but you should be aware that there are both pros and cons for using a design-build firm. Here's what you need to know when making your decision.

1. You Work With A Single Company

Pro: The obvious advantage for partnering with a design-build firm is that you work with a single company for every phase of your landscape project. This can mean that your project will move quickly through each stage of the process. Because all services are done in-house, each phase of the project can move quickly. This can offer efficiencies including cost savings as the entire process is managed from start to finish under one roof.

Con: Having your project under one roof can mean that your project is viewed with a single perspective. Make sure any design-build landscaper you choose understands your vision and is aligned with your goals before you sign a contract.

2. The Design Process is Simplified

Pro: A full-service firm will roll the design services and installation into a single proposal at one cost. The design fee is typically listed as a lump sum in a line-item estimate for the project.

Con: A design-build firm may provide a design plan that is not adequately detailed. If you want to shop your design to other contractors to receive a price estimate on that plan, this can be a problem. When you pay a separate designer to craft a plan, you own the drawings you'll use to get the project completed. Be wary of companies that have you pay for the design, but won't transfer ownership of the drawings to you, or for drawings that are not accurately detailed.

A properly designed landscape design plan is done to scale with dimensions and materials noted. It should also include a specific list of plant species, quantities, spacing, dimensions, and container sizes. This guarantees that if you take the same plan to another contractor for an estimate, they can give you an accurate price quote based on the actual scope of work.

3. A Design-Build Firm Will Have Detailed Knowledge of the Latest Construction Methods

Pro: Typically, design-build landscaping firms are owned and operated by licensed and bonded landscape contractors who have years of extensive experience installing landscapes. They understand efficient building processes and the workflow involved in properly staging a project. They will also have a wealth of knowledge on the latest and best construction method to complete your project.

Con: Design-build firms typically do not offer the most exceptional design. It's not the focus of their business; profitability comes through the installation process. Landscape contractors are not licensed landscape architects. A landscape architect must pass a licensing exam before being allowed to practice. When doing your due diligence, seek out firms that have a licensed landscape architect on staff

4. Design-Build Firms are Often Well Connected to Local Wholesale Nurseries and Suppliers

Pro: Landscape contractors who do design-build regularly order supplies and plants, and as a result, they are acutely aware of plant availability – which often changes at wholesale nurseries. If you're looking to get your project completed fast, a design-build firm will know exactly what plants and materials are available in sufficient quantities to get your project done right now.

Cons: Because they know what's available, they may source the easiest, and sometimes the cheapest, materials and plants for your project. If you're looking for something specific or can create a phased planting landscape over time, the design-build process may not be the best option for your project.

5. Simplified Costs

Pros: The design-build process reduces the cost of your design because it is rolled into your overall project cost. Because of this, you will have an estimate for your entire project early in the process.

Con: You've heard the saying “you get what you pay for,” you can get a well-constructed project using a design-build firm.  Some top firms even have great designers on staff, but you'll probably never know how much time and effort the designer spent on your project if it is shown as a lump sum. You also can't be sure what is driving the design process. Ease of building and availability of materials are typically priorities for design-build firms. It's a different approach than a landscape architect might take. A landscape architect might prioritize a native plant palette, sustainable drainage methods, or achieving a particular experience in the garden.

Hiring The Right Landscape Firm

When vetting potential candidate firms, the screening process for choosing a design-build landscape firm is similar to hiring a landscaping contractor. However, you should dig a little deeper and ask some specific questions when speaking to a design-build firm, including:

• How many projects do you work on at once?
Large companies have the crews and staff to work on many projects at once. Ask them how many projects they manage at a time to determine if the company has a high volume of projects, or if they are more selective when taking on new work.

• What is the anticipated timeline for my project?
Labor costs are an essential consideration for both design-build firms as well as landscape contractors. They will create a budget based on the scope of work and can tell you approximately how long your project should take. They should also include the time needed for the design process.

• Who will design the project?
Is the designer a licensed landscape architect, or a qualified designer with experience and training? This question is critical if your priority is a high-quality design. If the firm has a landscape architect on staff, the company will probably offer a higher design standard than a company without a designer on staff.

• How do they charge for design revisions?
If your design fee is rolled into the project cost, revisions may be included in the price. Some firms, however, will charge an hourly rate for revisions. This is an important question to ask!

Is A Design-Build Approach Right for You?

There are situations where working with a landscape design-build firm is a good choice for homeowners. These include project scopes that are already defined, like a new driveway, porch renovation, or another specific, defined component. They are also a great choice for homeowners who want to drastically simplify the design process. For example, maybe you're remodeling your entire home, and don't want to spend time and energy into a landscape design. A design-build firm can efficiently layout and install plants and hardscape in a relatively short amount of time.

If however, the design is a priority, or you want to spend more time considering design options and creative solutions for your landscaping project, the smart choice is to consider a landscape architect or dedicated landscape designer.

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