Landscaping software might be a good option for a holiday treat

Updated Dec 15, 2016
Vectorworks allows the user to create detailed rendering of large jobsites. Photo: Holcombe Norton Partners, Inc.Vectorworks allows the user to create detailed rendering of large jobsites.
Photo: Holcombe Norton Partners, Inc.

Christmas is a time for giving and the idea of shopping for yourself during this time is still frowned upon despite a recent rise in “self-gifting.”

If 2016 has been a good year for your company, there’s nothing wrong with a little splurge at the end of the year especially if you are buying something that will benefit your business.

An example of useful splurge is Vectorworks’ latest software update, Vectorworks 2017.

The Vectorworks Landmark software was released with a number of updates in September and the landscapers who are already using to program report enjoying multiple advantages with the software.

“It’s a perfect tool and as far as Christmas presents go, if I didn’t already have it, I’d definitely be asking for it,” said Bryan Goff, director of design and sciences at Grey Leaf Design Inc., based in Woodbury, Minnesota.

One of Goff’s favorite features about Vectorworks is how he can design a project with the 2D graphics he likes, and then in a couple clicks he has a 3D design based off his 2D drawing.

“People want to see those visuals,” he said. “That has become my favorite part of Vectorworks.”

For Stephen Schrader, an associate landscape architect with Holcombe Norton Partners Inc. based in Birmingham, Alabama, it was hard to choose just one feature he liked the best.

Photo: Holcombe Norton Partners, Inc.Photo: Holcombe Norton Partners, Inc.

“I like the built-in sketch style for presentation graphics,” Schrader said. “You can print things out that look like someone sat there and drew it by hand. I love everything. I like the plant tool and if I knew more about irrigation I’m sure I’d love that (irrigation tool) too.”

The plant tool that Schrader is referring to allows users to create 3D shapes of the plants that in turn form an overall canopy so shade can be calculated. The irrigation tools are one of the major updates to the software that streamlines the process and can calculate the water efficiency of a site.

“I think the irrigation tool is a life saver,” Goff said. “Irrigation is quite often forgot about in landscape design, in my opinion. It is often left to the installer.”

Both Goff and Schrader agreed that Vectorworks improved their workflow because of the amount of work they could accomplish in the one program versus jumping around various applications.

“We’re using it 95 to 98 percent of the time,” Goff said. “The vast tool arrangement allows me to do things rapidly and I have everything at my fingertips.”

The software can be used for any size job varying from small residential sites to complex commercial sites that could be 80 acres.

Schrader has found Vectorworks to be quite helpful in meeting sustainability requirements with its smart objects. Smart objects combine the geometry of the article with the appended data about the object, which is collected in built-in worksheets that provide in-depth site analysis.

Users can calculate water-use reduction and organize plant data with these worksheets in Vectorworks.

“I use worksheets to help meet all kinds of local codes and landscape ordinances,” Schrader said. “Once I balance out those requirements, I’ll put the worksheets right onto the design drawing. This makes it easy for reviewers to see I’ve completed the background work. And just like with any other facet of the design process, meeting all the legal requirements for a site plan, in addition to rating systems like LEED and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), can become a bit of a balancing act.”

Photo: Grey Leaf Design, Inc.Photo: Grey Leaf Design, Inc.

Compared to other professional design software, Goff pointed out that Vectorworks does not feel as prohibitive as other programs when designing.

“One of the beautiful parts of Vectorworks is it’s a very deep program,” he said. “It lets you have massive customization. My designs look vastly different from others. I can stand out and my company can be my company.”

As for the learning curve, Vectorworks has a moderate one and Goff estimates within a week a landscape designer should have a good grasp on the software.

“It’d be a nice present to get someone early for Christmas so they have time to play with it while they’re off for the holidays,” Schrader said. “If I was in a design/build company, it’s a whole lot easier and user friendly than AutoCad, or at least when I used to use it.”

According to Goff, the price point of Vectorworks was one of the deciding factors because it was so cost effective.

“The price point was phenomenal,” he said. “I don’t know any other software that gives you everything that it has for that price.”

For more information about Vectorworks, click here.

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