View our sample below to see how hiring a Landscape Architect could save you over 20% of your construction budget.
The demise of the economy has changed the dynamic of the profession of residential Landscape Architecture. Landscape Architects are seeing would be clients turning down the services of a professional and turning to inexperienced Garden Designers, Landscape Designers, and Landscape Contractors to “save” money. But, are the Clients really saving money? What are the benefits to hiring an experienced Landscape Architecture firm? As professional designers, many of my friends and I in the industry sit around discussing generally the same question, “how can we get through to the potential Client that the design fees of a professional Architect or Landscape Architect are not an expense but rather an investment in increasing the value of their property, maximizing their return on investment and reducing future utility expenses while enjoying a superior service and finished project? While not always the case, many of our Clients only see the immediate savings of the design fees and associate this with added benefit to their project. For example, a Client may see a savings of $3,000 by having a Landscape Contractor design their project over a Landscape Architect and think to themselves, “Well with $3,000 we can get a firepit that we couldn’t get if we hired a Landscape Architect.” While we can understand how this could be a rational response, we as Landscape Architects are not doing our job in educating our potential Clients of the benefits of hiring a design professional.
Below you will see a list of the potential benefits of hiring an experienced Landscape Architecture firm for your residential project and an example of how this can translate into big savings beyond that of a Landscape Contractor or unqualified Garden Designer or Landscape Designer.
Fiscal benefits of hiring a Landscape Architect vs an unqualified design professional
1. Increased property value: up to 11% increase
It goes without saying that when comparing the same residence, the home with a more beautiful landscape will sell for more. “According to a joint study by Clemson University and the University of Maryland, potential home buyers will pay up to 11.3 percent above the asking price for homes with thoughtfully designed landscaping. Smart Money Magazine, March 2003.
2. Multiple Contractor bids: save up to 30%
Many Clients will forgo hiring a Landscape Architect and hire a Landscape Contractor direct offering a “Free” Landscape Plan. The free Landscape Plan almost always will come with the stipulation that the Contractor maintains possession of the plans until a contract has been signed or the plans have been purchased. The Client will not be able to bid the plans to multiple Contractors to compare bids and ensure they are receiving the best value for their money. The Contractor will often greatly increase his/her pricing knowing the Client haves no other option but to use their services. This can be one of the most costly mistakes a Client can make.
3. Reduced utility expenses: save up to 80% in utility costs
Sustainable design practices and newer technology have brought about the ability to greatly reduce a Clients energy and utility expenses while reducing the impact on the environment. A Landscape Architecture firm will be abreast to all of the latest technology and sustainable design practices. Unlike many Contractors who may focus largely on their profit margin, a Landscape Architect will consider the environmental impacts as well as utility savings over the long haul. LED lighting can reduce energy consumption by up to 80% while extending the life of the lightbulb from 2 years to 20 years. Drip Irrigation can reduce water consumption by as much as 75% and according to one government study, “properly located trees and shrubs can reduce interior energy costs by as much as 50% in the summer months.”
4. Reduction in construction change orders and revisions: save up to 15%
Generally speaking, the less complete the plans are the greater number of revisions and change orders will be required during construction. With these changes comes a significant markup by most Contractors. Contractors bank on the Client making changes to their project to supplement their profit. Knowing the Client has no choice, other than hiring a separate Contractor, the Landscape Contractor will often double their normal rates on certain change orders and revisions. It is not uncommon to see a 20% – 50% increase budget once the installation phase has commenced. A Landscape Architect can significantly reduce the change orders and revisions by having a thorough, well thought-out set of plans including all of the details, finish materials and locations to purchase products. When having this information during the bidding process this forces the Contractor to include the items in the original bid, not allowing them to come back at a later time and markup the product. This can be one of the most significant savings for the Client which is often overlooked.
5. Maximizing the budget: save up to 20%
Assume a typical 8,000sf residential lot in California. For this size lot, it would be common to see 2,500sf of paving. Contractor XYZ designs 2,500sf of flagstone paving at $35/sf knowing paving has one of the highest profit margins. Total cost of paving is $87,500. An experienced Landscape Architect looks at the same project and reduces the paving to 2,000sf and uses a combination of 500sf of decomposed gravel paving ($6./sf) in a grove of citrus trees in large pots and 1,500sf of travertine paving with colored concrete banding ($25./sf) for a total price of $ 40,500. The total savings in this situation would be $ 47,000. while offering a more unique design. It goes without saying that the savings can greatly vary from one designer to the next but generally speaking a designer with more experience, knowledge of current construction costs and materials, and design creativity will most likely be able to propose cost saving design solutions.
6. Eliminating/Reducing HOA revisions: save up to $500/revision
Home Owners Associations can often be fairly demanding, not to mention expensive. Most new homes these days have strict Landscape Guidelines which must be adhered to for approval from the association. A Landscape Architecture firm will have a significant amount of experience dealing with many different HOA’s and will undoubtably submit a complete and thorough set of plans which will meet or exceed submittal requirements. When revisions are required often additional fees are charged for the re-submittal process. To date, Studio H has only had one plan denied out of several hundred. The one plan was only denied due to the Association not allowing one specified shrub.
7. Access to better products at better pricing – save up to 2.5% of budget
As a Landscape Architecture firm we are solicited on a daily basis by vendors offering their services and products. Our products library includes hundreds of the latest catalogs and samples to select from during the design process. We work hard for the Client to ensure we specify the best product at the best price. Finish materials on a project will average about 10% of the construction budget, access to a large library of products and vendors can reduce costs by as much as 25% for a total of 2.5% of the entire construction budget.
Example of potential savings when hiring a professional Landscape Architecture firm versus an unqualified design firm or Landscape Contractor.
Assumptions: Typical Orange County, California home
Lot Size: 8,000sf (2,500sf building footprint, 5,500sf landscape area)Construction
Budget: $30/sf x 5,500sf = $165,000.
Property Value: $800,000.
Annual Utility Expenses for Landscape: $200/month X 12 = $2,400/year
Landscape Architect’s Design Fees for complete Construction Documentation: $8,000.
Landscape Contractor Design Fees for Conceptual Plan only: $0.
Potential Benefits and Savings using conservative estimates.
- Property Value Increase @ 1% = $ 8,000.
- Multiple Contractor Bids @ 5% Savings = $ 8,250.
- Reduced Annual Utility Expenses @ 40% savings = $ 960. x 10 years = $ 9,600
- Reduced Change Orders and Revisions @ 5% of budget = $ 8,250.
- Maximizing the Budget: estimate savings @ 5% = $ 8,250.
- Eliminated/Reducing HOA Revisions: Assume 1 revision @ $ 250.
- Access to better products at better pricing @ 1% of budget = $ 1,650.
Total construction costs savings: $ 44,250.
Landscape Architects Design Fee: $ 8,000.
Potential total savings versus hiring a Landscape Contractor: $ 36,250.
In conclusion, the above sample uses fairly conservative estimations of several different ways in which a Landscape Architect can save the Client money, and more than validate the design fee expenses. We truly believe that hiring a qualified professional design firm, whether its a Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, or Architecture office, is the most important step to saving money while receiving the highest level of design services.
Other benefits of hiring a Landscape Architect
- Higher level of design service
- Construction Documents drafted in AutoCad for precision within an inch
- Sustainable design
- Contractor bid assistance
- Construction Administration services