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The Design Process

Everything starts with an idea!

If you think about it, this is very true. Nothing happens unless someone or something has an idea (thought, feeling etc.) about it first.

Planning and designing are the first steps in making a thought a physical reality. A completed design itself is no longer just a thought, but a type of physical object even if only in ink and paper.

Any client can take their own thoughts and commit them to paper and create their own design. They do not necessarily need the help of a professional company like ours. However, we do have the advantage of having knowledge of many types of materials, plants, construction methods and a creative ability that is honed by experience.

Doing a landscape design is especially helpful to a homeowner or company when the projects are more complicated and even mandatory when presenting designs for permits and homeowner associations.

A good design is almost always worth the cost. Some commercial projects have huge sets of plans that cost many millions to create but are still a fraction of the cost of the confusions that would occur without them. This is also true with a single residence.

Designs are valuable not only in the amount of money saved by not having to redo things but also in the personal enjoyment that you get by having a project come out the way you envisioned it.

When signing up for design there are a few steps that we go through to create the final product.

Step 1)

Measure the yard and get the scope of what we are doing. For complex yards with heavy elevation changes and/or legal requirements we may need to have a professional survey company come in and handle this part.

Step 2)

Meet with the designer and go over everything you want to see in the design. This is your wish list time where you give the designer what your desires are.

Step 3)

Provide a budget. It is important to give the designers a sense of your budget window so they can use this information in discussing and designing the project. Sometimes people feel funny about this step because they are worried about throwing out a number without a bid first. They are afraid that the company will take advantage of them and then price things higher than normal to get all the money from the budget when they may have gotten it cheaper without saying it first.

First off, we can tell you with 99% certainty that this will probably never happen no matter which contractor you went with (unless maybe you go with cheapo-gardener-illegal contractor-guy). In all our years of experience it is very rare to have a project come in under a client’s initial cost desire. That is because construction is generally more expensive than the vast majority think. We are contractors and we still get surprised sometimes at costs of certain types of material etc.

However, that does not mean that we can’t massage a project to get it within a range that the client feels comfortable with. Having the budget target then becomes an essential part of the design process.

Step 4)

Do the conceptual design. This is the step where the designers take all the information - measurements, desires etc., and put that all together in a beautiful drawing. They will be using the information you provide along with their own experience and creativity to provide what they feel is a nice product.

Designs are a viewpoint thing. Everyone has a different viewpoint and you may or may not initially agree with the designer and/or your wife/husband. That is fine. Our goal is to work with you even if you don’t like anything we first propose. We want you to be happy. But you will only be happy when you view something in a positive light and like what you see. So, we often must massage things to move more to your tastes. A thing to remember though is that the designers are professionals and do have many years of experience. You shoud keep this in mind when deciding what to agree or disagree with.

This is also a process. We often don’t get it exactly on the first go. As mentioned above we often must make some changes to get it just right. Visualizing it on paper makes it more real and can also lead to changes in opinion on certain aspects of a job.

We should also mention that there are different types of drawings that may be needed in an outdoor landscape project. The one we have been discussing is a conceptual drawing. That means its purpose is to give a concept of what the yard will look like. It entails showing where things are and how they will fit together from a broad view. They can include plant layouts and lighting details.

There are some parts of a project that may require construction or engineering drawings. Construction drawings show how something is built. This usually includes things like exact dimensions, materials, and spacing. Engineering drawings can also show how something is built but often will also have math calculations on them to show why and how the constructed items will work. Construction and Engineering drawings are needed on a case by case basis and are considered out of the scope of a landscape conceptual design.

(Please see the following pages for examples of the different type of drawings)

Step 5)

Approve the conceptual design. If you are satisfied with the drawing, then you approve it. This means that you will also get all your bids and pricing from the approved drawing. If you make changes to it later this can change the scope of work and the project cost. It is best then to make sure you are happy with the layout before bidding it.

At this stage Picture Build Landscape will also provide a bid for the work. Our bids are in menu item format so you can more easily make changes to the scope of work. We may also provide some options (like material choices) in the bid with associated costs.

Changes After Approval

It may be necessary to make changes to the plan after you have approved it. This can occur for different reasons.

One major one is if there are permits involved and the city wants changes done to the plan. This is something we run into often. Some changes they require are minor, but some are large. We have had the city tell us to completely move pool locations, BBQS, outdoor structures etc. In some cases, in specialized zones, the city has disapproved major parts of the design and thus defeating the original purpose of the landscape project.

In the greater Los Angeles area there are many independent cities. Each has their own permitting departments and codes. It is impossible for us to know all the codes in all the cities. We know a lot, but we still run into issues. Changes to the plan due to city requirement is something you will have to be willing to experience. We may have to charge additional fees based upon the circumstances.

Mid construction changes

We always want the plans to reflect what we are going to build as the crews on site refer to them during construction. If there are minor changes, we can make notes on the plans on the jobsite so we don’t have to redo them. But if there are several changes, we may have to redraw them and send them out to the crews.

We have included in this orientation booklet some examples of the designs.

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This is a conceptual design with one shot of the finished product.

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This is another example of a conceptual design and a completed photo.

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Examples of Construction and Engineering Plans

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