As the pandemic crawls on and the residential landscape contracting industry powers its way forward, landscape contractors finally are willing to take advantage of existing technologies and media capabilities other professions have been using for years.
The routine has recently been refined to these basic steps:
- The lead comes into a landscape company through the phone or website.
- A file is created and sent or shared with a designer at their location, whether in an office or offsite.
- The designer conducts a phone interview and asks the client to send pictures and a plot plan.
- A base plan, design and estimate are made and sent back to the client.
- A proposal and contract are made and sent via email.
Residential landscape designers have been moving quietly in this direction for years, having always been more aware of tools found on their computers.
Base plan innovations
The time consuming drudgery of creating an accurate base plan has, naturally, spawned the use of Google Earth and its measuring capabilities. This is not the total answer, because of overhead obstructions such as trees. Other things used are online tax appraisal maps and, of course, a plot plan from the client.
The designer can never get enough pictures of the site. This is where expertise comes in handy and is a problem when relying on the client or the field crew. One picture per side of the house is minimum; front, back and sides. Other pictures verifying the location of all utilities and existing shrubs, trees and bed lines are strongly suggested.
The location can be referenced by aligning the picture with a structural or architectural element of the house. What areas that are missed can possibly be found on Google Earth or Google Maps. With new developments built with the last five months, this isn’t an option because free Google GPS apps usually are dated.
From the client interview and other written information that’s sent, as well as the tools listed above, a new design can start formulating in the designer’s mind. The idea is to be virtually there at the site using the digital aids in a computer. If a designer has easy-to-use 3D capabilities and is fast, this is the time to use it, but normally this will add too much time spent in the design process. It all depends on the design budget.
Review and revision
A virtual meeting can be set up between the client and the designer to go over the plans and make revisions. The best way is to share the designer’s screen with the client. This way, the designer can go through the presentation as he/she would in person. As plants and materials are discussed, the images can be Googled.
Proposal and contract
The proposal and/or contact can be handled remotely and digitally, as well. The proposal can be written in Word and saved in PDF form, then sent to the client to be signed and sent back via email.
Remote landscape design is not quality landscape architecture, but it can serve the needs of a developer, builder, landscape contractor or landscape design company. The licensed landscape architect will invest much more time and effort in site inventory and analysis, as well as client interviews and detailed drawings. This justifies a much higher design fee.
The remote landscape design described above is only to get a contractor and client where they need to be to perform a quality, affordable landscape installation. Its day has come and has an important niche in the landscape industry.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Mark Warriner. Warriner is a landscape designer from central Florida. He has 20 years of experience, five of which are in residential design/build. He has an A.S. in ornamental horticulture and a B.S. in landscape architecture.